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Indicating the presence of a substance in an article: non-technical

This decision concerns a European patent application relating to a system and a method for indicating the presence of a substance in an articleHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 3104/19 of April 11, 2024, of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.

Key takeaways

Obvious automation of an administrative method does not solve a technical problem by technical means.

The invention

The invention relates to a system and a method for indicating the presence of a substance in an article. The system of the invention calculates the total amount of a selected substance in an article using information related to the compositions of the components and materials of the article. The aim is to identify if the selected substance is present in the article in a quantity (amount) that may exceed legally set thresholds, such as a substance which may be considered dangerous for the public according to certain regulations if it is present in the article in a certain quantity.

Figure 2a of EP2754108

Here is how the invention was defined by claim 1 of the main request:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The Board concluded that no technical problem is solved by the claimed system because claim 1 concerns an obvious automation of an administrative method.

Below are the detailed reasons:

3.1 Starting point for the skilled person’s considerations is the conventional administrative procedure whereby information about the presence of certain substance(s) in the components of an article has to be requested and obtained from the corresponding component manufacturers/suppliers …

3.2 Instead of that procedure, the claimed system retrieves the relevant information from various record units, (e.g. databases), where information about the material and substance compositions of the component(s) of the article is stored.

3.2.3 Once the relevant information is retrieved, the system calculates the total amount of the substance in question. …

3.2.4 In the board’s view, the claimed system can be seen as a general purpose computer system with network capabilities, which retrieves data, executes a mathematical calculation based on these data and shows the result. In other words, the claimed system is considered to be general purpose computer (system) with network capabilities, which is able to perform the basic operations of storage, retrieval and processing of data, as well as receiving input from and providing output to a user. It is common ground that such a computer was notoriously known to the skilled person at the priority date of the application.

3.3.2 There is no measurement (e.g. weighing) or any analysis (chemical, spectral, etc.) which takes place in order to determine the substance(s) contained in the component of the article. The indicated total amount of the selected substance corresponds rather to the expected, theoretical amount, since it is based on information related to the theoretical compositions of the components and the materials included in the article and not on any actual measurements.

3.3.3 Hence, even if indicating the total amount of a substance or determining the material composition of an article were considered technical problems, they are not solved using technical means by the claimed system.

3.4.2 … In any case, the indicated total amount of the selected substance corresponds merely to an expected, theoretical rather than a detected or measured amount.

….

3.5.2 … Instead of providing declarations about the amount of a substance in a component/material directly to the user, the suppliers/manufacturers of the various components provide the relevant information to record units, from where it can be retrieved (by the claimed system) any time the amount of a substance has to be calculated.

In the board’s view therefore, if there are any gains in efficiency, they are the result of modifying the administrative procedure of obtaining the total amount of a candidate substance in an article and not by solving a technical problem by technical means. According to established case law and practice, this amounts to a circumvention of a technical problem rather than to a solution of the technical problem through technical means, assuming that improving efficiency or reducing costs were regarded as technical problems.

3.7 Hence, no technical problem is solved by the claimed system. No technical effect is apparent beyond those expected when an administrative procedure is implemented using a computer system.

Finally, the Board concluded that claim 1 of the main request lacks an inventive step. The appellant filed an auxiliary request but it was rejected due to late filing. Hence, the European patent application was finally rejected.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 3104/19 of April 11, 2024, of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.

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Predicting a specific malfunction of a specific mechanical or electrical component based on specific parameters: technical

This decision concerns a European patent application relating to a method for prediction of a malfunction of a unit (e.g., an industrial asset)Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0182/20 (Malfunction prediction/HITACHI ENERGY) of October 24, 2023, of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01.

Key takeaways

Measuring specific parameters is inherently technical.

The choice of parameters for predicting a specified malfunctions reflects technical considerations about the functioning of the claimed mechanical or electrical components.

The invention

The invention concerns predicting future malfunctions of mechanical or electrical components based on the current values of one or more parameters. Essentially, the invention is calculating the probability of a malfunction M based on the current state of parameter(s) according to some mathematical functions.

Figure 1 of EP3183699

Here is how the invention was defined by claim 1 of the sole request:

  • Claim 1 (sole request)

Is it patentable?

The examining division held that in claim 1 the technical features were notorious, and the non-technical features did not provide a technical effect. No prior art was cited – neither in the search report nor in the decision under appeal. In detail, the division held that calculating the probability of a malfunction in a mechanical or electrical component constituted a non-technical modelling and forecasting process, which was an abstract intellectual activity. The calculated probability was deemed a piece of information, which lacked a technical effect in itself as any effect depend on human decision-making.

In the appeal proceedings, the applicant amended the claims (the above sole request) and could convince the Board to remit the case back to the examining division. In detail:

Firstly, the Board confirmed that claim 1 comprises a number of technical features:

3.4 Beyond the server-based processing, the method in claim 1 comprises a number of technical features. Firstly, the method involves measuring specific parameters (e.g. temperature and lubricant condition in the bearings of a gas turbine), which is inherently technical (G 1/19, points 85, 99). Furthermore, these measurements are used to predict specific malfunctions in particular components (e.g. a bearing defect in a gas turbine or an insulation defect in a transformer). The Board considers that the choice of parameters for predicting the specified malfunctions reflects technical considerations about the functioning of the claimed mechanical or electrical components (i.e. gas turbine, transformer, and diesel engine).

Then, the Board made a detail discussion whether the mathematical calculations are technical or non-technical. The Board found that claim 1 corresponds to the second situation of two main situations identified in G 1/19 in which numerical calculations contribute to the technical character of the invention:

3.6 G 1/19 identifies two main situations in which numerical calculations contribute to the technical character of the invention.

First, when the calculated numerical data provide a technical effect, which is at least implied in the claim. This is the case when their potential use is limited to technical purposes (G 1/19, points 124 and 128).

Second, when the calculated numerical data represent an indirect measurement of the physical state or property of a specific physical entity (G 1/19, point 99; see also T 3226/19 – Opportunity estimation/LANDMARK GRAPHICS, points 2.5 to 2.7). In this case, technicality is independent of the data’s use.

The Board sees the conditional probability obtained by the method of claim 1 as an indirect measurement of the physical state (i.e., a particular failure) of a specific physical entity based on the following observations:

3.9 Firstly, the claimed method involves taking a measurement of a specific physical entity at a first point in time and estimating the state of this physical entity (i.e., its probability of failure) at another point in time. This is similar to the example in G 1/19, point 99, where the measurement of a specific physical entity at a specific location is obtained from measurements of another physical entity and/or measurements at another location.

3.10 Secondly, the estimate of the component’s future state is based on a mathematical framework that credibly reflects reality. The Board considers this to be an essential factor in deciding whether the calculated numerical data can be seen as an indirect measurement. Arbitrary or speculative models and algorithms that are not grounded in reality are not capable of predicting the physical state or property of a real physical entity. Such abstract calculations cannot be regarded as (indirect) measurements.

In claim 1, however, the probability is calculated from the transition matrix T, the conditional probability distribution P(M|a), and the current measurement of the parameter a. The mathematical framework in the claim is rooted in stochastic modelling and simulation, specifically Markov chains, which are recognised for credibly capturing and predicting the transition dynamics of systems based on empirical data.

The fact that the result is a probability does not detract from its ability to provide a technically meaningful estimate of the component’s state. Making accurate predictions in the real world, given all its uncertainties, is rarely possible.

3.11 Lastly, there is a credible causal link between the measured parameters and the predicted malfunctions. For instance, a bearing defect in a gas turbine is likely to generate more heat, degrade lubricant, and cause vibrations in the shaft and/or casing. Therefore, temperature, lubricant condition, and shaft or casing vibrations are suitable parameters for predicting a bearing defect.

3.12 In summary, the Board is satisfied that the calculated probability provides a credible estimate of the future physical state of a specific physical entity and, therefore, can be seen as an indirect measurement.

Finally, the Board concluded that all features in the claim contribute to the technical character of the invention and must be examined for obviousness. The Board remitted the case to the examining division for further prosecution including a search (Article 111(1) EPC).

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 0182/20 (Malfunction prediction/HITACHI ENERGY) of October 24, 2023, of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01.

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Method of reserving compartments: non-technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to a method of reserving compartmentsHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1203/20 of January 25, 2024, of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.

Key takeaways

An administrative scheme of managing compartments will be provided to the skilled person as non-technical constraints for implementation.

Automating steps of a manual process has always been considered a pervasive aim in any technical system.

The invention

The invention relates to reserving compartments in a post system. The post system comprises compartments (lockers) which can be reserved by users. The system maintains a database with records including the status of each compartment (“reserved” – “available”) and when it receives a request for a reservation it looks for available compartments on the basis of their status as stored in the database.

Reservations are made for a certain period of time, i.e. they have a start and an end time. The system monitors the time and when the end time of a reservation passes, it changes automatically the status from “reserved” to “available” unless it detects that there is a package in the compartment.

Figure 1 of EP2927884

Here is how the invention was defined by independent claim 10 of the main request:

  • Claim 10 (system claim) of the main request

Is it patentable?

The examining division found that claim 1 lacks an inventive step. The applicant appealed but was unable to change the outcome of the case. The following references are cited in the decision:

D1: US 2002/0080030 A1

D4: US 2003/0222760 A1

Main request

Regarding the main request, the Board considered D1 as a suitable starting point for the assessment of inventive step, wherein the following features were considered as distinguishing features of claim 10:

  • (i) the post system is adapted to identify at least one record within the reservation table of the database associated with a reserved compartment having a reservation time that is past a current time, and to update the record of the reservation table corresponding to the identified compartment to available;
  • (ii) wherein the identifying at least one record further includes comparing the reservation time with the current time and data from a recognition means, the recognition means provided at the one or more compartments and adapted to recognise if a package is deposited in a compartment, wherein the record corresponding to the reserved compartment is updated to available if the recognition means do not detect that a package has been deposited in the reserved compartment within the reservation time; and
  • (iii) the post system is adapted to update the reservation table by storing data indicating a reserved status associated with the at least one available compartment to be reserved and a reservation time to establish a compartment reservation.

However, the Board considered that the distinguishing features are not technical and thus found that the subject-matter of claim 10 of the main request does not involve an inventive step (Articles 52(1) and 56 EPC):

2.5.1 As stated previously, the board considers that the difference between the claimed system and the system of D1 lies in the way they are managed. The identified distinguishing features represent thus an implementation of an administrative scheme for managing the compartments.

According to established case law and practice, the board considers that the administrative scheme of managing the compartments will be provided to the skilled person as non-technical constraints for implementation. Any technical problem present would relate merely to how these non-technical constraints are (to be) implemented.

As stated previously, the system of D1 comprises all the necessary technical means for implementing the administrative (business) scheme underlying the claimed system. The board’s view is therefore that such an implementation would be obvious to the skilled person using common general knowledge.

First auxiliary request

The system of claim 8 of the first auxiliary request (based on claim 10 of the main request) comprises additional features enabling it to receive an indication of the location of the shop system and searching for available compartments within a specific range around that location. Moreover, claim 8 defines that the system uses the IP address of the shop system to identify its location automatically.

The main difference of the claimed system from the system of D1 is that in the latter the location is input by the user, who makes the reservation request (paragraph [158]), while in the claimed system the user’s location (“shop location”) is identified automatically by the system on the basis of the IP address of the shop’s terminal.

However, the Board considered that the difference refers to a mere automation of a manual process and thus does not involve an inventive step:

3.5 The board does not find these arguments persuasive. Leaving open the question of whether minimising the user interaction with the system represents a technical problem, the board notes that automating steps of a manual process has always been considered a pervasive aim in any technical system.

3.5.1 The board thus considers that the skilled person would inherently seek to automate any step in the compartment reservation procedure described in D1. One of the few user inputs in the reservation procedure is the input of the desired location. It would thus be obvious for the skilled person to try and automate this step of the procedure, i.e. to provide for an automatic identification of the user’s location.

Since none of other requests were considered allowable, the Board dismissed the appeal and the European patent application was ultimately rejected.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 1203/20 of January 25, 2024 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.

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Identifying an application type of unknown data: non-technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to a method for identifying an application type of unknown data that may be encountered during a data recovery processHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1245/20 (Identifying an application type of unknown data/MAGNET FORENSICS) of March 3, 2023 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.07.

Key takeaways

Features relating to a mental act only relate to non-technical activities and thus cannot produce a technical effect.

Mere programming (software engineering) is not technical.

Mere presentation of information is not technical.

(based on G 1/19) A technical effect shall be derivable over the whole scope of the claim.

The invention

The application relates to methods of identifying an application type of unknown data that may be encountered during a data recovery process. Claim 1 defines a computer-implemented data analysis method (200) of displaying data with an unknown application type recovered from one or more addresses marked as unallocated on a storage device. The recovering step is done by step (A) of claim 1, whereas the displaying step is performed at step (F) of claim 1 (unfold the accordion below for further details).

Figure 1 of EP3049970

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (sole request, feature labelling (A) to (F) added by the board)

Is it patentable?

The examining division found that claim 1 lacks an inventive step over a general purpose computer system or the disclosure of documents D1 or D5 and thus refused the application.

The applicant appealed but was unable to change the outcome of the case. The Board in charge assessed each step of claim 1 and found none of the steps in claim 1 can provide an inventive step.

Step (B) was considered by the Board as relating to mental act (non-technical activity), which does not contribute to a technical effect:

7.3.1 In step (B) of claim 1, it is stipulated that the “database information” of the recovered data comprises “at least one table with at least one column”. Column identifiers of the unknown database of the recovered data are analysed “to determine that the recovered data corresponds to database information”. The board notes that claim 1 does not define how the column identifiers are recognised or found if the database from which the recovered data originates is “unknown”.

7.3.3 Thus, after having found, in a manner undefined in claim 1, column identifiers (“col_1”, “col_2”, “col_3”, .., “col_N”) of an unknown database DBj, these column identifiers are analysed, and it is determined whether they correspond to database information.

Thus, some column identifiers correspond to some database information, and this correspondence appears to be pre-defined, this being similar to the associations, in the catalogue of the prior art disclosed in the application, of applications to respective data formats illustrated in point 6.1.1. Analysing the column identifiers by reading them and looking at a pre-defined correspondence between the column identifiers and an associated database to determine the associated database cannot be considered to involve an inventive step. It is, rather, based on an analysis of data formats by a software engineer or programmer, which is in essence a mental act and thus a non-technical activity not contributing to a technical effect.

Steps (C), (D) and (E) were considered by the Board as relating to mere programming (software engineering), which does not contribute to a technical effect:

7.4.11 Steps C and D alone cannot provide an inventive step since they consist in looking whether a keyword in a table of associations or catalogue is present in the column identifier to implicitly look up in the table of associations or catalogue the data field associated with this keyword and to implicitly look up in another table of associations or catalogue the application associated with this data field. These steps essentially just relate to mere programming based on non-technical considerations of software engineering and do not contribute to a technical effect over the prior art disclosed in the application.

7.5.4 Step (E) alone cannot provide an inventive step since storing the mapping determined in step (C) and (D) is obvious and would be performed by the skilled person without exercising an inventive step and depending on the circumstances. Moreover, the mapping itself relates just to software engineering and the analysis of data formats in applications, this being non-technical.

Step F was considered by the Board as relating to mere presentation of information, which does not contribute to a technical effect:

7.6 Step (F)

There is a displaying step (F) in a preview section (having reference sign 560) of a user interface (having reference sign 500) of a data record (of the database information) having a data field DFy. The data record is displayed in a column of the user interface “based on the stored mapping of the stored data field of the data record to the stored column”.

The board considers that step (F) concerns a mere presentation of information which is non-technical and cannot render claim 1 inventive.

Moreover, the Board also cited G 1/19 and stated that a technical effect shall be derivable over the whole scope of the claim:

13. One question that arises is whether the method of claim 1 has the potential to cause technical effects. But the mapping and display of the data record in a respective column of the user interface resulting from the claimed method is not specifically adapted for any technical use (see G 1/19, point 94). Since the board does not see any technical effect from the implementation of the claimed method in a computer system derivable over the whole scope of the claim, the claimed subject-matter does not achieve a technical effect over the prior art acknowledged in the application.

 

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 1245/20 (Identifying an application type of unknown data/MAGNET FORENSICS) of March 3, 2023 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.07.

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Grouping of multiple objects: non-technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to a method for displaying a viewHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1803/21 (Grouping of multiple objects/HUAWEI) of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.03.

Key takeaways

The mere fact of grouping objects in accordance with user-defined sorting attributes – in particular the size of occupied storage space – and associating them with respective group identifiers cannot credibly assist the user in performing a technical task by means of a continued and/or guided human-machine interaction process.

Features merely dictated by (subjective) user preferences cannot contribute to a credible technical effect.

The invention

The invention underlying the present decision provides a method for displaying a view on a terminal device.

Figure 5 of EP3282679

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (sole request)

Is it patentable?

The examining division found that claim 1 lacks an inventive step over D1 (US 2012/0290984 A1) and thus refused the application.

The applicant appealed but was unable to change the outcome of the case. The Board in charge dismissed the appeal with the following reasonings:

1.1.2 The board agrees with the appellant and the examining division that the subject-matter of claim 1 differs from D1 in features c.), e.) and g.), i.e. grouping is done if the quantity of multiple objects is greater than or equal to a preset threshold – otherwise the method ends – and the multiple sorted objects are grouped according to values of sizes of storage space occupied by the multiple objects if the sorting attribute is the value type, corresponding to a size of occupied storage space.

1.1.3 The appellant submitted that those features had the technical effect of optimising the use of screen space. In particular, feature c.) served this effect by limiting a grouping to cases where a grouping was actually necessary; features e.) and g.) worked towards this effect by grouping the storage space required by the individual entries. All of these features worked towards the joint effect of optimising the use of screen space.

1.1.4 The appellant further commented on the reasons provided in the appealed decision as follows:

(a) In Reasons 12.1.3.1 of the appealed decision, the examining division did not provide any proof or even argumentation for the allegation that the skilled person would realise that, for a very small number of items, it is not beneficial to group them but instead that grouping was a way to provide some order when there are too many objects.

(b) In Reasons 12.1.3.2, the examining division further argued that features e.) and g.) would correspond to a design variation. Especially, the examining division argued that it was well known to use different sorting criteria and mentioned the “Windows Explorer” as a proof for this. First of all, the examining division did not provide a specific example of the “Windows Explorer” predating the priority date of the present application. Also, a specific piece of software could not be considered as proof of the general knowledge of the skilled person. Moreover, the argumentation of the examining division was inherently flawed since the examining division did not show a grouping according to the size of occupied storage space. Such a grouping is completely uncommon and was not found in any version of the “Windows Explorer” according to the knowledge of the applicant.

1.1.5 In response to the board’s preliminary opinion, the appellant added that, by checking whether the number of objects was greater than or equal to the preset threshold, a reduction in the processing burden imposed on the terminal device was achieved. The grouping was only done if the number of objects was greater than or equal to the preset threshold, but otherwise the method was ended. Therefore, a subsequent processing – in the sense of a subsequent grouping – was only done if the number of objects was greater than or equal to the preset threshold. If the number of objects was less than the preset threshold, no further method steps were executed. The grouping method steps were only executed if it was really worth executing those method steps, reducing the processing burden imposed onto the terminal device since, if the number of objects was less than the preset threshold, nothing was done.

1.1.6 These arguments are not convincing. With respect to the purported technical effect of distinguishing features c.), e.) and g.), the board is not persuaded that the grouping of multiple sorted objects according to a user-defined sorting attribute indeed leads to an “optimisation of the screen space” given that:

(a) according to feature i.), the view generated comprises all the group identifiers forming the multiple group identifiers and the multiple objects, and

(b) no indication is given about the graphical representation of objects and group identifiers (e.g. icon size, font size, etc.).

Even if it did, the mere fact of grouping objects in accordance with user-defined sorting attributes – in particular the size of occupied storage space – and associating them with respective group identifiers cannot credibly assist the user in performing a technical task by means of a continued and/or guided human-machine interaction process (cf. e.g. T 336/14, Reasons 1.2.5). Rather, the distinguishing features merely relate to the obvious implementation of a certain type of presentation of information which is merely dictated by (subjective) user preferences. According to the jurisprudence of the Boards of Appeal, such features cannot contribute to a credible technical effect (see e.g. T 1802/13, Reasons 2.1.5).

Finally, the arguments concerning the alleged reduction of the processing burden do not sway the board. In essence, the appellant compares the claimed situation with one where grouping would be done irrespective of the quantity of objects. However, as explained above, the selection of the minimum quantity of the multiple objects – as per feature c.) – is not associated with any quantifiable objective technical assessment but with a (subjective) user preference.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 1803/21 (Grouping of multiple objects/HUAWEI) of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.03.

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Generating maps of local activation times: not technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to a method for mapping local activation times from a plurality of electrophysiology data pointsHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0855/22 (Mapping sub-conventions/ST. JUDE MEDICAL) of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.05.

Key takeaways

An “increased graphical granularity” does not relate to a technical effect but to a non-technical cognitive effect.

It is not enough merely to assert that the “presentation of information” assists the user in doing something.

 

The invention

The invention relates generally to cardiac therapeutic procedures, such as cardiac ablation. In particular, the invention relates to a method for generating maps of local activation times. According to the application, electrocardiographic mapping is a part of numerous cardiac and diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. As the complexity of such procedures increases, however, the electrophysiology maps utilized must increase in quality, in density, and in the rapidity and ease with which they can be generated.

Figure 1 of EP3580763

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The examining division found that claim 1 lacked an inventive step over D1 (US 2015/228254 A1).

The Board confirmed the finding by the examining division:

1.2 Claim 1 of the main request differs from D1 essentially in that different mapping sub-conventions are used for different sub-maps of an LAT map corresponding to sub-ranges of LAT data. The appellant argued that this allowed an “improved visualization of arrythmias by increasing granularity when graphically representing the LAT sub-maps”.

1.3 However, contrary to Reasons 11.3 of the contested decision, the board is not convinced that the distinguishing features of claim 1 of the main request solve any objective technical problem. Instead, they merely involve “presentation of information” as such. An “increased graphical granularity” does not relate to a technical effect but to a non-technical cognitive effect.

1.4 The appellant argued that there was a technical effect in the case at hand since it assisted a physician to treat arrythmia but did not explain this any further. However, “presentation of information” can rarely contribute to the technical character of the invention if [unless] it credibly assists the user in performing a technical task by means of a continued and guided human-machine interaction process. For this purpose, it is not enough – as in the present case – merely to assert that the “presentation of information” assists the user in doing something. The board can only speculate as to whether the appellant meant that the presentation of information in the case at hand might be useful for a physician to distinguish different patterns of arrythmia. However, this is not a technical task but an intellectual task eventually performed by the physician. The board does not regard such kind of an assistance as a technical effect. Thus, the above distinguishing features cannot support the presence of inventive step.

1.5 Therefore, in accordance with the conclusions of the contested decision, claim 1 of the main request does not involve an inventive step (Article 56 EPC).

None of the auxiliary requests was found to overcome the above objection. Finally, the Board dismissed the appeal and the European patent application was refused.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 0855/22 (Mapping sub-conventions/ST. JUDE MEDICAL) of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.05.

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Extracting flight data: not technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to a method for compilation of price data concerning scheduled transportHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1468/20 of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01.

Key takeaways

The specification of transport data relates to business data content and is not technical.

In the claim, the filtering boils down to disregarding prices that were not offered to a sufficient number of different users. This is a purely business idea.

 

The invention

The invention concerns an Internet service aggregating transport price data, e.g. flight prices, collected from users’ searches of prices on transport providers’ websites.

Claim 1 of the main request specifies a method which searches and extracts flight data from various airline web pages that users view and provide this data to a central data receiving (second) server 22 for storage in a database 26. This database is searchable through the Internet via a further server 28.

The web page containing the price data served by the airline’s website also contains a script. The users’ browsers (clients) 20 execute the script which searches the web page and extracts the price data.

In order to ensure the reliability of received flight prices, the data receiving server monitors IP addresses of the clients and only considers a flight price as trusted and suitable for distribution, after it has received this price from clients at a sufficient number of different IP addresses.

 

Figure 1 of EP2849130

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The examining division found that claim 1 lacked an inventive step over D3.

The Board also considered D3 as the closest prior art and considered that claim 1 differs from D3 as follows:

  • Feature (b), end: By a further Internet server which selects and serves the aggregated data from the database to browser clients.
  • Features (c) and (d): In that the data receiving server monitors IP addresses from which the data was received and only considers a particular price to be trusted, and thereby suitable for distribution, once it has received the same price from Internet browser clients at a number of different IP addresses.
  • Feature (a), end: In that the one or more received executable instructions cause the Internet browsing client to search at least a portion of the received web page data to extract the scheduled transport price data for transmission to the data receiving server.

The Board denied the inventive step of claim 1 based on the following reasoning:

2.5 Like the examining division, the Board judges that the specification of transport data relates to business data content and is not technical (see decision, point 12.5.1) and that the feature of the further Internet server is an obvious option (point 12.5.3). The Board adds to the examining division’s analysis of the latter feature that middleware servers sitting between a database and Internet browser clients were common knowledge at the priority date, as shown by background document D9 for example.

2.6 As for determining trust based on the number of different IP addresses, it was common ground that it produced the effect of returning only trusted prices to Internet browser clients. However, the claimed method (feature (d)) does not actually use the information about the prices’ trustworthiness while storing data in the database and it is doubtful whether the asserted effect is indeed provided.

2.7 Nevertheless, the Board agrees with the examining division that even assuming that only trusted prices are stored in the compiled price data database, this feature is obvious.

The appellant argued that any kind of data filtering was a technical process. However, in the claim, the filtering boils down to disregarding prices that were not offered to a sufficient number of different users. The Board concurs with the examining division (decision, point 12.5.5) that this is a purely business idea.

It is common ground (cf. decision, point 12.7.5) that using IP addresses to distinguish user devices is an implementation choice. However, this would have been obvious, once, in line with the COMVIK principle (see decision T 641/00 – Two identities/COMVIK), the aforementioned business idea has been given to the skilled person for implementation. The obviousness of the solution becomes even more apparent considering that in D3 the central server already receives clients’ IP addresses together with the extracted product information (paragraph [80], last sentence).

2.8 At the oral proceedings the main point of contention was the obviousness of using the script to search the received web page to extract the price data.

Firstly, the appellant argued that the skilled person was a computer programmer for cataloging and reporting Internet site activity data. However, the Board considers this to be an arbitrarily restrictive technical qualification to the particular application of D3 that does not exist in practice. In the Board’s view, the skilled person is simply a web programmer.

Secondly, the appellant considered that using the script to search the web page solved the problem of reducing the amount of transmitted data between the merchant and the browser. The Board agrees that this is certainly one effect of the invention. However, the Board sees the invention in a more general sense as being about the decision where to obtain information about products’ prices. In D3, it is done by the merchant, whereas in the invention it is the browser. Thus, the difference in a more general sense represents an alternative choice for where to perform the processing.

In this general context the amount of transmitted data is one of many trade-offs. Others would be: processing power required at the merchant/browser and programming complexity at the merchant/browser. Furthermore, the choice could be driven by non-technical considerations, such as whether the merchant or the customer wants to control the information obtained.

Thus, the Board essentially agrees with the examining division that searching and extracting information about the web page in the browser is more properly to be considered as an alternative to providing this information at the merchant. In such cases, the skilled person would consider any well known alternative in the technical field unless the closest prior art, or some other fact, teaches away from it.

As mentioned above, the skilled person is a web programmer. A web programmer knows that the solution of searching and extracting data from web pages is a well-known technique, commonly known in the art as web scraping. In fact, as stated by the examining division (decision, point 14.4), D3 at paragraph [75] actually teaches obtaining the product price information using web scraping as an alternative to obtaining this information from the embedded script, albeit at another server.

Furthermore, the Board judges that, contrary to the appellant’s view, the use of JavaScript as present in the browser in D3 to scrape pages poses no technical difficulty.

Thus, the Board agrees with the examining division’s conclusion at point 14.4 of the decision that the skilled person would have considered using a scraping functionality in the embedded script as an obvious possibility.

2.9 Hence, claim 1 lacks an inventive step (Article 56 EPC).

All the auxiliary requests were found to lack an inventive step. Finally, the Board dismissed the appeal and the European patent application was refused.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 1468/20 of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01.

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Providing education service based on knowledge units: not technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to a method for providing education service based on knowledge unitsHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 2718/19 of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.

Key takeaways

Mental acts in relation to a non-technical pedagogical/didactic learning method expected to be designed by a notional, non-technical person like a teacher are non-technical features.

Mere automation of a known task is not enough for inventive step.

 

The invention

Claim 1 concerns a system for providing education service based on knowledge units. First, a curriculum is generated based on a user’s achievement for at least one knowledge unit, said curriculum including at least one problem composed based on said at least one knowledge unit. According to the present invention, a new form of education service can be provided based on knowledge units.

Figure 3 of EP2819089

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1

Is it patentable?

The appellant’s arguments as far as they are relevant for the present decision are summarised by the board as follows:

The subject-matter defined in claim 1 concerned an “educational technology system”, so called “Edutech”, and therefore concerned the solution of a technical problem. The improvement of an educational technology system using technical means was clearly a technical contribution. The technical means were the knowledge units, the knowledge chain and/or the problem provided to the user and the interaction between these entities such that an improved feedback could be provided to the user according to its knowledge level. This resulted in an improved technology.

The board did not share the appellant’s view:

2.1 The features of claim 1 are seen as a combination of technical and non-technical features. Given the presence of technical features, the overall technical character of the claimed invention is not questioned.

2.2 The closest state of the art is considered to be a computer system comprising user interfaces and storage means as well as a processor and databases. This closest state of the art is considered notorious and also exemplified by document D1 (see e.g. paragraphs [0036] and [0061] to [0063] and Figures 2 and 4).

2.3 The differentiating features concern the education service based on knowledge units and related content like the different knowledge units and the data related to the user’s achievement and their interaction.

2.4 These differentiating features are based on a combination of standard technical features like notes taken on a piece of paper and stored in a well-known paper folder combined with non-technical features which concern mental acts in relation to a non-technical pedagogical/didactic learning method expected to be designed by a notional, non-technical person like a teacher. These differentiating features are the following:

An educational method based on knowledge units, whereby the knowledge units and information on a user’s achievements for the knowledge units are stored for example in a storage location; a curriculum is stored which is based on the user’s achievement of at least one knowledge unit stored in the storage location, which includes an interpretative knowledge unit, a formulaic knowledge unit and/or a computational knowledge unit. The curriculum includes at least one problem composed based on the at least one knowledge unit. The user is further provided with at least one problem, and with contents of the knowledge units associated with the user’s response to the at least one problem, wherein the at least one problem is composed by a knowledge chain comprised of the at least one knowledge unit and at least one further knowledge unit. The knowledge chain includes identification information of the at least one knowledge unit and the at least one other knowledge unit. The user’s knowledge is analysed in order to determine the user’s achievement for the at least one knowledge unit based on a feedback that the user provided in response to at least one other problem composed by the knowledge chain, and to reflect information on the user’s achievement for the at least one knowledge unit, wherein to the at least one problem is assigned the identification information of the at least one knowledge unit and the at least one other knowledge unit, and wherein the at least one knowledge unit is organized with at least one yet other knowledge unit to form an association between the different knowledge units, and the association is identified when the knowledge units constitute another knowledge chain.

2.5 The objective technical problem to be solved by the identified differentiating features of the pedagogical/didactic learning method therefore can be formulated as the implementation of this non-technical pedagogical/didactic learning method on a notorious computer system.

2.6 In order to solve this problem, the non-technical pedagogical/didactic learning method is handed over to the technically skilled person, namely a computer programmer, which implements it without any technical difficulty in a straightforward manner on the above mentioned notorious computer system representing the closest state of the art. The technically skilled person, i.e. the computer programmer, implements the storage location(s) which include(s) all information, user’s achievement results, knowledge units or knowledge chains without any difficulty making use of a database of the computer system. In the given context the use of a database must be considered a standard procedure for the computer programmer since databases and their advantageous use were notoriously well-known for dealing with specifically structured data content at the time of filing of the application.

Moreover, apart from automation of the non-technical pedagogical/didactic learning method, no specific technical details concerning the technical implementation of the non-technical method are defined in the wording of claim 1 which could be considered to provide a technical contribution, a further technical effect or any specific technical solution to a particular technical problem. Nothing of this kind can be identified in the wording of claim 1.

The relation and interaction between the different knowledge units, the knowledge chain and the problem provided to the user do not represent a particular technical solution to a technical problem, contrary to the appellant’s assertion (see statement setting out the grounds of appeal, page 2, fourth paragraph and page 5, second and seventh paragraphs). These features are related to the design of the non-technical pedagogical/didactic learning method and are as such specified by the teacher (the notional non-technical person). These features are not related to specific technical means which could be considered to derive from an inventive contribution of the technically skilled computer programmer. Neither a “knowledge chain” nor a “knowledge unit” nor the “problem provided to the user” are considered technical features.

Moreover, although the method is defined as relating to the domain of “educational technology system” / “Edutech”, it cannot be concluded that the implemented method necessarily requires a technical solution to a technical problem. As indicated, the technicality lies exclusively in the straightforward implementation of a non-technical method on a notorious computer system.

Merely naming something a “technology system” will not automatically put it in a field of technology for the purposes of Article 52(1) and (2) EPC. In the given context, educational training or teaching methods that adapt to the user’s level of knowledge are only technically implemented to provide online-learning or computer-based training.

This is also in accordance with and not in contradiction to the explanations in the “Wikipedia” article on “Educational technology” which the appellant submitted with the statement setting out the grounds of appeal. “Edutech” is a technical realisation of the “theory and practice of educational approaches to learning” or a means to “assist in the communication of knowledge, and its development and exchange” or to provide learning tool. It is therefore the technical realisation of mental, non-technical subject-matter since the roots of “Edutech” lie in didactic and pedagogical learning theories.

These non-technical training and learning theories are in the present case computer-implemented in a straightforward manner for computer learning, on-line training and/or e-learning.

2.7 With regard to the decision T 336/14 cited by the appellant, which also concerns a mixed-type invention comprising technical and non-technical features, the board notes that the subject-matter discussed there is not comparable to the subject-matter of the case at hand. That decision concerned a graphical user interface (GUI) which assisted a mental human process. The potentially excluded subject-matter concerned the presentation of information as such (see point 1.2.5 of the Reasons for the Decision) and was found by the deciding board not to involve an inventive step. Therefore, if this decision is relevant at all to the present application, which the board is not convinced of, it is seen to support the board’s position, and not that of the appellant.

2.8 In summary, the subject-matter defined in claim 1 relates to a notorious standard computer system on which a non-technical method is implemented in a straightforward and obvious manner (Article 52(1) EPC in combination with Article 56 EPC).

The appellant did not file auxiliary requests. Finally, the Board refused the European patent application.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 2718/19 of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.

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Search in internet and personal notes: non-technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to a method for presenting information on a websiteHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1272/20 (Search in internet and personal notes/EVERNOTE) of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.07.

Key takeaways

As with all subject-matter excluded as such under Article 52(2) and (3) EPC, it has to be established whether the non-technical features, to the extent that they interact with the technical subject-matter of the claim for solving a technical problem, provide a technical contribution and should be taken into account in assessing inventive step.

An assessment based on an isolated analysis of the individual features of the claim without regard for possible interactions with the other claimed features may lead to ignoring features which make a technical contribution.

Meeting the informational needs of a user is not per se a technical effect.

The invention

The invention concerns searching for and presenting to a user relevant notes in connection with other website content as result of an internet search performed by the user. According to the description, “note” is a general name for a piece of information.

Figure 1 of EP3299973

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

In the grounds of appeal, the appellant disagreed with the examining division’s identification of the features of claim 1 which had technical character. The examining division had equated features contributing to technical character with structural features and had excluded any non-structural features from the assessment of inventive step as being non-technical per se.

The appeal board shared the appellant’s view:

3.1 The appellant has – correctly – remarked that in decision T 598/14 the board did not consider that none of the claimed features was technical but rather that the features distinguishing the claimed subject-matter from the prior art did not make a technical contribution. The board further agrees with the appellant that T 598/14 did not express that any manner in which a computer performs a search is non-technical for the sole reason that the result is a “better search”. As with all subject-matter excluded as such under Article 52(2) and (3) EPC, it has to be established whether the non-technical features, to the extent that they interact with the technical subject-matter of the claim for solving a technical problem, provide a technical contribution and should be taken into account in assessing inventive step (see also T 154/04, Reasons 5; T 697/17, Reasons 4.2; T 2573/16, Reasons 4.4).

In assessing a claim, it is therefore important to take into account the effect of the features in the claimed invention. An assessment based on an isolated analysis of the individual features of the claim without regard for possible interactions with the other claimed features may lead to ignoring features which make a technical contribution (see also T 731/17, Reasons 6.2 and 6.4; T 697/17, Reasons 4.2).

An invention with an overall purpose which is non-technical may nevertheless be a patentable solution to the problem of finding a technical implementation for achieving the non-technical purpose (T 1784/06, Reasons 2.3). The board does not find any basis either for considering that only hardware features are technical. In decision G 1/19, the Enlarged Board was of the opinion that while a direct link with physical reality is in most cases sufficient to establish technicality, it cannot be a necessary condition (see Reasons 62, 88, 101 and 139).

The board further notes that a technical feature does not lose its technical nature because it is too generic or “functionally defined” (G 3/08, Reasons 10.8.7).

Below is how the appeal board examined the inventive step of claim 1:

3.3 In order to correctly assess inventive step of an invention such as the current one, in which the non-technical aspects are tightly intermingled with the technical features, the board finds it preferable, if not necessary, to assess inventive step from a starting point closer to the invention than a general purpose computer.

3.4 At the date of priority of the current application (in 2010), web browsers for personal computers and web search engines were notoriously known.

3.5 The method of claim 1 differs from this notoriously known method using a web browser in that it further includes the steps of:

(i) determining relevant notes within the personal database by comparing the extracted terms to stored notes;

(ii) determining additional relevant notes by comparing the search results information to the stored notes;

(iii) preparing note previews for the relevant notes and the additional relevant notes;

(iv) altering the content of the search results page to provide links to the relevant notes with the search result listings;

(v) receiving a selection of one of the presented note previews, retrieving the stored note corresponding to the selected note preview from the personal database and presenting the respective note to the user.

According to the appellant, the distinguishing features did not relate to mere presentation of information

3.7 The board is, however, of the opinion that the idea of obtaining relevant notes and additional relevant notes reflects the interest of the user in receiving, in addition to the public search results, related information from the user’s personal notes. Meeting the informational needs of a user is not per se a technical effect (T 306/10, Reasons 5.2; T 598/14, Reasons 2.4; T 1971/18, Reasons 2.4).

The appellant’s argument that relevance is a technical aspect as it concerns the search query and not the user’s interest is not persuasive. In this case, there is no objectively defined set of data which constitutes the correct result for the search query. What is relevant has to be determined based on non-technical linguistic aspects and subjective user preferences (see also T 1924/17, Reasons 12).

3.8 The board is thus of the view that the distinguishing features solve, over the notoriously known method, the technical problem of facilitating, when a search query is performed, user access to personal notes related to search terms of the search query (relevant notes) and to the results of the search (additional relevant notes), where the notes should be presented in the form of “note previews”.

3.9 The user’s personal database with stored notes is already known from the prior art (see point 3.4 above). Features (i), (ii) and (iii) are directly mapped from the formulated problem. The board notes that these features do not describe any (inventive) technical details of the implementation of the non-technical constraints.

3.10 Links were notoriously known and already used in the search result page of the prior-art web browser for facilitating user access to web pages related to the public search results independently of their storage locations in a computer or computer network. It would thus have been obvious for the skilled person seeking to facilitate access to the full notes corresponding to the note previews, which are also search results, to additionally include, for each note preview on the search results page, a link to the note, as in feature (iv). The skilled person would thus also arrive at feature (v), which merely describes the notoriously known way a link works when a user selects it. The distinguishing features entail no inventive technical elements of the implementation.

3.10.1 The appellant argued that there was no teaching or suggestion in the prior art that the web browser could provide a link to local data.

3.10.2 These arguments are not persuasive. The distinguishing features do not solve any security problem of accessing personal data from a web browser. The description discloses embodiments based on web browsers (see e.g. page 5, line 28 to page 6, line 18), but is silent about any security problems and corresponding solutions.

3.11 Therefore, claim 1 of the main request does not meet the requirements of Article 56 EPC for lack of inventive step.

The auxiliary requests were not helpful in this case. Finally, the Board refused the European patent application.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 1272/20 (Search in internet and personal notes/EVERNOTE) of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.07.

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Building sustainability score: not technical

This decision concerns an European patent application relating to methods for calculating, storing, distributing and/or displaying building or structure performance data and scoresHere are the practical takeaways from the decision T 2751/18 of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01.

Key takeaways

Collecting and analysing water and energy consumption in a building is a non-technical business operation performed as part of building management.

A business step does not become technical by virtue of its technical implementation.

Giving visual indications about internal states of a technical system is in principle a technical effect.

While the gear in use and engine overheating are clearly technical conditions and the optimal gear is precise and credible technical guidance, the building performance score conveys no technical information.

The invention

The invention concerns evaluating whether a building complies with sustainability criteria. Claim 1 concerns a system performing such evaluation. A processor-based device in a building collects data which relates to at least three of the following five categories: the use of water, the use of energy, the amount of waste produced, commuting methods used by occupants (“transportation data”) and the occupants’ experience. The data on water and energy use is obtained from meters. The other three data categories can be either provided by meters or input by the building’s occupants into digital surveys.

The device periodically uploads building performance data to a central web server (CWS). The CWS performs benchmark analyses based on corresponding data received from multiple similar buildings and determines a building’s performance score.

Figure 27(h) of EP2235621

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

  • Claim 1 (auxiliary request)

Is it patentable?

The Board found it convenient to analyse the more specific auxiliary request first. D2 was considered the closest prior art, and the Board found that the subject-matter of claim 1 differs from D2 in that:

A) The central building control processor is implemented as a central web server (CWS).

B) The device is connected to at least three of: a water meter, an energy meter, a waste meter or waste data inputs entered by a user, a human experience meter or human experience data inputs entered by a user, a transportation meter or transportation data inputs entered by a user, each meter being located in the predetermined building or structure.

C) The central web server performs a benchmark analysis based on the performance data of similar buildings or structures and calculates in accordance therewith a performance score of the predetermined building.

D) The device is configured to visually show the performance scores and the benchmark data on a dashboard to a building user or manager.

E) If the building performance score falls below a predetermined threshold or expected level, the system notifies a manager of the predetermined building or structure of the recommended corrective action(s) to be taken.

Here are the detailed reasoning from the Board regarding the distinguishing features:

2.1.8 The Board agrees with the decision (see points 2.2.3 to 2.2.7, 3.2.3 and 3.2.4) that the distinguishing features implement a non-technical method combining administrative steps with presentation of information (Article 52(2)(c) and (d) EPC). The Board judges that this method comprises following steps:

– A building’s performance is benchmarked based on data describing energy consumption, water consumption, the amount of waste generated, commuting methods used by the occupants and their overall experience, wherein the data is collected from the building concerned and other anonymous similar buildings.

– A performance score is calculated for the building in accordance with the benchmark data.

– The benchmark data and the building performance score are presented to a building manager on a dashboard.

– Corrective actions are recommended to the building manager when the building performance score falls below a predetermined threshold.

2.1.9 The appellant disputed this finding in the decision and argued that the above method provided a technical contribution for the following reasons.

2.1.10 Firstly, the benchmark analysis and building performance score were based on measurements carried out by meters located in the building. The meters were technical entities and obtaining data from them was a technical process.

However, the Board is not persuaded and agrees with the decision (see point 2.2.7) that collecting and analysing water and energy consumption in a building is a non-technical business operation performed as part of building management.

The Board agrees with the appellant to the extent that the use of meters to acquire data about water and energy consumption is a technical feature, but a business step does not become technical by virtue of its technical implementation (see T 1670/07 – Shopping with mobile device/NOKIA, reasons, point 9).

2.1.11 Secondly, the building was a technical system and the benchmark data and performance score indicated its internal states. This was all the more so considering that the benchmark data and the score were based on data obtained from the meters. As set out in decision T 362/90 and decisions following it, visualising internal states of a technical system had technical character. Furthermore, the indication that the building performance score fell below a predetermined threshold indicated a technical malfunction. It was comparable to an alarm indicating overheating of an engine. Providing such an alarm had technical character, even in the absence of an indication of the action to be taken by the user.

The Board does not dispute that giving visual indications about internal states of a technical system is in principle a technical effect. However, the Board disagrees that the information output by the claimed system indicates such states.

Beginning with the building performance score, the disclosed example expresses it as a natural number of arbitrarily assigned points (see point 1.4 above). Even assuming that some technical information about the building was used to obtain this score, such information is subsequently removed from the score due to its nature as a natural number.

Like the decision (see point 3.3.5), the Board cannot see that informing the user that the performance score fell below some arbitrary threshold is comparable to an indication that an engine was overheated or to the case underlying T 362/90 in which a vehicle indicated to the driver the engaged and optimal gears. The fundamental difference between those cases and the claimed invention is that while the gear in use and engine overheating are clearly technical conditions and the optimal gear is precise and credible technical guidance, the building performance score conveys no technical information.

The “benchmark data” and the “recommended corrective action(s)” do not convey technical information either. As was set out at point 3.2.4 of the contested decision, at the general level at which they are claimed and disclosed, these terms cover non-technical notifications, for example “Your building seems to perform worse than other buildings. Hire someone to improve this”.

2.1.12 Thirdly, the crucial idea of the invention was its community aspect, namely that the basis for assessing the building’s performance was a comparison with other similar buildings. In view of the complexity of a building, it would have been too limiting to claim a specific benchmarking algorithm or a specific way of calculating the performance score. Nevertheless, even at the general level claimed, the distinguishing features enabled the building manager to recognise how his building performed compared to the other buildings and to improve its performance, for instance by saving water and energy. This was a technical effect.

The Board is not convinced and notes that the system of D2 already collects data on multiple buildings and analyses it. The actual distinction is the nature of analysis performed and its input. It might well be that the appellant had good reasons for not disclosing those aspects in more detail. However, as set out above, in the absence of further details, the method, set out in point 2.1.8 above, lacks technical character.

The Board is not convinced by the argument attempting to prove that this method derives technical character from (unclaimed) actions of the building manager. In addition to being speculative, this argument is a typical example of the “broken technical chain fallacy” in the sense of T 1670/07 supra, reasons, point 11.

2.1.13 Applying the COMVIK approach (decision T 641/00 – Two identities/COMVIK), this method is provided to the technically skilled person as a requirement specification to be implemented.

2.1.14 Starting from D2 and facing the problem of implementing this requirement, it would have been obvious to connect the building controllers to water and energy meters and provide a user interface enabling the user to input waste, transport and experience data.

Furthermore, it would have been self-evident to upload the collected building performance data to the building control processor and to adapt it to calculate benchmark data and the building performance score. It would have been equally obvious to configure the building control processor to generate the indication that the building performance score fell below a predetermined threshold, to recommend unspecific corrective actions and to provide the generated information to the workstation for display.

2.1.15 Incidentally, while not claimed, the application discloses that the display might be physically located in the building (published application, [9] and [45]). Interpreted in the light of this disclosure, the claim is still obvious over the combination of the Figure 2 embodiment in D2, which serves as the starting point, and an embodiment relating to Figure 1 which uses a workstation located in the building (D2, [25]).

2.1.16 Hence, claim 1 lacks an inventive step (Article 56 EPC).

Independent claim 1 of the main request is broader than claim 1 of the auxiliary request and therefore lacks an inventive step for the same reasons. Finally, the Board refused the European patent application.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: decision T 2751/18 of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01.

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