AOP Community Resources

Product NPL


Product Literature differs from Academic Literature in that it is developed to support commercial innovation and potential product development.  However, it is still just as valuable.  These types of literature often come from those who have researched, invented, produced, or attempted to produce these technologies, and are therefore quite detailed in their specifications.  In some cases, this proof of commercial use can provide even more concrete evidence than academic literature.

Business Materials

Many businesses often use informative marketing materials in the form of advertisements, brochures, and leaflets used to entice and educate consumers regarding their products. Although these materials offer basic information regarding a product, they may already disclose and describe features matching several of the claims in the Study patent. Most importantly, they can provide keywords and good leads in searching for more relevant prior art.

Usually, the copyright details or the year of printing are indicated in a small portion at the last section of the ad or along the margins of the printed materials.  These materials are usually available in product and company websites offering the technology or service being marketed. These references are usually tapped when a particular product or service similar to that described in the patent being studied is already identified. They may also pop up from time to time in search hits through a basic Google search.  Many large companies also hold archives of marketing material that may be accessible online.

Products and services are also accompanied by user manuals and product/service datasheets or material safety datasheets which contain instructions, product specifications, hazards, FAQs, and other relevant information regarding the product or service.  These specifications are extremely valuable in a patent Study because they provide a very strong level of detail about the development and features of a product.  Detailed features can often mean the difference between a winning reference and a declined submission.

In addition, many old technical reviews of various products can still be found online, and this type of reference can be valuable because it tends to list, specify, or describe the various components or features of a product.  More importantly, reviews often focus on the most recent improvements to the technology.  Since you are searching for very specific elements, this can help to quickly identify whether a product of a certain year has the features needed to match the Study patent.

Conferences & Whitepapers

Many academic scientists and engineers present their new research findings at specialized conferences or conventions.  As a result, conference proceedings can be a great source of prior art, as they usually include compilations of papers from participants in that area of technology.

Unfortunately, those who rely heavily on Google for their prior art search may be unable to access conference proceedings that were published outside the United States.  One way to get around this problem is to include the name of a country and the word “conference” or “proceedings” as part of the search.  In addition, this is a great opportunity to utilize specialized databases that focus on conference papers.  In many cases, it is most efficient to identify the relevant conference and search on their website to determine if they publish conference archives.

Many companies also write technical whitepapers for various reasons, including sales, marketing, and technical demonstrations.  These references can be prior art themselves, or can be key in finding additional non-patent literature.  Many of these whitepapers offer in-depth details of specific product and technology offerings sold by the company.

For example, IBM Redbooks includes disclosures on a wide range of technologies for support services.  These articles, while informative and important to the people they were written for, can also benefit your quest in finding great non-patent prior art.  These articles solve problems faced by engineers and scientists, similar to the way patents solve problems for the inventors.  Finding similarities in the technology and the problem it solves can lead to discovering great non-patent literature.

Pharmaceutical Searching

When conducting a prior art search for Studies relating to drugs and other pharmaceutical products, one of the best resources to consult is the Merck Index.  The Merck Index lists the generic and technical name of the drug and the patents on the drug or its combination with other drugs or compounds, as well as citations to references that disclose the results of laboratory studies on the drug.  The Index is normally updated yearly and is available in most university libraries.

In addition, the drug product insert that contains information about the active ingredient in a drug formulation (e.g., tablet, capsule, gelcaps, etc.), indications and contra-indications, dosage, and side effects may also be available online.  Again, for this resource to be useful as prior art, the date should be clearly indicated on the drug insert itself.

Some published studies on a drug clinical trial may also disclose useful information about the drug.  If a reference disclosing a drug for use in treating a particular disease cannot be found, it is possible that another reference disclosing the same drug for treating a different disease may disclose the use of the same drug for other illnesses.


Since the advent of the Internet, websites have been an important tool in sharing information about products, methods, technologies, etc.  Manufacturers’ websites, for example, can provide a list of technologies they have developed with detailed descriptions containing the specifications and other related information. Some sites and blogs also offer reviews of products and technologies discussing relevant information regarding these technologies.

Webpages are the fastest to appear in basic internet searches. However, webpages can be unreliable and difficult to evaluate depending on the source and availability of a publication date.  The date of update or copyright date is usually indicated at the bottom of the website and could also provide an idea regarding the publishing date.

Sometimes, outdated webpages that show old products, devices, and machines can still be found online.  These are quite useful when a Researcher only has a photograph or image of the product (or when comparing images is the only way to find prior art).  When relying on these pages as prior art, one must ensure that the original publication date is clearly indicated on the webpage itself.  Otherwise, there is no way for to determine whether the old webpage is eligible, unless it is widely-known when the product was first introduced on the market and one is merely interested in acquiring a copy of a publicly-accessible image of the product of interest.