Did you know that inventions which at first sight appear obvious might be patentable?


You have come up with a process, a device, or a product that solves a particular technical problem? However, you believe that it is so simple and obvious it must surely not be patentable…Think again! Actually, you might be using hindsight knowledge.

Once the solution to a particular problem is known, it is of course tempting to think it was easy or straightforward to imagine. This is called hindsight. However, this is not how inventive step is assessed at the European Patent Office (EPO). Indeed, it seems to be obvious now … but was it really obvious before the solution was actually known?

The EPO uses the problem-solution approach which is designed to avoid using hindsight and allows to determine if an invention involves an inventive step. Without going into details, this approach comprises among other things, the definition of an objective technical problem to be solved in view of the prior art.

Assessing the inventive step is not easy. However, an invention is not rendered obvious merely because your invention could have been conceivable. You can get a rough idea of whether your invention is inventive by answering the following questions:

Is there a prior art document pointing towards the solution (provided by your invention) to the objective technical problem? Does it prompt a person skilled in the art to modify the prior art in order to provide your invention?

If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, it means that your invention probably involves an inventive step! Congratulations!

You are still not sure if your invention is inventive? Do not hesitate to contact any of our patent experts.

We routinely provide patentability opinions for a wide variety of inventions in all fields of technology.


Roland Duchêne – European and Belgian Patent Attorney
Ingrid Luyten – European Patent Attorney