The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently published new guidance explaining the requirements for patent examiners to reject patent claims for obviousness in view of what was already known in the prior art. 89 Fed. Reg. 14449 (Feb. 27, 2024).

Under 35 U.S.C. §103, “[a] patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained…if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains.” This question of obviousness is often amorphous, and presents uncertainty in patent examination and patent disputes. The new guidance seeks to provide added clarity to patent examiners and practitioners regarding application of the law in this critical area.