The application underlying the present decision relates to an arrangement of multiple electronic devices receiving content of internet services. By using a synchronisation server, it is avoided that corresponding notifications are displayed redundantly on the electronic devices. The Board in charge considered the usage of a synchronisation server programmed to track received and viewed notifications based on information received from the user devices technical. Here are the practical takeaways of the decision T 2712/18 (Synchronisation server/APPLE) dated November 14, 2022 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01:
The Board in charge summarized the invention underlying the present decision as follows:
1.1 The invention concerns an arrangement in which a user sets up multiple electronic devices (“plurality of associated devices” in the claims), for example a mobile phone and a desktop computer, to receive content (“notifications”) from Internet services ( and ). Looking at Figure 2, in such an arrangement notifications are provided to local applications 205A-205D by servers 104A-104D (“a first server” and “a second server” in the claims of the third auxiliary request). For example, an email server 104C provides emails to a local email application 205C and a weather server 104D provides weather updates and forecasts to a local weather application 205D ().
The problem with this arrangement is that multiple electronic devices contain overlapping notifications and the user has to sift through notifications which they possibly already viewed on another device ( and ). The invention seeks to avoid the redundant display of notifications which have already been viewed on one of the user’s devices ().
1.2 Looking at Figure 3, the invention provides a synchronisation server 108 tracking which notifications are received and which user devices they are displayed on (). To this end, the user devices inform the synchronisation server about each received notification ( and ).
The synchronisation server also receives from a user device an indication that the user selected and viewed a particular notification on it (). Upon receiving such an indication, the synchronisation server sends an indication that the notification has been viewed to each user device on which it is present ( to ). Upon receipt of this indication, the user devices may remove the viewed notification from a user interface displaying it ().
Fig. 2 of EP 2 669 854 A1
Here is how the invention is defined in claim 1 of the third auxiliary request:
Claim 1 (third auxiliary request)
A method, comprising:
receiving, by a processor (605) of a first device (106A) of a plurality of associated devices, a first notification associated with a first application of the first device and with a first information service provided by a first server;
receiving, by the processor of the first device, a second notification associated with a second application associated with the first device and with a second information service provided by a second server;
communicating, by the first device, to a synchronization server computer system (108) that the first and second notifications have been received;
determining, by the processor (605) of the first device (106A), that the first notification has been viewed on the first device (106A);
sending to the synchronization server computer system, by the processor (605) of the first device (106A), an indication that the first notification has been viewed on the first device (106A) and should be removed from any of the plurality of associated devices on which the first notification is present; and
removing the second notification from a user interface of the first device responsive to an indication from the synchronization server computer system that the second notification has been viewed on one of the plurality of associated devices.
Is it technical?
The first instance examining division considered that the technical aspects of claim 1 of the main request (which generally corresponds to claim 1 of the third auxiliary request that has only submitted during the appeal proceedings with some further limitations) would not go beyond a general purpose networked computer system performing its commonly known functions. Specifically, the task of managing notifications was an administrative one and the steps of receiving and sending notifications and indications did not per se have technical character. In addition, the examining division pointed out that avoiding presenting duplicate notifications to a user was merely an administrative problem (see appeal decision, items 4.2.1 and 4.2.2).
Against this assessment, the applicant argued as follows:
4.2.4 The appellant argued that exchanging messages between the synchronisation server and the user devices was part of the technical solution and the features defining this functionality should be considered for inventive step.
At the appeal stage, the Board in charge generally agreed to the applicant’s arguments:
4.2.7 It is established case law that the business person giving the non-technical requirements to the skilled person does not have technical appreciation of how business concepts are implemented on a computer system (see T 1082/13, Reasons, point 4.8). However, the provision of the synchronisation server and the decision on what electronic messages to communicate in order to remove viewed notifications from the user devices require such understanding of computer technology and involve technical considerations on how this technology can be used to implement the above administrative requirement. These steps have the character of a communication protocol. It follows that these features could not be envisaged by the business person and are technical implementation choices which are in the sphere of the technically skilled person.
Hence, the Board found that claim 1 of the main request comprises several other technical features which applies a fortiori to the narrower independent claim 1 of the third auxiliary request:
4.2.8 Accordingly, the Board judges that the following features of claims 1 and 7 of the third auxiliary request are part of the technical implementation and, therefore, subject to the assessment of inventive step:
– providing a user device programmed to:
– run two applications and to receive notifications
for these applications from two different servers
– inform the synchronisation server which
notifications have been received and which among
them have been viewed
– remove a notification from a user interface on
which it is displayed in response to the
indication, from the synchronisation server, that
the notification has been viewed
– providing the synchronisation server programmed to
track received and viewed notifications based on the
information received from the user devices and to
provide to the user devices the indication that a
notification has been viewed on one of them.
According to the Board, the technically skilled person would not have arrived at the claimed subject-matter when starting from a general purpose networked computer system. Specifically, the features specifying the use of the synchronisation server and the exchanged messages clearly go beyond the routine knowledge of the skilled person (see item 4.2.9 of the appeal decision).
Since the examining division failed to assess the claimed subject-matter with regard to the pertinent prior art, the Board remitted the case back for further examination. Thus, the decision under appeal was set aside.
You can read the whole decision here: T 2712/18 (Synchronisation server/APPLE) of November 14, 2022