The application underlying this decision relates to a system for automatically determining the value of real estate based on parameters such as prices of other properties in the same geographical area, view etc. However, the European Patent Office refused to grant a patent since claim 1 mainly addresses the automation of a business method. Here are the practical takeaways of the decision T2295/18 Evaluating real estate/TECNOCASA) of July 20, 2022 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01:

Key takeaways

Using technical means for implementing a non-technical process cannot render the process technical.

Implementing a non-technical process using technical means needs to procude a technical effect that goes beyond the sheer technical implementation.

The invention

The application underlying the present decision mainly concerns the automatic determination of a real estate value. In order to determine a meaningful value for the real estate, prices of other properties in the same geographical area are evaluated. Therefore, items (i.e., real estate) in a real estate database are analysed to determine a homogenous area within a given radius around the geographical location of the real estate property to be evaluated. Based on the real estate data of said homongenous area a minimum and maximum economic value of the real estate property is computed.

Fig. 3 of WO 2014/080432 A1

Here is how the invention is defined in claim 1 of the main request:

  • Claim 1 (Main Request)

Is it technical?

In esssence, the applicant argued:

“The claimed system performs technical operations on technical data. Processing, aggregating and analysing real estate data involves technical algorithms and the computations are performed technically i.e. using technical means. It would not be possible to perform the calculations manually”

Furthermore, the applicant argued:

“Data defining a geographical location (coordinates) and a geographical area (a radius around a centre point) are technical by definition. The “standardisation” of data is also technical.”

However, the Board did not follow the applicant’s arguments. The Board referred to decision T 1463/11 (introduction of the notional business person) and stated:

“In the Board’s view, the claimed invention does not produce a technical effect that goes beyond the implementation of a business method on a networked computer system.”

The Board argued as follows:

Determining the economic value of real estate is inherently non-technical. Indeed, it is an activity normally performed by a real estate agent lacking technical knowledge and skill. In other words, this activity falls within the domain of the “notional business person”.

The fact that the determination of the real-estate value involves mathematical calculations does not matter, because mathematical methods are also excluded under Article 52(2) EPC.

The fact that the calculations cannot in most circumstances be performed purely mentally or manually using pen and paper is not decisive for assessing technical character. The sheer complexity of a method does not render the method technical (see for example T 914/02).

Using a computer for aggregating, analysing, and processing data is technical, but merely using a computer for performing a method is not enough to make the whole method technical (see for example T 1670/07 – Shopping with mobile device/NOKIA), point 9). There has to be a further technical effect beyond this.

Geographical data just indicates a location, which is not technical perse. The “standardisation” of data in claim 1 is part of the non-technical method of calculating the value of real estate and addresses the non-technical problem of real-estate belonging to different “categories” being included in the calculation.

As a result, the Board stated that the implementation of the non-technical process of evaluating real estate on the prior art computer system would have been routine for the skilled person.

Therefore, the Board dismissed the appeal due to lack of inventive step.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T2295/18 Evaluating real estate/TECNOCASA) of July 20, 2022.

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