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 1261/08

Case:

T 1261/08

Claimed Subject Matter:

Electronic trading – system for settling over the counter trades.

Whether a trade will be settled bilaterally or through clearing depends on the preferences of the party to accept the offer. If the party making the offer has bilateral trading closed with a particular counterparty and the counterparty does not permit cleared trading of the product, the product will show up as red on the trading screen. If trading is possible, the product offer will show up as white. The colour coding acts as a means for indicating whether trading is possible while preserving the parties’ anonymity.

Comments:

The Board confirmed that business aspects of an electronic exchange, such as parties’ trading preferences, do not constitute a technical contribution and, thus, do not enter into the examination for an inventive step.

However, displaying data indicative of the availability or unavailability of a computer-implemented function may be considered as a technical feature independent of any cognitive or aesthetic aspect of its presentation and independent of any business aspect of the underlying computer-implemented function. The technical character of the implementation of such an indication is not wiped out by its commercial goal.

Despite this, a feature of binary colour coding, as found in the claim in question was, in the technical context of user terminals, a notorious way of indicating the availability or unavailability of a computer-implemented function. In addition, there could be an argument that it related to a presentation of information as such.

The appellant also made reference to a granted case in the field of transaction data processing. The Board dismissed this – a granted patent is not a case law precedent and so should not be commented on or compared with the case in question.

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 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.