Case Law Review – T 1602/09

Case:

T 1602/09

Claimed Subject Matter:

A  computer system for managing relationships between brokers and traders in a trading network.

Comments:

The Appellant claimed that the invention solved a technical problem which arose in such systems, namely that a trader could not simply and easily control, i.e. prevent or permit, a computer terminal operated by a broker to send trading commands on behalf of the trader from the computer terminal via the network to the trading system.

The Appeal was dismissed by the Board.

The Board found that the problem formulation only made sense in the context of operations by a (non-technical) “active trader”, these being traders who wish to be able to supervise trade orders given to brokers. It was found that since the trading was computer-based the active trader would need to have access to the broker’s trading system. The skilled person was certainly aware that this made a log-on necessary. Equivalently, if the active trader for some reason was not logged on, the broker should not be allowed to trade. Ideally, the check should be automatic. These straight-forward considerations were deemed to lead directly to the subject-matter of claim 1.

[With thanks to Jake Loftus for help finding and reviewing these cases.]

Case Law Review – T 2216/09

Case:

T 2216/09

Claimed Subject Matter:

A a system that enabled subscribers of a wireless telecom operator to execute financial transactions with a mobile phone.

Comments:

The system was deemed to mainly relate to an excluded business scheme.

All steps of the underlying business scheme were deemed part of the information provided to the technician in charge of the technical implementation and did not as such contribute to inventive step.

The Appellant argued that the specific transaction platform and client software did not exist in a conventional wireless phone system, and so were out of reach of the normal activity of the person skilled in the art of telephone networks. However, the Board concluded that the person skilled in the art would be able to implement the new system, given the specifications of the underlying business scheme. For example, any extension of the type of financial transactions which can be performed with the account (receive monetary deposits, debit and credit operations) was deemed to be dictated by the underlying business scheme.

[With thanks to Jake Loftus for help finding and reviewing these cases.]

Case Law Review – T 907/09

Case:

T 907/09

Claimed Subject Matter:

Valuation of a futures contract.

The application relates to data processing systems and methods for assessing the failure risk of a bundle of constructs that may individually fail. A resource amount is determined so as to counterbalance the failure risk when it is transferred. The risk assuming entity receives the resource amount.

Comments:

The claimed system is defined functionally in terms of means for storing and processing spread values and for continuously calculating a resource amount which reflects a value of a futures contract (which is based on a basket of credit default swaps). The claim is not limited to a technical field of application; on the contrary, its final paragraph emphasises a commercial goal.

The Board does not see any technical effect in knowing the resource amount or failure risk of a bundle of credit default swaps. The overall effect of the claimed system is that a mental, mathematical, commercial or administrative result is provided: What premium does the owner of the bundle have to offer so that another market participant is willing to take over the failure risk of the bundle?

Case Law Review – T 0844/09

Case:

T_0844/09

Claimed Subject Matter:

A computer-implemented method of operating a verification system (100) for verifying details of transactions drawn upon a financial account and a user’s authorization to use the financial account, the method comprising:

    • receiving from a user, at a user interface (102), information identifying (204) a financial account which the user desires to use, before the user may initiate an online transaction using the financial account;
    • generating (208) a series of verifying transactions involving the financial account, with selected details of the transactions not being known to the user;
    • initiating (210) the series of verifying transactions from a transaction processor (106);
    • storing in storage means within the verification system a first set of details of said series of verifying transactions;
    • receiving (216) from the user, at the user interface, a test set of details, to include specified details of evidence of the verifying transactions retrieved by the user from his or her financial account;
    • comparing (218) said test set of details to said first set of details; and
    • if said test set of details matches said first set of details, authorizing (220) the user to conduct online transactions using the financial account.

Comments:

Claim 1 concerns a computer-implemented method of operating a verification system for verifying details of transactions drawn upon a financial account and a user’s authorization to use the financial account. It thus relates to the field of schemes, rules and methods for doing business, which shall not be regarded as inventions pursuant to Article 52(2)(c) EPC. The corresponding features in claim 1 are deemed to be non-technical. The method of claim 1 is, however, defined to be computer-implemented and thus involves a computer as technical means, with a transaction processor, storage means and a user interface. The corresponding features in claim 1 are technical. Claim 1, thus, contains both non-technical and technical features and has technical character as a whole. Accordingly, the subject-matter of claim 1 is not a scheme, rule or method for doing business as such. The patentability of the subject-matter of claim 1 is, therefore, not considered to be excluded under Article 52(2) and (3) EPC (cf T 258/03 (OJ EPO 2004, 575), reasons 3 and 4).

Although verifying a user’s authorization to use a financial account may in certain cases involve an administrative procedure lacking technical character, this is not considered to be the case for the subject-matter of claim 1.

The verification of the user’s authorization to use a financial account in the present case, in particular the recognition that the retrieval by the user of transaction details offers a convenient and secure channel for forwarding transaction authentication information to the user, and the realization that “verifying” transactions can be generated and initiated to contain the transaction authentication information, relies on a technical understanding of the operation of the transaction system and its respective components and, thus, lies within the scope of a technically qualified person working in the field of computer-implemented online financial transaction systems and notably entrusted with the security aspects thereof.

Neither the business professional nor the administrative professional would, in the board’s judgement, be qualified and indeed able to devise any of these ideas as they lie outside their areas of competence.

Accordingly, the above consideration relating to the verification of the user’s authorization to use a financial account cannot be included in the formulation of the technical problem, contrary to what is essentially argued in the decision under appeal applying the principles of decision T 641/00 (cf above).

Still, the remaining features of claim 1 relating to a financial transaction refer to an aim to be achieved in the field of schemes, rules and methods of doing business, deemed to be non-technical, which may legitimately appear in the formulation of the problem (following T 641/00 above).

The appellant argued that since the user had to obtain transaction details online relating to a previous or test transaction, effectively he had to pass two levels of verification in order to use an account.

This argument is, however, not convincing. In conventional online-banking systems, involving the use of lists of Transaction Authentication Numbers (TAN) provided to the user like in D3, the user gains online access to a bank account via an internet site of his bank, typically by entering the bank account number and a password, thereby passing a first level verification. At this point, the user has eg direct access to his financial statements or can initiate a fund transfer for which a TAN will be needed. In the case envisaged in the application and covered by claim 1 where the transaction authenticator in the form of a set of details of evidence of a verifying transaction is available through online access to the financial statement of the bank account, a fraudulent user will, thus, have unrestricted access to the transaction authenticator. Accordingly, no second level verification needs to be passed in this case.

The objective problem to be solved relative to document D3, accordingly, is to provide transaction authenticators to the user in an alternative manner.

The claimed solution consists in:
– generating (208) a series of verifying transactions involving the financial account, with selected details of the transactions not being known to the user;
– initiating (210) the series of verifying transactions from a transaction processor (106);
– storing in storage means within the verification system a first set of details of said series of verifying transactions;
– receiving (216) from the user, at the user interface, a test set of details, to include specified details of evidence of the verifying transactions retrieved by the user from his or her financial account;
– comparing (218) said test set of details to said first set of details; and
– if said test set of details matches said first set of details, authorizing (220) the user to conduct online transactions using the financial account.

This solution is not rendered obvious by document D3.

Case Law Review – T 1992/07

Case:

T_1992/07

Claimed Subject Matter:

Filtering of market information, wherein the filtering was used to provide a real-time trading status update.

In particular, a processor-implemented method of filtering market data generated at a market place, for providing real-time trading status information, the method comprising:

    • providing (620) a plurality of listings (222), each listing associated with a corresponding market place and traded at the associated market place;
    • providing (640) a set of filter criteria (224) suitable for filtering market data to determine the trading status information;
    • receiving (650) market data for at least one listing of the plurality of listings associated with a specific market place;
    • filtering (660) the received market data in accordance with the set of filter criteria to determine in real-time, whether trading of the at least one listing has been suspended or resumed at the specific market place; and
    • providing (680), in real-time, the status information (226) indicating whether trading of the at least one listing has been suspended or resumed at the specific market place.

Comments:

In this case, the data, processing and modified output data were considered to be “non-technical”; in particular, they were deemed to relate to financial and/or administrative aspects. The problem was thus deemed to be how to implement these non-technical aspects and the solution was deemed to be trivial. Even though the claim had a step of “filtering”, this did not relate to any technical process.

Data are “filtered” according to criteria (neither the filtering operations nor the criteria are well-defined in the claims), and as a consequence of the processing the received market data is broadcasted, but with supplemental information. This processing cannot be deducted alone from the wording of the claims, but corresponds to the description, p 4, penultimate para.. As the result of the processing is the provision/broadcasting of modified market data, this processing is considered essentially non-technical.

The processing as claimed also has an essentially non-technical aim, namely to assess and disseminate information about the trading status at market places of a plurality of listings. Following T 641/00, the objective technical problem can be formulated as finding a technical implementation of a system that achieves the non technical purpose (task) of assessing and disseminating information about trading statuses of a plurality of listings at market places.

In the Board’s view, the invention carries out non-technical (financial/administrative) processing on non-technical (financial) data. Since, according to the established jurisprudence of the Boards of Appeal, these features cannot contribute to inventive step, the problem boils down to how to implement these aspects. As effectively established by the division, the implementation specified in the claim amounts to no more than the use of a conventional computer system, to receive, process and generate the desired data. This cannot involve an inventive step either.

The appellant argues that the step of filtering is technical because it is carried out by a processor. However, in the Board’s view this only establishes that the processor is a technical implementation, not that the filtering relates to any technical process. Similarly, the appellant discusses the technicality of a memory device and storing filter criteria. However, as the appellant admits these features are not claimed. The appellant also discusses the features of providing data, receiving data and providing real time status information. However, as with the filtering feature, this discussion attempts to establish an overall technical effect by virtue of the intrinsic technical nature of the implementation. As stated above, the only technical features of the solution are the use of a processor to receive, process and generate data. The prior art shows that these are conventional.

Case Law Review – T 1798/07

Case:

T 1798/07

Claimed Subject Matter:

Arrangement and method for tele-commerce with client profiles (payment processing).

Comments:

A technical problem was considered to be “how to technically implement an underlying business method”. The solution to this problem was taken to be obvious when compared with a number of networked standard general-purpose computers.

A feature of the technical implementation of the underlying business method that was taken into consideration was the use of pre-stored client profile data, which enhanced the speed of a transaction. This capability ensured that the client need not repeatedly enter data. However, such a feature was deemed to be well-known in the art.

Case Law Review – T 2171/08

Case:

T 2171/08

Claimed Subject Matter:

Redundancy-free multi-purpose data (UBS).

The invention relates to aspects in context with updating a data base that is jointly used by two or more different processing mechanisms on the basis of multi-dimensional data sets. A network component performing this task includes a master data base for storing master data including static data and a multi-dimensional generic data template having predefined data fields relating to elementary information determined by the data input requirements of the different processing mechanisms. An interface is provided for receiving accounting-related data sets from a plurality of individual sub-systems. Processing resources having access to the master data base generate for each accounting-related data set one or more associated multi-dimensional data sets by deriving elementary information included in the accounting-related data set and in static data associated with the accounting-related data set and by writing the derived elementary information in corresponding data fields of the data template. On the basis of the elementary information contained in the one or more multi-dimensional data sets an elementary data base that is jointly used by the different processing mechanisms to generate report data sets is updated.

Comments:

In this case the board appeared to acknowledge that a network component for transforming accounting-related data sets may be adapted to process static data in such a way as to provide a technical effect of reducing network traffic.

However, the appeal was dismissed on the grounds that the invention was not sufficiently disclosed to allow the skilled person to implement the static data in a manner that allowed for the effect.

Hence, it is recommended to set out clearly the technical implementation behind any technical effects that may be relied upon.