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Decision G4/19 regarding Prohibition on Double Patenting of the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office

1. A European patent application can be refused under Articles 97(2) and 125 EPC if it claims the same subject-matter as a European patent which has been granted to the same applicant and does not form part of the state of the art pursuant to Article 54(2) and (3) EPC. 2. The application can be refused on that legal basis, irrespective of whether it

a) was filed on the same date as, or

b) is an earlier application or a divisional application (Article 76(1) EPC) in respect of, or

c) claims the same priority (Article 88 EPC) as

the European patent application leading to the European patent already granted. (Headnotes of the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA)) EBoA of the EPO, Decision of 22. June 2021 – G4/19 – Double Patenting

The appellant claimed priority of a granted EP Patent having the same subject matter

The appellant is the applicant of the European patent application-in-suit. The Examining Division of the European Patent Office (EPO) refused the application-in-suit. The refusal was based on the principle of the prohibition on double patenting. The application-in-suit claimed priority of a granted European patent, see figure below. The subject matter of the application-in-suit and the granted European patent comprised the same subject matter and are owned by the same applicant. Against the refusal of the Examining Division, the applicant of the application-in-suit filed an appeal.

The Board of Appeal (BoA) referred questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA)

In the appeal proceedings the BoA referred the following questions to the EBoA: “1. Can a European patent application be refused under Article 97(2) EPC if it claims the same subject-matter as a European patent which was granted to the same applicant and does not form part of the state of the art pursuant to Article 54(2) and (3) EPC?  2.1 If the answer to the first question is yes, what are the conditions for such a refusal, and are different conditions to be applied depending on whether the European patent application under examination was filed

  1. a) on the same date as, or
  2. b) as a European divisional application (Article 76(1) EPC) in respect of, or
  3. c) claiming the priority (Article 88 EPC) in respect of a European patent application on the basis of which a European patent was granted to the same applicant?

 2.2 In particular, in the last of these cases, does an applicant have a legitimate interest in the grant of a patent on the (subsequent) European patent application in view of the fact that the filing date and not the priority date is the relevant date for calculating the term of the European patent under Article 63(1) EPC?”

EBoA gives an interpretation of the referred questions

  • The essence of question 1 is according to EBoA, whether there is any legal basis under the EPC for refusing an application on the ground of “double patenting”. The term “double patenting” is interpreted in the narrow sense, where two or more EP applications are involved (and not a national patent).
  • The definition of the “same subject-matter” or “the same applicant” is not the subject of the present referral.
  • Further, the referred question 1 is restricted to substantive examination proceedings before the Examining division. Therefore, the referral does not extend to the question of whether and how the prohibition might be applicable in opposition proceedings.
  • It is the EBoA’s understanding that in current Office practice an objection of double patenting is only raised if there are overlapping and still valid designations in both the granted patent and the application concerned.
  • The essence of question 2.1 is as follows: if there is a legal basis in the EPC for the prohibition on double patenting, are all three of the possible constellations in which double patenting may arise to be treated in the same manner? Common to these constellations is that the granted patent and the application both have the same effective date.

Decision of the EBoA in regard to Question 1

For its decision, the EBoA concludes that Art. 125 EPC (https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/epc/2016/e/ar125.html) serves as a legal basis for the decision. Art. 125 EPC defines in the case of the absence of procedural provisions in the EPC, that the EPO shall take into account the principles of procedural law generally recognized in the Contracting States. To find out whether there is such a principle, the EBoA inter alia considers the preparatory documents of the Convention (= “travaux préparatoires”). Especially based on these documents the EBoA inferred that the prohibition on double patenting is such a principle generally recognized in the Contracting States according to Art. 125 EPC. As a consequence, the EPO is empowered and duty-bound based on Art. 125 EPC to apply the principle of the prohibition of double patenting. Therefore, the EBoA answered Question 1 in the affirmative. As a result, a European patent application can be refused if it claims the same subject-matter as a European patent that has been granted to the same applicant and does not form part of the state of the art pursuant to Article 54(2) and (3) EPC.

Decision of the EBoA in regard to Question 2.1 and 2.2

Questions 2.1 and 2.2 refer to certain conditions for a refusal based on double patenting. The EBoA derived the answer on Questions 2.1 and 2.2 mainly from the preparatory documents of the Convention again. The answer is pointed out in Headnote 2 above.

Overview of the different constellations in regard to the prohibition of double patenting based on the present decision of the EBoA

Below the different constellations according to the headnotes of the present decision are shown. Common to these constellations is that the granted EP patent and the EP application both have the same effective date. 

  • The EP patent application was filed on the same filing date as the EP patent application leading to the EP patent already granted (headnote 2a):
  • The EP application is an earlier application in respect of the EP application leading to the European patent already granted (headnote 2b):
  • The EP application is a divisional application (Article 76(1) EPC) in respect of the EP patent application leading to the EP patent already granted (headnote 2b):
  • The EP application claims the same priority (Article 88 EPC) as the EP application leading to the EP patent already granted (headnote 2c):
  • The EP application claims the same subject-matter as a EP patent which has been granted to the same applicant and does not form part of the state of the art pursuant to Article 54(2) and (3) EPC (headnote 1):

Consequences for practice

An applicant can have the legitimate interest to have a second EP patent application granted for the same subject matter. E. g. an interest can be the longer term of protection available to an applicant as a result of claiming an internal priority. Nevertheless, according to the present decision of the EBoA a European patent application can be refused based on the prohibition of double patenting irrespective of whether there is a legitimate interest of the applicant. To overcome the prohibition of double patenting, the applicant could amend one or more of the applications in such a manner that the subject-matters of the claims of the applications are not identical. For example, the applicant could adapt the applications such that the subject matters are partially overlapping. In such a case no objection regarding double patenting should be raised (see also the decision of the BoA T 877/06). A further strategy could be that the applicant in a first step tries to get an EP patent application with a narrower subject matter/scope of protection granted. Then, in a second step, the applicant could try to get an EP patent application with a broader subject matter/scope of protection granted. Thus, the applicant would already have a narrower EP patent and can then possibly try to obtain another EP patent with a broader scope of protection more freely and flexibly. This approach is especially beneficial for important inventions. To overcome the prohibition of double patenting in general the applicant could follow the proposals in the Guidelines for Examination G-IV-5.4 https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/guidelines/e/g_iv_5_4.htm): withdraw overlapping designations, or choose which one of those applications is to proceed to grant.  

Enlarged Board of Appeal Decision G4/19: http://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponet.nsf/0/9D699BFBD3CC2C11C12586FC00338610/$FILE/G_4_19_decision_of_the_Enlarged_Board_of_Appeal_of_22_June_2021_en.pdf

Winter, Brandl – Partnerschaft mbB, Munich, German and European Patent Attorney Michael Schüller

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New constitutional complaints against German UPC legislation and summary of the ratification process in Germany

The German legal media JUVE has announced that the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has received two new constitutional complaints (Case ID: 2 BvR 2216/20 and 2 BvR 2217/20) against the draft legislation enabling Germany to ratify the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement and its Protocol on Provisional Application1).

 

The law approving the UPC Agreement was approved by the German federal council (Bundesrat) on 18 December 2020 and was awaiting the certification (signature) by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany in order to enter into force.

  

The identity of the complainants as well as the grounds for the constitutional complaints are currently unknown.

 

Further, it is not yet clear whether the constitutional complaints are admissible and whether Federal Constitutional Court will ask the President to halt the certifying process, as was the case with the previous constitutional complaint of 20172).

 

The ratification process of the UPC Agreement in Germany until now can be summarized as follows:

 

March 2017: German parliament (Bundestag) passes the German UPC legislation3).

March 2017: First constitutional complaint is raised4).

June 2017: German federal council (Bundesrat) approved the German UPC legislation5).

June 2017: Federal Constitutional Court asks the President to halt the certifying process2).

March 2020: Federal Constitutional Court decides that the German UPC legislation is void, since it has not been approved by the German parliament (Bundestag) with the required two-thirds majority although it amends the Constitution in substantive terms6).

November 2020: German parliament (Bundestag) passes the German UPC legislation with the required two-thirds majority7).

December 2020: German federal council (Bundesrat) approved the German UPC legislation8).

December 2020: Second Constitutional complaints are raised1). ← Now

(Prediction) XX 2021: Federal Constitutional Court asks the President to halt the certifying process?

(Prediction) XX 2023: Federal Constitutional Court decides that the German UPC legislation is void, since the unrestricted primacy of European law as stipulated in Article 20 of the UPC Agreement violates the German basic law9)?

(Prediction) XX 2023: Germany gives us to ratify the UPC Agreement?

 

 

Sources:

1) https://www.juve-patent.com/news-and-stories/legal-commentary/breaking-german-upc-legislation-challenged-again-by-constitutional-complaints/

2) https://www.lto.de/recht/nachrichten/n/bverfg-stoppt-eu-einheits-patent-verfassungsbeschwerde/

3) https://www.bundestag.de/dokumente/textarchiv/2018/kw11-de-patenrechtsreform-546352

4)https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Entscheidungen/EN/2020/02/rs20200213_2bvr073917en.html;jsessionid=5D7FB553AE990E7FCA8FE8E9B5432970.1_cid377

5) http://www.bundesrat.de/SharedDocs/drucksachen/2017/0301-0400/372-17(B).pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1

6)https://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/EN/2020/bvg20-020.html

7) https://www.bundestag.de/parlament/plenum/abstimmung/abstimmung?id=702

8) https://www.bundesrat.de/DE/plenum/bundesrat-kompakt/20/998/10.html#top-10

9) https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/peter-huber-im-gespraech-das-ezb-urteil-war-zwingend-16766682.html

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The Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement is approved by the German Bundestag – What are the next steps?

On November 26, 2020, the German Bundestag (German Federal Parliament) in Berlin has approved the UPC Agreement. This is an important step towards the implementation of the Unitary Patent Package. The Unified Patent System is expected to be launched in spring 2022. Nevertheless, some steps still have to be taken.  

The previous approval in the German Bundestag was unconstitutional

On March 10, 2017, the German Bundestag already approved the UPC Agreement. However, on March 31, 2017, a constitutional complaint was filed with the German Constitutional Court. Therefore, the ratification process of the Unified Patent System was stopped by Germany. On February 13, 2020, the Constitutional Court decided inter alia that in the vote in the German Bundestag the 2/3 majority was missing. After this decision of the Constitutional Court, the German Bundestag approved a new, unchanged bill on the UPC Agreement with a sufficient majority on November 26, 2020.

Besides the UPC Agreement, the German Bundestag adopts a protocol on provisional applicability

In addition to the UPC Agreement, the German Bundestag also approved a protocol on provisional applicability on November 26, 2020. With this protocol, it is possible that the Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent System can appoint judges for the UPC, rent office space, etc. before the certificate of ratification is deposited by Germany.

In the next step, the German Bundesrat (Federal Council) has to approve the UPC Agreement

In Germany besides the Bundestag also the Bundesrat has to approve the UPC Agreement. The vote on this will take place on December 18, 2020. The approval of the UPC agreement in the Bundesrat is very likely since the same parties have a majority in the Bundesrat as in the Bundestag. Afterward a countersignature by the Federal Government and the German President takes place. In the end the approval is published in the German Federal Law Gazette. Then, the certificate of ratification is ready to be deposited by Germany.

The Central Divisions of the UPC will be located in Munich and Paris

Since the UK is going to leave the European Union on January 1, 2021, the UK is not part of the Unified Patent System and London will no longer be a location for the UPC Central Divisions. Therefore, the Central Divisions of the UPC will be located in Munich and Paris. 

Summary of the important next steps

  • On December 18, 2020, the German Bundesrat will probably approve the UPC Agreement.
  • Then, the protocol on provisional applicability will be deposited by Germany (probably spring 2021).
  • After that, the Preparatory Committee of the Unified Patent System will appoint judges, rent office space, buy furniture, etc.
  • Germany will deposit the certificate of ratification after the preparation of the Preparatory Committee (probably end of 2021).
  • Expected start of the Unified Patent System is in spring 2022.

Information of the German Bundestag:
https://www.bundestag.de/dokumente/textarchiv/2020/kw48-de-patentgericht-808180

Information of the European Patent Office:
https://www.epo.org/news-events/news/2020/20201126b.html

 

WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, Patent Attorney Michael Schüller, Munich

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The applicability of new Rule 20.5bis PCT at the European Patent Office

The European Patent Office (EPO) issued in June 2020 a notice (Official Journal June 2020, A81) outlining its practice with regards to newly introduced Rule 20.5bis PCT.

Rule 20.5bis PCT lays out the conditions for requesting the correction of an erroneously filed element or part of a PCT application. This provision complements Rule 20.5 PCT which covers remedying an application having a missing part or parts where nothing was erroneously filed. The EPO uses the words “truly missing” for the case of Rule 20.5 PCT, and adopts the PCT language of “correcting [an erroneously filed element or part]” for the case covered by R20.5bis PCT. The PCT allows in principle incorporation by reference in either case. Under incorporation by reference the applicant may furnish late an element/part without getting a later international filing date, provided the element/part is completely contained in the priority document and a two-month time limit (Rule 20.7 PCT) for filing the confirmation of incorporation is met. 

The EPO has announced that Rule 20.5bis PCT is partially incompatible with the EPC’s current legal framework. The notice serves to outline the EPO’s practice with regard to this provision.

EPO as Receiving Office

The EPO as receiving Office will not process the correction under Rule 20.5bis PCT if the correct element or part is furnished by means of incorporation by reference. It will continue to process the request for late furnishing of the correct element or part if incorporation by reference is not used.

But in the former-mentioned case of using incorporation by reference, the request may still be processed if the applicant agrees to transmit the application to the International Bureau (IB) who will subsequently act as receiving Office (Rule 19.4(a)(iii) PCT). Unlike the EPO, the IB does accept the correction of erroneously filed elements or parts by incorporation by reference.

EPO as ISA and IPEA

The EPO as International Searching Authority (ISA) will accept a decision made by the receiving Office to grant incorporation by reference and will perform the search on the application including the correct element or part, as long as the receiving Office notifies the EPO of the correct element or part before the start of the search. Even if the EPO is notified after the start of the search (including after its completion), the correct element or part can still be included in the search if an additional fee equal to the search fee is duly paid.

The EPO will perform any international preliminary examination on the basis of the application as searched by the ISA.

Procedure before the EPO as designated or elected Office

The EPO will not accept a decision by the receiving Office that the correct documents under Rule 20.5bis PCT have been incorporated by reference , i.e. without changing the filing date. In this case, in what the EPO calls the “standard procedure”, the EPO will notify the applicant that it will:

  • consider the filing date of the application to be the date on which the correct documents were received, and
  • disregard the erroneously filed documents,

unless the applicant responds by requesting to pursue instead the erroneously filed documents. The notification is referred to as the “communication under Rules 20.8(c) and 82ter.1(c) and (d) PCT” and there is a two-month time limit to respond.

As an alternative to the “standard procedure” described above, the applicant may use the so-called “abridged procedure”, namely to inform the EPO of its choice at an earlier stage, i.e. within the 31-month time limit under Rule 159(1) EPC or at the latest before the above-mentioned communication under Rules 20.8(c) and 82ter.1(c) and (d) PCT is issued. In this case the EPO does not send said communication.

Furthermore under the “abridged procedure” the applicant gets the opportunity to exclude the unwanted application documents from the calculation of the additional fee for pages in excess of 35 (Art. 2(1).1a, Rules Relating to Fees) – provided that the applicant informs the EPO within the 31-month time limit under Rule 159(1) EPC and before any additional fee is paid.

Possible outcomes at the EPO as designated or elected Office

In conclusion the applicant may pursue either:

  1. the correct application documents, with the date of receipt of those application documents being used as the filing date, with the erroneously filed documents being disregarded, or
  1. the erroneously filed application documents with the filing date initially accorded being used as the filing date, with the correct application documents being disregarded.

Changing the filing date to a later date may result in the loss of the priority right. A request for restoration of the right of priority may be made to the EPO (Rule 49ter.2 PCT).

The practical outcome is that any negative decision on incorporation by reference will be made by the EPO in its regional phase and not in the international phase, leading to minimal negative consequences for the applicant in the international phase. In the case of correcting erroneously filed documents by incorporation by reference all documents remain in the application during the international phase and are published by WIPO. The act of replacement is effectively completed in the national or regional phase when the erroneously filed documents are disregarded.

Conclusion

Newly introduced Rule 20.5bis PCT comes after several years of discussion among WIPO and Offices on how Rule 20.5 PCT is to be interpreted. Some Offices (e.g. USPTO and IB) considered Rule 20.5 PCT to allow the inclusion of, for example, a new complete set of claims after an erroneous set was filed, while others (e.g. EPO) saw Rule 20.5 PCT as not permitting this. While there are still divergent views among the Offices regarding correcting erroneously filed elements or parts, newly introduced Rule 20.5bis PCT allows the Offices to consider Rule 20.5 PCT with a consistent interpretation (i.e. that it applies to the case of “truly missing” parts only), and to register any incompatibilities under the newly introduced Rule 20.5bis PCT that provides for correcting erroneously filed elements or parts.

Note that the German Patent and Trademark Office as receiving Office and as designated or elected Office continues to refuse incorporation by reference requests in both cases. (Rule 20.5 PCT and Rule 20.5bis PCT).

Official Journal June 2020, A81: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/2020/06/a81/2020-a81.pdf

 

WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, Munich, European Patent Attorneys Timothy Chettle and Michael Schüller

 

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European Patent Office (EPO) and China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) strengthen Cooperation within the PCT Framework

The EPO and the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) have agreed on a two-year pilot program last year that would allow Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applicants filing a PCT application at the CNIPA to choose the EPO as their International Searching Authority (ISA). This agreement was signed on November 12, 2020, at their joint conference in Suzhou, China. Due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus, it had not been determined when the program will start until the middle of October 2020. 

The Start of the program is in December 2020

Recently, the EPO finally announced that this pilot program will start on December 1, 2020. The pilot program will be open to nationals and residents of the People’s Republic of China filing with CNIPA or the International Bureau (IB) of the World IP Office (WIPO). Further, there is a limit participation in the program to 2,500 patent applications for the first 12 months and 3,000 for the next 12 months.

Benefits for Chinese applicants

For Chinese applicants, this program will offer an additional option to optimize their international patent strategy, especially when considering protection in Europe. As a result, Chinese applicants interested in accelerating the prosecution of their applications will, by selecting the EPO as their ISA, gain up to one year by entering into the European phase earlier and getting direct examination of their files, without the need for a supplementary European search. For more detailed questions about the pilot program, please use the following link:

English: https://www.epo.org/service-support/faq/own-file/cnipa-epo-pilot.html

Chinese: https://www.cnipa.gov.cn/art/2020/10/20/art_364_153578.html

WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, Tianhao Miao (Chinese Manager, German, European and Chinese Patent Attorney) and Michael Schueller (Partner, German and European Patent Attorney)

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Beschwerdekammer des EPAs äußert sich zur ausreichenden Offenbarung von Trainingsdaten für ein künstliches neuronales Netz

  1. Die vorliegende, auf maschinellem Lernen insbesondere im Zusammenhang mit einem künstlichen neuronalen Netz beruhende Erfindung ist nicht ausreichend offenbart, da das erfindungsgemäße Training des künstlichen neuronalen Netzes mangels Offenbarung nicht ausführbar ist.
  2. Da sich im vorliegenden Fall das beanspruchte Verfahren vom Stand der Technik nur durch ein künstliches neuronales Netz unterscheidet, dessen Training nicht im Detail offenbart ist, führt die Verwendung des künstlichen neuronalen Netzes nicht zu einem speziellen technischen Effekt, der erfinderische Tätigkeit begründen könnte. (Orientierungssätze der Beschwerdekammer)

BK, Entscheidung vom 12. Mai 2020 – T 0161/18 – Verfahren zur Bestimmung des Herzzeitvolumens; EPÜ Art. 83, 56

Gegenstand des Streitpatents ist die Nutzung eines künstlichen neuronalen Netzes zur Transformation einer Blutdruckkurve

Die Beschwerdeführerin ist Anmelderin einer Europäischen Patentanmeldung (Nr. 06804383.5). Die Erfindung betrifft unter anderem ein Verfahren zur Bestimmung des Herzzeitvolumens. Hierzu wird zunächst der Blutdruck einer Person als Blutdruckkurve aufgezeichnet. Der Blutdruck der Person wird über eine Manschette 2 von einem Oberarm der Person abgegriffen, siehe unten einkopierte Fig. 1. Über eine Leitung 3 wird der Blutdruck von der Manschette 2 zu einer Vorrichtung 1 mit einer Recheneinheit geführt.

 

Die einkopierte Fig. 2 zeigt den Verfahrensablauf auf der Recheneinheit. Es ist die Blutdruckkurve 7 ersichtlich, die über die Manschette 2 erfasst wurde. Mit Hilfe eines künstlichen neuronalen Netzes 8 wird die Blutdruckkurve 7 in einen äquivalenten Aortendruck 9 transformiert. Aus diesem wird anschließend unter Zuhilfenahme eines Optimierungsmodells 10 das Herzzeitvolumen 11 errechnet. Das neuronale Netz 8 hat Gewichtungswerte. Diese werden durch Lernen bestimmt. Die Prüfungsabteilung hat die vorliegende Patentanmeldung zurückgewiesen, da das obenstehende erläuterte Verfahren nicht erfinderisch ist. Dagegen wendet sich die Beschwerdeführerin mit ihrer Beschwerde. Die Beschwerdekammer erachtet die Erfindung als nicht ausreichend offenbart Die Beschwerdekammer bezieht Stellung hinsichtlich des beanspruchten Trainings des neuronalen Netzes 8, siehe Fig. 2. Laut Beschwerdekammer ist in der Patentanmeldung lediglich offenbart, dass die Eingabedaten für das Training ein breites Spektrum von Patienten unterschiedlichen Alters, Geschlechts etc. abdecken soll. Allerdings offenbart die Patentanmeldung gemäß Beschwerdekammer nicht, welche Eingabedaten zum Trainieren des neuronalen Netzes 8 geeignet sind. Es ist auch nicht zumindest ein geeigneter Datensatz der Trainingsdaten in der Patentanmeldung offenbart. Somit kann das Trainieren des neuronalen Netzes 8 vom zuständigen Fachmann nicht nachbearbeitet werden. Die Erfindung ist somit nicht ausreichend offenbart. Die Beschwerde wird von der Beschwerdekammer unter anderem basierend auf dem Grund der nicht ausreichenden Offenbarung zurückgewiesen. Trainingsdaten sollte zumindest unter bestimmten Umständen in der Patentanmeldung offenbart sein In der vorliegenden Patentanmeldung wurde im Verfahrens- und Vorrichtungsanspruch beansprucht, dass die Gewichtungswerte des neuronalen Netzes durch Lernen bestimmt werden. Um den Zurückweisungsgrund der nicht ausreichenden Offenbarung in diesem Fall zu vermeiden, sollten die Eingabedaten für das Training und zumindest ein Trainings-Datensatz in der Patentbeschreibung offenbart sein. WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, Patentanwalt Michael Schüller

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BoA of the EPO expands the transitional provisions regarding the revised Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (RPBA) 2020 of the EPO

Transitional provisions – applicability of Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 to cases where the summons to oral proceedings was notified before the entry into force of the RPBA 2020. (Catchword of the Board)

BoA, Decision of January 20, 2020 – T 1386/18; Article 13(1) RPBA 2020

The appellant filed requests with the BoA before the revised RPBA 2020 was into force

The appellant (applicant) lodged an appeal within the prescribed period and in the prescribed form against the decision of the examining division to refuse the European patent application No. 10840300.7.

  • In 2018 the appellant filed his statement of grounds of appeal.
  • In 2019 to prepare the oral proceedings, the BoA communicated its preliminary assessment.
  • In 2019 the appellant filed a response.
  • On January 20, 2020, the oral proceedings took place.

The revised RPBA 2020 is in force from January 1, 2020. Therefore, the written submissions of the appellant mentioned above have been filed before the RPBA 2020 came into force. The oral proceeding was held after the RPBA 2020 came into force.

The BoA notes in its decision the transitional provisions of the RPBA 2020

In its decision, the BoA noted that the RPBA 2020 applies, except for “new” Articles 12(4) to (6) and 13(2) RPBA 2020. Instead of which the “old” Articles 12(4) and 13 RPBA 2007 remain applicable.

This is laid down in the transitional provisions according to Article 25 RPBA 2020. “New” Articles 12(4) to (6) RPBA 2020 refer to the first stage (filing stage) of the appeal, see Fig. 1 below.

 

“New” Article 12(4) RPBA 2020 defines that a request, fact, objection, argument, and/ or evidence on which the decision under appeal was/were not based is considered as an amendment. Any such amendment may be admitted only at the discretion of the Board. Nevertheless, if the party demonstrates that the request, fact, objection, argument, and evidence was/ were admissibly raised and maintained in the proceedings leading to the decision under appeal, then it is not considered as an amendment. Compared to this, the “old” Article 12(4) RPBA 2007 –here applicable – has less stringent limitations on amendments at the first stage.

“New” Article 13(2) RPBA 2020 refers to the third stage of the appeal, see Fig. 1 above. This Article imposes the most stringent limitations on appeal submissions which are made at an advanced stage of the proceedings. Advanced stage means after the expiry of a period set by the board of appeal in communication under Rule 100(2) EPC or, where no such communication is issued, after notification of a summons to oral proceedings. In contrast, the “old” Article 13 RPBA 2007 – here applicable – has less stringent limitations.

BoA considers “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 applicable

In the present decision, the BoA clarified, that the “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 applies to the present proceedings because this Article is not excluded by the transitional provisions defined in Article 25 RPBA 2020. “New” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 refers to the second stage of the appeal – see Fig. 1 above – and to amendments before notification of a summons or before the expiry of a time-limit of a communication. “New” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 defines the conditions under which a party may amend its appeal case after the initial stage of the proceedings and before the period set in a communication under Rule 100(2) EPC has expired or before a summons to oral proceedings has been notified. The party must provide reasons as to why the amendment is submitted at this stage of the appeal proceedings. Its admittance is subject to the Board’s discretion alone.

Other Boards of Appeal have different views regarding the application/ interpretation of “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020

According to a further recent decision T 0032/16 of a different BoA, when compared, the revised wording in “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 is more detailed in listing out the requirements on the party making an amendment to its appeal case and the criteria to be used by the Board when exercising its discretion. The difference however merely reflects much of the case law developed under “old” Article 13(1) RPBA 2007. Therefore, according to T 0032/16 no contradiction can be found in the wording of “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 compared to “old” Article 13 RPBA 2007.

In a further recent BoA decision, T 0989/15 the Board saw no reason to apply the criteria of “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 in addition.

Conclusion
  • If the first stage took place before RPBA 2020 came into force then the “old” Article 12(4) RPBA 2007 for the first stage applies instead of “new” Articles 12(4) to (6) RPBA 2020. Therefore, for such cases, there are less stringent limitations on amendments at the first stage of the appeal proceeding.
  • Where the summons to oral proceedings or a communication of the Board under Rule 100(2) EPC has been notified before the date of the entry into force (1 January 2020) “old” Article 13 RPBA 2007 instead of “new” Article 13(2) RPBA 2020 for the third stage applies. Hence, for such cases, there are less stringent limitations on amendments at the third stage of the appeal proceeding.
  • Further, the “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 for the second stage applies according to T 1386/18, irrespective of the fact that the summons to oral proceedings was notified before 1 January 2020. But according to T 0032/16 this “new” Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 is not stricter compared to the “old” Article 13(1) RPBA 2007 in combination with the developed case law which is good News.
Reasons for the decision
  1. Revised Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (RPBA 2020) – Transitional provisions
    The present proceedings are governed by the revised version of the Rules of Procedure which came into force on 1 January 2020 (Articles 24 and 25(1) RPBA 2020), except for Articles 12(4) to (6) and 13(2) RPBA 2020 instead of which Articles 12(4) and 13 RPBA 2007 remain applicable (Article 25(2) and (3) RPBA 2020). The general applicability of the RPBA 2020 to the present proceedings includes Article 13(1) RPBA 2020, irrespective of the fact that the summons to oral proceedings was notified before 1 January 2020 (cf. T 2227/15, T 32/16 and T 634/16, none of them published in the OJ EPO)
  2. […]

Decision T 1386/18: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/case-law-appeals/pdf/t181386eu1.pdf
RPBA 2020: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/case-law-appeals/communications/2019/20190704.html

Winter, Brandl – Partnerschaft mbB, Patent Attorney Michael Schüller

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BGH bestätigt seine bisherige Praxis bezüglich der Wiedergabe von Informationen

Die Anweisung, für ein Auswahlmenü auf einem Bildschirm eine Darstellungsart zu wählen, die lediglich dem Zweck dient, die angezeigten Menüpunkte und den Umstand, dass möglicherweise noch weitere Punkte verfügbar sind, besonders anschaulich zu präsentieren, betrifft kein technisches Lösungsmittel und ist deshalb bei der Prüfung auf erfinderische Tätigkeit nicht zu berücksichtigen (Bestätigung von BGH, GRUR 2015, 660 – Bildstrom; BGH, GRUR 2015, 1184 – Entsperrbild). (Leitsatz des Gerichts) BGH, Urteil vom 14. Januar 2020 – X ZR 144/17 – Rotierendes Menü; EPÜ Art. 52 II lit. d

Gegenstand des Streitpatents ist ein Bildschirm, der ein rotierendes Menü anzeigt

Die Beklagte ist Inhaberin des mit einer Nichtigkeitsklage angegriffenen Streitpatents. Dieses betrifft eine elektronische Vorrichtung mit wenigstens einer Anzeige 1, siehe untenstehend einkopierte Figur 1. Die Anzeige 1 stellt ein Menü 2 dar, das von einem Benutzer rotiert werden kann. Ein Teil von Menüpunkten des Menüs 2 liegt außerhalb der Anzeige 1. Außerhalb liegende Menüpunkte können bei Bedarf in die Anzeige 1 hereingedreht werden, wobei entsprechend innen liegende Menüpunkte herausgedreht werden. Das BPatG hat das Streitpatent für nicht patentfähig erachtet und in vollem Umfang für nichtig erklärt. Dagegen wendet sich die Beklagte mit der Berufung.

Bei der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit nicht berücksichtigtes Merkmal

Das Merkmal in Anspruch 1 des Streitpatents, dass das Menü 2 rotierend ist, wird bei der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit vom BGH nicht berücksichtigt. Gemäß BGH ermöglicht dieses Merkmal es nicht, die zur Verfügung stehende Anzeigefläche effizienter zu nutzen. Sie dient lediglich dem Zweck, die angezeigten Menüpunkte und den Umstand, dass möglicherweise noch weitere Punkte verfügbar sind, besonders anschaulich zu präsentieren. Damit wird allein dem menschlichen Vorstellungsvermögen Rechnung getragen. Darin liegt nach der Rechtsprechung des Senats kein technisches Lösungsmittel (BGH, GRUR 2015, 1184 Rn. 21 – Entsperrbild; BGH, Urteil vom 26. Februar 2015 – X ZR 37/13, GRUR 2015, 660 Rn. 31 ff. – Bildstrom). Das beschriebene Merkmal wird somit nicht bei der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit berücksichtigt.

Weitere Merkmale bezüglich des Menüs werden berücksichtigt

Im Gegensatz zu dem Merkmal, dass das Menü 2 rotierend ist, werden andere Merkmale in Anspruch 1 des Streitpatents bezüglich dem Menü 2 vom BGH bei der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit berücksichtigt. Beispielsweise:

  • Menü 2 umfasst eine Anzahl von Menüpunkten,
  • Menü 2 ist auf der Anzeige außerhalb der Mitte vorgesehen,
  • ohne Änderung des Formats des Menüs 2 kann eine beliebige Anzahl von Punkten zu dem Menü 2 hinzugefügt werden.

Laut BGH haben diese Merkmale die Funktion, einen räumlich begrenzten Anzeigebereich für die Anzeige von Informationen zu nutzen. Die Informationen können aufgrund ihres Umfangs und ihrer Formatierung nicht auf einmal dargestellt werden. Dieses technische Problem wird nach den genannten Merkmalen durch eine bestimmte räumliche Anordnung der angezeigten Informationen gelöst. Hierin liegt nicht nur eine zweckmäßige und leicht verständliche Darstellung der Informationen, sondern ein technisches Lösungsmittel, nämlich eine zweckmäßige Ausnutzung der zur Verfügung stehenden Bildschirmfläche. Somit werden diese Merkmale bei der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit vom BGH berücksichtigt.

Das Urteil des BPatG wird vom BGH bestätigt, da der beanspruchte Gegenstand nicht erfinderisch ist.

Hilfreiche Zweckangaben im Patent

Die Merkmale des Menüs 2, die bei der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit berücksichtigt wurden, erfüllen einen technischen Zweck: sie führen zur besseren Ausnutzung der Anzeige 1. Das Merkmal bezüglich der Rotierbarkeit des Menüs 2 führt lediglich zur besonders anschaulichen Präsentation der Menüpunkte. Dieses Merkmal nimmt somit auch nicht auf physische Gegebenheiten der menschlichen Wahrnehmung und Aufnahme von Informationen Rücksicht. Wäre dies der Fall, so hätte dieses Merkmal berücksichtigt werden müssen. Derartige Merkmale finden sich beispielsweise beim Streitgegenstand des Urteils BGH, GRUR 2015, 660 – Bildstrom. Darin führt eine bestimmte Informationsdarstellung dazu, dass ein Nutzer in die Lage versetzt wird, die Informationen schnell und effizient zu erfassen. Möglicherweise hätte eine derartige Zweckangabe in dem Streitpatent in der vorliegenden Sache zu einer Berücksichtigung des Merkmals hinsichtlich des rotierbaren Menüs bei der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit geführt. Natürlich nur, wenn diese Zweckangabe technisch zutreffend gewesen wäre.

Winter, Brandl – Partnerschaft mbB, Patentanwalt Michael Schüller