A Technical Board of Appeal of the EPO has referred questions to the EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal regarding the definition of the state of the art in relation to a commercially available product (link).
The referring Board asks whether the commercial availability of a product and partial information about its composition (e.g. datasheets) can be state of the art, even when the composition or internal structure cannot be analysed or reproduced. This is critical for the referring case, as the possibility to use such a product in the inventive step assessment is decisive. The last question considers what threshold is required for the “undue burden” criterion in r.1.4 of G 1/92.
The referring board formulated the following questions:
1. Is a product put on the market before the date of filing of a European patent application to be excluded from the state of the art within the meaning of Article 54(2) EPC for the sole reason that its composition or internal structure could not be analysed and reproduced without undue burden by the skilled person before that date?
2. If the answer to question 1 is no, is technical information about said product which was made available to the public before the filing date (e.g. by publication of technical brochure, non-patent or patent literature) state of the art within the meaning of Article 54(2) EPC, irrespective of whether the composition or internal structure of the product could be analysed and reproduced without undue burden by the skilled person before that date?
3. If the answer to question 1 is yes or the answer to question 2 is no, which criteria are to be applied in order to determine whether or not the composition or internal structure of the product could be analysed and reproduced without undue burden within the meaning of opinion G 1/92? In particular, is it required that the composition and internal structure of the product be fully analysable and identically reproducible?
These questions will have relevance for the chemical field as well as many other technological fields. We now have some months to wait to see how the Enlarged Board of Appeal responds.
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