For a new invention to be patentable it must be non-obvious to an individual with ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made. Patent examiners often note that someone with ordinary “skill in the art” is already in possession of the cumulative information and knowledge shown in two or more prior patents. This person of ordinary skill in the art will know how to combine these several reference patents so as to make the claimed invention in the patent application “obvious” and therefore un-patentable.
A hypothetical “ordinarily skilled person in the art” (e.g., mechanic or electrician) is deemed knowledgeable as to the entire pertinent prior art. It is as if all the pertinent references were ‘available on a computer screen’ for a person with “ordinary skill” to view. The “obviousness” issue focuses on whether the prior art references, considered individually or collectively, contain sufficient teaching, suggestion or motivation, such that the novel or new subject matter would have been obvious to a person with ordinary “skill in the art” at the time the invention was made.