What does Novelty/Newness mean?
This means that neither you, nor anyone else, should have made the invention public. In other words, it should not have been known in the public before you applied for your patent. The reason for this is that it avoids people simply taking someone else’s existing idea and obtaining a monopoly right over it. Whether an i nvention is completely new or not can never be determined conclusively, simply because it’s impossible to be able to lay your hands on every single document or prior patent that might have been published before your invention came about.
What is Patent “Inventiveness”?
Even if your invention is new, there may be other similar inventions that have been disclosed to the public in patent specifications or other literature. All such prior disclosures are known as “prior art”. Now, the test for inventiveness under the patent laws of most countries is to conjecture whether someone skilled in the field of the invention (called a person “skilled in the art” or person having ordinary skill in the art – PHOSITA) would consider your invention to be obvious or not. This means that an invention that may be considered obvious to a person skilled in the art is not inventive. Because this test is highly subjective and has many shades of grey, the decision to file a patent application is often dictated more by whether it’s novel or not, and whether it forms part of a sensible business strategy.
Abstract inventions with no application in trade, industry or agriculture cannot be the subject of a patent in terms of the patent laws of most countries. This means that perpetual motion machines or time machines cannot be patented, as they have no basis in the physical laws of the universe. However, if an invention has a practical use, such invention will be considered utile, and may thus be protected by way of a patent, if it also meets the novelty and inventiveness requirements set out above. This is a very low hurdle to get over and is mostly an issue for inventions in the biotech and “business method patent” fields.