MPEP Q & A 232: Can social media websites be a source of prior art?

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Question:

Can social media websites like Facebook be a source of prior art?

Answer:

Social media websites on the Internet, such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and public forum posts, can be a source of prior art, provided the public accessibility requirements are met.

Not all information on social media is considered publicly accessible.

Public accessibility is determined on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration factors such as, where the information is posted, privacy restrictions placed on the posting, the length of time it was posted, and whether the information is indexed for searching.

Chapter Details:

The answer to this question can be found in chapter 2100 of the MPEP. This chapter covers Patentability.

The answer is from the 9th Edition, Revision 10.2019. Depending on future changes to the MPEP, the question and answer may or may not be applicable in later Editions or revisions.

Section Summary:

This question and answer comes from section 2128 of the MPEP.  The following is a brief summary of section 2128.

2128 “Printed Publications” as Prior Art

This section outlines the details of printed publications as prior art. A reference is a printed publication if it is accessible to the public. It also covers electronic publications as prior art. Essentially, electronic publications are considered printed publications provided the publication was accessible to individuals concerned with the art to which the document relates. Regarding printed publications, one need not prove someone actually looked at a publication when that publication is accessible to the public through a library or patent office.