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The full extent of what constitutes common general knowledge in a particular matter can only be established by evidence. Examiners are not in a position to produce such evidence and therefore must formulate an opinion of what is common general knowledge on the basis of written information. Examiners may refer to the following as being indicative of the common general knowledge:

  • standard texts and handbooks;

  • most dictionaries of standard English;

  • relevant technical dictionaries;

  • concession in the patent application under examination;

  • magazines or other publications specific to the art; and

  • patent specifications, under certain conditions.

However, the material disclosed in such publications does not necessarily constitute common general knowledge in the art. Thus:

"In my judgement it is not sufficient to prove common general knowledge that a particular disclosure is made in an article, or a series of articles, in a scientific journal, no matter how wide the circulation of that journal may be, in the absence of any evidence that the disclosure is accepted generally by those who are engaged in the art to which the disclosure relates. A piece of particular knowledge as disclosed in a scientific paper does not become common general knowledge merely because it is widely read, and still less merely because it is widely circulated. Such a piece of knowledge only becomes common general knowledge when it is generally known and accepted without question by the bulk of those who are engaged in the particular art; in other words, when it becomes part of their common stock of knowledge relating to the art."


"It is certainly difficult to appreciate how the use of something which has in fact never been used in a particular art can ever be held to be common general knowledge in the art."

British Acoustic Films Ld v Nettlefold Productions (1936) 53 RPC 221 at page 250, and affirmed in General Tire & Rubber Company v Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company Ltd [1972] RPC 457, with the qualification that "without question" should read "generally regarded as a good basis for further action."

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