Is Your Invention Too Obvious? Patent Law Explained

When it comes to developing a new product the legal path to market is beset with challenges. The patent process is one such example. At the very beginning, your invention must be non-obvious if it is going to be eligible for a patent, and therefore stand a better chance on the market. You may think you know what this means, but legally it is a lot more complex.

Basic Definition of Non-Obvious

To be declared non-obvious, the invention must include an inventive step that would not easily occur to someone who is an expert in your field. Figuring out what is non-obvious can be very difficult, however.

Judging the Non-Obvious

A lot of inventions are developed by putting together two different components or processes with the result that you have a new product, but you could immediately be able to tell what the function would be if you looked at the different components separately. This would be classed as obvious, even if the design is new. And another obvious invention would be where one component is switched out for another, with the same purpose.

In other cases, components or processes are combined together but they form a new product which is better and greater than the individual parts and this could be considered non-obvious. Or an inventor may have developed a non-obvious step by solving some problem and making something that no one ever thought would work.

Looking for Prior Art

When it comes to securing a patent for a product, software patents, or invention patents you need to look closely and thoroughly for prior art. This means searching for the evidence of a product or written/drawn description that closely resembles your own. Carrying out a patent search would soon reveal that many inventions people believe to be novel and non-obvious have actually already been created. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult to secure a patent on a product like this. While you may believe that your invention is entirely new, only a patent search can reveal this for sure.

The Importance of Novelty

If your invention is obvious and not novel, you will find it almost impossible to secure intellectual property rights. Therefore your invention will not be commercially valuable. And an invention that is obvious and not novel cannot be legally yours. You may get taken to court if you develop a product that belongs to someone else. But a novel idea on its own is not necessarily enough. It must demonstrate its potential as improvement on what already exists.

Image: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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