July came with four new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to graphical user interfaces, computer security, business methods and internal control:
Patents for 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 refused to grant a software patent on a method of unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image. The decisive argument was that giving visual indications about conditions prevailing in an apparatus or system can only be considered a technical problem if these are technical conditions. However, providing reassuring feedback – i.e. a confirmation that the user has been doing the right thing so far – was not in itself considered a technical effect.
Patentability of computer security concepts
In the field of computer security, the European Patent Office refused to grant a software patent on a method of managing booting of secure devices with untrusted software. The decision was appealed successfully and the case was remitted to the Examining Division because erasing user data outside of the security block before allowing the execution of an unsigned operating system was found to contribute to increasing the security of the claimed device.
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.
Business method patents
In the field of business methods, one Technical Board of Appeal decided that an improved risk-hedging approach in credit derivative trading is non-technical. In particular, associating information with trade related data (namely trader, credit risk positions, maturity dates, delta offsets) was found not to be technical. Storage, selection, transmission and processing of such data was considered not produce a further technical effect.
In one recent decision, the European Patent Office confirmed that the concept of allowing a computer to access a data library without reconfiguration is technical. However, the board refused to grant a software patent because the claimed solution was found to be obvious.
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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.