After surprising the patent community with a new set of rules which make life difficult for the applicants, the attorneys and, to go by EPO members’ internet blogs, also the EPO staff, some examination divisions are now introducing the ‘common knowledge’ approach to reject patents.

The examiners cite the ‘common knowledge’ as closest prior art. The effect is astounding. All features which cannot be found in a written prior art document become ‘known’ by ‘common knowledge’. In accordance with Art. 52(2), ‘common knowledge’ comprises everything made available to the public. Since ‘common knowledge’ is considered as a ‘single reference’, all requirements of the inventive step can be met.

Well, this approach allows the rejection of each and every application, basically without any substantial prior art document.

It remains to be seen whether such ‘common knowledge’ attacks during oppositions will have the same effect as during examination!!


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  1. If the examining division is really ignoring non-obvious technical features by saying they are common knowledge it will never stand up in an appeal.

    Are you referring to an actual case here or just hearsay? It would be useful if you could provide some more details on said features.

  2. If you ask me, this post has all the hallmarks of frustration in respect to a specific case. I’ld be surprised if the examiners would in fact apply the single-reference logic to the common general knowledge.

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