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Novelty (Section 102(a))

The novelty rules covered in this lesson apply to patent claims with effective filing dates prior to March 16, 2013. For claims with effective filing dates on or after that date, the America Invents Act ("AIA") modified the novelty rules. However, because the patent term expires 20 years after the filing date of the patent application, the pre-AIA novelty rules will continue to govern the validity of many already-issued patents until 2033. Therefore, practitioners must be familiar with these rules in order to assess the validity of those patents.

This lesson works through the details of patent law's novelty requirement as set out in the pre-AIA version of Section 102(a) of the Patent Act. It also briefly covers the pre-AIA version of Section 102(e) as well as the concept of inventorship. It does not deal with the statutory bars of pre-AIA Section 102(b).

A general understanding of the nature of claims and the application process is assumed background context. The lesson can be used as supplemental preparation for class, to confirm your understanding afterwards, or as a final self-test before the exam.

The Contents listing is broken down into sub-topics allowing direct access if only a specific issue is of interest. The final "Putting It All Together" section contains a number of review problems. As indicated in the "Approximate Completion Time" the various sections can also be done as stand-alone exercises.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the lesson, the student will be able to:

  1. Define "novelty" for purposes of patent law.
  2. State the purpose of the novelty requirement.
  3. List the types of prior art considered in the novelty analysis.
  4. Explain the meaning of "printed publication."
  5. Explain the concept of public knowledge or use.
  6. Describe the timing requirement of pre-AIA novelty.
  7. Describe the geographic requirements of pre-AIA novelty.
  8. Explain the concept of "secret" prior art.
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