Novelty just means a method is new/original, and has not been disclosed (with certain caveats, dependent on region.) Novelty is distinct from obviousness.
Novelty is defined in the US as follows:
[a] person shall be entitled to a patent unless—
(1) the claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention; or
(2) the claimed invention was described in a patent issued under section 151, or in an application for patent published or deemed published under section 122(b), in which the patent or application, as the case may be, names another inventor and was effectively filed before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.
35 U.S. Code § 102 - Conditions for patentability; novelty
"Obviousness" is more cloudy and there is no simple answer. However, you may find this IPWatchdog review article helpful: When is an Invention Obvious?
The cited article begins with an issue relating to the determination:
"...unfortunately the law of obviousness can be quite subjective and difficult to understand. At times obviousness determinations almost seems arbitrary."
It then presents the analytical framework for the determination:
In order to determine whether an invention is obvious one must work through this analytical framework: (1) Determine the scope and content of the prior art; (2) Ascertain the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art; (3) Resolve the level of ordinary skill in the pertinent art; and (4) Consider objective indicia of non-obviousness (i.e., are there secondary considerations of non-obviousness that suggest a patent should issue despite an invention seeming to be obvious).
Case Law and precedent becomes important:
"Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in KSR v. Teleflex obviousness was rather mechanical. With obviousness we are asking whether there is any combination of prior art references that when put together would be the invention in question. In other words, could an ordinary mechanic create your invention or was there some kind of non-obvious innovation.."
Six KSR rationales are listed:
- If the invention a product of combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results the invention is obvious.
- If the invention is created through a substitution of one known element for another to obtain predictable results the invention is obvious.
- If the invention is achieved by using a known technique to improve a similar device in the same way the invention is obvious.
- If the invention is created by applying a known improvement technique in a way that would yield predictable results the invention is obvious.
- If the invention is achieved from choosing a finite number of identifiable, predictable solutions that have a reasonable expectation to succeed the invention is obvious.
- If known work in one filed of endeavor prompts variations based on design incentives or market forces and the variations are predictable to one of skill in the art the invention is obvious.
The article goes on to state:
"...what is obvious to some large degree is in the eye of the beholder."
and notes that most applications will receive at least one pro forma non-obviousness rejection. The article concludes that:
"...we don’t have a useful test for obviousness at the moment, which can make it exceptionally difficult to advise clients in cases where it could go one way or another depending on one’s particular point of view."
Understanding Obviousness: John Deere and the Basics | IP Watchdog
KSR the 5th Anniversary: One Supremely Obvious Mess | IP Watchdog
KSR's Effect on Patent Law | U. Michigan Law Review
Predictability and Nonobviousness in Patent Law
After KSR | U. Michigan Law Review