They are issued for new technical solutions relating to a product's shape or structure, or a combination of the two, where it has a practical use.The patent requires less inventiveness and is awarded quickly and cheaply.
Unfortunately there is no easy answer to the question of prior art, particularly for those who are new to the patent field.
Not even our US Congress could screw something up so completely, could they?
Unfortunately the answer is yes, they can, and yes they did.
Not all references, knowledge or events that can demonstrate that an invention is “old” or already known can be used by examiners or during litigation against an invention.
This is where the whole definition of prior art takes a turn toward an Abbott and Costello routine.