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Guidelines for Examination

Application of known measures? 

1.1 Inventions involving the application of known measures in an obvious way and in respect of which an inventive step is therefore to be ruled out:

The teaching of a prior document is incomplete and at least one of the possible ways of "filling the gap" which would naturally or readily occur to the skilled person results in the invention.

Example: The invention relates to a building structure made from aluminium. A prior document discloses the same structure and says that it is of light-weight material but fails to mention the use of aluminium.

The invention differs from the known art merely in the use of well-known equivalents (mechanical, electrical or chemical).

Example: The invention relates to a pump which differs from a known pump solely in that its motive power is provided by a hydraulic motor instead of an electric motor.

The invention consists merely in a new use of a well-known material employing the known properties of that material.

Example: Washing composition containing as detergent a known compound having the known property of lowering the surface tension of water, this property being known to be an essential one for detergents.

The invention consists in the substitution in a known device of a recently developed material whose properties make it plainly suitable for that use ("analogous substitution").

Example: An electric cable comprises a polyethylene sheath bonded to a metallic shield by an adhesive. The invention lies in the use of a particular newly developed adhesive known to be suitable for polymer-metal bonding.

The invention consists merely in the use of a known technique in a closely analogous situation ("analogous use").

Example: The invention resides in the application of a pulse control technique to the electric motor driving the auxiliary mechanisms of an industrial truck, such as a fork-lift truck, the use of this technique to control the electric propulsion motor of the truck being already known.

1.2 Inventions involving the application of known measures in a non-obvious way and in respect of which an inventive step is therefore to be recognised:

A known working method or means when used for a different purpose involves a new, surprising effect.

Example: It is known that high-frequency power can be used in inductive butt welding. It should therefore be obvious that high-frequency power could also be used in conductive butt welding with similar effect. However, if high-frequency power were used for the continuous conductive butt welding of coiled strip but without removing scale (such scale removal normally being necessary during conductive welding in order to avoid arcing between the welding contact and the strip), there is the unexpected additional effect that scale removal is found to be unnecessary because at high frequency the current is supplied in a predominantly capacitive manner via the scale which forms a dielectric. In that case, an inventive step would exist.

A new use of a known device or material involves overcoming technical difficulties not resolvable by routine techniques.

Example: The invention relates to a device for supporting and controlling the rise and fall of gas holders, enabling the previously employed external guiding framework to be dispensed with. A similar device was known for supporting floating docks or pontoons but practical difficulties not encountered in the known applications needed to be overcome in applying the device to a gas holder.