Freedom to operate analysis is a custom service provided by patent agents and search providers. It gives the customers an answer, if it is safe to produce a product or use a production technology. And if such technology does not infringe or violate third party intellectual property rights.
The company considering offering to the market a new product, must be sure that the same idea is not owned by someone else. It is highly possible that some ideas are already protected by several previous patents. Freedom to operate (FTO) search has a primarily focus to evaluate the risk of market entry.
Possible recommendations after freedom to operate analysis may comprise aspects like:
Other benefits of an FTO include better understanding of competition in given field of industry, it can also give a sense of new products, which will be launched soon by other companies. In general it also shows, how crowded the market is and who are the biggest investors. Business and investment analytics uses patent search quite often in order to see the most active companies in a certain field.
There is no single fee for such analysis. A lot depends on the product and the market. A ball park price for one jurisdiction, for an average product, could be around 2000 – 3000 Eur; or 4000 to 6000 USD.
No matter, how much due diligence has been put into FTO analysis, there is always a risk, that some features were not identified as potentially being protected by patents, or due to great number of different features, not all patents have been found. Some unpublished applications might exist as well, which will come into force later.