The application underlying the present decision relates to a gambling game system that provides additional awards. However, the European Patent Office refused to grant a patent since the the first distinguishing features of claim 1 would be rendered obvious, whereas the second distinguishing features would fail to provide a technical effect. Here are the practical takeaways of the decision T 1497/19 () of May 18, 2022 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03:

Key takeaways

Rules for playing a game cannot contribute to an inventive step within the meaning of Articles 52(1) EPC in combination with Article 52(2)(c) EPC.

The invention

In the Abstract of the application, the invention is described as follows:

The invention refers to a gambling game system providing additional awards aims to increase the odds thereof. The gambling game system includes a central control unit to receive game results generated by a game result generation device, players’ betting received by a betting table and dynamic raised odds generated by a dynamic raised odds calculation element. After the betting is stopped in each round of game, the dynamic raised odds are output to an electronic display board to be displayed instantly and respectively on a plurality of display zones, and the game results, the players’ betting and the dynamic raised odds are transmitted to a payout element. The payout element pays out to the players who win the betting in one round of the game according to the payout odds or the dynamic raised odds which are at higher priority, so that the players can expect to get extra awards, and the appeal of the gambling game system is higher to further increase utilization of the gambling game system (cf. EP 2 899 701 A1, Abstract).

Fig. 1 of EP 2 899 701 A1

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

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it technical?

As a first step, the Board in charge determined the following two distinguishing features, which are not disclosed by the closest prior art document D1:

The subject-matter defined in claim 1 differs from the gambling game system known from document D1 by the following two distinguishing features:

– the use of a touch screen and

– the random selection of a specific number of game results for which dynamic raised odds are respectively generated / selected.

According to the Board, the two distinguishing features do not produce a synergistic effect. Hence, both features do not have to be considered together but it is enough to show that each of the two features is individually obvious.

Concerning the first distinguishing feature, the Board found that it relates to a straightforward non-inventive design option:

2.3.1 The first distinguishing feature solves the problem of how to efficiently realise the input panel. It concerns a well-known, straightforward design choice which cannot provide an inventive contribution. Document D1 even hints at this realisation in figures 3, 5 and 7, all of which show versions of the game table display on the electronic screen on which interaction with the players or bankers is possible. The shown screens include user-interaction buttons inside/on the display, i.e., the cash out, redo bet, cancel, help buttons in the lower line or lower right corner of each of these figures. The realisation of these buttons is not further specified in document D1. However, the skilled person would have been aware of the two most obvious realisations: either in form of physical buttons or in form of a touch screen. Hence, the implementation using a touch screen represents one obvious choice out of the limited number of two possible choices. This feature does not provide any inventive contribution over the prior art.

With respect to the second distinguishing feature, the Board found that it would only relate to game rules. Hence, this feature was considered non-technical and therefore cannot contribute to inventive step.

2.3.2 The second distinguishing feature concerns rules for playing a game and as such does not contribute to an inventive step within the meaning of Articles 52(1) EPC in combination with Article 52(2)(c) EPC, because it relates to a non-technical feature. The claim’s overall technicality is not questioned, but the technical contribution of the second distinguishing feature resides only in the standard automation and implementation of a non-technical rule, namely a specific gaming rule in the gambling game system. The specific gaming rule concerns the choice of how the dynamic raised odds are to be calculated or determined. It is consequently a non-technical rule selected by the game designer. It also offers no further technical advantage nor produces a further technical effect, as it is merely implemented into the gambling system in a straightforward manner by the software programmer. Hence, the second distinguishing feature cannot provide an inventive step, either, due to its missing technicality.

Against this background, the Board in charge dismissed the appeal due to lack of inventive step.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 1497/19 () of May 18, 2022

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