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Prior art (also known as state of the art

(2023). 9788189542313, Manupatra.
or background art"The expression 'background art' ... must have the same meaning as the more familiar expression 'prior art'" in EPO Board of appeal decision T 11/82 of 15 April 1983, Headnote II and Reasons 15. See also (previously , where the term is used).) is a concept in used to determine the of an invention, in particular whether an invention meets the novelty and the inventive step or non-obviousness criteria for patentability. In most systems of patent law,See for example and prior art is generally defined as anything that is made available, or disclosed, to the public that might be relevant to a patent's claim before the of a patent application for an invention. However, notable differences exist in how prior art is specifically defined under different national, regional, and international patent systems.

The prior art is evaluated by patent offices as part of the patent granting process in what is called “substantive examination” of a patent application in order to determine whether an in the patent application meets the novelty and inventive step or non-obviousness criteria for patentability. It may also be considered by patent offices or courts in opposition or invalidity proceedings. Patents disclose to society how an invention is practiced, in return for the right (during a limited term) to exclude others from manufacturing, selling, offering for sale or using the patented invention without the patentee's permission.

Patent offices deal with prior art searches in the context of the patent granting procedure. A patent search is frequently carried out by patent offices or patent applicants in order to identify relevant prior art. Certain patent offices may also rely on the patent search results of other patent offices or cooperate with other patent offices in order to identify relevant prior art. Prior art may also be submitted by the public for consideration in examination or in opposition or invalidity proceedings. Relevant prior art identified by patent offices or patent applicants are often cited by patent applicants in patent applications and by patent offices in .


Defining prior art
Prior art may comprise information that is disclosed to the public in written form, in oral form, or by use. Sources of disclosure in written form may include published or patent applications or scientific and technical books and journals. Unpublished patent applications may also be considered prior art under certain circumstances, for example where an unpublished patent application was filed at the same patent office before the effective filing date of the patent application in question.

To anticipate the subject-matter of a patent claim, prior art is generally expected to provide a description sufficient to inform an average worker in the field (or the person skilled in the art) of some subject matter falling within the scope of the claim. Prior art must be available in some way to the public, and in many countries, the information needs to be recorded in a fixed form somehow.


Specific cases
Traditional knowledge, such as traditional medicine, may be considered prior art. Information covered by non-disclosure agreements or similar may not be considered to have been disclosed to the public and thus not prior art.European Commission, Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Non-disclosure agreement : a business tool, Publications Office, 2021, https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2826/547286

If an has been described in the prior art or would have been obvious from what has been described in the prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid.

Information kept secret, for instance, as a , is not usually prior art, provided that employees and others with access to the information are under a non-disclosure obligation. With such an obligation, the information is typically not regarded as prior art. Therefore, a patent may be granted on an invention, even though someone else already knew of the invention. A person who used an invention in secret may in some jurisdictions be able to claim "prior user rights" and thereby gain the right to continue using the invention. As a special exception, earlier-filed and unpublished patent applications do qualify as prior art as of their filing date in certain circumstances.

Prior art generally does not include unpublished work or mere conversations (though, according to the European Patent Convention, oral disclosures also form prior art—see ).


Effective date of patents and patent applications as prior art
It is typical for a patent office to treat its own patents and published patent applications as prior art as of their filing dates, "Novelty" Japan Patent Act, Chapter II although under the European Patent Convention, this applies only to novelty rather than inventive step. "Inventive step" However, United States patent law before the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) included the Hilmer doctrine, under which United States patents and patent application publications were prior art only as of their earliest effective United States filing dates, i.e., disregarding any foreign priority claimed in those patents and patent application publications. The AIA has abolished the Hilmer doctrine and makes United States patents and patent application publications that name another inventor prior art as of when they were "effectively filed." The Disharmonious Loss of the Hilmer Doctrine


Usage in litigation
Arguments claiming prior art are used in defending and attacking patent validity. In one U.S. case on the issue, the court said:


Prior art searches
Patent offices deal with prior art searches in the context of the patent granting procedure. A patent search is frequently carried out by patent offices or patent applicants in order to identify relevant prior art. Certain patent offices may also rely on the patent search results of other patent offices or cooperate with other patent offices in order to identify relevant prior art. Prior art may also be submitted by the public for consideration in examination or in opposition or invalidity proceedings. Relevant prior art identified by patent offices or patent applicants are often cited by patent applicants in patent applications and by patent offices in .


Types of prior art searches

Novelty
A "novelty search" is a prior art search that is often conducted by or professional patent searchers before a patent application is filed. A novelty search helps an inventor determine if the invention is novel before committing the resources necessary to obtain a patent. The search may include searching in databases of patents, patent applications and other documents such as and in the scientific literature. Novelty searches can also be used to help an inventor determine what is unique about their invention. Anything not found in the prior art can be potentially patentable. , for example, did not get a patent on the basic concept of the light bulb. It was already patented and therefore forms part of the prior art. Instead, Edison got a patent on his improvements to the light bulb. These improvements included a very thin filament and a reliable technique for joining the white hot filament to the room temperature lead wires. Mark Nowotarski, “Why Inventors Should Not Rely On Their Own Search”, IPWatchdog, 11 October 2014

A novelty search is also conducted by during prosecution of the patent application. For instance, examiner's search guidelines applicable to the United States are found in the U.S. Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) 904.02 General Search Guidelines, Prior Art, Classification, and Search.USPTO, Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, General Search Guidelines R-3 - 900 Prior Art, Classification, and Search, July 2010.


Validity
A "validity search" is a prior art search done after a patent issues. The purpose of a validity (or invalidity) search is to find prior art that the patent examiner overlooked so that a patent can be declared invalid. This might be done by an entity infringing, or potentially infringing, the patent, or it might be done by a patent owner or other entity that has a financial stake in a patent to confirm the validity of a patent. , where a large number of interested people search for prior art, may be effective where references would otherwise be difficult to find.


Clearance
A clearance search is a search of issued patents to assess whether a given product or process violates someone else's existing patent. If so, then a validity search may be done to try to find prior art that would invalidate the patent. A clearance search is a search targeting patents being in force and may be limited to a particular country and group of countries, or a specific market.


Notable prior art databases
  • – Public patent database made available by the German Patent and Trademark Office, serving as official publication source for German patents and patent applications and covering numerous other national and regional patent collections
  • —European Patent Office public patent literature database, with patents from many patent offices.
  • —public search engine from that indexes patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and other international patent offices, and machine-CPC-classified non-patent literature from .
  • PATENTSCOPE – the PATENTSCOPE public patent database provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) serves as official publication source for patent applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty and covering numerous national and regional patent collections.
  • Patent Register Portal provides online patent hosts registers, gazettes, and legal-status-related information from over 200 jurisdictions and patent information collections.
The Internet Archive is recognized by the USPTO as a valid source of prior art on the Internet, though generally the date of archiving is considered the first published date, rather than the date on any documents that have been archived. All Things Pros blog, Board decisions involving the Wayback Machine to show status as prior art (Part I), Sunday, December 29, 2013 The Wayback Machine: The State of Dating Online Materials, Intellogist patent research blog, Posted February 1, 2011 by Chris Jagalla


Duty of disclosure
In the United States, inventors and their patent agents or attorneys are required by law to submit any references they are aware of to the United States Patent and Trademark Office that may be material to the patentability of the claims in a patent application they have filed. The will then determine if the references qualify as "prior art" and may then take them into account when examining the patent application. If a person having a duty to disclose, acting with , fails to properly disclose the material references of which they are aware, then a patent can be found unenforceable for inequitable conduct. Therasense, Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson and Co., 649 F. 3d 1276, Ct. App. (Fed. Cir.), 2011.

also has a duty of disclosure. Patent e-Bulletin, Summer '2002 Developments: Following The United States, Japan And Australia Enact Duty Of Disclosure Requirements, Gastle & Associates (through archive.org)See also Japan's Examination Guidelines for Patent and Utility Model in Japan, Examination Standards Office, December 2011; and Japan's Right Obtainment Procedures.Japan Patent Office, Publication of the "Examination Guidelines on Requirement for Disclosure of Information on Prior Art Documents", Last updated 30 August 2002.

has abolished its duty of disclosure with regard to the results of documentary searches by, or on behalf of, foreign patent offices, except where:


Public participation in patent examination
With the advent of the , a number of initiatives have been undertaken to create a forum where the public at large can participate in prior art searches. These forums have been related to both issued patents and pending patent applications.


Pending patent applications
More recently, different attempts to employ open Internet-based discussions for encouraging public participation commenting on pending U.S. applications have been started. These may take the form of a :

Patent examiners often use the online encyclopedia as a reference to get an overall feel for a given subject.Office of the Chief Information Officer, Secure Application Development Coding Policy OCIO, USPTO, May 22, 2009. USPTO Bans Wikipedia, The Patent Librarian's Notebook, 2006-09-10, citing Stead, Deborah, Up Front: Kicking Wiki Out Of The Patent Office, Bloomberg Business Week, 2006-09-04. Citations of Wikipedia as actual prior art can be problematic, however, due to the fluid and open nature of its editing, and Patents Commissioner Doll said the agency used Wikipedia entries as background and not as a basis for accepting or rejecting an application.


See also


Further reading


External links

Official institutions
  • World Intellectual Property Organization
    • PatentScope, WIPO search tool for international and national patent collections.
    • WIPO Gold, Search national patent offices including US, Japan, the UK, and others. A free public search tool gateway for WIPO's global collections of searchable IP data."
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office
  • European Patent Office
    • ("The state of the art at the search stage")
    • ("State of the art", examination)
    • : "State of the art"

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