AOP Community Resources

NPL Overview

Non-Patent Literature Overview

Non-patent literature (NPL) refers to any type of literature that is not a patent. These types of literature can be very similar to patents in that they also have an abstract, publication date, and a set of cited references. However, NPL includes a wide range of literature that each brings unique value to a search project.

If literature cannot be used as prior art because the publication date is beyond the LDR (Latest Date for Responses), the document can still be used to launch a new direction for the search. A closer look at the literature may actually yield new keywords and new technologies to consider. The literature may also uncover authors who specialize in the field, potentially leading to earlier works by these authors. Finally, any cited references in the bibliography or footnotes can also yield additional potential prior art

What is Non-Patent Literature?

Non-Patent Literature covers any type of document or literature that is not a patent.  The most popular types of NPL include:

  • Journal articles
  • Technical papers
  • Conference proceedings
  • Academic theses or dissertations
  • Magazine and newspapers
  • Books
  • Product manuals
  • Specification sheets
  • White papers
  • Company blogs
  • Reference implementations
  • Industry publications
  • Videos

Any of these types of literature can be considered as prior art as long as they include a clear publication date.  Similar to patent literature, NPL can be found online using keyword searching through a variety of databases.  However, valuable NPL can also be found offline, in books, magazines, and journals.

Why is NPL important?

Because Non-Patent Literature is often not searchable through modern databases or exists in a different industry than that of the Study technology, it can be more difficult to find and less likely to be previously known. NPL is much more unique than typical Patent references and can be the key to a Study.

  • NPL includes a much more diverse range of references from a variety of sources, instead of concentrating only on one source.
  • You can demonstrate your skills as a Researcher by challenging yourself to find more unique NPL references, rather than just submitting easy-to-find patents.
  • Focusing on unique NPL submissions helps you to avoid submitting duplicate references, which can happen frequently when submitting easy-to-find patents that other Researchers have already found.

You can begin by looking through Article One’s list of NPL resources to get started with your NPL search, but then try to think “outside the box” as much as possible. Although you can conduct your NPL research online, it also helps to think back to your own experiences with a particular technology.  You can also research at a local library as part of your “intellectual treasure hunt” for more unique references.