Case Law Review – T 1741/08

Case:

T 1741/08

Claimed Subject Matter:

Graphical user interface (GUI) layout – in particular a method of entering of data into a data processing system.

Claim 1 relates to a method of entering data in a data processing system using a particular GUI. The layout of this GUI comprises two horizontally aligned linear sequences of icons. The second sequence is displayed for a selected icon of the first sequence. The leading icon of the second sequence is vertically aligned with the selected icon of the first sequence. In addition, one or more data entry fields are separately displayed for a selected icon of the second sequence.

Comments:

This case provides useful guidance on the patentability of GUIs, in particular whether lowering the cognitive burden of a user leads to a technical effect. There is useful commentary on many key GUI cases.

The claims differed from the prior art by what was displayed on a screen, i.e. the differences consisted solely of particularities of the GUI layout.

In the decision, the board agreed that a particular interface layout could indeed shorten the searching of an inexperienced user for where or what data to enter where. As a result, less computer resources may be used.

However, this reduction in use was caused by the way the brain of the user perceives and processes the visual information given by a particular way of presenting information. This was deemed to the mental or psychological realm and could not provide a technical effect directly.

The board noted that not everything that supports a technical task has itself a technical character. For example, the advice to have a good night’s rest in order to make searching images more “efficient” would not have technical character. A chain of reasoning that held that the layout produces a psychological effect on the user and the user produces a technical effect on the computer was different from saying that the layout produces a technical effect on the computer.

The board also confirmed that in each of T 643/00, T 928/03 and T 333/95 a specific technical effect had been identified by the boards, which made these cases exceptional. In these exceptional cases, there was something other than the simple choice of what information to display and with what layout to display it, which meant that the displayed information could play a part in the assessment of inventive step.

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