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The Everyday Dictionary of Law

The Everyday Dictionary of Law provides legal vocabulary currently in use in common law jurisdictions such as most notably, in the United States. The dictionary is compiled specifically for commercial and intellectual property law practitioners, which provides simple definitions and meanings in American English, for legal terms (including Latin terms) used in formal correspondence, court proceedings, and motion practice as well as common language words that are frequently used in the same. It is a simple reference guide for attorneys, paralegals as well as casual readers who need to check the meaning of a particular legal term in due course of their work.


The information provided by Carthaginian Ventures Private Limited d/b/a Copperpod IP (“we,” “us” or “our”) on this site is for general informational purposes only. All information on the website is provided in good faith, however, we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of any information on the site. Under no circumstance shall we have any liability to you for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of the site or reliance on any information provided on the site. Your use and  and reliance on any information on the site constitutes your understanding, acceptance and agreement of these terms and conditions.


An NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is a legally binding contract of confidentiality. NDAs can protect data, knowledge, material or information from being disclosed.


Non-governmental organisations


National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination Council.

NNN Agreement

Used to protect IP in China, this is a 'non-use, non-disclosure, and non-circumvention' agreement. It should be used instead of a US style NDA (non disclosure agreement), as this is not considered sufficient to protect IP in China.


Notice of Allowance


Network Operations Control Center.


Non-Practising Entity. Also sometimes known pejoratively as patent trolls, NPEs hold patents for inventions but have no intention of developing or commercializing them.


Non Patent Literature -- documents and publications that are not patents or published patent applications but are cited as references for being relevant in a patent prosecution. For example, a magazine article or doctoral thesis relevant to a claimed invention might be cited as non-patent literature. Typically, references cited in an application are grouped into: domestic patents and patent application publications; foreign patents; and non-patent literature.


National Patent Office.

Naked Trust

A trust in which the trustee has no obligation except to hand over the trust property to a person entitled to it, at the latter's request. This will occur when the beneficiary is of full age and under no disability and the trustee has no duties in respect of the property.


A “nation” is a large group of people having a common origin, language, and tradition and usually constituting a political entity. “Nationals” refers to persons, natural or legal, who are domiciled or who have a real and effective industrial or commercial establishment in a customs territory. The term “nation” carries connotations of a community shaped by common descent, culture and history and often by a common language as well. The term “cultural communities” is intended to be broad enough to include the nationals of an entire country, a “nation”, in cases where traditional cultural expressions are regarded as “national folklore” and belonging to all of the people of a particular country. This complements and accords with the practice in other policy areas.

National Stage Application

An application which has entered the national phase of the Patent Cooperation Treaty by the fulfillment of certain requirements in a national Office, which is an authority entrusted with the granting of national or regional patents. Such an application is filed under 35 U.S.C. §371 in the United States and is referred to as a "371 application.".


The state of being a citizen or subject of a particular country

Natural Justice

Rules of fair play, originally developed by the courts of equity to control the decisions of inferior courts and then gradually extended (particularly in the 20th century) to apply equally to the decisions of administrative and domestic tribunals and of any authority exercising an *administrative power that affects a person's status, rights, or liabilities. Any decision reached in contravention of natural justice is void as *ultra vires. There are two principal rules. The first is the rule against bias (i.e. against departure from the standard of even-handed justice required of those who occupy judicial office) - nemo judex in causa sua (or in propria causa) (no man may be a judge in his own cause). This means that any decision, however fair it may seem, is invalid if made by a person with any financial or other interest in the outcome or any known bias that might have affected his impartiality. The second rule is known as audi alteram partem (hear the other side). It states that a decision cannot stand unless the person directly affected by it was given a fair opportunity both to state his case and to know and answer the other side's case.

Natural Law

The permanent underlying basis of all law. The philosophers of ancient Greece, where the idea of natural law originated, considered that there was a kind of perfect justice given to man by nature and that man's laws should conform to this as closely as possible. Theories of natural law have been an important part of jurisprudence throughout legal history. Natural law is distinguished from positive law, which is the body of law imposed by the state. Natural law is both anterior and superior to positive law.

Negotiable Instrument

A document that constitutes an obligation to pay a sum of money and is transferable by delivery so that the holder for the time can sue upon it in his own name. The transferee can enforce the obligation even if the transferor's title is defective, provided that he accepted the document in good faith and for value and had no notice of the defect. The most important classes of negotiable instruments are *bills of exchange (including cheques) and *promissory notes


(in international law) A diplomatic procedure by which representatives of states, either by direct personal contact or through correspondence, engage in discussing matters of mutual concern and attempt to resolve disputes that have arisen in relations between themselves.

Nemo debet bis vexari (pro una et eadem causa)

/nəˈmɒ dɛbət bɪs vɛkˈseɪrɪ/
/nemou dɛbet bis vɛksəri/

Latin for "no-one should be tried twice (in respect to the same matter)". It is a principle of double jeopardy (autrefois acquit) where a person should not be tried twice on the same matter.

Nemo iudex in causa sua

/nəˈmɒ ijʊdəks ɪn kaʊzə sjua/
/nemou ijʊˌdɛks ɪn kausɑ suəa/

Latin for "no-one should be a judge in his own case". It is a principle of natural justice that no person can judge a case in which they have an interest.

New Trial (retrial)

A second trial of a case ordered by an appellate court. In civil cases the Court of Appeal may order a new trial on grounds including misconduct by the judge (such as a serious misdirection), serious procedural irregularity, or (in rare cases) because fresh evidence has come to light. In criminal cases new trials are rarely ordered, but the former requirement that the appeal had to be based upon the admission of fresh evidence has been abolished.

No Case To Answer

A submission by the defending party in a court action that the claimant's or prosecution's case is not sufficient for the defendant to need to make any reply, either because of insufficient legal grounds or because of insufficient factual evidence. If the submission succeeds, judgment is entered for the defence.

Non Contentious Business

Any business of a solicitor that is not *contentious business, i.e. it is business of a non litigious character.

Non Jury List

A list of cases for trial by judge alone in the High Court.

Non Provable Debt

A debt that cannot be claimed in the course of *bankruptcy proceedings. Examples are *statute-barred debts and debts that cannot be fixed or estimated.

Non-Final Office Action

An Office action letter that raises new issues and usually is the first phase of the examination process. An examining attorney will issue a non-final Office action after reviewing the application for the first time. If a new issue arises after the applicant responds to the first non-final Office action, the examining attorney will issue another non-final Office action that sets forth the new issue(s) and continues any that remain outstanding. Applicants must respond to non-final Office action letters within 6 months from the date they are issued to avoid abandonment of the application.

Non-Final Office Action (Rejection)

An Office action made by the examiner where the applicant is entitled to reply and request reconsideration or further examination, with or without making an amendment.
On taking up an application for examination or a patent in a reexamination proceeding, the examiner is required to make a thorough study of the application and of the available prior art relating to the subject matter of the claimed invention. This examination must be complete with respect to compliance of the application or patent under reexamination with the applicable statutes and rules, the patentability of the invention as claimed matters of form, unless otherwise indicated.


A person who is not an attorney or lawyer.

Non-Responsive Amendment

An amendment filed by the applicant that does not fully respond to the examiner's office action in accordance with 37 CFR 1.111.


The period during which someone is under the age of majority (18 years).


1. (concealment) (in contract law) The failure by one party, during negotiations for a contract, to disclose to the other a fact known to him that would influence the other in deciding whether or not to enter into the contract. A full duty of disclosure exists only in the case of contracts *uberrimae fidei, which are usually contracts of insurance. If the person to be insured tells an untruth, the contract will (like any other) be voidable formisrepresentation; if this person also suppresses a material fact, it will be voidable for nondisclosure. In the case of other contracts, there is no general duty to volunteer information and mere silence cannot constitute misrepresentation. There is, however, a very limited duty of disclosure. A person who does volunteer information must not tell only a partial truth and must correct any statement that subsequently becomes to his knowledge untrue; breach of this duty will render the contract voidable for misrepresentation. 2. (in court procedure) Failure of a party to include a document that should have been disclosed in his list of documents. The other party may seek an order for specific disclosure of the document or an order requiring the party making disclosure to verify his list of documents by affidavit


Failure to perform an act required by law. Until 1961, a highway authority guilty of nonfeasance by failing to carry out repair and maintenance was not liable for injuries caused because of this. It was, however, liable for misfeasance. The defence of nonfeasance was then abolished by statute, but an authority can plead instead the statutory defence that it took all reasonable care to ensure that the highway was not dangerous.


A plea in *abatement alleging that the claimant had failed to join all necessary parties in the action. In modern practice this does not cause the action to abate but it can be rectified by *amendment.

Nonprovisional Patent Application

An application for patent filed under 35 U.S.C. §111(a) that includes all patent applications (i.e., utility, design, plant, and reissue) except provisional applications. The nonprovisional application establishes the filing date and initiates the examination process. A nonprovisional utility patent application must include a specification, including a claim or claims; drawings, when necessary; an oath or declaration; and the prescribed filing fee.


1. The withdrawal by a judge of a case from a jury with a verdict being entered in favor of the accused. 2. Formerly, a claimant's withdrawal from a civil court action

Normal Publication

Regular 18-month publication or redacted publication.

Not Guilty

1. A denial of the charges by an accused person in court. If there is more than one charge, the accused may plead guilty to some and not guilty to others. 2. A *verdict finding that an accused person has not committed the offence with which he was charged. However, he may, at the same time, be found guilty of other offences.


1. Knowledge of a fact. A person is said to have *actual notice of anything that he actually knows; *constructive notice of anything that he ought reasonably to know (for example, any fact that he would have discovered if he had made any inquiry that a reasonable man would have made); and *imputed notice of anything of which any agent of his has actual or constructive notice. 2. (in employment law) Formal notification, given by either of the parties to a contract of employment, that the contract is to be terminated after a specified period. The period of notice to which each party is entitled is governed by the contract, subject to statutory minimum periods if the employee has been continuously employed in the business for more than four weeks. An employee who has been so employed for up to two years is entitled to a week's notice; one employed for a longer period is entitled to one week's notice for each year's continuous employment up to 12 years. Thus an employee who has been employed for 20 years must be given a statutory minimum of 12 weeks' notice, although his employment contract may entitle him to a longer period, which takes priority. An employee with four weeks' continuous employment must give at least one week's notice of his resignation. An employee whose conduct justifies immediate dismissal is treated as waiving his right to notice, as is an employer whose conduct amounts to *constructive dismissal. A fixed-term contract cannot be terminated by notice unless the contract expressly provides for this. 3. (in land law) An entry against a registered title that may be lodged by a person with a right or interest in the land contained in the title. The rights and interests that may be protected by a notice are listed in the Land Registration Act 1925,and a notice must always specify the right or interest it seeks to protect. A notice differs from a *caution or an *inhibition in that dealings with the land affected may still take place, but they will have effect subject to the right or interest protected by the notice. 4. (in *Community legislation) A nonbinding document. Notices are often issued by the European Commission to explain further details of a competition regulation, for example in relation to exclusive distribution and purchasing agreements, cooperation agreements, subcontracting agreements, agency agreements, and the distinction between cooperative and concentrative *joint ventures. Notices are not binding on the Commission, whereas regulations are; however, in practice it would be very rare for the Commission to depart from policies set out in a notice.

Notice Of Discontinuance

Notice served by a claimant (or by a defendant in respect of a *counterclaim) voluntarily giving up all or part of a claim. In general, a claimant may discontinue by filing a notice of discontinuance with the court and serving copies on all parties. Discontinuance does not require the permission of the court except in the following circumstances: (1) when an interim injunction has been granted; (2)when an undertaking to the court has been given; (3)when the claimant has received an interim payment; or (4)when there is more than one claimant.

Notice To Produce

Notice by one party to a civil action requiring another to produce documents in his possession at the trial. If he fails to do so, *secondary evidence of the documents may be given. If there has been *disclosure and inspection of documents, the person making disclosure is deemed to be on notice to produce the documents that he stated were in his possession, custody, or power.

Notice of Abandonment

A written notification from the USPTO that an application has been declared abandoned or, in other words, is no longer pending. If the application was abandoned unintentionally or due to Office error, the applicant has a deadline of two months from the issue date of the notice of abandonment to file either (1) a petition to revive the application or (2) a request to reinstate the application.

Notice of Allowability

A notification to the patent applicant that the application has been placed in condition for allowance.

Notice of Allowance

NOA - a written notification from the USPTO that a specific mark has survived the opposition period following publication in the Official Gazette, and has consequently been allowed for registration. It does not mean that the mark has registered yet. Receiving a notice of allowance is another step on the way to registration.
Notices of allowance are only issued for applications that have been filed based on "intent to use". The notice of allowance is important because the issue date of the Notice of Allowance establishes the due date for filing a statement of use. After receiving the Notice of Allowance, the applicant must file a statement of use or a request for an extension of time to file a statement of use within 6 months from the issue date of the notice. If the applicant fails to timely file a statement of use or a request for an extension of time to file a statement of use, the application will be abandoned.

Notice of Allowance and Fees Due

NOA, a notification to the applicant that they are entitled to a patent under the law and requesting payment of a specified issue fee (and possibly a publication fee as well) within three months (non-extendable) from the mailing date of the notice of allowance.

Notice of Dishonour

A notice that must be given by the holder of a *bill of exchange to the drawer and to each endorser when the bill has been dishonoured; any drawer or endorser to whom notice is not given is discharged. The notice must identify the bill and state that it has been dishonoured by nonacceptance or nonpayment. The notice must be given within a reasonable time of the <dishonour (to which strict rules apply). Certain excuses are recognized for failure to give notice or delay.

Notice of Publication

A written statement from the USPTO notifying an applicant that its mark will be published in the Official Gazette. If the examining attorney assigned to an application raises no objections to registration, or if the applicant overcomes all objections, the examining attorney will approve the mark for publication. The notice of publication provides the date of publication. Any party who believes it may be damaged by registration of the mark has thirty (30) days from the publication date to file either an opposition to registration or a request to extend the time to oppose.
If no opposition is filed or if the opposition is unsuccessful, the application enters the next stage of the registration process. A Certificate of Registration will issue for applications based on use or on a foreign registration under S44, or a Notice of Allowance will issue for intent-to-use applications.

Notice of References Cited

Also known as a PTO-892 form. A list of relevant references cited by a patent examiner in an Office action. The following are some examples of such references: domestic patents, domestic patent application publications, foreign patents or patent publications, publications, electronic documents, and affidavits.

Novation n.

The substitution of a new contract for one already existing. The new contract may be between the same parties or it may involve the introduction of a new party, as in the case of the substitution of debtors. If A owes B £100 and Bowes C £100, novation would occur if all three agreed that the existing debts were to be extinguished and that A is to pay C a new debt of £100. Novation should be distinguished from *assignment of a commercial agreement, in which no new agreement is needed and the benefit of a contract is transferred to the assignee.


Novelty is one of the criteria of patentability in any examination as to substance. An invention is new if it is not anticipated by prior art.
According to Article 33 of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), novelty is defined as follows: “[f]or the purposes of the international preliminary examination, a claimed invention shall be considered novel if it is not anticipated by the prior art as defined in the Regulations.” Rule 64.1(a) of the Regulations under the PCT defines “prior art” as “everything made available to the public anywhere in the world by means of written disclosure (including drawings and other illustrations) shall be considered prior art provided that such making available occurred prior to the relevant date.”
Article 54 of the European Patent Convention (EPC) defines “novelty” as follows: “[a]n invention shall be considered to be new if it does not form part of the state of the art. The state of the art shall be held to comprise everything made available to the public by means of a written or oral description, by use, or in any other way, before the date of filing of the European patent application.”
Section 35 of the United States Code 102 [Conditions for patentability; novelty] defines the concept of novelty 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.”

naturalia negotii

/nætʃrəlɪə nɪˈɡəʊʃɪ/
/nætʃərəljə nɪˈgoʊʃi/

Latin for "business naturals''. Express or implied contractual terms that go to the root of a contract's subject matter. One of three types of contractual terms, the others being accidentialia negotii and essentalia negotii.

ne exeat

/ni ɛksɪət/ /neɪ eksiˌæt/

Latin for "let him not exit [the republic]". Shortened version of ne exeat repiblica: "let him not exit the republic". A writ to prevent one party to a dispute from leaving (or being taken) from the court's jurisdiction.

nec vi, nec clam, nec precario

/nɛk vi, nɛk klæm, nɛk prikærɪˈəʊ/
/nɛk vɪ, nɛk klæm,nɛk prɪkæriˈoʊ/

Latin for "Without force, without secrecy, without permission". Peacefully, openly, and with the intention to acquire ownership; applies to acquisitive prescription

negotiorum gestio

/nɪˈɡəʊʃɪorem dʒɛstəʊ/
/nɪˈgoʊʃieʊrem dʒɛstʃəoʊ/

Latin for "management of affairs". Quasi-contractual obligation arising from good works affecting other people, obliging the benefited party (dominus negotii) to reimburse the gestor for the cost that was used in doing good works.

nemo dat quod non habet

/nəˈmɒ deɪt kwɒd nɒn həˈbɛt/
/nemou dæt kwɑd nɑn həˈbɛt/

[Latin: no one can give what he has not got] The basic rule that a person who does not own property (e.g.a thief) cannot confer it on another except with the true owner's authority (i.e. as his agent). Exceptions to this rule include sales under statutory powers and cases in which the doctrine of *estoppel prevents the true owner from denying the authority of the seller to sell.

nihil dicit

/niːhɪl dɛɪsɪt/ /nihɪl dɛsɪt/

Latin for "He says nothing". A judgement rendered in the absence of a plea, or in the event one party refuses to cooperate in the proceedings.


/naɪsaɪ/ /naɪˌsaɪ/

Latin for "unless". A decree that does not enter into force unless some other specified condition is met.

nisi adj.

/naɪsaɪ/ /naɪˌsaɪ/

[Latin] Not final or absolute.

nisi prius

/naɪsaɪ praɪəs/ /naɪˌsaɪ praɪəs/

Latin for "unless first". Refers to the court of original jurisdiction in a given matter.

nolle prosequi

/nɒlɪ ˈprɒsɪˌkwaɪ/ /nɑli ˈprɑsɪˌkwaɪ/

Latin for "not to prosecute". A statement from the prosecution that they are voluntarily discontinuing (or will not initiate) prosecution of a matter.

nolo contendere

/nəʊləʊ kɒnˈtɛndərɪ/
/noʊloʊ kənˈtɛndəri/

Latin for "I do not wish to dispute". A type of plea whereby the defendant neither admits nor denies the charge. Commonly interpreted as "No contest."

non adimpleti contractus

/nɒn adɪmpliːti kənˈtræktʃəs/
/nɑn adɪmpəlɪˈtɪ kənˈtræktʃəs/

Latin for "of a non-completed contract". In the case where a contract imposes specific obligations on both parties, one side cannot sue the other for failure to meet their obligations, if the plaintiff has not themselves met their own.

non bis in idem

/nɒn bɪs aɪdɛm/ /nɑn bɪs ˈaidem/

Latin for "not twice in the same". Prohibition against double jeopardy. A legal action cannot be brought twice for the same act or offense.

non compos mentis

/nɒn kɒmpəs ˈmɛntɪs/
/nɑn kɑmpəs ˈmɛntɪs/

Latin for "not in possession of [one's] mind". Not having mental capacity to perform some legal act

non constat

/nɒn kɒnstəˈt/ /nɑn kɑnstət/

Latin for "It is not certain". Refers to information given by one who is not supposed to give testimony, such as an attorney bringing up new information that did not come from a witness. Such information is typically nullified.

non est factum

/nɒn ɛst ˈfæktəm/ /nɑn ɛst fæktəm/

[Latin, from non est factum suum, it is not his deed] A plea that an agreement (originally a deed) mentioned in the statement of case was not the act of the defendant. It can be used as a defence to actions based on *mistakes in documents when the defendant was fundamentally mistaken as to the character or effect of the transaction embodied in the document. It may be used by a signatory to a contract can invalidate it by showing that his signature to the contract was made unintentionally or without full understanding of the implications.

non est inventus

/nɒn ɛst ɪnˈvɛntɛs/ /nɑn ɛst ɪnˈvɛntɛs/

Latin for "He is not found". Reported by a sheriff on writ when the defendant cannot be found in his county or jurisdiction.

non liquet

/nɒn laɪkwɪt/ /nɑn laikwɪt/

Latin for "It is not clear". A type of verdict where positive guilt or innocence cannot be determined. Also called "not proven" in legal systems with such verdicts.

non obstante verdicto

/nɒn abstənt vɜːdɪktəʊ/
/nɑn ɑbˈstænti vɜrdɪktoʊ/

Latin for "notwithstanding the verdict". A circumstance where the judge may override the jury verdict and reverse or modify the decision.

nota bene

/nəʊtə ˈbiːnɪ/ /noʊtəˈbini/

Latin for "note well". A term used to direct the reader to cautionary or qualifying statements for the main text.

novum iudicium

/nəʊvəm ɪəuˈdɪʃɪəm/
/noʊvəm ɪəuˈdɪʃəm/

Latin for "new judgment". Appeal by way of hearing de novo, i.e. the case is retried with no restrictions of scope: errors of law are reviewed and new findings of fact are made. (vs. revisio prioris instantiae)

novus actus interveniens (nova causa interveniens)

/nəʊvəs æktəs ɪntəˈviːnɪənz/
/noʊvəs æktəs ɪntərˈvinjənz/

[Latin: a new intervening act (or cause)] An act or event that breaks the causal connection between a wrong or crime committed by the defendant and subsequent happenings and therefore relieves the defendant from responsibility for these happenings.

nudum pactum

/njuːdʊm ˈpæktʊm/
/ˈnuːdəm ˈpæktəm/

Latin for "naked promise". An unenforceable promise, due to the absence of consideration or value exchanged for the promise.

nudum praeceptum

/njuːdʊm priːsɛptem/
/njuːdem priˌsɛptem/

Latin for "naked precept". If a testator places a prohibition on a testamentary gift but fails to say what should happen to the gift if the prohibition is contravened, the prohibition is said to be ‘nude’, i.e. a nudum praeceptum. In other words, the prohibition is of no effect, and the beneficiary will take the gift free from any restrictions.

nudus dominus

/nuːdu dɒmɪnʊs/ /nuˌdu doʊminʊs/

Latin for "bare owner". remainderman, reversioner.

nulla bona

/nʌlə bəʊnə/ /nʌlə boʊnə/

Latin for "no goods". Notation made when a defendant has no tangible property available to be seized in order to comply with a judgement.

nulla poena sine lege

/nʌlə piːnə saɪnɪ lɛdʒə/
/nʌlə pinə saɪn lidʒi/

[Latin: no punishment without a law] The principle that a person can only be punished for a crime if the *Punishment is prescribed by law. The punishment may be specified by a statute as a term of imprisonment or fine or it may be based on common-law principles. With the exception of treason and murder, for which the punishment is fixed, all statutory punishments are expressed in terms of the maximum possible punishment; judges have discretion to impose a lesser punishment according to the circumstances. Common law punishment is said to be at large, i.e. the amount of the fine or length of the prison sentence is entirely at the judge's discretion. In many cases, however, there are now statutes specifying the maximum punishment for common-law offences. Magistrates' courts are subject to shorter maxima than Crown courts; they are also usually subject to a minimum sentence of five days in cases of imprisonment.

nunc pro tunc

/nʊŋk prəʊ tʌŋk/ /nʌŋk proʊ tʌŋk/

Latin for "now for then". An action by a court to correct a previous procedural or clerical error.

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