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European software patents August 2019 updates

EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS August 2019 updates

August came with four new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to data retrieval, graphical user interfaces, and automation:

Patentability of data retrieval concepts

In the area of data retrieval, one recent decision refused to grant a software patent on a method of conducting internet search from an instant messenging application. The Board of Appeal decided that the desire to enable users to perform explicitly defined web search queries is not a technical aim but rather a non-technical requirement. Searching for documents using keywords has a non-technical character, and this is not changed by the mere use of a computer system.

Patenting graphical user interfaces

Improvements in graphical user interfaces are sometimes difficult to protect with patents when they are closely related to the presentation of information (which is as such excluded from patentability).

In one case, the European Patent Office decided that a confirmation element which is provided independent of a concrete content of related information displayed to a user is non-technical. The argument was that providing a confirmation element independent of a concrete content of related information displayed to a user and independent of the subsequent cognitive processes or decisions of the user does not solve a technical problem and thus cannot contribute to inventive step.

Automation

How the EPO examines software patents

By the way, if you are interested in a deeper look into how the European Patent Office examines software-related inventions, this 30-minute video gives a concise overview of the “two hurdle” approach with lots of examples.

In the field of automation, the European Patent Office considered a self-controlling documentation for validated processes non-technical. According to the Board of Appeal, the automation of a method known in the art cannot contribute to inventive step, wherein a method also has to be considered as automated when some steps still have to be carried out a human.

Likewise, another Board of Appeal decided that tracking SWAP derivatives transaction positions is non-technical, and emphasized that the pure automation in the sense of making financial information available quickly is not considered technical by the EPO.

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EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS July 2019 updates

EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS July 2019 updates

July came with four new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to graphical user interfaces, computer security, business methods and internal control:

Patents for graphical user interfaces

Improvements in graphical user interfaces are sometimes difficult to protect with patents when they are closely related to the presentation of information (which is as such excluded from patentability).

In one case, the European Patent Office refused to grant a software patent on a method of unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image. The decisive argument was that giving visual indications about conditions prevailing in an apparatus or system can only be considered a technical problem if these are technical conditions. However, providing reassuring feedback – i.e. a confirmation that the user has been doing the right thing so far – was not in itself considered a technical effect.

Patentability of computer security concepts

In the field of computer security, the European Patent Office refused to grant a software patent on a method of managing booting of secure devices with untrusted software. The decision was appealed successfully and the case was remitted to the Examining Division because erasing user data outside of the security block before allowing the execution of an unsigned operating system was found to contribute to increasing the security of the claimed device.

How the EPO examines software patents

By the way, if you are interested in a deeper look into how the European Patent Office examines software-related inventions, this 30-minute video gives a concise overview of the “two hurdle” approach with lots of examples.

Business method patents

In the field of business methods, one Technical Board of Appeal decided that an improved risk-hedging approach in credit derivative trading is non-technical. In particular, associating information with trade related data (namely trader, credit risk positions, maturity dates, delta offsets) was found not to be technical. Storage, selection, transmission and processing of such data was considered not produce a further technical effect.

Internal control

In one recent decision, the European Patent Office confirmed that the concept of allowing a computer to access a data library without reconfiguration is technical. However, the board refused to grant a software patent because the claimed solution was found to be obvious.

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EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS June 2019 updates

EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS June 2019 updates

June came with four new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to graphical user interfaces, computer simulations and business methods:

Patents for graphical user interfaces

Improvements in graphical user interfaces are sometimes difficult to protect with patents when they are closely related to the presentation of information (which is as such excluded from patentability).

In one case, the European Patent Office acknowledged that precomputing user habit information for a graphical user interface of a mobile device is technical. However, this difference over the prior art was found to be obvious, since in the art of computing, “precomputation” was found to be a well known method of speeding up program execution.

On the other hand, the European Patent Office granted a software patent on a method of representing missed approach information in a perspective view on a cockpit display. Here, the argument was that enabling a pilot to abort a landing in due time if necessary, thereby improving safety, is technical.

Patentability of computer simulations

The field of computer simulations continues to be an exciting area in terms of patentability, last but not least because of the pending referral G1/19 in which the EPO Enlarged Board of Appeal will have to make a stance concerning the patentability of computer-implemented simulation methods.

In the meantime, the European Patent Office granted a software patent on a method for designing an optical system that satisfies a certain algebraic condition. The board took the view that the criteria for technical character presupposes that the claimed subject-matter relates to a physical entity or a physical activity.

How the EPO examines software patents

By the way, if you are interested in a deeper look into how the European Patent Office examines software-related inventions, this 30-minute video gives a concise overview of the “two hurdle” approach with lots of examples.

Business method patents

In the field of business methods, one Technical Board of Appeal had to deal with a patent application relating to an automated exchange system designed to execute matching of combinations of financial instruments. Despite the focus of this invention on a financial use case, the board found that implementing the financial matching concept in a way which improves real-time and latency constraints in the matching unit is indeed a technical problem that has to be taken into account in the inventive step assessment.

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EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS May 2019 Updates

EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS May 2019 updates

May came with seven new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to graphical user interfaces, navigation systems, computer games, business methods, video processing, programming and cryptography:

Patents for graphical user interfaces

Improvements in graphical user interfaces are sometimes difficult to protect with patents when they are closely related to the presentation of information (which is as such excluded from patentability).

In one case, however, the Board of Appeal decided that displaying a 3D bird’s eye view map, e.g. in a car navigation system, and the associated calculation steps are technical and thus enter into the inventive step assessment. An important finding was that displaying information in an ergonomically improved manner is indeed a technical purpose.

In another decision relating to GUIs in video games, the European Patent Office granted a software patent on graphical layout aspects of a video game which improved its functional quality. One of the aspects of the invention related to making a possibly concealed indicator clearly visible on a display screen to the user of an interactive video game.

As a negative example in the realm of navigation systems, the European Patent Office refused to grant a patent for a navigation system that can be tailored to a user’s particular wishes.

Business method patents

In one recent decision, the Board of Appeal considered a method for determining a reference reading from a load cell of a cash till as technical and remitted the case back to the examining division. The Board emphasized the basic principle that a computer-implemented method may have a technical character provided that the method is functionally limited to a technical purpose.

How the EPO examines software patents

By the way, if you are interested in a deeper look into how the European Patent Office examines software-related inventions, this 30-minute video gives a concise overview of the “two hurdle” approach with lots of examples.

Patents for audio / video / image processing

Just recently, the European Patent Office granted a software patent on improving the recognition of songs or background music in a video by using closed-captioning data for determining an audio segment that is relatively free of interference. The Board held that improving the recognition of songs or background music is a technical problem.

Programming

The act of programming in itself is regularly regarded to be a mental activity devoid of technical character. In this decision, several method steps for generating a parallel computation graph were found to be non-technical, since the mere potential for a speed-up by parallelization of a computer program is not sufficient for arguing a “further” technical effect.

Cryptography

Although normally based on mathematical concepts, inventions in the field of applied cryptography are regularly allowed by the European Patent Office. For example, in this case the Board of Appeal considered a mathematical method of masking a private key technical. More precisely, the Board decided that protecting a cryptographic computation against power attacks is a technical problem if, and only if, the computation is actually carried out on hardware and thus open to such attacks.

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European Software Patents April 2019 Updates

EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS April 2019 updates

April came with nine new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to cloud computing, distributed systems, business methods, graphical user interfaces and search engines:

Patentable cloud computing innovations

Improvements in cloud computing and distributed computing techniques are regularly considered technical by the European Patent Office. For example, the EPO granted a software patent for a server load balancing technique based on mathematical calculations, since they were found to improve the server’s resource consumption.

A method of providing a unique identifier for identifying user groups without using a server was also found to be technical, although obvious in view of the prior art.

In another decision, assigning a fixed internet address to a terminal of a building management system which is securely attached to a building was found to provide a technical contribution, because the system was capable of determining that a user actually was in the building when a specific interaction with the terminal was conducted.

"The implementation of a user interface includes non-technical aspects of the GUI layout, e.g. the graphical design of menus or the positioning of a control button according to user preferences, but also technical aspects regarding the user-computer interaction"
Showing browsing options depending on number of search results: non-technical

More challenging: business methods

One decision related to a method for efficiently checking the consistency and completeness of selection conditions for components of a configurable product. On the one hand, the Board held that the task performed by claim 1 was of a non-technical nature. However, the specific claimed bit (sub-)matrices, bit strings and steps of the method, especially those of splitting the bit matrix, forming bit strings representing the selection and restriction conditions and determining inconsistent pairs of selection conditions when performed by parallel processing, were indeed found to contribute to the technical character. The case was remitted back to the first instance for reexamination of inventive step.

The same applied to a method of programming a currency tester, which was also remitted back to the first instance for further prosecution.

GUI software patents

In the field of graphical user interfaces, a method for video editing, more precisely for quickly and easily viewing two different video clips simultaneously, involved technical aspects regarding the user-computer interaction which went beyond a non-technical method for presentation of information. The invention was also found to be non-obvious and a European software patent was granted.

In an older decision, facilitating data exchange across different data formats with a clipboard function was considered to provide technical character, in particular when transferring non-file data, and a patent was granted.

How the EPO examines software patents

By the way, if you are interested in a deeper look into how the European Patent Office examines software-related inventions, this 30-minute video gives a concise overview of the “two hurdle” approach with lots of examples.

Patents for search engine techniques

In the field of data retrieval, a method of scoring search engine results based on history data was found to be non-technical, since assigning a score to a document based on the frequency and the amount of changes to the document was considered not to be a technical task.

Finally, one decision dealt with the graphical user interface of a search engine. Here, the basic idea was to check how many search results there are, and in case of only a few, to maximize the display area for those search results while minimizing another display area that normally shows browsing options. In this case, the Board ruled that the layout of the areas in the display and the emphasizing of specific areas are non-technical aspects of the invention.

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European Software Patents March 2019 Updates

EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS March 2019 updates

March came with seven new decisions in the EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS knowledge base relating to artificial intelligence, computer simulations, information modelling and Internet search engines:

Software patents for artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly one of the hottest topics in tech these days. So far, there are only few decisions of the EPO Boards of Appeal dealing specifically with AI.

But some questions have been decided already: According to one Board, the question whether two text documents belong to the same class of documents in respect of their textual content is non-technical. Similarly, classifying data records for a non-technical purpose (e.g. for billing) was considered to be a non-technical issue.

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European Software Patents February 2019 Updates

EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS February 2019 updates

February 2019 marks the proud start of EUROPEAN SOFTWARE PATENTS with the first batch of decisions:

Two somewhat older decisions relate to the very fundamentals of the EPO’s software patent examination standard: According to the “any hardware approach”, the patent eligibility hurdle only requires one single technical feature (e.g. a computer). The challenging test for most European software patents is inventive step, where only those features which contribute to the solution of a technical problem are taken into account (the so-called “Comvik approach”).

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