Here is a draft article titled “What is the difference between complementary and analogous art?”:
In patent law, determining the scope of prior art references is a critical step in evaluating whether an invention is novel and non-obvious. Two important categories of prior art are complementary art and analogous art. Understanding the difference between these two types of references is key for inventors, patent attorneys, and patent examiners.
This article will provide an overview of complementary and analogous art, explain how they are defined differently, and discuss why the distinction matters for patentability. With clear explanations and illustrative examples, you’ll gain insight into these fundamental patent law concepts.
Defining Complementary Art
Complementary art refers to prior art references that are not in the same field of endeavor as the claimed invention, but solve a similar problem or accomplish a similar result.
For example, consider an invention that is a new complex mechanical gear system for bicycles. Prior art that discloses mechanical gearing systems for cars or industrial machines would be considered complementary art, even though they are not in the explicit field of bicycles. The key is that they relate to solving a similar mechanical gearing problem.
Some key characteristics of complementary art:
|Not in the same field of endeavor as the claimed invention
|Solves a similar problem or achieves a similar result
|Can be either in a “separate field” or “reasonably pertinent field”
|Often relates to general mechanical/electrical/software principles, methods, engineering, or physics
Complementary art is typically more common for complex technologies like electronics, software, or mechanical devices. General engineering solutions from a different field may read on the invention even if not specifically tailored to the problem at hand.
Defining Analogous Art
Analogous art refers to prior art in the same field of endeavor as the claimed invention. This is art that directly competes with or substitutes for the invention.
For example, if the invention is a new toy building block, then prior art disclosing other building block toys would be analogous art. The field of endeavor is toys, specifically building blocks. References don’t have to solve the identical problem or be structurally similar, just be directed to the same field.
Some key characteristics of analogous art:
|In the same field of endeavor as the claimed invention
|Directly competes with or substitutes for the claimed invention
|Typically solves a similar problem or achieves a similar result
|Structural similarity to the claimed invention is helpful but not required
Analogous art has a fairly narrow definition focused on competing devices and methods in the specific field or industry. It does not extend to other fields solving similar problems like complementary art does.
Why the Difference Matters
Drawing this distinction between complementary and analogous art is important because they are treated differently when determining validity of a patent.
During patent prosecution, examiners can cite complementary art to reject claims under 35 U.S.C. 103 for obviousness. However, analogous art is required to reject claims as anticipated under 35 U.S.C. 102.
Likewise, analogous art is needed to invalidate a patent based on anticipation in litigation. But complementary art can be used to argue the patent is obvious and therefore invalid.
The bar is higher for analogous art because it must disclose the exact invention, while complementary art only needs to make the invention obvious. Understanding these nuances provides insight into strategies for both obtaining and attacking patents.
Examples Comparing Complementary and Analogous Art
Consider the following hypothetical examples to highlight the difference between complementary and analogous art:
Invention: A power drill with a quick-release chuck
Complementary Art: A metal lathe with a quick-release chuck for cutting tools
Why: Not the same field of endeavor (lathe vs. drill), but solves a similar problem of quick tool release.
Analogous Art: A power drill with a different quick-release chuck design
Why: Same field of power drills, directly competes and substitutes.
Invention: A method of securely transmitting data over WiFi
Complementary Art: A method of securely transmitting data over cellular networks
Why: Not the same field of endeavor (cellular vs WiFi), but solves similar data transmission security problem.
Analogous Art: A different method of securely transmitting data over WiFi
Why: Same field of WiFi data transmission, competes and substitutes directly.
Invention: A new fatigue-reducing bicycle seat design
Complementary Art: An ergonomic chair seat design for reducing fatigue
Why: Not the same field (chair vs. bicycle), but solves similar fatigue reduction problem.
Analogous Art: A different bicycle seat design for reducing fatigue.
Why: Same field of bicycle seats that compete and substitute directly.
In summary, complementary art and analogous art serve distinct roles in patent law. Complementary art is in a different field but solves a similar problem, while analogous art directly competes within the same field of endeavor.
Understanding this distinction is key for both patent prosecutors and litigators. Complementary art creates an obviousness risk, but analogous art is required to anticipate claims. Consider both types thoroughly when evaluating patentability or validity.