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This episode: Is It Patentable? Novelty
Novelty is typically the first criteria of patentability in our book. Simply put, if you can answer the following questions:
- Has this ever been done before?
- Has this ever been thought of (and written down, or described publicly) before?
- Has this ever been patented before?
All with a firm “No”, then you may have a patentable idea on your hands.
Here are some examples of ideas which made it through the novelty filter:
- The Post-It Note – aka “Releasable adhesive pads “
- Twitter – otherwise known as “Device independent message distribution platform“
- One of mine, “Automated Friend Finder “, a system to help people find friends on social networks.
In my opinion, there are a few ways in which ideas express novelty. Many people believe that there really is nothing new under the sun, and just like all stories are a variation of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (aka the monomyth), and that everything is built on something that has come before. If this is true, then all ideas, no matter how novel and new, are simply a combination of ideas which came before, put together in new ways. I’d agree that there are many ideas like that.
Take the iPod, an example I’ve used before. The iPod is a combination of a number of ideas, which culminated into a single breakthrough product. There are no less than 7 patents on the core features and functionality of the iPod, as can be seen here, but it was Steve Jobs who first put it together in the way he did, and the result is history. Who knew that taking an MP3 player, combining it with a portable hard drive, and wrapping it in a novel user interface would be such a hit?
In that case, look at your idea. Is it a combination of a number of ideas, put together in new, novel ways that have never been seen before? If you can answer that question with a yes, it’s time to take the idea to your patent attorney. They will do what’s known as a “prior art search” to determine if the idea indeed is novel.
To assess the novelty of an invention, a search through what is called the ‘prior art’ is usually performed, the term “art” referring to the relevant technical field. A prior art search is generally performed with a view to proving that the invention is “not new” or old.