Archive for March, 2011

Case:

T_1359/08

Claimed Subject Matter:

Versioning of elements in a configuration model

A method for defining a configuration model for a configurable product and for updating subcomponents thereof. As explained in the description, a “configuration model is generally some collection of … information that is needed to configure the product” (see p. 2, section 0003). The configuration model includes components, subcomponents, and elements which define characteristics of the product as for example prices, costs, colours etc (see p. 3, section 0011 ff.).

Comments:

Defining a configuration model and its components and subcomponents is thus a form of information modelling, which is, as such, not an invention for the purposes of Article 52(1) EPC (cf decision T 49/99 – Information modelling/INTERNATIONAL COMPUTERS, not published; retrievable from URL: legal.european-patent-office.org/dg3/pdf/ t990049eu1.pdf). The same holds for the management of information models during their life cycle. In general, abstract activities in the field of information management are per se not patentable, and to the extent that they do not interact with technical features to contribute to the technical solution of a technical problem they cannot establish novelty or inventive step (for a summary of the relevant case law, see the EPO-publication “Case Law of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office”, sixth edition, European Patent Office, July 2010, chapter I.D.8.1.).

All features in claim 1, except for the general computer-implementation of the method, concern abstract processes of information management in the context of defining and updating a configuration model. In particular, setting versions of the model to an active or inactive state is primarily part of the abstract concept of managing the update process and not per se a genuine technical feature of the computer implementation.

The present application does not provide any specific information about the computer implementation of the method at all. Even from the drawings, no details of the implementation can be derived. Only from the acknowledgement of the background art and from general statements at the end of the application, starting with section 0067, can it be understood that the computer implementation is a possibility for carrying out the invention.

Considering that the application is confined to disclosing abstract concepts of information management rather than setting out a practical computer implementation, the Board concludes that a technical interpretation of the said features of the second auxiliary request would be inappropriate. The board judges that these features do not support inventive step.

BEN Logo

Bristol and Bath Enterprise Network (BEN) is a network for the technology business community based around Bristol and Bath. They hold a series of events designed to foster profitable connections between individuals and companies in the region.

I was recently lucky enough to attend one of their events in Bristol: Green Profits.

Green Profit

Green Profits

The key question for this event was: can commercial and environmental success be aligned? To help answer this question two case studies were presented.

ModCell Logo from Website Linda Farrow talked about how her innovative architecture and design practice, White Design, allowed them to develop a new building module, Modcell, for the rapid construction of sustainable (and even carbon-negative) buildings. The Modcell is a brilliant idea: a prefabricated flat pack wooden frame is assembled and filled with compressed straw bales before being coated with lime render to form a wall panel. I was pleased to see that Modcell have a granted UK Patent GB2457891B of a broad scope and are moving forward with protection worldwide. This will help ensure that they can adequately capitalise, from a commercial perspective, on the (literally) years of design and testing that went into the product. Both White Design and Modcell are a fine example of the kind of technological and commercial thinking that can help address the seemingly intractable problems of climate change and dwindling resources. Also being a Somerset lad, I am always glad to see straw used in novel ways. Take a look at White Design’s website for examples of the kind of buildings where this technology may be used in the future. If you are familiar with Bristol and the South West you will probably recognise their structures.

Friska Logo from Friska Website Linda was followed by Griff Holland of Friska Food, a take-away/restaurant/sandwich shop on Victoria Road in Bristol. Griff offered a different perspective on sustainable business practices. Even though food is a rather low-tech industry, Griff had important lessons on how to make clients and customers feel good about themselves by incorporating sustainable (or “green”) thinking into the heart of the business. An illuminating example was how customers liked to sort their recycling; at first allowing this would seem somewhat counter-intuitive – surely customers do not want the extra burden? However, what Friska observed was that customers had become used to sorting recycling from their homes and felt good about making some contribution, however small, to offset their impact on the world. A similar example was provided with fridges – by having doors on the fridges much electricity was saved and customers were happy opening and closing the doors (as opposed to open fridges), especially if they were told their slight inconvenience was good for the environment. Friska had big plans for growth over the coming years; more outlets like them are only a good thing for a sustainable UK.

LCSW Logo The case studies were followed by a presentation by Amy Robinson, Network Director of Low Carbon South West (LCSW) who explained the myriad of accreditations and organisations to support (and somewhat confuse) business in the South West. LCSW are a trade association with a mission to promote growth in environmental technologies and sustainable services in the South West of England. They are the recent offspring of what was Bristol Environment Technology Sector Initiative (BETS) and a Low Carbon group from Bath University. Amy explained how LCSW are happy to offer assistance to individuals and companies as to how to navigate this confusing landscape and gain the right advice and services from the right people.

A lesson that emerged from the presentations and resulting round-table discussions was the need for long-term thinking and investment coupled with effective client/customer communication. Laying the groundwork for a sustainable business unfortunately often involves higher initial investment (and possibly higher product cost). However, this investment may pay off several years down the line when you find the market shifts and your business turns from fringe player into market leader, with your competitors struggling to retrofit their own practices to keep up. In a way this reminded me of Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, wherein the disruptive innovation may be sustainable practices. Effective communication then becomes important to attract and maintain early adopters in the market that are may be better placed to afford the initial green /cost trade-off. A given example was that of the premium hotel market – they were prepared to pay a little extra for sustainable printing as this paid off in terms of better marketing for the hotel.

The next BEN Event is a free allday event: Investability at HP Labs Bristol on 29 March 2011.

BathSpark is a new event that brings together the people of Bath who work in technology. Its stipulated aims are “to create opportunity, encourage diversity and spark new ventures”. It is described as “social networking (for real) with local digital people enjoying a drink, and talking about what they love”. It grew out of previous informal tech people meet ups under the organising eye of The Filter’s CEO, David Maher Roberts.

The inaugural meet-up was held on 23 February 2011 in the Market Bar (http://www.marketbath.com/) and was a roaring success. Around 100 people attended and there was a great range of people eager to chat about all things tech/creative-based, from start-up CEOs to coders to publishers to freelance types. It was good to see many dialogues between the two cultures. Some good contacts were made and information exchanged. I think many were surprised at the level of underground activity in the area. Many found it useful for locating talented Bath individuals for entrepreneurial projects.  Comments from attendees can be found here: http://www.bathspark.co.uk/events/16327966/?eventId=16327966&action=detail#comments.

Eden ventures kindly sponsored the bar, Future Publishing provided a magazine subscription prize and RipeDigital (http://www.ripedigital.co.uk/) did an amazing job producing laminated name cards (complete with Twitter usernames). Even though the ale ran out the bottles and pizza kept flowing to fuel the conversation.

The next meet-up is scheduled for 23 March 2011 but the date is not set in stone yet. 57 attendees have already signed up.

Case:

T_1841/06

Claimed Subject Matter:

Integrated multilingual browser

The claimed method is essentially characterised in that the source documents are automatically translated on-the-fly at the time the user requests access to the source documents (main request), or in that the web page retrieved is translated and cached on the web server before being sent to the user (auxiliary request).

Comments:

According to the claims as interpreted by the appellant, all web pages requested have been translated into the selected language before being sent to the user; this serves the aim to present to the user only the translated versions of web pages.

This aim and object of the invention is at best the result of balancing various mental preferences of the user but it is per se not a technical problem. Having the option of choosing between an original language and the preferred language might be felt as an inconvenience by one user but as an advantage by another. The invention brings about a mental simplification and subjective advantage for some users but it does not provide any objective advantage nor any technical advance in any field of technology. Such purely subjective preferences like any other non-technical aspects of an invention do not form a valid basis for a technical and inventive contribution over the prior art (for a summary of the practice of the EPO in dealing with non-technical subject matter, see for example the EPO-publication “Case Law of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office”, sixth edition, European Patent Office, July 2010, chapter I.D.8.1).

The computer implementation of the claimed methods requires only minor changes to the machine translation system of document D7. In the W3-PENSÉE type 2 system (see figure 4), for example, only the step of sending the original data need be omitted (the box in the middle of the flow diagram); then the subsequent step shown in the right box at the bottom of the flow diagram (see document D7, figure 4) fully meets the aims of the present invention. These changes to the prior art system do not involve any inventive step.

It might be argued that in the type 2 system the web pages translated are cached but not in a cache on the web server. However, it is an obvious alternative to locate the translation cache at any appropriate place in the World Wide Web other than between Internet and client. Such an alternative arrangement is shown, for example, in document D7, figure 1 in connection with the WWW server type.