16 Aug 2018

T 1972/14 - Novelty of second medical use and doubts

Key points

  • Claim 1 is directed to a Swiss-type claim of using a infant food formulation with low protein  content " reduce the risk of development of obesity later in life". 
  • The Board finds that D30 already discloses this. D30 uses the same formulation, the debate is whether the effect is disclosed in D30 (as required for lack of novelty of a Swiss-type claim).
  • The appellant argued that, if not in D30 itself, there was doubt in the prior art as to whether there really was a link between feeding high protein contents early in life and obesity later in life. The appellant in this respect referred to D2, D8 and D42. This argument is not convincing. What matters is what D30 discloses, rather than other prior-art documents. And as set out above, the skilled reader deduces from D30 that such a link is present. " 
  • This decision illustrates the interesting questions that arise by incorporating the 'technical effect'  question under for second medical use claims. 



EPO T 1972/14 -  link


Claim 1 of the main request:
"The use of whey, casein and mixtures thereof from cow's milk as a source of proteins for the preparation of an infant formula for administration to a human infant so as to continuously reduce the circulating level of IGF-1 in the first few months of the life of the infant and thereby reduce the risk of development of obesity later in life wherein the infant formula contains less than 2.25 g of protein per 100 kcal."



Reasons for the Decision
Main request
1. Novelty
1.1 Claim 1 is a Swiss-type claim directed to the preparation of a certain infant formula so as to continuously reduce the circulating level of IGF-1 in the first few months of the life of an infant and thereby reduce the risk of development of obesity later in life. As was common ground between the parties, reducing the risk of developing obesity later in life represents the therapeutic effect to be achieved by claim 1, while the continuous reduction of the circulating level of IGF-1 represents the mechanism underlying this effect. A Swiss-type claim can derive novelty from the claimed therapeutic effect, but not from the mechanism underlying it.
1.2 Respondents 1 and 3 attacked novelty on the basis inter alia of D30.
1.3.2 It was acknowledged by the appellant that the formula as used in the study of D30 was as required by claim 1.
1.3.3 As set out above, D30 teaches to avoid excessive protein intake in early life in order to exclude the possibility of predisposition to obesity later in life. D30 thus discloses the claimed therapeutic effect of reducing the risk of development of obesity later in life.
1.3.4 The appellant argued that the link between a reduced protein content and the avoidance of a predisposition to obesity later in life as referred to in D30 was mere speculation, and thus not directly and unambiguously disclosed.
1.3.5 The board does not agree. As set out above, just after addressing predisposition to obesity caused by excessive amounts of protein, D30 presents a study that investigates a formula with reduced protein content. D30 thus does not merely speculate about whether there may be a link between reduced protein content and obesity later in life. On the contrary, it starts from the very premise that this link is present. In fact, otherwise the study disclosed in D30 on formulae with reduced protein contents would not make sense.
This conclusion is not changed by the fact that D30 only discloses that a high protein intake in early life may - and hence not necessarily must - predispose to obesity later in life. Nothing else is required by claim 1, which merely stipulates that the risk of developing obesity later in life is reduced. Referring to a risk does not rule out the possibility of some of the infants fed the formula as defined in claim 1 becoming obese later in life; hence an infant fed this formula may, but not necessarily must, be free of obesity later in life.
1.4 The appellant argued that, if not in D30 itself, there was doubt in the prior art as to whether there really was a link between feeding high protein contents early in life and obesity later in life. The appellant in this respect referred to D2, D8 and D42.
This argument is not convincing. What matters is what D30 discloses, rather than other prior-art documents. And as set out above, the skilled reader deduces from D30 that such a link is present. Incidentally, it is noted that the review article D42 referenced in the introductory section of D30 and referred to by the appellant acknowledges epidemiological evidence, albeit weak, for a link between high protein intake during early childhood and the development of obesity in adults (second sentence of the last full paragraph in the right-hand column of page 2064). There is thus no general doubt in the prior art as regards the presence of this link.
1.5 The appellant also argued that in the prior art, e.g. D2 and D8, the effect on obesity later in life had been investigated only for infants that had been fed formulae with high protein contents after six months of age. This was different from claim 1, which required feeding to take place in the first few months of life.
This argument is not convincing either. The study in D30 was carried out during the first 112 days of life ("Study design" section on page S66), i.e. until roughly four months of age, rather than beyond the age of six months. Thus, the study in D30 was conducted in the same time range as required by claim 1. In fact, the time range in D30 has been acknowledged by the appellant to be identical to that applied in the example of the opposed patent. That other documents such as D2 and D8 relate to different time intervals is of no relevance. What matters is whether D30 itself anticipates the claimed subject-matter, not D2 or D8.
1.6 In view of the above, the subject-matter of claim 1 of the main request lacks novelty over D30.

15 Aug 2018

R 0008/17 - No need to deal with written argument

Key points

  • From now on, I will also discuss unsuccessful petitions for review cases, if they are interesting because of the guidance they give to the procedural framework of the appeal proceedings. 
  • In reviewed decision T 1477/15, the Board had found the subject-matter at issue to be inventive (by the way, it was the third decision in the same opposition, after T 468/09 and T 801/13). 
  • " One of the petitioner’s [opponent's] complaints is that the written arguments on documents D2 and D4 as closest prior art were not reflected in the written reasons and thus ignored by the Board. This amounted to a fundamental violation of its right to be heard." 
  • The Enlarged Board: " The Board [BoA] explained in some detail in the written decision why it did not allow a discussion on documents D2 and D4 as possible starting points for assessing inventive step in the second oral proceedings. [The complaint against that decision regarding the oral proceedings, was already found inadmissible] It can therefore not be assumed that the position the Board took on this procedural issue was incorrect. Viewed from that perspective, the Board cannot be criticised for not considering any further the petitioner’s written submissions on D2 and D4 as closest prior art. Indeed, it would have been highly questionable and contradictory to deal in substance with an argument of a party in the written reasons after not allowing a discussion on it in the oral proceedings. The procedural situation in the present case differed from the situation where arguments of a non-attending party are not reflected in the decision." 
  • Contrast this with the statement that "Taken as a whole, the RPBA make it clear that appeal proceedings are primarily written in nature"  (CLBA IV.E.4.2.4). 
  • As a further comment, the Court of Appeal The Hague found the subject-matter to be obvious  with D4  (Rodsten) as the closest prior art (ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2018:513, paras. 2.15,  4.10, 4.22 and 4.25). 



R 0008/17  - link


26. One of the petitioner’s complaints is that the written arguments on documents D2 and D4 as closest prior art were not reflected in the written reasons and thus ignored by the Board. This amounted to a fundamental violation of its right to be heard.
27. As already summarised (see section IV(a) and point 22 above), the Board explained in some detail in the written decision why it did not allow a discussion on documents D2 and D4 as possible starting points for assessing inventive step in the second oral proceedings. It is not a matter for the Enlarged Board to review the merits of the petitioner’s complaint concerning the non-allowance of the discussion as such, since the petition is regarded as inadmissible in that respect (see point 13 above). It can therefore not be assumed that the position the Board took on this procedural issue was incorrect. Viewed from that perspective, the Board cannot be criticised for not considering any further the petitioner’s written submissions on D2 and D4 as closest prior art. Indeed, it would have been highly questionable and contradictory to deal in substance with an argument of a party in the written reasons after not allowing a discussion on it in the oral proceedings. The procedural situation in the present case differed from the situation where arguments of a non-attending party are not reflected in the decision.

14 Aug 2018

T 0548/13 - Esthetically pleasing but not technical

Key points
  • Claim 1 is for a security element (e.g. a bank note) having to security features at opposed sides. The distinguishing feature G is that the security features are different view of the same motive (for instance a front view and a rear view of an eagle). The Board considers this to be a non-technical feature, which therefore does not provide for inventive step, because the feature does not provide for inventive step, but is only esthetically pleasant.
  • "Die [patentee] hat keinen anderen technischen Effekt als den der erhöhten Fälschungssicherheit geltend gemacht [the Board did not accept this alleged effect of the feature]. Die Kammer kann auch keinen anderen technischen Effekt erkennen. Der eigentliche Effekt des Merkmals G scheint psychologischer Natur zu sein. Dem Betrachter, der eine anspruchsgemäße Banknote betrachtet und entdeckt, dass die Vorderseite z.B. einen Adler darstellt und dass die Rückseite denselben Adler von hinten zeigt, könnte diese Entdeckung ein gewisses ästhetisches Vergnügen bereiten oder ihm das Gefühl vermitteln, er habe ein besonders sorgfältig hergestelltes oder originelles Produkt vor sich. Solche rein mentalen Wirkungen sind jedoch subjektiv und können nicht als technische Wirkungen im Sinne des EPÜ und seiner Auslegung durch die Beschwerdekammern gelten."


EPO T 0548/13 - link


Claim 1:
"1. [A] Sicherheitselement, das [B] wenigstens zwei unterschiedliche Sicherheitsmerkmale aufweist, die [C] auf gegenüberliegenden Seiten des Sicherheitselements angeordnet sind, wobei wenigstens eines der [D2] Sicherheitsmerkmale optisch variabel ist und [F] die Sicherheitsmerkmale so auf dem Sicherheitselement angeordnet sind, dass bei Betrachtung des Sicherheitselements von einer Seite jeweils nur eines der Sicherheitsmerkmale erkennbar ist,
wobei [G] die Sicherheitsmerkmale unterschiedliche Ansichten des gleichen Motivs darstellen."

Entscheidungsgründe


3. Anspruchsauslegung



3.1 "Sicherheitselement"


Auf dem Gebiet der Wertdokumente werden Merkmale, die für eine Verifikation genutzt werden können und somit die Fälschungssicherheit erhöhen, in der Regel als "Sicherheitsmerkmale" bezeichnet. Komponenten von Wertdokumenten, die (mindestens) ein Sicherheitsmerkmal aufweisen, werden als "Sicherheitselemente" bezeichnet. Wertdokumente weisen in der Regel Sicherheitselemente - und somit auch Sicherheitsmerkmale - auf, aber der Fachmann würde ein Wertdokument als solches nicht als Sicherheitselement verstehen. Der Grund dafür liegt darin, dass ein Element ein Baustein oder Bestandteil ist und nicht die Gesamtheit der Bestandteile.

13 Aug 2018

T 1481/14 - Principle of free evidence

Key points

  • The appellant had argued that E17 filed by the respondent, should not be admitted, because it was an experimental protocol and not in the form of a sworn statement in writing (article 117(1)(g) EPC. The Board does not agree. 
  • " Der Beschwerdeführer hat ferner argumentiert, das Versuchsprotokoll E17 müsse unberücksichtigt bleiben, weil es nicht in Form einer eidlichen Erklärung abgegeben wurde, entgegen Artikel 117 (1) g) EPÜ. Das EPÜ sieht aber nicht vor, dass bestimmte Tatsachenfragen nur mit Hilfe bestimmter Beweismittel nachgewiesen werden können. Aus Artikel 117 (1) EPÜ ergibt sich das Recht der Erbringung geeigneter Beweise. Artikel 117 (1) EPÜ enthält keine abschließende Aufzählung der zulässigen Beweismittel, sondern nennt lediglich Beispiele - darunter die Abgabe einer schriftlichen Erklärung unter Eid (Artikel 117 (1) g) EPÜ). Deshalb ist die Beschwerdegegnerin 1 in der Wahl ihrer Beweismittel zum Beleg ihrer Behauptung der unzureichenden Offenbarung frei." 


T 1481/14 - link

5. Berücksichtigung von E17 im Verfahren
5.1 Im Gegensatz zur Auffassung des Beschwerdeführers hat die Kammer kein Ermessen, das Versuchsprotokoll [experimental protocol] E17 unberücksichtigt zu lassen (Artikel 114 (2) EPÜ und Artikel 12 (4) VOBK). Dieses Dokument ist mit der Einspruchsschrift der Beschwerdegegnerin 1 eingereicht worden und die angefochtene Entscheidung stützt sich darauf (siehe Gründe Nr. 10).
5.2 Der Beschwerdeführer hat ferner argumentiert, das Versuchsprotokoll E17 müsse unberücksichtigt bleiben, weil es nicht in Form einer eidlichen Erklärung abgegeben wurde, entgegen Artikel 117 (1) g) EPÜ. Das EPÜ sieht aber nicht vor, dass bestimmte Tatsachenfragen nur mit Hilfe bestimmter Beweismittel nachgewiesen werden können. Aus Artikel 117 (1) EPÜ ergibt sich das Recht der Erbringung geeigneter Beweise. Artikel 117 (1) EPÜ enthält keine abschließende Aufzählung der zulässigen Beweismittel, sondern nennt lediglich Beispiele - darunter die Abgabe einer schriftlichen Erklärung unter Eid (Artikel 117 (1) g) EPÜ). Deshalb ist die Beschwerdegegnerin 1 in der Wahl ihrer Beweismittel zum Beleg ihrer Behauptung der unzureichenden Offenbarung frei.


10 Aug 2018

G 2301/15 - G 2302/15 - G 2301/16 - No removal Board Member

Key points

  • The new President of the EPO has, at the start of his term, allowed the publication of three decision taken by the  Enlarged Board on three requests for proposal for removal of a Board Member (the same Board Member, as is by now quite well known).
  • The decision were already taken in 2015 and 2016, but apparently it was decided to not publish them on the EPO website during the term of the previous President, even though the Enlarged Board had stated in G 2302/15 that "the decision will be published, account being taken of confidentiality requirements". The Enlarged Board had also stated that: " The respondent (= the Board Member) requested re-publication of the decision in case [G2301/15], which was removed from public access shortly after being published [on the EPO website]." 
  • I consider EPO internal law (and politics) to be outside of the scope of this weblog, and note these decisions by way of exception, because I consider the publication in the EPO website a positive sign.
  • Comments are turned off for this post. 



G 2301/15  Headnote
1. The law-making bodies have so shaped the proceedings for a decision for a proposal under Article 23(1) EPC that they take proper judicial form. The arrangements laid down in Articles 2(5) RPEBA and Article 10 BDS/EBA for the composition of the Enlarged Board of Appeal in proceedings under Article 23(1) EPC are compatible with the European Patent Convention and general principles of law.
2. Article 12a(5) RPEBA requires that the request under Article 12a(1) RPEBA specify individual incidents and the evidence for them, and give reasons why they constitute a serious ground within the meaning of Article 23(1) EPC.


G 2301/16
For the Enlarged Board to be able to continue with these proceedings the position of the Petitioner [Administrative Council] would have to be that it did not agree with the Office President and acknowledged that, from an institutional point of view, the pressure exercised by the Office President in the present case was incompatible with the judicial independence of the Enlarged Board guaranteed by the EPC. As the Petitioner did not clearly distance itself from the Office President’s position, there is the threat of disciplinary measures against the members of the Enlarged Board. It is then the Enlarged Board’s judicial independence in deciding on this case which is fundamentally denied.


G 2301/15 - link
G 2302/15 - link
G 2301/16 - link


9 Aug 2018

T 0378/15 - Wikipedia not admissible

Key points

  • Opponent files Wikipedia extracts with the appeal. The Board does not admit them.
  •  "However, the reliability of the information contained in these specific articles of Wikipedia cannot be assessed and/or there is no evidence that the content of those documents was made available to the public before the effective date of filing of the patent in suit. Accordingly, and independently from the question whether or not there was any justification to submit those documents on appeal, those documents cannot be used to prove common general knowledge available at the effective date of the patent in suit and therefore cannot be held to relate in its broadest sense to the case under appeal. "
  • This is a repost, because the first time the post was published prematurely.



EPO T 0378/15 -  link




1.6 A1, A2, A4 and A5 are extracts of Wikipedia cited by opponent 2 in order to demonstrate the meaning to be attributed to certain terms contained in claim 1 as maintained by the opposition division (A1 and A2) or to analyse the disclosure of embodiment 2 of E11 regarding the amount of carbon fibers contained in the composition described therewith. However, the reliability of the information contained in these specific articles of Wikipedia cannot be assessed and/or there is no evidence that the content of those documents was made available to the public before the effective date of filing of the patent in suit. Accordingly, and independently from the question whether or not there was any justification to submit those documents on appeal, those documents cannot be used to prove common general knowledge available at the effective date of the patent in suit and therefore cannot be held to relate in its broadest sense to the case under appeal. Accordingly, the Board makes use of its discretionary power under Article 12(4) RPBA to hold documents A1, A2, A4 and A5 as inadmissible.

8 Aug 2018

T 1456/14 - Examining what is disclosed

Key points

  • The Board decides that a feature is implicitly disclosed in the prior art (a ratio between circumferences of openings in the prior art device).
  • The Board in informal translation: "The presence of an implicit (or even explicit) device feature in a known device is not a question of the likelihood of attracting the attention of the skilled person to this feature or not, but whether the citation purely objectively realizes the feature. The criterium of "direct and unambiguous disclosure" does not presuppose that the person skilled in the art, even without the knowledge of the patent, must recognize the feature, but that the examination of the disclosure is carried out with the eyes and the understanding of the skilled person, but by an organ of the EPO and deliberately targeted, in full knowledge of the characteristic to be identified." 


T 1456/14 - link

3.3 Die Umfangslängen der gemäß den Figuren 4 und 5 rechteckigen Öffnungen sind nicht bekannt, so dass die Gesamtlänge der beiden Dichtungslinien nicht explizit in D14 offenbart wird. Anspruch 1 ist auf ein Verhältnis zwischen der Gesamtlänge und der Fläche gerichtet. Die fehlende Offenbarung der Gesamtlänge in D14 ist für die Frage der Neuheit solange unerheblich, wie gezeigt werden kann, dass das fragliche Verhältnis in D14 vorhanden ist, und zwar zweifellos. Der Beweis, dass das so ist, kann auch durch den Nachweis erfolgen, dass bereits ein kleinerer, und von der Vorrichtung in D14 unvermeidlich übertroffener Zahlenwert das beanspruchte Verhältnis erfüllt, so dass auch die Vorrichtung in D14 unvermeidlich dieses Verhältnis aufweisen muss.

Denn für die Beurteilung der Neuheit ist es im vorliegenden Fall grundsätzlich unerheblich, ob die allgemeinen Zusammenhänge zwischen Umfang und Fläche des Quadrats oder des Rechtecks für den Fachmann geläufig sind oder nicht. Es ist auch unerheblich, ob der Fachmann das fragliche Verhältnis aus den Zeichnungen des D14 von selbst, ohne eine gezielte Suche erkennen würde. Das Vorhandensein eines impliziten (oder auch expliziten) Vorrichtungsmerkmals in einer bekannten Vorrichtung ist keine Frage der Wahrscheinlichkeit, ob die Aufmerksamkeit des Fachmanns genau auf dieses Merkmal gelenkt wurde oder nicht, sondern ob die Entgegenhaltung das Merkmal rein objektiv verwirklicht. Das Kriterium der "unmittelbaren und eindeutigen Offenbarung" setzt nicht voraus, dass der Fachmann auch ohne Kenntnis des Patents das Merkmal erkennen muss, sondern dass die Prüfung der Offenbarung zwar mit den Augen und dem Verständnis des Fachmanns, aber von einem Organ des EPA und bewusst gezielt, in voller Kenntnis des zu identifizierenden Merkmals durchgeführt wird.
Im Gegensatz zur Sichtweise der Beschwerdegegnerin stellt eine solche Betrachtung keine unzulässige Berücksichtigung von Äquivalenten dar, da hierdurch die in D14 enthaltene Information nicht verändert wird. Wenn die abgeschätzte kleinere Gesamtlänge das beanspruchte Verhältnis erfüllt, folgt aus Gründen der Logik, dass die wirkliche Gesamtlänge aller Dichtungslinien in D14 erst recht das Verhältnis erfüllen muss. Diese Gesamtlänge würde dann herangezogen, um fehlende Neuheit zu belegen.