Inventive step - closest prior art

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Inventive Step – Problem/Solution – Closest prior art – Article 56 EPC

The Law

The invention shall be considered as involving an inventive step if, having regard to the state of the art, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art. If the state of the art also includes documents within the meaning of Article 54, paragraph 3, these documents shall not be considered in deciding whether there has been an inventive step.


The first stage in problem/solution is to identify the closest prior art. The closest prior art is normally a prior art document disclosing subject-matter conceived for the same purpose or aiming at the same objectives as the claimed invention and having the greatest number of relevant technical features in common, i.e., requiring the minimum of structural and functional modifications. That is, the closest prior art document which constitutes the most promising starting point for the invention.

The relevant date for assessing the prior art is the applicable priority date of the claimed invention.

Relevant case law

T24/81, T254/86, T606/89, T495/91, T570/91, T686/91, T834/91, T439/92, T482/92, T298/93, T380/93, T59/96, T730/96, T1203/97, T211/06

Guidelines for examination

G-VII, 5.1 (2012)

Other references

None at present