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Novelty and Nonobviousness

By Doug Weller

The most significant hurdles to overcome when considering patentability are the requirements of novelty and nonobviousness. The requirement of novelty essentially means that the invention must be new, not previously known or used by others. The requirement of nonobviousness essentially means that the invention must not be an obvious variation or combination of subject matter previously known.

While it is usually fairly straightforward to determine novelty, nonobviousness can be more difficult to ascertain. Although objective criteria are utilized to determine nonobviousness, the weighing of the objective criteria ultimately requires subjective judgement, making it impossible to accurately predict in every case which inventions will ultimately be deemed patentable by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and by the courts.

The statutory requirements for novelty and nonobviousness are set out below. Exactly how the statutory requirements will be applied by the USPTO and the courts has been clarified by a wealth of case law which, by the nature of case law, is always in flux. Therefore, the statutes should be considered only an introduction to novelty and nonobviousness and not a complete explanation.

NOVELTY

35 U.S.C. § 102

(a) Novelty; Prior Art.— A person shall be entitled to a patent unless—

(1) the claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention; or

(2) the claimed invention was described in a patent issued under section 151, or in an application for patent published or deemed published under section 122 (b), in which the patent or application, as the case may be, names another inventor and was effectively filed before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.

(b) Exceptions.—

(1) Disclosures made 1 year or less before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.— A disclosure made 1 year or less before the effective filing date of a claimed invention shall not be prior art to the claimed invention under subsection (a)(1) if—

(A) the disclosure was made by the inventor or joint inventor or by another who obtained the subject matter disclosed directly or indirectly from the inventor or a joint inventor; or

(B) the subject matter disclosed had, before such disclosure, been publicly disclosed by the inventor or a joint inventor or another who obtained the subject matter disclosed directly or indirectly from the inventor or a joint inventor.

(2) Disclosures appearing in applications and patents.— A disclosure shall not be prior art to a claimed invention under subsection (a)(2) if—

(A) the subject matter disclosed was obtained directly or indirectly from the inventor or a joint inventor;

(B) the subject matter disclosed had, before such subject matter was effectively filed under subsection (a)(2), been publicly disclosed by the inventor or a joint inventor or another who obtained the subject matter disclosed directly or indirectly from the inventor or a joint inventor; or

(C) the subject matter disclosed and the claimed invention, not later than the effective filing date of the claimed invention, were owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.

(c) Common Ownership Under Joint Research Agreements.— Subject matter disclosed and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person in applying the provisions of subsection (b)(2)(C) if—

(1) the subject matter disclosed was developed and the claimed invention was made by, or on behalf of, 1 or more parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the effective filing date of the claimed invention;

(2) the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and

(3) the application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.

(d) Patents and Published Applications Effective as Prior Art.— For purposes of determining whether a patent or application for patent is prior art to a claimed invention under subsection (a)(2), such patent or application shall be considered to have been effectively filed, with respect to any subject matter described in the patent or application—

(1) if paragraph (2) does not apply, as of the actual filing date of the patent or the application for patent; or

(2) if the patent or application for patent is entitled to claim a right of priority under section 119, 365 (a), or 365 (b), or to claim the benefit of an earlier filing date under section 120, 121, or 365 (c), based upon 1 or more prior filed applications for patent, as of the filing date of the earliest such application that describes the subject matter.

NONOBVIOUSNESS

35 U.S.C. § 103

A patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained, notwithstanding that the claimed invention is not identically disclosed as set forth in section 102, if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains. Patentability shall not be negated by the manner in which the invention was made.

Please note: This article is written for general information only. The information does not constitute legal advice, solicitation or advertising. The information provided does not create an attorney-client relationship. Liability for any action taken or omitted based on the information herein is specifically disclaimed. If you need legal assistance, you are advised to contact an attorney.

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