Author Archive

Estimating the availability of a person despite inaccurate calendar information: non-technical

This decision is a good example of a software tool with very useful functions for the modern office worker, but which does not necessarily qualify as a patentable invention at the European Patent Office.

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0434/13 (Generating availability data of a called party/MITEL) of 26.1.2017 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.03:

Key takeaways

Providing a more reliable estimate of availability in order to overcome the drawback that not all users provide accurate updated information in their calendars is not a technical problem.

The invention

This European patent application concerns context-aware call handling in communication systems.

According to the application, it is commonplace for users of telephone systems to be directed to voice mail when they attempt to reach a potential collaborator. The calling party can leave a message requesting to be called back, but there is no assurance that the calling party will be available when the called party makes the requested return call. The familiar game of “telephone tag” is created in this way.

But moreover, so the application, social science research has indicated that informal interaction is an essential element of workplace life to provide for both innovation and efficiency. To this end, the telecommunications industry has been developing presence and availability technology to provide for the necessary element of causal awareness. These allow users to share their current availability with potential collaborators. However, knowledge of current availability is not useful when the called party is not available and the parties need to communicate with each other.

The application therefore regards it as a key aspect of the invention to integrate availability indicators to decisions on call disposition by
call control. In particular, it proposes a method for improving the estimation as to the likely availability of a user to which a call may be made in the future from a calling party.

Fig. 8 of EP 2 071 816
Fig. 8 of EP 2 071 816

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application for lack of inventive step based on the argument that claim 1 essentially related to a computer-implementation of a non-technical method.

In its inventive-step assessment on the appeal stage, the board identified the following distinguishing features over the closest prior art:

The subject-matter of claim 1 therefore differs from the disclosure of D1 in that claim 1 includes the following features:

said estimating availability for said at least one future temporal block comprises a hardware or software confidence agent querying a calendar of at least one other user associated with said user to determine meetings in which said user may be involved,

estimating confidence of said queried calendars by querying an estimator that monitors actual meeting information of a user associated with said queried calendar,

comparing said actual meeting information with meeting information recorded in said queried calendar, determining the proportion of accurately recorded meeting information with respect to a total amount of meeting information recorded, and

giving preference to meetings associated with the queried calendar having the highest confidence when applying said availability rules.

Following the COMVIK approach, the board assessed whether these features produce any technical effect and thus contribute to the solution of a technical problem. The avid reader will probably have guessed the board’s answer:

In the board’s view, the main (non-technical) problem to be solved starting out from D1 is to provide a more reliable estimate of availability in order to overcome the drawback that not all users provide accurate updated information in their calendars. This problem is essentially solved by consulting calendar information (data entered by the user as well as “actual” meeting information) with regard to meetings of a user and at least one other user associated with the user, and giving preference to meeting information determined to have a higher likelihood of accuracy based on comparing actual meeting information with recorded calendar information. This concept is essentially non-technical (although this was disputed by the appellant, see below), since neither calendar data, nor “actual” meeting data, nor availability estimate data have any technical character, and the manipulation of the data to determine the estimate concerns essentially a mathematical method, which is also regarded as non-technical (cf. Article 52(2)(a) EPC).

The patent applicant had argued that providing improved availability data indeed resulted in technical effects, because improved availability data reduced the use of communication resources between a calling party and a called party and enhanced the call processing options available. As the improved availability assessment was responsible for these effects, all features of claim 1 contributed to inventive step.

But the board was not persuaded:

The board however considers that the presence of the wording “for a future communication from a calling party” makes no contribution to inventive step. In this respect, consider that a caller in a conventional manner wished to place a call to a called party. When deciding whether to place the call at a certain time, it is obvious that it would be possible to obtain information regarding the called party’s likely availability during a particular period of time, for example by consulting the person’s diary or calendar, as well as other calendars indicating meetings which the person is scheduled to attend. Determining a person’s availability in this way is essentially non-technical. The mere fact that the improved result might potentially be used to influence when to place a future conventional call to that person does not in itself give the method a technical character. It is further noted that the wording “for a future communication” does not even require in claim 1 that a future communication be made. Consequently, this hypothetical step does not meaningfully limit the claim.

Accordingly, the board considered the features in question to be non-technical features, so that they do not contribute to inventive step under the COMVIK approach. The board then went on to assess whether the claimed computer-implementation could involve non-obvious further technical considerations. The patent applicant had argued that the computer-implemented solution using a confidence agent and an estimator for monitoring actual meeting information went beyond merely carrying out non-technical steps on a computer. But the board did not agree:

The board however disagrees. In this respect, the board considers that the skilled person wishing to solve the problem of implementing the availability estimation (cf. point 1.5 above) would, without requiring inventive skill, provide the “normal” hardware and/or software entities necessary for (i) obtaining the required data from calendars (e.g. by querying on-line calendars), (ii) obtaining data concerning actual meeting information (e.g. by querying a store of such information), and (iii) estimating availability by comparing the data in the manner claimed. With regard to the features “confidence agent” and “estimator” in claim 1, the board considers that “confidence agent” is merely an arbitrary term for a software entity which carries out steps (i) to (iii), and the term “estimator”, while obscure, since this component does not appear to estimate anything, but merely “monitors” actual meeting information, is understood as a hardware and/or software entity programmed to be supplied with actual meeting information data, and which can be queried by the confidence agent. The board considers that it makes no difference to the assessment of inventive step whether the confidence agent itself “monitors” the actual meeting information data (see point (ii) above), or whether this task is performed by a separate hardware and/or software module which has to be queried by the confidence agent. The functional and/or physical separation of such programming tasks is a routine measure for the skilled person, as illustrated by D1, in which different entities are involved in collecting presence information (“presence server 114”), collecting calendar information (“calendar server 118a”), and analysing the information (“rules engine 112”).

The board therefore concluded that claim 1 did not involve an inventive step, and dismissed the appeal.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 0434/13 (Generating availability data of a called party/MITEL) of 26.1.2017

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Improving a mobile POS terminal in respect of the customers’ security against fraudulent use of their sensitive information: technical

This decision is interesting in that it uses the concept of the “notional business person”, as it was introduced in T 1463/11, to assess whether a given difference over the prior art achieves a technical effect or not.

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1749/14 (MOBILE PERSONAL POINT-OF-SALE TERMINAL/MAXIM) of 3.4.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01:

Key takeaways

Improving a mobile POS terminal in respect of the customers’ security against fraudulent use of their sensitive information: technical

The invention

This European patent application concerns the field of mobile point-of-sale (POS) terminals for carrying out credit card transactions.

Conventionally, the merchant possesses such mobile POS terminals and the customer has to provide identification credentials (e.g. an account number and PIN) to this merchant’s unit. The invention tries to avoid the customer’s sensitive information becoming known if the merchant’s device is tampered with. The basic idea is to allow a transaction to be carried out without the customer having to present account information and the PIN to the merchant.

Fig. 2 of EP 2 335 203
Fig. 2 of EP 2 335 203

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application for lack of inventive step based on the argument that no technical problem was solved by the differences over D1, which were only cognitive business aspects providing no technical contribution.

On appeal, the board started its inventive-step assessment from the closest prior art D1, which discloses a mobile POS terminal which consists of a cellular phone and docking module combination. This POS terminal is in the possession of and under control of the merchant. No further equipment is required to carry out a POS transaction.

According to the board, the transaction with the mobile POS terminal disclosed in D1 involves the security problem of the customer having to provide his PIN and account number to the merchant’s device, which then encrypts this information and passes it on to the Financial Transaction Verification Entity (FTVE). The invention of the patent application seeks to overcome this by directly communicating the customer’s sensitive information to the FTVE. To this end, the POS terminal is divided into a merchant part and a customer part consisting of a docking station or sleeve and a cellular phone.

More precisely, the board identified the following differences of claim 1 over D1:

The concept of the invention differs from the teaching of D1 in that dedicated encryption keys are assigned to the POS attachment portion with the customer’s cellular phone being linked by the phone’s serial number thereby personalising the CMPPT. The Board agrees with the appellant that this causes the security related effect that only this personalised cellular phone can be used for a transaction, in contrast to D1 where any cellular phone can be used.

A further difference is that customer account information is stored in the point-of-sale attachment portion, which receives merchant account information. Customer and merchant account information is sent from the CMPPT to the FTVE when initiating a transaction, i.e. the customer account information is sent directly from the cellular phone portion of the CMPPT to the FTVE. This has the effect that customer account information is not accessible to the merchant’s POS terminal. In contrast to the contested decision (see point 1 of the decision; page 3, first paragraph), D1 does not disclose the latter difference.

The board then assessed whether these differences provided a contribution to the technical character of the invention, using the notional business person as a control consideration:

The notional business person, as introduced in T 1463/11 (Universal merchant platform / CardinalCommerce), knows all about the business related requirements specification and knows about the fact that such business related concepts can be implemented on a computer system (stand-alone or networked, including the Internet). What the notional business person does not know, however, is how exactly it can be implemented on a computer system. This is in the sphere of the technical expert and subject to the assessment of inventive step (see T 1082/13).

In the Board’s view, in the present case the notional business person might come up with the abstract idea of avoiding the customer having to provide PIN and account information to the merchant. Even when considering this to be an abstract business concept for carrying out POS transactions, it cannot however be convincingly argued that it would be sufficient to implement this idea on a standard general purpose mobile POS terminal infrastructure as known from D1 with standard programming skills. It requires a new infrastructure, new devices and a new protocol involving technical considerations linked to modified devices and their capabilities as well as security relevant modifications of the transfer of sensitive information using new possibilities achieved by the modifications to the mobile POS infrastructure.

This goes beyond what the notional business person knows, but rather concerns technical implementation details (how to implement) which are more than a straight-forward 1:1 programming of an abstract business idea. Just as T 1463/11 (supra) considered the security relevance of centralising authentication services in view of avoiding maintenance of software plug-ins in merchant computers contributed to the technical character, the Board considers the security relevance of the modifications according to point 4 above contribute to the technical character of the present invention.

Hence, the board considered the distinguishing features to be technical ones and formulates the objective technical problem as follows:

The Board therefore considers the objective technical problem underlying the differences outlined in point 4 above to be to improve the mobile POS terminal known from D1 in respect of the customers security against fraudulent use of their sensitive information.

The board took the view that a further search for prior art was necessary to assess inventive step in a meaningful manner. Therefore, the decision under appeal was set aside and the case was remitted to the department of first instance for further prosecution.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 1749/14 (MOBILE PERSONAL POINT-OF-SALE TERMINAL/MAXIM) of 3.4.2020

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Balancing user convenience and security when accessing electronic devices: technical

This decision is interesting for readers involved in IT security and mobile communications. The board of appeal had to assess a new access method that preserves computer security, but at the same time increases the convenience of authorized users when using their elec­tronic devices.

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0277/16 (Location-based computer access/GOOGLE) of 26.6.2018 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.06:

Key takeaways

Increasing the convenience of authorized users when using their elec­tronic devices, and thus providing a new access method balancing user convenience and security considerations is not merely a non-technical policy.

A non-intrusive and seamless way of changing device behavior, based on its physical location and its user-dependent actual access history, is intimately tied to the use and usability of the device for the legitimate user and therefore contributes to the technical character of the invention as a whole.

The invention

This European patent application concerns a location-based access control system that balances computer security and user convenience.

The core idea was to designate certain physical locations as familiar (e.g. the user’s home or work place) and to require less complex and less burdensome security rules in familiar areas than in other areas. For example, a shorter passcode might be required inside the familiar area, so that logging in in a familiar place is less intrusive for the user than elsewhere.

The invention further provides an automatic way of designating the familiar area. It is proposed to monitor the successful login events and, essentially, to accept every location as familiar where the user has successfully logged in a minimum number of times. The system records the GPS location or the network address for every successful login attempt, groups them into logins at the “same” location and then classifies every such group with a minimal number of logins as part of the familiar area.

Fig. 1 of EP 2 629 228
Fig. 1 of EP 2 629 228

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application for lack of inventive step.

On appeal, the board first addressed the examining division’s line of argumentation, and did not share the division’s view that the claimed invention was obvious over D1. Interestingly, the board implicitly accepted the problem of automatically determining a familiar area depending on usage patterns, e.g. based on successful logins, as a technical problem:

In the decision under appeal, the examining division assessed inventive step starting from D1, found that the claimed invention differed from D1 in that a familiar area was automatically determined and how, and thus considered the objective technical problem to be solved by the claimed invention as being “how to define a familiar zone […] automatically […]” (see points 7.2 to 7.3 of the reasons).

However, D1 discloses that zones are user-defined and does not suggest that it could be otherwise (specifi­cally, the first full sentence of page 2, right column, does not say that security zones are only “typically user-defined” but that they are “user-defined” and that typical ones are e.g. “home”, “work” and “airport”).

The zones in D1 are predefined according to policy deci­sions in view of “security concerns” (see para­graph 2). For instance, a company might or might not decide that an employee’s home is safe (or, at least, safer than a “public place”) and that, consequently, the employee should profit from more lenient login require­ments at home than in a hotel room or an airport. These zones are meant to be fixed – although some flexibility will have to be provided to account for developments such as users moving house or changing their preferred hotels.

In contrast, the familiar area as claimed may change over time according to a learning process and its extent does not depend on the security of the locations involved. For instance, the user’s preferred coffee shop might, according to the invention, become a “familiar area” over time even though it is a public place with little security.

This is not to say that the invention ignores security considerations entirely. The authentication requirements in a new location are only relaxed once it can be assumed, in view of repeated successful authentication “entries”, that the user is actually authorized, and the electronic device has not been stolen. This is, however, a different security concern than that addressed in D1.

Therefore, the skilled person addressing the problem of automatically determining the zones of D1 would not, without exercising inventive activity, consider the claimed manner of automatically determining a familiar area depending on usage patterns, let alone based on successful logins.

The board is also unaware of an objective technical problem which would naturally arise in the context of D1 and which the skilled person would solve, without exercising inventive activity, by providing the claimed solution.

Accordingly, the board did not follow the examining division’s arguments and in fact considered another prior art document, D3, to be the closest prior art:

D3 discloses (see references above) that a portable electronic device may require different authentication processes in view of typical usage patterns, “learned” from actual usage, at authorized locations measured e.g. via GPS, and wherein the authentication process may be less complex or require less time for the user at “familiar locations”; see paragraph 85).

D3 also discloses that authorized locations – which correspond to the “familiar” area in the sense of the claims – are typically defined by radial distance around the device location detected in learn mode, for instance around a fixed GPS location or an access point (see paragraphs 47, 48 and 60), and that there may be several authorized locations per user and device, i.e. that the “familiar” area may extend over several physical locations (see e.g. paragraph 80).

The board acknowledged that claim 1 differed from D3 in that the familiar area is learned from – and may vary with – the frequency and proximity of “successful user authentication entries” at clusters (groups) of measured GPS locations or detected network access points.

The board considers that this feature increases the convenience of authorized users when using their elec­tronic devices, and thus provides a new access method balancing user convenience and security considerations.

This is substantially the same difference that the examining division found to exist over D1 and consi­dered to be a straightforward implementation of a “non-technical policy” (see the decision under appeal, points 7.3 and 7.4 of the reasons). Implicitly, this argument was applying the so-called COMVIK approach based, in particular, on T 641/00, headnotes I and II.

On the one hand, the board agreed that the difference implements a “policy”, but it disagreed with the examining division that it was a non-tech­nical policy which does not contribute to inventive step:

The invention provides a non-intrusive and seamless way of changing device behavior, based on its physical location and its user-dependent actual access history. The distinguishing features are thus intimately tied to the use and usability of the device for the legitimate user and therefore contribute to the technical character of the invention as a whole (see T 641/00, headnote I). In particular, the distinguishing features address the very real technical problem of preventing device access should it be stolen and taken to a location where the legitimate user has never authenticated him/herself to the device. The board judges, accordingly, that achieving the effect of the distinguishing features cannot be treated as an aim to be achieved in a non-technical field which, according to T 641/00, headnote II, may legitimately appear in the formulation of the objective technical problem.

Returning to D3, and in view of the fact that D3, too, discloses access methods balancing user convenience and security considerations, the objective technical problem solved by the invention over D3 may be considered as providing an alternative computer access method striking such a balance. However, in the board’s view, D3 does not suggest the criteria according to which the familiar area is determined by the distinguishing features depending on user-dependent actual device usage (see point 9.3 above).

Accordingly, claim 1 was found to involve an inventive step over D3. Since no other prior art on file provided for a different view, the board set aside the decision under appeal and remitted the case to the examining division to grant a patent.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 0277/16 (Location-based computer access/GOOGLE) of 26.6.2018

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Increasing user friendliness when incorporating a spreadsheet object into a word processing application document: technical

In this case, the appellant had a hard time arguing why the differences over the prior art provided a beneficial technical effect, because the description as filed was rather scarce in this respect. This decision is a good reminder of how important it is to explain the technical effects of the invention in detail in the application as filed.

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0452/14 (Integrating charts in documents / MICROSOFT) of 13.2.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01:

Key takeaways

Increasing user friendliness when incorporating a spreadsheet object into a word processing application document is a technical problem

The identification of an effect produced by novel features is essential in the problem and solution approach, because such an effect provides basis for the formulation of the objective technical problem.

The invention

This European patent application concerns a method for editing a chart presented in a host application. Users may request updates to the displayed chart with keystrokes or mouse clicks. The update processing varies depending on the nature of the requested updates:

If the requested update merely aims at changing the chart position, the host application repositions the chart itself. But if the update aims at modifying the data values in the chart, the spreadsheet application is launched and the update is performed using the spreadsheet application.

The spreadsheet application can be run as a “visible” or “non-visible instance”. The visible instance is run, if it is established based on the user action that the user needs to interact with the spreadsheet data set; the non-visible one if the user has no such need.

The invention is further concerned with a file structure enabling persistence of a host application document including an embedded chart and an associated spreadsheet data set. The host application document is stored as a file containing a pointer to the spreadsheet document containing the spreadsheet data set on which the chart is based. The spreadsheet document is either embedded in the host application file or stored in an external file.

Fig. 3 of EP 1 952 264
Fig. 3 of EP 1 952 264

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (first auxiliary request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application for lack of inventive step and added subject-matter.

On appeal, the board based its patentability assessment on prior art document D5. According to the board, one difference over D3 was the following:

If it is determined that a spreadsheet is needed, it is determined, whether a visible instance of the spreadsheet application is required to handle the user action and a visible instance of the spreadsheet application is initiated if this determination is positive, otherwise a non-visible instance of the spreadsheet application is initiated.

It was common ground that the application did not explicitly explain the nature and purpose of this difference. So the appellant tried to infer why the difference was particularly beneficial compared to the prior art:

Concerning the main distinguishing feature A, the appellant agreed that the application did not explicitly discuss operations performed in the invisible mode. However, he argued that the skilled person would infer from description page 10, lines 28 to 31 that actions performed in the invisible mode were “uni-directional” actions which did not require the user to change the chart data or to interact therewith. It would be clear to the skilled person that straightforward examples of such actions were changing color themes of the chart or the chart’s font size. The skilled person would also infer from the description that these uni-directional actions were triggered by predefined keyword shortcuts. Furthermore, performing the actions in the invisible mode contributed to saving computer and memory resources, as less information was displayed. Hence, in the appellant’s opinion the objective technical problem was “how to save computer and memory resources”

The appellant argued further that recognising that certain actions could be performed in an invisible mode in order to save computer resources was not obvious over D5, as D5 did not provide any hint in this direction. In the absence of such a hint, the skilled person starting at D5 would perform all chart-related spreadsheet actions in the visible mode shown in Figure 4.

But the board was not persuaded by these inference arguments:

The Board considers that the problem of saving resources is in this case too general and speculative. The amount of consumed resources depends, in both visible and invisible mode, on the actions’ nature and the manner in which they are processed rather than merely on the decision to perform actions visibly or invisibly for the user.

The fact that neither the claim nor the description discuss actions performed invisibly to the users in positive terms poses a difficulty in formulating the objective technical problem. As long as it is not clear what these actions are and what processing ensues, their effect cannot be determined. However, the identification of an effect produced by novel features is essential in the problem and solution approach, because such an effect provides basis for the formulation of the objective technical problem.

Furthermore, the problem cannot be based on the negatively formulated effect of enabling actions whose handling does not require the user to interact with the chart data. The reason is that such a problem comprises a pointer to the offered solution. And it is even less appropriate to include in the problem that certain spreadsheet actions should be performed invisibly for the user.

The board then went on and formulated the objective technical problem itself, but found the claimed solution to this problem to be obvious:

In the Board’s view, one credible problem follows from the appellant’s inferred feature that the actions that result in invisible processes must be triggered by predefined keyword shortcuts. Providing such shortcuts that then enable triggering spreadsheet actions increases user friendliness. Thus the Board bases the objective technical problem on this effect along the lines of “how to increase user friendliness of the system of D5”. The skilled person confronted with this problem and referring to his common general knowledge would consider enhancing the host application by exposing required actions, also chart-related actions, by means of predefined shortcuts. The Board judges that using keyword shortcuts invoking applications in order to perform preprogrammed actions was commonplace in the field of human-computer interaction and formed part of the common general knowledge at the priority date. The shortcuts were employed to expedite operations by reducing input sequences to a keystroke; hence the term “shortcut”.

The skilled person would immediately recognise that shortcuts would be most useful for actions that do not require any user input. For such actions, it is also not necessary to notify the user that the spreadsheet application instance is running, as the user is only interested in the result. Since user-friendliness implies avoiding presenting the user with unnecessary information, refraining from providing visual indication of the performed spreadsheet operations results naturally from the objective technical problem.

The appellant argued that the claimed solution went against the OLE framework of D5 and therefore would not have been considered by the skilled person. However, the Board cannot see why using the OLE facilities should hinder the skilled person from adapting the general teaching of D5 in the above manner (cf. remarks concerning the OLE in point 2.1.1 above)

The Board therefore judges that feature A is obvious.

In the end, the board dismissed the appeal.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 0452/14 (Integrating charts in documents / MICROSOFT) of 13.2.2020

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Displaying a correct letter even if user input is imprecise: technical

Improvements in the user interface of electronic devices are oftentimes right on the borderline of what is technical. This case is interesting because the technical character of the input method was not even questioned by the board of appeal.

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0490/18 (Multi-language input with accents on touch screen / Samsung) of 16.9.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.05:

Key takeaways

Displaying a correct letter even if user input is imprecise is a technical effect.

The invention

This European patent application concerns techniques for entering multi-language letters on a portable device. The user may use a touch gesture to input a letter and a symbol, e.g. an accent. The letter and the symbol, e.g. á, é ,í ,ó ,ú, ñ or ü, are then displayed together.

In the prior art mentioned in the patent application, conventional portable devices require the user to generate a long press input for an English letter as shown in the left part of FIG. 1 and then has to generate an input for selecting an accent symbol in a pop-up window that is generated in response to the long press:

Fig. 1 of EP 2 869 180
Fig. 1 of EP 2 869 180

Accordingly, a keypad included in a conventional portable terminal includes only the alphabet, and additional keys for letters including symbols are not assigned to the keypad. Therefore, a user has to generate inputs twice in order to enter a letter including an accent symbol.

The invention sets out to overcome this inconvenience with a multi-language input method for displaying a letter including a symbol in response to one touch and a touch gesture consecutive to the touch.

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application for lack of inventive step.

On appeal, the board based its patentability assessment on prior art document D3, just in the first instance. According to both the board and the appellant, one difference over D3 was the step of:

(m2) determining whether a letter corresponding to the touch input is combined with a symbol; if not, no symbol is identified or displayed.

The board acknowledged not only one, but two technical effects achieved by this feature:

Feature (m2) leads to the technical effects of displaying a correct letter even if user input is imprecise and reducing the computational load.

The objective technical problem is thus how to modify D3’s device to achieve these effects.

Accordingly, the feature in question was considered to contribute to the technical character of the invention without any question. Concerning inventive step, however, it was considered to be obvious:

The person skilled in the art of multi-language input methods (description, page 1, lines 7 to 9; D3, column 5, lines 38 to 40) is aware that not all letters of an alphabet can be combined with an “umlaut” or “accent” symbol. To reduce the computational load, it is clear that if the specific mark (e.g. a slash) is drawn on a character (D3, column 5, lines 45 to 47) which cannot be combined with a symbol, there is no need to identify the symbol. Hence, the skilled person would be motivated to avoid the identification, and consequently the displaying, of a symbol.

Hence, feature (m2) does not contribute towards any inventive step.

As a consequence, the board remitted the case for further prosecution on the basis of the appellant’s sole request.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 0490/18 (Multi-language input with accents on touch screen / Samsung) of 16.9.2020

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Indexing information for a search engine: technical

The decision concerns the field of search engine technology, and more particularly the indexing of information and accessing an index using a search engine. Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1247/18 (Search-based application development framework/ORACLE INTERNATIONAL) of 4.9.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.07:

Key takeaways

Indexing, creating an index store and accessing the index store using a search engine all contribute to the technical character of the invention.

The invention

This European patent application concerns a framework which allows users to search transactional enterprise applications by means of a search engine, for example by inputting a natural language search query. The framework allso allows to perform actions using the results of a search.

To this end, crawlers are used to crawl enterprise/transactional applications as data sources. An index engine indexes a searchable document constructed by crawlers and makes an index store, i.e. locations at which indexes are stored, available to the search engine. The search engine may be any suitable search engine, such as an SQL search engine, Apache Lucene or Oracle Text search engine. A semantic interface may translate the query from natural language into a query that the search engine can use to search applications.

Fig. 1 of EP 1 999 660
Fig. 1 of EP 1 999 660

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (sole request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application for lack of inventive step over a notoriously known general-purpose computer. The division generally followed the COMVIK approach and argued that the only technical feature of the method of claim 1 was that it was computer-implemented, which was already notoriously known. According to the examining division, the overall effect achieved by the features of claim 1 was the satisfaction of a user’s interest in a specific kind of search interface, which was a non-technical effect as it was only manifested in the user’s mind.

The appellant argued that this analysis was flawed, because the feature of creating an index store concerned the management of computer resources used when performing a search, which enabled a more efficient search of a plurality of transactional applications using an index store. Moreover, the feature “interfacing a semantic engine […]” allowed the search to be performed efficiently using a common search engine. This allowed the performance of a search engine to be leveraged to further increase the efficiency of searching transactional applications. Increasing the searching efficiency provided a “further” technical effect and was not dependent on a psychological effect on a user.

The board essentially agreed with the appellant’s case:

The Board agrees with the appellant that the Examining Division’s analysis of the technical character of the claimed subject-matter is fundamentally flawed.

In particular, the Board considers that at least the steps in the method according to claim 1 that are directed to indexing, creating an index store and accessing the index store using the search engine all contribute to the technical character of the invention since indexing in the context of claim 1 contributes to the technical character of the invention (see for example T 697/17 of 17 October 2019, point 5.2.5, page 20; see also T 1924/17 of 29 July 2019, point 14, page 28). Since the Examining Division did not consider these steps to have technical character, the Board cannot uphold the reasoning in the contested decision.

Because of this finding, the whole reasoning in the first-instance decision became obsolete:

Since the Examining Division considered indexing to be non-technical, it relied on a notoriously known general-purpose computer as the starting point for assessing inventive step. However, given the Board’s finding that the indexing steps contribute to the technical character of the invention, a notoriously known general-purpose computer is not a suitable starting point for the case in hand. Consequently, the Board does not consider that the contested decision provides a suitable basis for assessing inventive step.

The Examining Division cited document D1 in the contested decision and argued that this document disclosed all the technical and some of the non-technical features of the claimed method (see reason 5.1.2 above). However, the Examining Division did not provide a complete assessment of novelty including a detailed feature mapping, or any assessment of inventive step when starting from document D1. Hence, the additional remarks on document D1 in the contested decision do not allow for a judicial review of an inventive-step assessment starting from document D1 as the closest prior art.

Moreover, the Examining Division is yet to consider further documents cited as relevant in the European search report.

Nevertheless, with a view to accelerating the further prosecution of the case, the Board agrees with the appellant that the claimed indexing is different from the domain ontology and the mapping between data service schemas disclosed in document D1. In the Board’s understanding, the domain ontology according to document D1 serves the purpose of performing query mediation (see for example D1, abstract: “We propose an architecture for conceptual mediation in which the sources’ query capabilities are published as web services.”). In other words, D1 queries the sources using their query capabilities, whereas the invention appears to index data extracted from transactional sources for searching by means of an index store. Hence, the Board is not convinced that document D1 is a promising starting point for assessing the inventive step of claim 1 of the appellant’s sole request.

As the Examining Division’s objection under Article 56 EPC is not convincing and its objection under Article 84 EPC is no longer relevant in view of the amendments made, the appellant’s sole request overcomes all objections raised in the contested decision. Consequently, the contested decision is to be set aside.

As a consequence, the board remitted the case for further prosecution on the basis of the appellant’s sole request.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 1247/18 (Search-based application development framework/ORACLE INTERNATIONAL) of 4.9.2020

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Determining the risk of losses for pricing a risk insurance: non-technical

The invention in this appeal case is a classic example of a mixed-type invention with both technical (a computer, a database and a user interface) and non-technical features (an abstract economic model for determining the risk of losses). What’s interesting is that the board repeatedly assessed who the competent person for deciding on the claimed features is (which in this case was an economist and not a technical person). 

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0848/15 of 24.6.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03:

Key takeaways

The selection of a distribution function with tail characteristics according to a line of business does not require technical, but only economic knowledge.

Selecting a starting excess point and fixing a (selected) distribution function thereto does not require technical, but economic knowledge and cannot be performed by the technically skilled person.

The invention

This European patent application concerns the problem of determining the risk of losses, which enables to determine prices in a risk insurance. To this end, loss distribution functions with particular properties are selected and then fixed and fitted to historical loss data associated with different lines of business by means of a computer.

Fig. 4 of EP 1 979 870
Fig. 4 of EP 1 979 870

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application for lack of inventive step over a notoriously known computer system used to implement a business idea in a straightforward manner. On appeal, the appellant had argued that the invention was a mixed-type invention, the abstract economic model of which was modified by the technically skilled person so that it can be be implemented on a standard computer system. Also, the losses defined in the claims were all caused by random physical events like accidents, fires or floodings.

The board of appeal initially noted that the aim of the invention (determining the risk of losses for pricing a risk insurance) was per se of a purely economic nature. But since the invention was indeed a mixed-type invention, the board considered it appropriate to determine the features of claim 1 which do achieve a technical effect and the ones which do not (according to the well-established COMVIK approach).

According to the board, the features of claim 1 which clearly achieve a technical effect are that 1) an (unspecified) computer is used, 2) data are stored in a database and 3) a user interface is used to enter data and to indicate data on a display.

With respect to the other features of claim 1, the board took the following view:

As mentioned above, the application concerns the aspects of selecting loss distribution functions with particular properties as well as fixing and fitting these functions to historical loss data associated with different lines of business (page 2, line 16 to page 3, line 6).

In claim 1 of annex A, these aspects correspond to the method steps performed by the various modules and the compromise marker claimed in steps c) to j) as well as to the content of the data stored in the database (historical loss data associated with different lines of business, different distribution functions with different tail charac­teristics, e. g. Pareto and/or exponential distributions) as defined throughout features a) to j).

Per se, all these aspects relate to an abstract economic model for determining the risk of losses.

For example, the selection of a distribution function with tail characteristics according to a line of business (see features d) to f)) does not require technical, but only economic knowledge pertaining to which distribution function reflects best the probability of losses of a certain amount in a specific economic environment. This will be, e. g. different for a car insurance than for a nuclear power plant insurance. Such a selection can thus not be performed by a technically skilled person. Instead, an economist has to decide which distribution is to be selected for which line of business.

Consequently, the selection of distribution functions (and thereby, a library of different tail characteristics) has to be considered as being part of an abstract economic model for determi­ning the risk of losses, contrary to the submissions of the appellant (see section V. (b) above).

In a similar manner, the starting excess point is not chosen based on technical requirements. Instead, it is selected on the basis of known historical random events (see features g) and h)) and represents economic loss data. That is, selecting a starting excess point and fixing a (selected) distribution function thereto does not require technical, but economic knowledge and cannot be performed by the technically skilled person, either. Rather, this is the economist’s task and thereby has to be considered as being part of an abstract economic model for determi­ning the risk of losses, contrary to the arguments of the appellant (see section V. (b) above).

The Board accepts that in real life, losses to be paid for by insurances are usually caused by physical events. However, the application is not concerned therewith. Instead, a purely abstract, economic language is used throughout the application and no reference to any physical events or physical parameters can be found therein.

The determination of the risk of loss according to the present application is thus not to be equated with weather forecasts or the prediction of earthquakes (which both would require the use of physical parame­ters), contrary to the submission of the appellant (see section V. (c) above).

The further aspects mentioned above thereby relate exclusively to economic considerations in the framework of purely economic models defined by an economist. The Board is not aware of any modification of the abstract economic model thus defined which the technically skilled person would have to make from a technical point of view in order to enable the model to be run on a computer or Turing machine, contrary to the submission of the appellant (see section V. (b) above).

The application does not mention any such technically required modification, either. Instead, the only problems mentioned in the application (page 1, line 15 to page 2, line 4) concern fitting and extrapolating historical economic data per se and are not related to any technical issue that would arise from the use of a computer or Turing machine.

The Board is thus not aware of any issue that would hinder a straightforward implementation of the further aspects on a computer system, contrary to the arguments of the appellant (see section V. (b) above).

The Board notes that the modules and the compromise marker used for performing the method steps and comprised in the further aspects mentioned above have to be considered as software/computer programs which per se do not contribute to the solution of a technical problem, either, as set out by the Examining Division (see contested decision, page 3, fourth paragraph from the bottom).

As a main request, the appellant had requested that the case be remitted to the first instance and a search be performed based on the argument that the claims according to annex A comprised more technical features than the originally filed claims and that written prior art was therefore needed. But this argument did not persuade the board:

The Board accepts that claim 1 of annex A comprises more technical features than claim 1 as originally filed (which comprised the single technical feature that the method was computer-implemented) as pointed out by the appellant (see section V. (d) above).

However, the only features of claim 1 of annex A that achieve a technical effect are the use of an unspecified, i. e. general purpose computer system comprising a database and a user interface for entry and display of data corresponding to features 1), 2) and 3) as defined above. These features were, in combination, notoriously known at the date of filing of the present application (23 January 2006), as already set out by the Examining Division (see contested decision, page 4, paragraph 6).

The Board does not believe that written evidence is required for this finding. A search for written prior art is thus not necessary in the present case and a remittal to the first instance for that purpose would be inexpedient and detrimental to procedural economy.

Concerning patentability, the board decided as follows in applying the well-established COMVIK approach:

As mentioned above, all the technical features 1), 2) and 3) of claim 1 of annex A (see section 3.1) are considered to be notoriously known (see section 4.).

The subject-matter of claim 1 of annex A differs from such a notoriously known computer system only by aspects which do not produce a technical effect (see section 3.2 above). According to the jurisprudence of the Boards of Appeal, it is legitimate to include the non-technical aspects of an invention in the statement of the problem to which the skilled person seeks a solution as an aim to be achieved (see Case Law of the Boards of Appeal, 9th edition 2019, section I.D.9.1.4)).

Starting from a notoriously known general purpose standard computer with a database and a user interface according to features 1), 2) and 3), the objective technical problem to be solved may then be formulated as “how to implement the non-technical aspects of the method of determining a risk of losses associated with a line of business”.

Such an implementation does not go beyond straightforward programming on the standard computer of a purely economic concept not requiring the exercise of an inventive activity. Hence, the subject-matter of claim 1 of annex A and therefore according to auxiliary request 1 is not inventive within the meaning of Article 56 EPC 1973.

As an auxiliary request, the appellant had filed a further claim set with the aim of adding more technical features to claim 1. But also the added features did not succeed:

“Quantifying” a risk as opposed to “determining” it only means that the risk is expressed by a number and not, e. g., by a term like “high”, medium” or “low”. This difference, however, does not achieve any technical effect, since the risk involved is of a purely economic nature.

Further, neither the “events” nor the “institutions” nor the “entities” are clearly defined in the application. Determining the risk of the occurrence of an “event” for an “entity” instead of for an “institution” thus corresponds to a change in wording only and does not entail any technical effect, either. The Board is thus not aware how the modification of features a’), b’) and j’) would emphasise the technical aspects of the invention further, contrary to the arguments of the appellant (see section V. (e) above).

Consequently, the modifications of features a’), b’) and j’) as compared to features a), b) and j), respectively, do not relate to any technical effect. Therefore, the arguments set out above for claim 1 of annex A equally apply to annex B of the letter dated 11. Mai 2020.

As a consequence, the appeal was dismissed.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 0848/15 of 24.6.2020

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Providing different user interface functions to the sender and the recipient of a shipment: non-technical

The invention in this patent application concerns the field of logistics, and addresses the problem of how to effectively transfer products from source to destination sites. The board of appeal made some interesting statements about the technical character of transportation and shipping, as well as whether providing different user interfaces for the source and destination sites is technical.

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 2362/13 (Logistics central station/SCHNEIDER LOGISTICS) of 1.9.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01:

Key takeaways

The transportation of a product from A to B is not necessarily technical. It is something that humans often do (for example when dropping off a packet at the post office). Thus, unless it is done in a technical way, using technical means, the transportation of products is not technical.

Technical shipping infrastructure does not lend technical character to the activity of planning and scheduling shipments. Logistics is generally considered as falling within the categories of excluded matter in Article 52(2) EPC.

Removing functions that are irrelevant to the user from a user interface does not constitute a technical solution to a technical problem.

The invention

This European patent application relates to a “logistics central station”, which is a node in a computer system for administering the shipment of products from a source site to a destination site. It has interface logic that provides a first interface allowing a first class of users affiliated with the source site to access a first set of functions, and a second interface allowing a second class of users affiliated with the destination site to access a second type of functions.

In other words, the logistics central station provides a different set of functions to the sender and the recipient of the shipment.

An example of a sender interface is shown in Figures 9A to E. It includes functions such as shipment confirmation, a view of pending shipments, and the sending of a shipping notice. Figures 10A to E shows an example of the destination interface. It has another set of functions including a “trailer arrival history”.

Fig. 9A of EP 1 330 751
Fig. 9A of EP 1 330 751

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division considered that the invention as claimed was an obvious implementation of a set of administrative functions and business rules on a notoriously known networked computer. More precisely, the functions in claim 1 were considered to be administrative functions relating to the shipment of products, and providing different functions to different classes of uses was considered to be a business rule.

The appellant argued that the “logistics central station” was a technical means that solved the technical problem of how to effectively transfer products from source to destination sites. But the board did not agree:

The Board is not persuaded by the appellant’s arguments. The application does not concern the physical transfer of products; it is about providing access to functions in a computer system. Thus, the Board does not see a basis for the alleged effect in the application as filed.

In any case, the Board does not agree that the transportation of a product from A to B is necessarily technical. It is something that humans often do (for example when dropping off a packet at the post office). Thus, unless it is done in a technical way, using technical means, the transportation of products is not technical. At any rate, technical shipping infrastructure does not lend technical character to the activity of planning and scheduling shipments. Logistics is generally considered as falling within the categories of excluded matter in Article 52(2) EPC (see the Guidelines for Examination, G-II 3.5.3, and T 983/11 – Coordinated marketing/PITNEY BOWES).

The appellant also argued that that the role-based user interface was easier to use than a user interface comprising functions for all the roles. Ease of use was a technical effect that counted towards inventive step:

The Board, however, does not agree that removing functions that are irrelevant or inaccessible to the user constitutes a technical solution to a technical problem. It is rather a consequence of the business requirement to provide different functions to different classes of users.

Thus, the Board agrees with the examining division that the subject-matter of claim 1 of the main request solves the problem of how to implement a set of administrative functions on a computer system. The computer implementation is technical, but, in the Board’s view, it would have been obvious for the skilled person.

As a result, the appeal was dismissed.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 2362/13 (Logistics central station/SCHNEIDER LOGISTICS) of 1.9.2020

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Controlling location-based functionality of a gaming device: technical

Computer gaming is certainly one of the more challenging areas in terms of patenting, and the concept of enabling certain gaming functions depending on the location of the user’s (smartphone) gaming device may sound rather non-technical at first glance. But the process of locating the gaming device, i.e. determining whether it is present within a certain geographic zone, is a technical task, and the patent application in this case concerned a more efficient technical implementation. Since the solution also turned out to be non-obvious, the appeal was successful.      

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0892/18 of 28.7.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.2.04:

Key takeaways

Using reference sets of signal strength or times of travel, which are calibrated for and associated with certain areas or sub-zones, allows for determining presence of a gaming device in a sub-zone without an intermediate triangulation step, and thus solves a technical problem.

The invention

This European patent application relates to a wireless gaming system. A central server and multiple gaming communication devices (e.g. cell phones of users) communicate with each other via a wireless network. Within a certain property, such as a casino, activities (e.g. gambling) are enabled depending on the presence of a gaming device within a dedicated sub-zone of a zone of the property.

The presence is determined by comparing actual signal strength or time of travel of a gaming device with reference sets of signal strength or time of travel associated with sub-zones, which have been established beforehand.

Fig. 3 of EP 6 786 488
Fig. 3 of EP 6 786 488

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The examining division had refused the patent application by deciding that claim 1 contained added subject-matter and did not involve an inventive step. On the appeal stage, the appellant filed amended claims which eventually overcame the added subject-matter objection.

Regarding novelty and inventive step, the board started its analysis from a prior art document from which claim 1 differed in that

  • the property comprises a plurality of zones, each zone being associated with at least one allowed activity, wherein each zone comprises one or more sub-zones and each sub-zone being associated with a reference set of signal strengths or a reference set of times of travel of signals received by the plurality of signal detection devices from a gaming communication device in the sub-zone;
  • the software is configured to: determine the sub-zone in which the gaming communication device (13, 24, 604) is located based upon a comparison of a set of signal strengths or a set of times of travel of signals received by the plurality of signal detection devices from the gaming communication device with the reference set of signal strengths or the reference set of times of travel for each sub-zone.

In the words of the board:

Whereas claim 1 relates thus to detecting the presence of gaming devices within sub-zones of zones of a property by means of pre-determined reference sets of signal characteristics, D1 relies on triangulation for determining the absolute positions of gaming devices within a property (albeit to varying degrees of accuracy) and concludes on their presence in areas surrounding gaming machines from these absolute positions (page 11, second and third paragraph).

The subject-matter of claim 1 is thus new in the sense of Article 54(1), (2) EPC.

The central question was then, of course, whether this difference is a technical one, so that it can establish an inventive step. The board answered this in the affirmative:

In the light of the above identified difference, the problem to be solved can be considered as providing an alternative and efficient way of controlling location based functionality of the gaming communication devices of D1.

The problem is solved by the system of claim 1, since the concept of using reference sets of signal strength or times of travel, which are calibrated for and associated with certain areas or sub-zones, allows for determining presence of a gaming device in a sub-zone without an intermediate triangulation step.

Accordingly, the features in question were considered to contribute to the technical character of the invention without any discussion. What is more, claim 1 was eventually also considered to involve an inventive step:

The claimed solution is not suggested by any of the prior art cited by the Examining Division.

In particular, D2 proposes to use empirically-determined and theoretically-computed signal strength information (page 775, bridging paragraphs of the columns), which is representative for distinct physical locations on the floor of a building (page 777, last paragraph of section “3.2. Data Collection”). These reference sets of signal strength are, however, respectively associated with the distinct locations, not with areas or sub-zones, and are used in a further step of triangulation. Therefore, the straight-forward application of the method of D2 in the system of D1, which is also based on triangulation, would not result in the subject-matter of claim 1.

Since the subject-matter of claim 1 can thus not be obtained in an obvious manner from the cited prior art, it involves an inventive step in the sense of Article 56 EPC.

In the end, the board set aside the decision under appeal and remitted the case to the examining division with order to grant a patent.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 0892/18 of 28.7.2020

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Internet platform for customizing pet food: non-technical

The European Patent Office did not grant a patent on an internet-based ordering system for customizing pet care products, especially pet food.

This decision is a good reminder of how the COMVIK approach is applied to inventions involving a mix of technical and non-technical features. In essence, starting from commonly known manufacturing and packaging procedures, if the only features distinguishing the invention from the state of the art are non-technical features, the invention does not involve an inventive step. 

In passing, the board of appeal in charge also made an interesting comment that the word “system” in a patent claims does not necessarily imply a technical device, but depending on the context can also cover purely abstract systems such a set of organizational procedures.

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1353/15 of 27.8.2020 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03:

Key takeaways

The use of the word “system” in the definition of the claimed method […] does not necessarily imply the use of any technical means.

The invention

This European patent application relates to a method and an apparatus for ordering customized pet care products.

Data characterising the pet, e.g. age, size, breed of the pet, information relating to the health and care of the pet, are obtained from the pet owner (customer), and a profile of the pet is generated. Then, corresponding pet care products are proposed to the customer, who can order one or more of them. The order of the pet care product is then processed and the product is manufactured and packaged.

The aim of the invention is to provide pet care products, and especially pet food, which are better tailored to the specific pet.

An embodiment of the invention relates to an implementation of the claimed method using and Internet-based computer network architecture allowing the customer/pet owner to order the pet products online, as shown in Fig. 1:

Fig. 1 of EP 1 634 224
Fig. 1 of EP 1 634 224

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance examining division had refused the application on the ground that the main request did not involve an inventive step. The applicant pursued the same main request on appeal.

The board of appeal, however, shared the examining division’s opinion, in particular that claim 1 does not use any technical means besides (implied) product manufacturing and packaging means. In this context, the board made some interesting remarks on the technical character of the word “system” used in claim 1:

The board shares the opinion of the examining division that the use of the word “system” in the definition of the claimed method (“A method for administering a consumer direct pet care system for offering customized pet care products…”) does not necessarily imply the use of any technical means. A system in this context can also be understood as a set of procedures […].

According to the board, with the exception of the manufacturing and packaging, which involves handling a physical product, the steps of the method relate to purely administrative (business) steps of a commercial transaction, but no technical means or any technical considerations are involved and no technical problem is solved. The board illustrated this point with the following observation on how the claimed method could be implemented:

A customer/pet owner enters a pet care shop. They discuss with an employee, who asks the customer a series of questions in order to get information about the customer’s pet, such as breed, age, size, and information related to the health and care of the pet. The employee, based on the information provided by the customer generates a pet profile. Based on this pet profile, the employee proposes to the customer pet care products that would be suitable to the specific pet. The customer orders one (or more) of the proposed products. The employee goes to the back of the store, manufactures the ordered product (e. g. mixes a specific composition of pet food), packages it and gives it to the customer.

In the board’s opinion, the features relating to the gathering of information from the customer and the generation of the pet profile based on this information neither contribute to solving any technical problem nor provide any technical effect. They were therefore considered to be administrative non-technical features, which cannot establish an inventive step according to the COMVIK approach.

Concerning the manufacturing and packaging steps, the board noted that these steps merely implied the use of unspecified technical means and the handling of an unspecified pet care product. The application, however, did not provide any information about how manufacturing and packaging are carried out. The board thus considered that these features of the claim belong to the state of the art and the common general knowledge of the skilled person.

The board thus concluded that claim 1 lacks an inventive step according to the well-established COMVIK approach:

Hence, starting from such commonly known manufacturing and packaging procedures, the only features distinguishing the claimed method from the state of the art are non-technical features. In the board’s opinion, such features cannot provide a basis for an inventive step within the meaning of Article 56 EPC 1973.

Since also the auxiliary requests were found not to involve an inventive step, the appeal was dismissed.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 1353/15 of 27.8.2020

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