Novelty

By Lia Kopin-Green
/
September 20, 2022

What is Novelty?

In intellectual property law, novelty refers to one of the three requirements for an invention or creation to be patentable according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). According to this standard, the invention must be original and cannot be known or used by others in the United States before the applicant invented it. To put it simply, intellectual property is considered novel if all of the components of the invention were not previously described or created by someone else. Conducting a thorough prior art patent search is typically recommended to avoid an application rejection due to lack of novelty.

Key Takeaways

  • Novelty is one of the three standards an invention or creation must meet in order to be considered patentable by the USPTO.
  • The invention must be original and cannot be prior art.
  • Prior art searches are a great way to make sure an invention or creation does not lack novelty.

Understanding Novelty in Patent Law

Patents grant an inventor exclusive rights to an invention. These rights are legally enforceable and prevent competitors from copying the inventor’s ideas. The powerful nature of these rights, however, requires that several criteria be met in order for a patent to be granted. Not all inventions and creations qualify for patent protection. Patents must be non-obvious, useful and novel. Let's take a closer look at what novelty in a patent truly means.

An invention is not eligible for patent protection if:

  • It was known, used, patented or described by others in the United States before the patent applicant invented it.
  • It was patented or described in a printed publication anywhere in the world more than one year prior to the inventor’s actual filing date of the patent application.
  • It was in public use or on sale in the United States more than one year prior to the inventor’s actual filing date of the patent application. 

Although these criteria are generally applicable, there are a few exceptions. Mainly, these rules don't prevent someone from patenting an improvement to an already existing invention. As long as the new improvement is not obvious, useful and new, it is typically patentable. For example, assume that someone has patented a unique method and recipe for making chocolate chip cookies. A few years later, an inventor created a formula of certain preservatives and additives that double the cookies’ shelf life. It is safe to assume that the inventor’s improvement would be patentable.

Further, the Supreme Court has stated that abstract ideas, products resulting from natural phenomena and laws of nature are not novel and are therefore not patentable. However, novel compositions of matter, articles of manufacture, processes and machines can generally receive a patent.

Bottom Line

Before getting started on your patent application, it is crucial to make sure your invention fulfills all of the necessary criteria according to the USPTO. Applying for a patent can take a lot of time, and you do not want to go through the entire process to have it rejected because of an error that could have been avoided. Consult with a qualified intellectual property lawyer as soon as possible for specialized assistance in patent protection.

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