This decision relates to a European patent application supporting a plurality of instances of the same type of payment application, e.g. MasterCard PayPass or Maestro PayPass, on a wireless smart device. The Board decided that the plurality of instances of the same type of payment application hidden behind a common application manager is technical as it provides the technical effect of easily handling of a plurality of bank accounts with reduced storage space on the smart device – because every application is stored only once. Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 0227/18 of October 27, 2021, of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.:

Key takeaways

Enabling an easily handling of a plurality of bank accounts with a single smart device is a technical effect.

Reducing the storage space on the smart device because every application is stored only once is a technical effect.

The claimed solution goes beyond a simple implementation of a standard business solution by providing an application manager linking one application to different instances, and providing different application identifiers for external and internal use.

The invention

The present invention concerns a method for supporting a plurality of instances of the same type of payment application, e.g. MasterCard PayPass or Maestro PayPass, on a wireless smart device.

The MasterCard Worldwide protocol does not allow the use of multiple instances for the same application. Apparently, it was previously not possible to assign multiple bank accounts to a single application on the same smart device.

The present invention overcomes this limitation by allowing multiple instances, i.e. bank accounts, to be hidden behind a single application manager acting like a single application. The application manager appears to an external user like a single application on the smart device. It hides a plurality of instances, which it identifies by means of the unique application identifiers of the individual instances, which are only used internally. As soon as an instance is activated for a subsequent transaction, it does not respond to the external user with its own unique application identifier, but with the application identifier of the application manager that was transferred to the instance when it was activated.

This enables the use of a plurality of instances of the same type of application on a single smart device.

Fig. 1 of EP 1 939 822 A1

  • Claim 1 reads as follows (with the numbering of the features introduced by the Board)

Is it patentable?

The first-instance Examining Division found that the independent claims did not involve an inventive step. In particular, the Examining Division the solution merely concerned the purpose or business application scenario, and the implementation of this business application involved a straightforward standard solution which would have been obvious to the skilled person.

The applicant argued that none of the available prior art documents taught the use of the same type of application linked to different instances hidden behind a common application manager. This was not a business process, but the technical implementation of how one and the same application can be used on a single smart device to carry out transactions from different bank accounts.

Similar to the Examining Division, the Board also considered document D5 (US 6 220 510 B1) as the closest prior art, and identified the following distinguishing features:

6.2 Differentiating features

Document D5 discloses a multi-application IC card, however without mentioning wireless communication between the reader and the IC card. Therefore, it can already be concluded at this point that the subject-matter of claim 1 is new within the meaning of Articles 52(1) and 54 (1) and (2) EPC.

In addition, the multi-application IC card shown in document D5 processes two or more different applications using an Application Abstract Machine Architecture. These multiple applications of different types (D5: column 1, lines 26 to 30; column 3, lines 31 to 49) can be stored on the same smart card and can be used by a user. However, the use of different instances (e.g. bank accounts) with the same application is not disclosed in document D5; in document D5 each application is linked to a single instance.

Therefore document D5 neither discloses wireless communication nor a plurality of instances of the same type of payment application hidden behind a common application manager. Therefore parts of features 1.1 to 1.3 and features 2.3, 2.5 and 2.6 as defined in present claim 1 are not disclosed in document D5 and therefore present novel features.

According to the Board, these features had the following technical effect:

These differences, the wireless connection and the fact that multiple instances, i.e. bank accounts, are linked to the same application manager on a single smartphone, have the following technical effects:

– They enable an easily handling of a plurality of bank accounts with a single smart device.

– They reduce the storage space on the smart device because every application is stored only once.

Therefore, considering the technical effect achieved by the distinguishing features, they were considered for the assessment of the inventive step. The Board decided that:

The solution proposed by the method as defined in claim 1 is not rendered obvious by document D5 either alone or in combination with any of the available documents for the following reasons:

The architecture in document D5 focuses on a secure access to different applications whereby only one application at a time is active. The delegator (D5: column 7, lines 36 to 50) allows the transfer of an incoming command from one application which is not able to treat the incoming command (because it is of a different type) to the next application until the command arrives at an application which is able to treat the incoming command. Therefore, the delegator of D5 does not anticipate the application manager defined in claim 1, since it does not link a plurality of instances to the same application but only allows the transfer from one application to the next application which, in document D5, are all of a different type.

Consequently, when starting from the teaching of document D5, it seems neither obvious nor technically possible to connect one application to a plurality of instances. Document D5 neither mentions, nor hints at the problem of connecting the same type of application to different instances. The skilled person who wanted to use different bank accounts for the same type of application might, if it were possible, duplicate one application on the IC card and link the duplicated application to a different instance/bank account. However, there is nothing in the available prior art which points to the idea of duplicating the same type of application linked to different bank accounts, as in the claimed method. It also might be questionable whether duplicating the same application would work correctly in the device shown in document D5. Even if duplication of the same application were possible, this would not lead to the actual solution of using one application manager, hiding different instances behind it and using different application identifiers for external and internal use respectively. Hence, starting from document D5, the skilled person would, at most, arrive at a solution involving two parallel applications connected to different instances, which does not correspond to the claimed invention.

The Board also addressed the arguments presented by the examining division in relation to inventive step when starting from document D5 do not convince the Board for the following reasons:

The examining division argued that the use of applications of the same type linked to different instances concerned only a particular business scheme, the implementation of which would be straightforward for the skilled person (see decision, page 4, last paragraph to page 5 first paragraph). However, the Board holds that the main difference between the present invention and the teaching of document D5 is that different instances/bank accounts are associated with the same type of application. This is a technical solution to the problem of how to enable the use of different bank accounts with the same type of application using a single IC card or smart device, a problem which is caused by the fact that some “applications may limit the number of instances of that application that a wireless smart device may contain” (page 3, lines 1-2 of the present application). The claimed solution goes beyond a simple implementation of a standard business solution by providing an application manager linking one application to different instances, and providing different application identifiers for external and internal use.

Therefore, claim 1 was considered to involve an inventive step.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 0227/18 of October 27, 2021, of Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03.

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