What Is Prior Art In Patent Law?

If you are an inventor, you probably know that getting a patent for your invention is not easy.

You have to prove that your invention is new, useful, and non-obvious. But how do you know if your invention meets these criteria? One way is to compare it with the prior art.

Prior art is any evidence that your invention was already known or available, in whole or in part, before the effective filing date of your patent application.

What Is Prior Art In Patent Law?
What Is Prior Art In Patent Law?

Prior art can be anything that discloses or shows the same or similar technology as your invention, such as:

  • Printed documents, such as patents, published patent applications, scientific journals, books, magazines, newspapers, websites, etc.
  • Public use or sale of the invention, such as demonstrations, trade shows, offers to sell, etc.
  • Oral presentations or disclosures, such as lectures, speeches, radio shows, YouTube videos, etc.
  • Applicant’s admissions of prior art, such as statements made in the patent application, drawings, or remarks.

Importance Of Prior Art

Prior art is important because it determines the patentability of your invention.

The patent office will examine your patent application and compare it with the prior art to see if your invention meets the following requirements:

  • Novelty: Your invention must be different from the prior art in every aspect. If the prior art discloses or shows the same invention as yours, your invention is not novel and cannot be patented.
  • Inventive step or non-obviousness: Your invention must not be obvious to a person skilled in the art, considering the prior art. If the prior art suggests or motivates a person to make the same invention as yours, your invention is not inventive and cannot be patented.

How to Find Prior Art?

There are many sources and methods for finding prior art, such as:

  • Searching patent databases, such as the European Patent Office’s free database Espacenet, which contains 150 million documents from many countries and regions. You can search by keywords, classification, date, inventor, etc.
  • Searching non-patent literature, such as scientific and technical publications, magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. You can use online search engines, libraries, databases, etc.
  • Searching products and services, such as existing or competing products, catalogs, brochures, manuals, etc. You can visit shops, trade shows, online platforms, etc.
  • Searching public use or sale, such as demonstrations, exhibitions, offers to sell, etc. You can attend events, contact experts, check records, etc.
  • Searching oral presentations or disclosures, such as lectures, speeches, radio shows, YouTube videos, etc. You can listen, watch, or read transcripts, summaries, reviews, etc.

How to Avoid Prior Art?

There are some strategies and tips for avoiding prior art, such as:

  • Being original and creative, by coming up with new ideas, solutions, or improvements that are not disclosed or suggested by the prior art.
  • Being specific and clear, by defining your invention in detail, using precise terms, and claiming the essential features that distinguish it from the prior art.
  • Being aware and updated, by keeping track of the latest developments and trends in your field of technology, and monitoring the patent activity of your competitors and peers.

Conclusion

It is any evidence that your invention was already known or available, in whole or in part, before your filing date.

It can be anything that discloses or shows the same or similar technology as your invention, such as printed documents, public use or sale, oral presentations, or applicant’s admissions.

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