The European Patent Office granted a software patent for a server load balancing technique based on mathematical calculations. Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0318/10 (Load Distribution/CLUB IT) of 2.9.2014 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.06:
Key takeaways
The invention
This patent application generally relates to server load balancing, i.e. to a method of load distribution to assign a server from multiple networkconnected servers for the execution of a client’s processing request. The load distribution function can be installed on any server in the network.

Claim 1 (main request)
Is it patentable?
In this case, the load distribution function was defined by mathematical formulae and thus the question to be decided was essentially whether such a mathematical optimization was technical:
The board does not agree with the appealed decision that the mathematical formulation of the optimisation function used in a load distribution method in a computer network is nontechnical, or, put another way, without technical effects. As stated in T 208/84 (Reasons, point 5) (“Computerrelated invention/VICOM”; see OJ EPO 1987, 14), a basic difference between a mathematical method and a technical process can be seen in the fact that a mathematical method is carried out on numbers and provides a result also in numerical form, the mathematical method being only an abstract concept prescribing how to operate on the numbers and producing no direct technical result as such. In contrast thereto, if a mathematical method (in the present case the optimisation function) is used in a technical process (in the present case assigning a server from among a plurality of servers to process a client request), that process is carried out on a physical entity by some technical means implementing the method and provides as its result a certain change in that entity. In the present case the optimisation function as defined by claim 1 results in a change in the resource consumption of the server system which is a technical effect.
Since none of the prior art on record provided a hint towards the claimed distance calculation and process request allocation techniques, the first instance rejection was lifted by the Board and a patent was granted.
More information
You can read the whole decision here: T 0318/10 (Load Distribution/CLUB IT) of 2.9.2014
Bastian is a European patent attorney at BARDEHLE PAGENBERG. He specializes in software patents in Europe both from a prosecution and litigation point of view.