The seismic shift from analogue to the digital world of social media, blogs and websites has created an unlimited, and sometimes unreliable, number of resources. When there is so much information available, filing for a patent, and proving that a new invention is not already known or thought of, is even harder.

The novelty and inventiveness of a patent application is judged against the prior art and, with a few exceptions, that prior art is defined as everything that is published or made available to the public before the first filing date (the priority date) of the application being assessed.

Historically, prior art has predominantly consisted of text books, peer-reviewed journal articles and previously published patent applications. These are the things that were published in the analogue age and were arguably more reliable, and definitely more defined, sources of information.

Recently, however, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cited a "health blog" as prior art in an exam report for one of my clients. This set me thinking about how we define prior art. In a world in which everyone can now publish their every thought, be it on blogs, vlogs or social media, is it time to revisit or even redefine what we mean by prior art?

What are your thoughts on this evolution of how prior art can be defined? Let us know your thoughts here.

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