In patent prosecution, an examiner often mentions the term "common knowledge" when evaluating a step forward in an invention, as one cannot patent common knowledge. Common knowledge in the IP sense is generally a fact known or ought to be known to one skilled in the art and can be applied by such a person to solve specific technical problems. Common knowledge can also be a technical means that is most likely to be considered and applied by one skilled in the relevant technical field when working on solutions to specific technical problems. As China’s Guidelines for Patent Examination (the "Guidelines") do not provide a clear definition for "common knowledge", the examiner and the applicant or the applicant’s attorney often disagree on what is common knowledge in a particular patent dispute.
By Chen Wei, Partner at King & Wood’s Intellectual Property Group