What is Novelty and Prior Art in Patent Law?

An invention is not necessarily new. This is something that you must realise if you are to have success with a patent application or with legally protecting your product. Not all inventions are novel, i.e. new. For your idea to be eligible for a patent it must contain at least one significant part that is technologically completely new, or novel. When looking for other inventions and products that could be similar, this novel part must not appear anywhere else.

Does Everything Need to Be New?

You do not have to develop a completely new product or invention that has never existed before in any form. An invention can still be patented and declared a new invention if it has at least one part that is new. Not all of the technology in the invention must be new. You can invent something that combines several pieces of technology but makes them into a new product, uses them in different ways, or includes one part that has never been developed before. But this new element should be important and be an integral part of the new product. The new element should make the product commercial viable.

Is It Difficult to Invent Something New?

Yes, it is difficult to come up with technology that is new. When it comes down to it, most inventions are simply developments or existing technology. When the idea has already been developed, it will be almost impossible to get it protected by patent. And without this patent protection, you will find it hard to get funding or investors interested in developing it.

How Do You Find Out If An Idea is New?

You may think that your invention is completely novel but you will never know unless you conduct a thorough search. You do this using patent application software to search for prior art. Prior art refers to any evidence that the technology or the whole invention has already been developed or is already known. But the important thing to remember is that this prior art does not need to be on the shelves of a store. Prior art exists if anyone has written or shown something that is the same or similar to your product. This could be anywhere, at any time, in any field. It does not have to be modern – prior art can be hundreds of years old. Many people make the mistake of believing that because they do not see their product on the shelves that no prior art exists. But many inventions do not make it to market, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t already been developed.

Image: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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