To determine whether an invention involves an inventive step, the Chinese Patent Office’s Guidelines for Patent Examination (the “Guidelines”) require the patent examiner, inter alia, to make a judgment, starting from the closest prior art and the technical problem actually solved by the invention, as to whether or not the claimed technical solution is obvious to a person skilled in the art in the light of relevant reference documents and common knowledge. As the Guidelines do not give a strict definition of “common knowledge” and, in practice, the examiner is not required to prove common knowledge when he/she first introduces it, what should be qualified as common knowledge in a particular case often becomes a subject of dispute.
Recently, the Beijing IP Court handed down a decision (No. 3495 ) resolving such a dispute. In its decision, the Court reaffirmed the Patent Reexamination Board (PRB)’s burden to state reasons or provide corresponding evidence for proof, if the interested party has objections to the common knowledge introduced by it. The Court further clarified the relationship between the 3GPP (a telecommunications industry collaboration that organizes several important standards from GSM through UMTS and LTE to 5G) standards documents and common knowledge, considering the increasing frequency of these documents being cited as prior art in telecommunications area. Continue reading “A recent case in China concerning the Patent Office’s burden to prove common knowledge in patent examination”