MPEP 1843.01
Prior Art for Chapter I Processing

This is the Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 08.2017, Last Revised in Januay 2018

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1843.01    Prior Art for Chapter I Processing [R-07.2015]

PCT Rule 33

Relevant Prior Art for the International Search

33.1 Relevant Prior Art for the International Search

  • (a) For the purposes of Article 15(2), relevant prior art shall consist of everything which has been made available to the public anywhere in the world by means of written disclosure (including drawings and other illustrations) and which is capable of being of assistance in determining that the claimed invention is or is not new and that it does or does not involve an inventive step (i.e., that it is or is not obvious), provided that the making available to the public occurred prior to the international filing date.
  • (b) When any written disclosure refers to an oral disclosure, use, exhibition, or other means whereby the contents of the written disclosure were made available to the public, and such making available to the public occurred on a date prior to the international filing date, the international search report shall separately mention that fact and the date on which it occurred if the making available to the public of the written disclosure occurred on a date which is the same as, or later than, the international filing date.
  • (c) Any published application or any patent whose publication date is the same as, or later than, but whose filing date, or, where applicable, claimed priority date, is earlier than the international filing date of the international application searched, and which would constitute relevant prior art for the purposes of Article 15(2) had it been published prior to the international filing date, shall be specially mentioned in the international search report.

33.2 Fields to Be Covered by the International Search

  • (a) The international search shall cover all those technical fields, and shall be carried out on the basis of all those search files, which may contain material pertinent to the invention.
  • (b) Consequently, not only shall the art in which the invention is classifiable be searched but also analogous arts regardless of where classified.
  • (c) The question what arts are, in any given case, to be regarded as analogous shall be considered in the light of what appears to be the necessary essential function or use of the invention and not only the specific functions expressly indicated in the international application.
  • (d) The international search shall embrace all subject matter that is generally recognized as equivalent to the subject matter of the claimed invention for all or certain of its features, even though, in its specifics, the invention as described in the international application is different.

33.3 Orientation of the International Search

  • (a) International search shall be made on the basis of the claims, with due regard to the description and the drawings (if any) and with particular emphasis on the inventive concept towards which the claims are directed.
  • (b) In so far as possible and reasonable, the international search shall cover the entire subject matter to which the claims are directed or to which they might reasonably be expected to be directed after they have been amended.

PCT Rule 64

Prior Art for International Preliminary Examination

64.1 Prior Art

  • (a) For the purposes of Article 33(2) and (3), everything made available to the public anywhere in the world by means of written disclosure (including drawings and other illustrations) shall be considered prior art provided that such making available occurred prior to the relevant date.
  • (b) For the purposes of paragraph (a), the relevant date shall be:
    • (i) subject to items (ii) and (iii), the international filing date of the international application under international preliminary examination;
    • (ii) where the international application under international preliminary examination claims the priority of an earlier application and has an international filing date which is within the priority period, the filing date of such earlier application, unless the International Preliminary Examining Authority considers that the priority claim is not valid;
    • (iii) where the international application under international preliminary examination claims the priority of an earlier application and has an international filing date which is later than the date on which the priority period expired but within the period of two months from that date, the filing date of such earlier application, unless the International Preliminary Examining Authority considers that the priority claim is not valid for reasons other than the fact that the international application has an international filing date which is later than the date on which the priority period expired.

64.2 Non-Written Disclosures

In cases where the making available to the public occurred by means of an oral disclosure, use, exhibition or other non-written means ("non-written disclosure") before the relevant date as defined in Rule 64.1(b) and the date of such non-written disclosure is indicated in a written disclosure which has been made available to the public on a date which is the same as, or later than, the relevant date, the non-written disclosure shall not be considered part of the prior art for the purposes of Article 33(2) and (3). Nevertheless, the international preliminary examination report shall call attention to such non-written disclosure in the manner provided for in Rule 70.9.

64.3 Certain Published Documents

In cases where any application or any patent which would constitute prior art for the purposes of Article 33(2) and (3) had it been published prior to the relevant date referred to in Rule 64.1 was published on a date which is the same as, or later than, the relevant date but was filed earlier than the relevant date or claimed the priority of an earlier application which had been filed prior to the relevant date, such published application or patent shall not be considered part of the prior art for the purposes of Article 33(2) and (3). Nevertheless, the international preliminary examination report shall call attention to such application or patent in the manner provided for in Rule 70.10.

The objective of the international search is to discover relevant prior art (PCT Article 15(2) ). "Prior art" consists of everything which has been made available to the public anywhere in the world by means of written disclosure (including drawings and other illustrations); it is relevant in respect of the international application if it is capable of being of assistance in determining that the claimed invention is or is not new and that the claimed invention does or does not involve an inventive step (i.e., that it is or is not obvious), and if the making available to the public occurred prior to the international filing date for the purposes of the international search report and prior to the earliest validly claimed priority date for the purposes of the written opinion of the International Searching Authority. For further details, see PCT Rules 33, 43bis.1(b) and 64.

A written disclosure, that is, a document, is regarded as made available to the public if, at the relevant date, it was possible for members of the public to gain access to the content of the document and to acquire possession of the content of the document, and there was no bar of confidentiality restricting the use or dissemination of knowledge gained thereby. Where the document only provides the month or the year, but not the specific date, which the document was made available to the public, the content of the document is presumed to have been made available to the public on the last day of that month or that year, respectively, unless evidence is provided to prove otherwise.

Prior art disclosure on the Internet or on an online database is considered in the same manner as other forms of written disclosure. Information disclosed on the Internet or an online database is considered to be publicly available as of the date the disclosure was publicly posted. Where the examiner obtains an electronic document that establishes the publication date for the Internet disclosure, he/she should make a printout of this document, which must mention both the URL of the relevant Internet disclosure and the date of publication of that relevant Internet disclosure. The examiner must then cite this printout in the international search report as an "L" document and cite the relevant Internet disclosure according to the relevance of its content ("X", "Y", "A") and according to the date as established ("X", "Y", "A", "P,X", "P,Y", "P,A", "E", etc.). See MPEP § 1844.01, subsection VII. Where the examiner is unable to establish the publication date of the relevant Internet disclosure and it is relevant to the inventive step and/or novelty of the claimed invention, he/she should cite it in the international search report as a category "L" document for those claims which it would have affected if it were published in time, giving the date the document was printed out as its publication date.

Examiners are also encouraged to cite prior art that might be of assistance in determining whether other requirements are fulfilled, such as sufficient support of the claims by the description and industrial applicability. The examiner should also note any documents that may be of importance for other reasons, such as documents putting doubt upon the validity of any priority claimed, documents contributing to a better or more correct understanding of the claimed invention, and documents illustrating the technological background, but the examiner should not spend time in searching for these documents, nor the consideration of such matters unless there is a special reason for doing so in a particular case. Documents which do not qualify as prior art because they post-date the claimed invention may nevertheless be cited to show a universal fact, such as characteristics or properties of a material, or a specific scientific fact, or to show the level of ordinary skill in the art. Furthermore, examiners must recognize that different designated Offices may have different definitions of what is the effective date of prior art. Accordingly, when performing the search, examiners should be mindful to pick out and select for citation, where appropriate, prior art which may be relevant in offices other than the one in which they are situated. However, the examiner need not expand the search beyond the standard search parameters to discover such art. Where the search has been performed and such potentially relevant prior art has been identified, examiners are encouraged to, for example, cite all relevant art published prior to the international filing date even if that art and the international application under consideration have common applicants and/or inventors. As such, if the examiner is basing the international search on a prior search performed in a prior related U.S. national application, it may be necessary for the examiner to review the prior art published within the time period of the one year preceding the filing date of the prior U.S. application for any written disclosures based on the applicant’s own work that may have been published within that time period. Any such documents are considered prior art in an international application and are cited on the international search report even though they do not meet the definition of prior art in the prior U.S. national application. A further objective of the international search is to avoid, or at least minimize, additional searching at the national stage.

The international search is made on the basis of the claims, with due regard to the description and the drawings (if any) contained in the international application (PCT Article 15(3) ) and should cover the entire subject matter to which the claims are directed or to which they might reasonably be expected to be directed after they have been amended (PCT Rule 33.3(b) ).

The relevant date for the purpose of considering prior art for the purposes of establishment of the written opinion of the International Searching Authority is defined in PCT Rule 64.1(b) as the international filing date or, where the international application contains a claim for priority, the date provided in PCT Rule 64.1(b)(ii) - (iii). See MPEP § 1878.01(a).

In establishment of the written opinion, when determining whether there is inventive step, account should be taken of what the applicant acknowledges in his/her description as known. Such admissions should be regarded as correct and used when considering whether the claimed invention lacks novelty and/or inventive step where appropriate.

A nonwritten disclosure such as an oral disclosure, use, exhibition or other means of disclosure is not relevant prior art for the purposes of the international search unless it is substantiated by a written disclosure made available to the public prior to the international filing date and it is the written disclosure which constitutes the prior art. However, if the date on which the written disclosure was made available to the public was on or after the filing date of the international application under consideration, the search report should separately mention that fact and the date on which the written disclosure was available, even though such a written disclosure does not meet the definition of relevant prior art in the international phase, so long as the non-written disclosure was made available to the public on a date prior to the international filing date since such a non-written disclosure may be considered to be prior art under national law in the national phase. See PCT Rules 33.1(b), 64.2 and 70.9.

   DOCUMENTS AND DATABASES SEARCHED BY THE INTERNATIONAL SEARCHING AUTHORITY

The International Searching Authority must endeavor to discover as much of the relevant prior art as its facilities permit (PCT Article 15(4) ), and, in any case, must consult the so-called "minimum documentation" (PCT Rule 34 ).

Even though completeness should be the ultimate goal of the international search, this goal may at times be difficult to obtain, because of such factors as text search limitations and the inevitable imperfections of any classification system and its implementation. The examiner therefore consults the appropriate minimum documentation and the most relevant search resources for the technology, including databases listed in the U.S. Search Guidance index (available through the USPTO Intranet website), and organizes the search effort and utilizes the search time in such a manner as to reduce to a minimum the possibility of failing to discover existing highly relevant prior art, such as art that fully anticipates any claims.

When conducting the search, it may be necessary to make use of the Internet as a search tool. Where the international application has not yet been published at the time of the search, there exists the danger that search terms used in the search on non-secure Internet search engines or in databases available on the Internet may be observed by third parties. Accordingly, all websites must be treated as non-secure unless the Office has a commercial arrangement with a service provider in order to maintain confidentiality and a secure connection to that website. Consequently, extreme caution must be exercised when using the Internet as a search tool where (as in most cases) the international application has not yet been published. Where a relevant database is accessible via the Internet, but an alternative secure connection to the same database is accessible, the secure connection must be used. Where no secure connection to a database on the Internet is available, the search may be conducted on the Internet using generalized search terms representing combinations of features that relate to the claimed invention, which have already been shown to exist in the state of the art.