General principles 

Subject-matter is regarded as made available to the public by use or in any other way if, at the relevant date, it was possible for members of the public to gain knowledge of the subject-matter and there was no bar of confidentiality restricting the use or dissemination of such knowledge (see also G‑IV, 1 with reference to written descriptions). This may, for example, arise if an object is unconditionally sold to a member of the public, since the buyer thereby acquires unlimited possession of any knowledge which may be obtained from the object. Even where in such cases the specific features of the object may not be ascertained from an external examination, but only by further analysis, those features are nevertheless to be considered as having been made available to the public. This is irrespective of whether or not particular reasons can be identified for analysing the composition or internal structure of the object. These specific features only relate to the intrinsic features. Extrinsic characteristics, which are only revealed when the product is exposed to interaction with specifically chosen outside conditions, e.g. reactants or the like, in order to provide a particular effect or result or to discover potential results or capabilities, therefore point beyond the product per se as they are dependent on deliberate choices being made. Typical examples are the first or further application as a pharmaceutical product of a known substance or composition (see Art. 54(4) and (5)) and the use of a known compound for a particular purpose, based on a new technical effect (see G 2/88). Thus, such characteristics cannot be considered as already having been made available to the public (see G 1/92). T 1833/14 contains an example where a commercially available product was found by the board not to have been made available to the public as the skilled person was not able to reproduce it without undue burden, i.e. the alleged public prior use did not amount to an enabling disclosure.

If, on the other hand, an object could be seen in a given place (a factory, for example) to which members of the public not bound to secrecy, including persons with sufficient technical knowledge to ascertain the specific features of the object, had access, all knowledge which an expert was able to gain from a purely external examination is to be regarded as having been made available to the public. In such cases, however, all concealed features which could be ascertained only by dismantling or destroying the object will not be deemed to have been made available to the public.

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