Non-Patent Literature (NPL)

Lia Kopin-Green
September 17, 2022

What is Non-Patent Literature (NPL)?

Non-patent literature (NPL) is a type of intellectual property that refers to any publication or documentation that is not an issued patent or does not have a published patent application. The term is often used while conducting prior art patent searches on the Internet.

Scientific publications, clinical trials, manuals, posters, conference presentations, journal articles, and blog articles are generally known as examples of non-patent literature. Publications on public disclosure platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram may also be considered non-patent literature. 

Key Takeaways

  • Non-patent literature (NPL) is broadly defined as any publication or document that is not an issued patent or published patent application.
  • Examples of NPL include scientific publications, clinical trials, conference presentations, journal articles, blog articles and social media publications.
  • Non-patent literature is an important element of patent searching.

Understanding Non-Patent Literature (NPL)

It is usually necessary to carry out a patent search before determining whether or not an invention is patentable. Conducting a prior art search can help you make sure that no other identical or similar inventions already exist. Since patents are only given to novel (new) and non-obvious inventions, ensuring that you are the first to create such an invention is essential. Therefore, before applying for a patent, it is important to check the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for existing patents or pending patent applications. However, it should be noted that the USPTO website alone is generally not sufficient for a thorough patent search. According to the America Invents Act (AIA), the USPTO may deny a patent if it was “described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.” Simply put, your application may get rejected if there is an invention similar to yours that is already out in the market, even if it is not patented.

As the USPTO only publishes information about patents that are issued or applied for, it does not include non-patent literature. The internet is an extremely large database, making finding non-patent literature difficult and time consuming. Fortunately, you can conduct a thorough and efficient search of NPLs using a variety of resources, both free and paid. Some of these resources even offer advanced artificial intelligence technology to help narrow your search.

It is generally recommended to consider the topic at hand when choosing a non-patent literature database. For example, a specialized medicine journal is a good place to look if you're interested in patenting an invention in the medical field. 

Bottom Line

Are you interested in patenting your invention or creation? Performing a prior art search, including non-patent literature, is an excellent place to start.

If you need legal support during your patent search, or if you need any guidance regarding non-patent literature, contact one of our top intellectual property attorneys today.

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