This decision concerns an invention related to connecting and operating a closed circuit e-commerce entity. The first instance Examination Division refused the application alleging the difference between a closed circuit system and other e-commerce system is merely restricting access to a group of people, which is not technical. The Board agreed with the applicant that the system has additional components at an interface that reduces the server’s load and thus can support many kiosks without overwhelming the server, which is technical. Since none of the cited documents hinted the problem or the solution, the subject-matter was considered inventive. Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1108/20 (Closed-circuit e-commerce entity for services and products/ Elbex Video ) of October 11, 2022, of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.05.
In a closed circuit e-commerce service, the user in a geographically closed area such as an apartment complex can access a terminal with a predefined interface where products from different providers are available and purchased within a closed system. This is different from an open e-commerce system where the user has to access different websites of each provider.
The present application relates to connecting and operating a closed-circuit e-commerce entity with a shopping terminal connected to a building server via internal communication lines.
Claim 1 of the Main Request
A method for connecting and operating a closed circuit e-commerce entity comprising at least one shopping terminal, at least one provider and at least one entity center, said entity center controls and manages said closed circuit operation with at least one central server supervising the communications including updates and transactions between a provider server and a building server via a network;
said shopping terminal including a touch screen, a CPU and a second memory is connected with said building server via an interface including a CPU and a first memory and via internal communication lines of said building for interfacing templated protocols covering products, itemized services, display pages, uploads and downloads between said building server and said shopping terminal via said interface including the communication of service scheduling and completed orders between said building server and said provider server via said network;
said templated protocols including at least one of a management programs [sic] providing for a template organized touch portion of a display selected from a group comprising select pages, blocks, variation blocks, icons, dialog boxes and combinations thereof onto said touch screen for enabling the selection by touch of at least one of services and products including a delivery and payment terms stored in files of said first memory and selectively updated into said second memory in compliance with one of a dweller selected choice and a basic embedded program, said method comprising the steps of:
a. updating said second memory for maintaining said select pages, blocks and icons updated with products and services;
b. recalling said select pages to complete an order for one of a scheduled service and shopping of at least one product including the delivery and payment;
c. propagating at least one protocol comprising a completed order to said interface via said internal communication lines and an interfaced data of said completed order to said building server;
d. communicating said completed order data between said building server and said provider server via said network supervised by said central server.
Is it patentable?
In the first instance, the Examining Division refused the application because the claimed subject-matter did not involve an inventive step within the meaning of Article 56 EPC. In particular, the Division considered the only difference was that the e-commerce service was provided on a closed system, and since it merely restricted access to certain people, it was not technical.
The prior art D2 (US 2007/265935 A1), in simple terms, relates to a conventional network running an open e-commerce system where the user has to access different websites of each provider. The applicant disagreed with the assessment of the distinguishing features, and the Board then identified the distinguishing features over the closest prior art to identify the technical problem:
2.5 Hence the board holds that the differences between the subject-matter of claim 1 and that of document D2 reside in that:
(i) the e-commerce entity is a “closed circuit e-commerce entity“
(ii) the interface possesses a “CPU“
(iii) the interface possesses a memory for storing files comprising the “template organized touch portion”
(iv) the e-commerce entity allows for ordering not only products, but also “itemized services“
(v) the “communicating said completed order data” is “supervised by said central server“.
The Board then assessed if the distinguishing features solved a technical problem and if they were obvious to a skilled person:
3.1 In the decision under appeal, the examining division held that distinguishing feature (i) was a non-technical feature which did not solve a technical problem, only the non-technical problem of restricting access to a certain group of people. Since document D2 disclosed login accounts in paragraph , the skilled person would have arrived at this distinguishing feature without employing any inventive skill.
3.2 The appellant submitted that the examining division’s interpretation of the term closed circuit was not correct. Furthermore, it was very clear that in accordance with the invention it was necessary to use specific hardware and/or software to be able to use the templated protocols of the invention.
3.3 In view of the appellant’s arguments, the board considers that the “CPU” mentioned in distinguishing feature (ii) can only be interpreted as relating to an additional CPU, i.e. in addition to the regular CPU that each server – including the server disclosed in document D2 – possesses. The same applies analogously to the “memory” mentioned in distinguishing feature (iii). In line with the description (lower half of page 55 and upper half of page 56), the board holds that distinguishing features (ii) and (iii) relate to the technical effect of supporting a large number of kiosks without overwhelming the server. The objective technical problem is how to support a large number of kiosks without overwhelming the server. This problem is solved by distinguishing features (ii) and (iii), since adding a CPU and a memory for processing kiosk requests at the interface reduces the load on the server CPU. However, neither this problem nor its solution are disclosed or hinted at in the prior art at hand.
Therefore, the Board decided that the subject-matter of claims involves an inventive step, and the application was allowed.
You can read the full decision here: T 1108/20 (Closed-circuit e-commerce entity for services and products/ Elbex Video ) of October 11, 2022, of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.05.