June came with four new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to graphical user interfaces, computer simulations and business methods:
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 acknowledged that precomputing user habit information for a graphical user interface of a mobile device is technical. However, this difference over the prior art was found to be obvious, since in the art of computing, “precomputation” was found to be a well known method of speeding up program execution.
On the other hand, the European Patent Office granted a software patent on a method of representing missed approach information in a perspective view on a cockpit display. Here, the argument was that enabling a pilot to abort a landing in due time if necessary, thereby improving safety, is technical.
Patentability of computer simulations
The field of computer simulations continues to be an exciting area in terms of patentability, last but not least because of the pending referral G1/19 in which the EPO Enlarged Board of Appeal will have to make a stance concerning the patentability of computer-implemented simulation methods.
In the meantime, the European Patent Office granted a software patent on a method for designing an optical system that satisfies a certain algebraic condition. The board took the view that the criteria for technical character presupposes that the claimed subject-matter relates to a physical entity or a physical activity.
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 had to deal with a patent application relating to an automated exchange system designed to execute matching of combinations of financial instruments. Despite the focus of this invention on a financial use case, the board found that implementing the financial matching concept in a way which improves real-time and latency constraints in the matching unit is indeed a technical problem that has to be taken into account in the inventive step assessment.
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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.