Most patent applications are initially rejected on obviousness grounds by the patent examiner in the US Patent and Trademark Office. That means that the examiner believes that the invention, as set forth in the claims in the application, would have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time the application was filed. Usually, the rejection is based on one or more prior art references – documents that are publicly available as of the application’s filing date. In making such a rejection, the examiner states that a person skilled in the art would have found it obvious to modify the teachings of the cited prior art references to achieve the claimed invention.
There are several ways to overcome this type of obviousness rejection. The applicant can argue that the examiner is incorrect in the interpretation of the prior art references, and that those references do not teach or disclose what the examiner contends. The applicant can also argue that, although the examiner may be correct in interpreting the prior art references, the examiner is incorrect in concluding that a person skilled in the art would have found the claimed invention obvious based on those references. Or, the applicant can amend the claims to add an element that is not taught or disclosed in the references.
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