This decision relates to an European patent application for a three-dimensional motion graphic user interface (MGUI). However, the distinguishing feature was considered non-technical by the Board of Appeal. While this is a short decision, there are still some interesting aspects to learn about patenting GUIs. 

Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1677/18 (Polyhedron components 2/SAMSUNG) of May 3, 2021 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.05:

Key takeaways

Reducing screen clutter and presenting the user with more details in a GUI are not technical requirements.

Modifying the presentation of a GUI does not produce a technical effect.

The invention

The European application aims to provide an improved three-dimensional motion graphic user interface (3D MGUI). According to one aspect, the 3D MGUI comprises a first polyhedron component that is formed of a plurality of faces. At least one of the plurality of faces that are subordinate to the first polyhedron component has predetermined attributes and displays information according to the attributes. The first polyhedron component is separated into a plurality of second polyhedron components according to a user’s action with respect to the faces. A hierarchy of menus and sub-menus is assigned to specific faces of these polyhedron components.

Fig. 3A and 3B of EP1624368

Here is how the invention was defined in claim 1:

  • Claim 1 (main request)

Is it patentable?

The appeal was withdrawn after the Board had issued its preliminary opinion. The decision merely confirmed the preliminary opinion that the distinguishing features of the application were non-technical:

3. The appellant thus seems to have suggested that the second polyhedron components in claim 1 of the main request may display sub-menus on more than one face and that these sub-menus have some form of relationship with the menu on the selected face of the first polyhedron component. In its preliminary opinion, however, the board informed the appellant that whether the sub-cubes displayed sub-menus on one face or on a plurality of faces and the relationship between these menus/sub-menus were non-technical differences in GUI design in which the board could not discern any technical effect.

4. In the statement setting out the grounds of appeal, the appellant referred to T 928/03, arguing that “facilitating a continued human-machine interaction by resolving conflicting technical requirements [was] a possible technical purpose”. It submitted that the distinguishing features of claim 1 of the main request resolved conflicting “technical requirements” of this kind, namely giving the user easy access to all kinds of details without overly cluttering the screen. However, as the board informed the appellant in its preliminary opinion, reducing screen clutter and presenting the user with more details in a GUI are not technical requirements.

5. Regarding claim 1 of the first auxiliary request, the appellant had argued in the statement setting out the grounds of appeal that D1 did not disclose “the modification of information” or “how a use may be enabled to modify the shown information”. However, as noted in the board’s preliminary opinion, modifying the presentation of a GUI does not produce a technical effect.

As a result, the Board confirmed that claim 1 does not involve an inventive step. Thus, the appeal was dismissed.

More information

You can read the whole decision here: T 1677/18 (Polyhedron components 2/SAMSUNG) of May 3, 2021 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.05

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