Info Center

欧洲专利局(EPO)与中国国家知识产权局(CNIPA)加强PCT框架内合作

欧洲专利局和中国国家知识产权局在去年已经达成一项为期两年的试点计划,该计划允许在中国国家知识产权局提交PCT申请的申请人选择欧洲专利局作为其国际检索单位(ISA)。该协议于2019年11月12日在中国苏州召开的两局的联席会议上签署。

由于新冠病毒的爆发,该计划何时启动至2020年10月中旬一直未最终确定。

202012月正式启动

近日,EPO终于宣布,该试点计划将于2020121日正式开始。试点计划将对向CNIPA或WIPO国际知识产权局(IB)申请的中华人民共和国国民和居民开放。此外,还限定参与该计划的专利申请前12个月为2500件,后12个月为3000

中国申请人的利好

对于中国申请人来说,该计划将为优化其国际专利战略提供一个额外的选择,特别是在考虑欧洲布局时。因此,有意加快申请速度的中国用户,通过选择欧洲专利局作为他们的国际检索单位,可以提前一年进入欧洲阶段,并可直接进入欧洲实质审查阶段,而无需欧洲补充检索。

关于试点计划的更多详细问题,请参见以下链接:

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

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

 

WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, 苗添豪(中国事务负责人、德国专利律师、欧洲专利律师、中国专利代理师 ),Michael Schüller(合伙人、德国专利律师、欧洲专利律师)

Info Center

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

Info Center

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

Info Center

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

Info Center

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

Info Center

EPO Board of Appeal (BoA) comments on sufficiency of disclosure of training data for an artificial neural network

  1. The present invention, which is based on machine learning in particular in connection with an artificial neural network, is not sufficiently disclosed, since the training of the artificial neural network in accordance with the invention cannot be carried out for lack of disclosure
  2. Since, in the present case, the claimed method differs from the prior art only by an artificial neural network, the training of which is not disclosed in detail, the use of the artificial neural network does not lead to a specific technical effect which could give rise to inventive step. (Guidelines of the BoA)

BoA, Decision from May 12, 2020 – T 0161/18 – Method for determining cardiac output; EPC Art. 83, 56

The subject matter of the patent application in suit is the use of an artificial neural network to transform a blood pressure curve

The appellant is an applicant for a European patent application (No. 06804383.5). The invention concerns, inter alia, a method for determining cardiac output. For this purpose, the blood pressure of a person is first recorded as a blood pressure curve. The person’s blood pressure is taken from an upper arm of the person via a cuff 2, see below copied Fig. 1. Via a line 3, the blood pressure is led from the cuff 2 to a device 1 with a computing unit.

The copied Fig. 2 above shows the process sequence on the computing unit. It shows the blood pressure curve 7 which was recorded via the cuff 2. With the aid of an artificial neural network 8, the blood pressure curve 7 is transformed into an equivalent aortic pressure 9. From this, the cardiac output 11 is then calculated with the aid of an optimization model 10. The neural network 8 has weight values. These are determined by learning.

The Examining Division rejected the present patent application, since the above explained method is not inventive. The appellant objects to this in her appeal.

The BoA considers the invention not sufficiently disclosed

The BoA takes a position with regard to the claimed training of the neural network 8, see Fig. 2. According to the BoA, the patent application merely discloses that the input data for the training should cover a wide range of patients of different age, sex, etc. However, according to the BoA, the patent application does not disclose which input data are suitable for training the neural network 8. Neither does the patent application disclose at least one suitable set of training data. Thus, the training of the neural network 8 cannot be post-processed by the skilled person. The invention is thus not sufficiently disclosed.

The appeal is rejected by the BoA on the grounds of insufficient disclosure, among others.

Training data should at least under certain circumstances be disclosed in the patent application

In the present patent application, the process and device claim claimed that the weight values of the neural network are determined by learning. In order to avoid the ground for refusal on insufficiency of disclosure in this case, the input data for the training and at least one training data set should be disclosed in the patent description.

WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, Patent Attorney Michael Schüller

Info Center

German Federal Court of Justice (FCJ) confirms its previous practice regarding the presentation of information

The instruction to select a display mode for a selection menu on a screen which serves the sole purpose of presenting the menu items displayed and the fact that there may be further items available in a particularly clear manner does not concern a technical means for solving the technical problem and therefore is not to be taken into account in the examination as to inventive step (confirmation by FCJ, GRUR 2015, 660 – Image Stream (Bildstrom); FCJ, GRUR 2015, 1184 – Unlocking Picture (Entsperrbild)). (headnotes of the court)

FCJ, judgement from January, 14 2020 – X ZR 144/17 – Rotating Menu (Rotierendes Menü); EPC Art. 52 II lit. d

The subject matter of the patent in suit is a screen which displays a rotating menu

The defendant is the proprietor of the patent in suit which is the subject of a nullity suit. The patent concerns an electronic device with at least one display 1, see the copied figure 1 below. Display 1 represents a menu 2 which can be rotated by a user. Some of the menu items in menu 2 are outside the display 1. Menu items outside display 1 can be rotated into display 1 if necessary, and menu items inside display 1 can be rotated out. The German Federal Patent Court has deemed the patent in dispute to be not patentable and has declared it invalid in its entirety. The defendant is appealing against this decision.

Features not taken into account in the assessment of inventive step

The feature in claim 1 of the patent in suit, that menu 2 is rotating, is not taken into account by the FCJ when assessing inventive step. According to the FCJ, this feature does not allow a more efficient use of the available display area. It merely serves the purpose of presenting the displayed menu items and the fact that there may be other items available in a particularly clear manner. Thus, only the human imagination is taken into account. According to the case law of the Senate, this does not constitute a technical means for solving the technical problem (FCJ, GRUR 2015, 1184, para. 21 – Unlocking Picture; FCJ, judgement of 26 February 2015 – X ZR 37/13, GRUR 2015, 660 para. 31 et seq. – Image Stream). Thus, the described feature is not taken into account when assessing inventive step.

Further features regarding the menu are considered

In contrast to the feature that menu 2 is rotating, other features in claim 1 of the patent in suit concerning menu 2 are taken into account by the FCJ when assessing inventive step. For example:

  • Menu 2 comprises a number of menu items,
  • Menu 2 is provided on the display outside the centre,
  • without changing the format of menu 2, any number of items can be added to menu 2.

According to the FCJ, these features have the function of using a spatially limited display area for the display of information. The information cannot be displayed all at once due to its size and format. This technical problem is solved, according to the mentioned features, by a certain spatial arrangement of the displayed information. This is not only an appropriate and easily understandable presentation of the information, but also a technical solvent, namely an appropriate use of the available screen area. Thus, these features are taken into account by the FCJ when assessing inventive step.

The decision of the Federal Patent Court is confirmed by the FCJ, since the claimed subject matter is not inventive.

Helpful indications of purpose in the patent

The features of menu 2, which were taken into account in the assessment of inventive step, fulfil a technical purpose: they lead to a better exploitation of the display 1. The feature relating to the rotatability of menu 2 only leads to a particularly clear presentation of the menu items. Thus, this feature does not take into account the physical conditions of human perception and reception of information. If this were the case, this feature should have been taken into account. Such features can be found, for example, in the subject matter of the judgment in the case FCJ, GRUR 2015, 660 – Image Stream. In this case, a certain presentation of information leads to a user being able to grasp the information quickly and efficiently. It is possible that such a purpose statement in the patent in dispute in the present case would have led to a consideration of the feature regarding the rotatable menu 2 in the inventive step considerations. Of course, only if this purpose would have been technically correct.

WINTER BRANDL Partnerschaft mbB, Patent Attorney Michael Schüller