March came with seven new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to artificial intelligence, computer simulations, information modelling and Internet search engines:
Software patents for artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly one of the hottest topics in tech these days. So far, there are only few decisions of the EPO Boards of Appeal dealing specifically with AI.
But some questions have been decided already: According to one Board, the question whether two text documents belong to the same class of documents in respect of their textual content is non-technical. Similarly, classifying data records for a non-technical purpose (e.g. for billing) was considered to be a non-technical issue.
It’s up to the Enlarged Board to decide!
In one very recent case, the Board was uncertain whether a method of modelling pedestrian crowd movement in an environment and using the results for designing a building structure is technical or not. The Board tends to deviate from some earlier case law and thus referred questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal which essentially boil down to “Should computer simulations be patentable?”. The decision to be made by the Enlarged Board has the potential to dramatically impact a whole industry branch, as many AI innovations operate on simulations and models of the real world.
Simulation and Modelling
In one decision relating to simulation / modelling, the European Patent Office refused to grant a software patent for a logical hierarchical data model for sharing product information across product families. We also added some classic decisions to the knowledge base which held that the simulation of a circuit subject to 1/f noise constitutes an adequately defined technical purpose for a computer-implemented method functionally limited to that purpose, and that information modelling is an intellectual activity and should be treated like any other human activity in a non-technical field.
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.
Software patents for search engines?
In this recent decision relating to data retrieval, the European Patent Office refused to grant a software patent for an Internet search engine that improves the quality of the search results. However, the Board noted that producing relevant search results quicker (or higher up on the list of results) and thus reducing the time until a user finds a “hit” in the search results may be a technical effect.
Fear of missing out?
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.