The application underlying the present decision relates to a self-service terminal usable in stores that sell paints of different colours. However, the European Patent Office refused to grant a patent since claim 1 would only refer to the presentation of information. Here are the practical takeaways of the decision T 2849/18 of April 8, 2022 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03:

Key takeaways

Features relating to the presentation of information are non-technical and thus cannot contribute to inventive step.

The invention

The Board in charge summarized the invention underlying the present application as follows:

1.1 The invention concerns a self-service terminal in a store selling paints of different colours. At such a terminal the customer can initiate a session using a paint sample card from a paint card display. The paint card represents a specific paint/colour and provides the terminal with information in order to create a session. The session simulates painting a chosen environment (e.g. a dining room) with the chosen paint/colour.

1.2 The alleged aim of the invention is to present, advertise and promote paint and other coating products in a retail environment and to provide product information to consumers and others (see page 1, second paragraph, of the application). This is e.g. achieved in that the colour application program suggests an additional colour coordinating with the selected colour. The location of the paint card (corresponding to the additional colour) in a paint card display is illustrated (“pinpointed”) in an image of the paint card display array.

Fig. 7 of WO 2011/140134 A2

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

  • Claim 1 (Main Request - numbering added by the Board)

Is it technical?

At first, the Board in charge stated that it agrees with the examining division’s assessment that D1 forms the closest prior art for the claimed subject-matter. Then, the Board summarized the disclosure of D1 as follows:

2.2.1 In D1 a coded sample colour paint card is described as a “fabric or paint chip” mentioned e.g. in paragraph [0128]. D1 further discloses a colour card reader, where the colour is input via the “paint chip” card and the corresponding colour code is retrieved via a colour database. D1 does not explicitly discloses that the paint chips are stored in a “card display” device, where the cards are exposed and made available to the customers. Such a display is shown in D7 (paint chip panels 27, 28, 31, paragraphs [0048], [0049]).

According to the Board, D1 would fail to teach the following two features of claim 1 of the main request:

2.3.2 D1 does not disclose

(a) a paint sample card display device for displaying an array of coded paint sample cards (parts of Features (B), (C), and (D)) and

(b) a pinpoint location in the image of a paint sample card bearing a selected color from the plurality of additional colors (Feature (H)).

As a next step, the Board determined the technical effect of both distinguishing features:

2.4.1 Feature (a) has the technical effect of storing and displaying the paint sample cards.

2.4.2 The effect of distinguishing Feature (b) is that the customer can easily and intuitively retrieve a paint sample card in the display panel by indication of the place of the card in a scheme representing the whole array of paint sample cards.

The Appellant argued that feature (b) provides a technical effect because the used display array would be a technical entity:

2.4.3 The Appellant has argued that Feature (b) had a technical effect, because the display array was a technical entity and retrieving a paint sample card was a technical process. … Its technical task was to enable the user to locate easily the paint sample card in the paint sample card display.

However, the Board did not follow this line of argumentation and found that the feature in questions only relates to non-technical displaying of information, which thus cannot contribute to inventive step:

2.4.4 The Board however is of the opinion that displaying the information, where the paint card is located, refers to presentation of information (see Article 52(2)(d) EPC) as brought forward by the Examining Division in the summons to oral proceedings and in the impugned decision. Non-technical features within the meaning of Article 52(2)(d) EPC, i.e. features related to presentation of information, are allowed in the context of other technical features, but cannot contribute to inventive step. …

Therefore, the Board formulated the problem to be solved as follows:

2.5 The problem therefore may be defined as providing an easily usable storage device for the paint cards and implementing an image of the paint sample card array pinpointing the location in the image of a paint sample card.

Then, the Board argued that finding a solution to this problem would have been obvious to the skilled person:

2.6.1 Providing a display array for paint cards as taught by D7 (Fig. 1) is the most obvious way to present paint sample cards in order to make the cards both easily accessibly and visible.

2.6.2 The solution to the second part of the problem directly results from the problem formulation itself. No technical difficulties would be encountered by the skilled person having skills in software development. Hence, the implementation of an image of the paint sample card array pinpointing the location in the image of a paint sample card does not require any inventive skills and would be obvious for the skilled person.

As a result, the Board dismissed the appeal due to lack of inventive step.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 2849/18 of April 8, 2022

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