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Point of novelty is a term used in patent law to distinguish those elements or limitations in a patent claim that are conventional or known from those elements or limitations that are not conventional or known.


That part of the invention may also be termed its "point of departure from the prior art." The terms is also applied to a patentability test — "the point of novelty test" — which determines patentability (usually, obviousness) by considering the point(s) of novelty after dissecting out the conventional part.

In a Jepson claim, the conventional parts of the claim elements are placed in a preamble, such as "In a grease gun comprising a cylinder enclosing a piston longitudinally movable in said cylinder, said cylinder having a nozzle at a distal end thereof," which is followed by a transitional phrase such as "the improvement comprising," which is followed by a recitation of the element or elements constituting the point of novelty, such as "said nozzle having a fluted opening at a distal end thereof."

A conceptual problem may arise in applying the point of novelty method of analysis when the elements at the point of novelty cooperate or co-act with the conventional elements or part of them in a novel way. The novel co-action is properly considered part of the point of novelty of the invention and should therefore properly be recited after the transitional phrase.

The Federal Circuit formerly used the point of novelty test for design patents as the basis of a patent infringement analysis, but the court abandoned that test in Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc.[1] The Federal Circuit has at times criticized use of the point of novelty test in obviousness analysis,[2] but the U.S. Supreme Court has continued to use a point of novelty test for obviousness.[3] In Parker v. Flook the Supreme Court analyzed patent-eligibility (statutory subject matter) under a point of novelty test, citing Neilson v. Harford and O’Reilly v. Morse as authority, but in Diamond v. Diehr, the Court used the opposite approach.


  1. 543 F.3d 665 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (full-text).
  2. See In re Gulack, 703 F.2d 1381, 1385 n.8, 217 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 401 (Fed. Cir. 1983) (full-text) ("A printed matter rejection is based on case law antedating the 1952 patent act, employing a point of novelty approach. The 1952 act legislatively revised that approach through its requirement that the claim be viewed as a whole in determining obviousness. The CCPA considered all of the limitations of the claims, including the printed matter limitations, in determining whether the invention would have been obvious.").
  3. See Sakraida v. Ag Pro, Inc., 425 U.S. 273 (1976) (full-text); Anderson’s-Black Rock, Inc. v. Pavement Salvage Co., 396 U.S. 57 (1969) (full-text).

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