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Nonobviousness is a quality in patent law describing something that is not readily apparent. In order to obtain a patent, an invention must be nonobvious. If someone of ordinary skill in a relevant field could easily make the invention, then it is considered obvious and would be an invention based on prior art. Possible objective indicia of nonobviousness could include commercial success, initial skepticism regarding the invention, and demonstrated failure of others to solve a long-standing problem.

35 U.S. Code § 103 sets for the requirement for nonobviousness in patent law as follows:

“A patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained, notwithstanding that the claimed invention is not identically disclosed as set forth in section 102, 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.”

[Last updated in August of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team