Every inventor worth his salt should familiarize himself with the non-obviousness requirement in patent applications. Otherwise, even a novel and original invention will not be granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). But what exactly does the USPTO mean by non-obviousness and how can you meet it?
But first, we have to emphasize that while novelty and non-obviousness are different in many ways, the two terms often overlap in a practical sense. The reason for it is that both can be measured in terms of the absence of prior art.
What Makes an Invention Non-obvious?
Unfortunately, the standards for determining the obviousness and non-obviousness of inventions are as clear as mud. The USPTO patent examiners – and the judges in patent litigations, for that matter – have plenty of leeway in making related decisions, a current reality that inventors should be aware of.
If you’re an inventor, keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily demand genius-like craftsmanship, originality, and vision to create a non-obvious design. In many cases, it only requires the extraordinary ability to visualize ordinary things in a new or different manner.
There are times when combining things is easily apparent and there are times when it isn’t. The requirement of obviousness then becomes trickier than it sounds, especially as obviousness itself is both a subjective and objective (i.e., fact-based) inquiry.
But there’s a way to determine if your invention meets the non-obviousness requirement. Basically, an invention can be considered as obvious when other persons knowledgeable about the field where it belongs will look at it and consider it to be generally known. The known aspect isn’t exactly known per se but will be known if several references are combined.
How Can Non-obviousness Be Demonstrated?
Keep in mind that the inventor has the burden of proof, so to speak, in proving the non-obviousness of his invention. This can be done in several ways including the following:
There are other ways to meet the non-obviousness test, too. If your design has been or continues to be a commercial success; it has unexpected visual appearance; it has been copied by others; it has been praised for its originality by others in the field where its utility is evident; it was copied by others but they were unsuccessful at generating the same results as the invention; or it was created when others said it couldn’t be done.
Do these concepts make for more confusion? If you answered yes, then you should consider hiring a patent agent or lawyer or agent with a comprehensive experience in meeting the five requirements of patent approval.