August came with four new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to data retrieval, graphical user interfaces, and automation:
Patentability of data retrieval concepts
In the area of data retrieval, one recent decision refused to grant a software patent on a method of conducting internet search from an instant messenging application. The Board of Appeal decided that the desire to enable users to perform explicitly defined web search queries is not a technical aim but rather a non-technical requirement. Searching for documents using keywords has a non-technical character, and this is not changed by the mere use of a computer system.
Patenting graphical user interfaces
Improvements in graphical user interfaces are sometimes difficult to protect with patents when they are closely related to the presentation of information (which is as such excluded from patentability).
In one case, the European Patent Office decided that a confirmation element which is provided independent of a concrete content of related information displayed to a user is non-technical. The argument was that providing a confirmation element independent of a concrete content of related information displayed to a user and independent of the subsequent cognitive processes or decisions of the user does not solve a technical problem and thus cannot contribute to inventive step.
By the way, if you are interested in a deeper look into how the European Patent Office examines software-related inventions, this 30-minute video gives a concise overview of the “two hurdle” approach with lots of examples.
In the field of automation, the European Patent Office considered a self-controlling documentation for validated processes non-technical. According to the Board of Appeal, the automation of a method known in the art cannot contribute to inventive step, wherein a method also has to be considered as automated when some steps still have to be carried out a human.
Likewise, another Board of Appeal decided that tracking SWAP derivatives transaction positions is non-technical, and emphasized that the pure automation in the sense of making financial information available quickly is not considered technical by the EPO.
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Bastian is a European patent attorney and a partner at BARDEHLE PAGENBERG. He specializes in software patents in Europe both from a prosecution and litigation point of view.