The novelty and non obviousness criteria of patentability are assessed by the Patent Office in consideration of what has already been known in the field of the invention and in related fields-the “prior art”. Although technically an applicant is not required to conduct a prior art search , only to “describe the background art that, as far as is known to the applicant, can be regarded as important for the understanding, searching and examination of the invention”, since prior art which puts into question the novelty or non obviousness of an invention may invalidate any pending patent application filed in respect of the invention or any patent issued from it.

It is prudent to thoroughly search the prior art before a commitment is made to the protracted and costly pursuit of a patent, as the endeavor may thus prove futile at the outset. With millions upon millions of issued patents and published applications worldwide and a vast and rapidly growing corpus of technical literature the probability that one’s inventive concept has already been brought to light somewhere in some form must not be underestimated as explained on how to apply for a patent with InventHelp article.

An additional and equally important reason to conduct a thorough prior art search is to ascertain that the manufacturing and selling of an invention would not infringe on any patent in force. This situation arises when an invention incorporates or improves on patented technology.

Although the existence of a patent for one or more (but not all) elements of an invention does not necessarily affect its patentability, while the patent is in force a license to manufacture and incorporate the patented technology must be obtained from the patent owner.

Prior art comprises printed or electronic publications (e.g. periodical articles, technical papers, theses, textbooks, and websites), oral expositions (e.g. conference presentations, lectures, or informal exhibitions), issued patents (in-force or expired), and pending applications open to public inspection. Exceptionally, unpublished pending applications are part of the prior art as well.

In view of the vast amount of non-patent technical publications worldwide, and of the practical limitation in finding and accessing much of this literature, a truly exhaustive search of the prior art is clearly impossible. In practice, therefore, prior art search – whether conducted by the inventor, a patent search professional, such as InventHelp agency, or the Patent Office – is focused almost exclusively on issued patents and published patent publications.