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For an invention to be termed nonobvious, it must be substantially different or unique from anything that has been previously described or used before. It must be nonobvious to a person of ordinary knowledge or skill in technical field related to your invention. Substituting one material for another material or size is typically not patentable as nonobvious.

Example of nonobvious invention given by Nolo law: A baseball player develops and electronic device that will give a signal telling you if the pitch is a strike or ball. The patent application would be rejected because similar technology has already been developed for television commentators.