The Examiner Corps is a big group, and while some of them are very thorough, others may be happy to do one quick text search of their patent document databases.
It is difficult to do much before a competitor's application publishes. Did you file your own patent application? This can be a good strategy for this type of situation (assuming no prior art bar)....
Pre AIA MPEP (Manual of Patent Examining Procedure) states:
Likewise, there may be a nonpublic, e.g., “secret,” sale or offer to sell an invention which nevertheless constitutes a statutory bar. Hobbs v.United States, 451 F.2d 849, 859-60, 171 USPQ 713, 720 (5th Cir. 1971).
In similar fashion, not ...
It always did until the AIA law went into effect. Now the law says:
" PRIOR ART.—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;"
If the italicized phrase ...