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Computer- Implemented Inventions at the European Patent Office (Whitepaper)

II. Any Hardware Approach

According to Article 52(2) and (3) EPC, “programs for computers as such” are not an invention. To ensure that the door to a patent for a computer-implemented invention is not closed, there is the “any hardware approach”, which is discussed in this chapter. The information is based on the Enlarged Board of Appeal decision G1/19, points 28 to 29.

Avoiding exclusion under Article 52 EPC

  • In general, a method involving technical means is an invention within the meaning of Article 52(1) EPC.
  • This assessment is made without reference to the prior art (T 258/03, Hitachi, OJ EPO 2004, 575, Headnote I and Reasons, points 4.1 to 4.7; T 388/04, OJ EPO 2007, 16, Headnote I; T 1082/13, Reasons, point 1.1).
  • This approach has sometimes been described as the “any technical means” or “any hardware” approach (see reference in G 3/08, OJ EPO 2011, 10, Reasons, point 10.6).

According to the established case law, a claim directed to a computer-implemented invention avoids exclusion under Article 52 EPC merely by referring to the use of a computer, a computer-readable storage medium or other technical means (T 697/17, Reasons, point 3.4).


Claim 1: “A computer-implemented method comprising steps A, B, […]” 

Implicitly claimed technical means

A technical feature may be described at a high level of abstraction or functionally, and it may be implicitly evident that a certain claimed method is computer-implemented and hence technical (T 697/17, Reasons, point 3.3 and 3.5).

Example (T 697/17, Reasons, point 3.5):

Claim 1: “Method of updating values in a complex structured type column […] in a relational database system including steps performed by modules of a database system.”

On the other hand, the mere possibility of making use of an unspecified computer for performing a claimed method is not enough to establish the use of technical means for the purposes of Article 52 EPC (T 388/04, Reasons, point 3).


In practice, the feature “computer-implemented” in a claim is sufficient to involve a technical means. Therefore, such a subject matter is considered to be an invention according to Article 52(1) EPC. In other words, the use of the feature “computer-implemented” explicitly or at least implicitly in a computer implemented invention claim results in a computer implemented invention being considered an invention under Art. 52(1) EPC and therefore technical“.

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