Case Law Review – T 1996/07

Case:

T 1996/07

Claimed Subject Matter:

Processing character information.

The invention differs from the prior art essentially by the following features:

    • [text] conversion candidates are stored in relation to time information representative of a predetermined period (timeband) in a 24 hour day;
    • a time recording part records and outputs conversion time information representative of a time of conversion, in the 24-hour day, of the conversion object into said one or more conversion candidates; and
    • the time information and the conversion time information are used for converting the conversion object into the one or more conversion candidates such that a conversion candidate, the predetermined timeband of which corresponds to the time of conversion, is displayed as a supreme conversion candidate.

For example, in the morning, if the user typed “G”, “Good morning” may be displayed as opposed to “Good night”.

Comments:

In the decision it was determined that an alleged technical advantage relied upon a specific language habit of a user.

As it would not be correct to specify features that defined a prospective user’s cultural background, the technical problem needed to be reformulated to relate solely to objective technical effects or objective technical properties of the invention as claimed.

When the problem was so formulated the invention was found to be obvious over the prior art.

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.

Case Law Review – T 506/08

Case:

T 0506/08 [In German but Google translate does a reasonable job – use Chrome for translation “in the browser”.]

Claimed Subject Matter:

An online auction – in particular a method and apparatus for performing an electronic auction, in a communication network.

Comments:

The underlying technical problem relates to the performance bottleneck of the communication network and the networked computer. This is not resolved with the new auction only evaded (side-stepped) administratively. The circumvention of a technical problem using a business process step does not provide a technical means (T 258/03-HITACHI).

The overall purpose of the technical implementation of the computer auction is automation and thus  faster and easier handling.  However, this is the usual purpose of any technical computer-based automation. It therefore justifies no patent exceptionalism in favour of a particular type of business methods (auction). The economically motivated desire to protect business methods against imitators is not a sufficient criterion for access to patent protection.

An implementation of an extension of the deadline may include technical aspects (timing, comparison) but requires no inventive contribution. This is implicitly acknowledged by the application, which leaves the details of implementation to the skilled reader. The technical aspects of the application are only implied and assumed to be expert knowledge; only the rules for the implementation of the intended auction are presented in detail and explicitly.

Overall, the claimed method solves no technical problem in a technically inventive manner. It therefore does not fulfil the requirements of inventive step.

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 629/11

Case:

T 629/11

Claimed Subject Matter:

Personalization of data services.

The invention concerns the presentation of information in an Internet browser, and the management of the information and the way it is presented, so as to evoke a desired response in the user.

Comments:

The method as claimed was deemed prima facie not excluded from patentability because it modified “Internet browser pages”.

However, the underlying method was deemed to be a means of manipulating information and its presentation, in order to affect the perceptions or behaviour of users.

As such the underlying method was not technical. Instead, it was more appropriately classified as a form of applied psychology, and the field of application might be, for example, advertising or education. As such, being non-technical, it could not contribute to inventive step. Any remaining technical features related simply to the provision of information on an Internet browser page, which was well-known.

Case Law Review – T 700/07

Case:

T 0700/07

Claimed Subject Matter:

Global Electronic Trading System.

The claimed invention in this case comprised a computer network consisting of trader terminals, a central server, and a communications network, each with particular properties.

Comments:

The board stated that, rather than decide whether the invention was a superior trading system to any previously known system, they were concerned with whether a technical realisation in terms of terminals and server was obvious.

In the reasoning it was submitted that there may be two ways in which a skilled person might arrive at a particular technical implementation of a non-technical system:

    • they might start from a specification of the non-technical system and seek a technical realisation; or
    • alternatively they might start from some prior art technical realisation of a similar technical system and modify it.

If either of those paths would have been obvious at the priority date, there would have been no inventive step.

The central server in the claim was argued by the appellant to provide a technical effect by reducing network traffic. However, the board disagreed. They submitted that the non-technical trading system required a central agent. This constraint would be given to the skilled person, for example as a “requirements specification”. It would then be obvious for the skilled person to implement the said central agent using a central server. Even if there was shown to be less communication between traders, this was seen as a property of a non-technical arrangement, rather than a technical property associated with a technical implementation.

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.

Case Law Review – T 531/09

Case:

T 531/09

Claimed Subject Matter:

Checkpoint Simulation.

The invention concerns the simulation of a security checkpoint. It could be the sort of familiar security checkpoint used at airports, but is not limited to that. The simulation is carried out by computer.

Tasks at the checkpoint are modelled as probabilistic events, each taking a certain time to perform, which may depend on what happens in preceding tasks. Two of the tasks simulated involve technical equipment, namely a walk-through metal detector and (possibly) an x-ray device.

Comments:

The appellant referred to T 1227/05, which is discussed in the linked case law review. However, the board concluded that simulation of a checkpoint was not inherently technical.

Even though the probabilistic equations referred to technical devices (e.g. metal detectors and x-rays), these devices were modelled no differently from other non-technical tasks such as the queuing of people. Hence, their inclusion did not contribute to a technical character.

Case Law Review – T 1366/08

Case:

T 1366/08

Claimed Subject Matter:

Electronic signatures.

The scheme was found to differ from notorious common knowledge in commerce only by being adapted to modern technology in the form of electronic (e-) commerce and presenting a copy of a contract to a bank as evidence that payment is due.

Comments:

Partial problems were considered. The first problem was deemed to be how to implement a business scheme on a computer network. It was found to be obvious as it simply involved applying well-known technical means as equivalents of a manual paper process. The second problem was found to be purely a business or legal question, and so features relating to its solution could not contribute to the technical character of the claim.

Case Law Review – T 1466/06

Case:

T_1466/06

Claimed Subject Matter:

Method of supporting sales and maintenance of steam traps and an aggregating system for use in that method.

Comments:

Sampling and interpolation were deemed to be standard techniques.

A comparison was performed on selected data, but the comparison was used to inform a business decision. Thus there was deemed to be no technical effect.