30 Nov 2015

Unwired v Huawei - Priority date and time zone

Unwired Planet International Ltd v Huawei Technologies Co Ltd & Ors
[2015] EWHC 3366 (Pat) (23 November 2015)

Link to decision


Key points

  • The allegedly novelty destroying document was published on a server a few hours before the filing of the US priority-founding application. If you take Central European Time (CET), both moments were on the same date. If you take the time zone of Hawaii, the moment the document was published was in the evening and the filing and the next morning, such that the document forms prior art.
  • Judge Birss decides that the time zone of the patent office of filing the priority founding application (office of first filing) to decide the dates for prior art under Article 54(2) EPC. Therefore, a document only forms Article 54(2) EPC prior art if it is published before midnight at the start of the filing date of the priority founding application in the time zone of the patent office where that application was filed.
  • However, for prior rights under Article 54(3) EPC, you compare the filing dates as accorded to the applications, irrespective of time zones. A European patent application claiming priority of a United States application can form a prior right for a European patent application claiming priority of a Japanese patent application, even if the US patent application was filed an hour later, because at 8 am in Japan is 6 pm in the USA of the date before.



Reasons


  1. The prior art relied on is the Ericsson TDoc. This document was uploaded to a publicly accessible server for consideration at an ETSI Working Group Meeting. It is not in dispute that the Ericsson TDoc amounts to an enabling disclosure of the invention, the issue is whether it formed part of the state of the art

T 1626/11 - Reformatio in peius

EPO T 1626/11
For the decision, click here 

Key points

  • The interpretation in T 856/92, T 149/02 and T 498/03 of the holding of G 9/92 about the prohibition of reformatio in peius  is accepted as established case law: an individual claim which was contained in the set of claims of the patent as maintained by the OD, can not be challenged by a respondent in appeal, even if included in a new claim set with other claims (if the patentee is the only appellant). 

Entscheidungsgründe
1. Hauptantrag-Ansprüche 1 bis 10
1.1 Verschlechterungsverbot (reformatio in peius)
1.1.1 Die Einsprechenden 1, 3 und 4 haben ihren Einspruch zurückgenommen; sie sind somit hinsichtlich der Sachfragen nicht mehr am Verfahren beteiligt (siehe T 1676/08, Gründe 9.1.2). Die Einsprechende 2 hat ihre Beschwerde zurückgenommen, sodass die Patentinhaberin nunmehr die alleinige Beschwerdeführerin ist.
Gemäß G 9/92 darf die Beschwerdekammer die Fassung des Patents gemäß der Zwischenentscheidung nicht zulasten des Patentinhabers in Frage stellen, wenn dieser der alleinige Beschwerdeführer ist (Verschlechterungs­verbot).
1.1.2 Im vorliegenden Fall sind die Ansprüche 1 bis 10 des Hauptantrags wortgleich mit den Ansprüchen 1 bis 10 des 2. Hilfsantrags, der von der Einspruchsabteilung als den Erfordernissen des EPÜ genügend angesehen wurde. Die Frage, die sich deshalb stellt, ist, ob die Ansprüche 1 bis 10 des Hauptantrags von der Beschwerdekammer geprüft werden können, ohne das Verschlechterungsverbot zu verletzen. Diese Frage betrifft also nicht lediglich einzelne Einspruchsgründe oder sonstige Vorfragen, die von der Einspruchsabteilung im Rahmen ihrer Entscheidung zu beurteilen waren, und auf die das Verschlechterungs-verbot gemäß ständiger Rechtsprechung keine isolierte Anwendung findet (z.B. T 401/95, Gründe 2; T 149/02, Gründe 3.2.1; T 428/12, Gründe 2.4, T 576/12, Gründe 1.1), sondern das Ergebnis der Beurteilung ganzer Ansprüche, die (ggfs. zusammen mit anderen Ansprüchen) den Antrag bildeten, der von der Einspruchsabteilung als EPÜ-konform angesehen wurde.
1.1.3 Die Entscheidungen T 856/92 (Gründe 2) sowie T 149/02 (Gründe 2) befassten sich mit der gleichen Fragestellung und kamen zum Schluss, dass dann, wenn die Patentinhaberin alleinige Beschwerdeführerin ist, der gesamte Anspruchssatz, der von der Einspruchsabteilung als EPÜ-konform angesehen worden war, nicht mehr von der Beschwerdekammer geprüft werden kann, wenn er Teil eines anderen Anspruchssatzes ist, der zusätzliche (nebengeordnete) Ansprüche enthält, sofern die zusätzlichen Ansprüche das Verständnis der Ansprüche nicht verändern. Diese auf G 9/92 gestützte Schlussfolgerung wurde auch in T 168/04 (Gründe 2), T 1713/08 (Gründe 3), T 722/10 (Gründe 2), sowie T 428/12 (Gründe 2.2) befolgt.
Auch Ansprüche, die Teil des von der Einspruchsabteilung akzeptierten Anspruchssatzes waren, können gemäß der Entscheidung T 498/03 (Gründe 1.1) von der Beschwerdekammer als Teil eines anderen Antrags nicht mehr geprüft werden (zu der in T 1676/08, Gründe 9.1.2 geäußerten abweichenden Ansicht siehe nachfolgend 1.1.4 und 1.1.5).
1.1.4 Es gibt jedoch einige Entscheidungen, die dieses Rechtsverständnis in Frage stellen, ohne allerdings im Ergebnis dann eine von der unter Punkt 1.1.3 zitierten Rechtssprechung abweichende Entscheidung zu treffen. Sowohl in T 99/04 (Gründe 5) als auch in T 553/08 (Gründe 1) gab es keine Gründe der Beschwerdegegnerin, wieso die von der Einspruchsabteilung akzeptierten Ansprüche nicht EPÜ-konform seien, sodass sich die Frage des Verschlechterungsverbotes nicht stellte. Auch in T 886/00 (Gründe 5) musste nicht über das Verschlechterungsverbot entschieden werden, da die Kammer, die die Rechtsaufassung aus T 856/92 und T 149/02 in Frage stellte, die in Frage stehenden Ansprüche ohnehin als den Bedingungen das EPÜ entsprechend ansah. In T 1676/08 (Gründe 9.1.2 bis 9.1.4) wurden die Anträge, die den als EPÜ-konform angesehenen Anspruch enthielten, nicht in das Verfahren zugelassen.
1.1.5 Obwohl es fraglich erscheint, ob die in Punkt 1.1.3 zitierte Rechtsprechung die Entscheidung G 9/92 tatsächlich richtig interpretiert, da ausgehend von den Darlegungen der großen Beschwerdekammer in dieser Entscheidung sich das Verschlechterungsverbot eher auf Anträge als solche (d.h. auf gesamte Anspruchssätze) als auf einzelne Ansprüche dieser Anträge bezieht (siehe G 9/92; Gründe 1 "Antragsgrundsatz", Gründe 7 "Beschwerdeantrag", Gründe 14 "Beschwerdeantrag"), ist die Rechtssprechung, wie in Punkt 1.1.3 dargelegt, inzwischen etabliert und stellt eine vertretbare, praxistaugliche Auslegung dar. Da die unter 1.1.4 zitierten Entscheidungen zwar Zweifel aufgeworfen, jedoch zu keinen abweichenden Ergebnissen geführt haben und der unter 1.1.3 zitierten Linie daher nicht entgegenstehen, sieht die Kammer auch keinen Grund, die Frage der großen Beschwerdekammer vorzulegen.
1.1.6 Die Kammer folgt dieser Rechtsprechung im vorliegenden Fall und kommt, da die neu hinzugekommenen Ansprüche 11 bis 16 das Verständnis der Ansprüche 1 bis 10 nicht beeinflussen, zum Schluss, dass Ansprüche 1 bis 10 des Hauptantrags nicht mehr zur Debatte stehen.
2. Hauptantrag - Ansprüche 11 bis 16

27 Nov 2015

T 1125/13 - Unordered requests

T 1125/13
For the decision, click here

Key points
  • In this case, the OD had revoked the patent, the patentee filed an appeal, the opponent had withdrawn its opposition shortly before the oral proceedings, and the appellant/patentee did not attend the oral proceedings. 
  • Board: "The appeal proceedings were not affected by the withdrawal of the opposition. The board was still obliged to examine the substance of the opposition division's decision in order to ascertain if it was to be set aside and whether the patent, on the basis of the appellant's requests, met the requirements of the EPC. In so doing, under Article 114(1) EPC the board was able to take account of the submissions and evidence filed by the respondent prior to its withdrawal of the opposition". 
  • The Board found the Main Request not allowable. The Board then turned to the Auxiliary Requests. 
  • Board: "The appellant submitted the following five sets of auxiliary requests with the statement of grounds of appeal: B, C and D; 1 to 6; 1B to 6B; 1C to 6C and 1D to 6D (see section III above). Thus, the appellant has not presented its claim requests consecutively numbered in descending order of preference, " " As it was the appellant's responsibility to indicate the order of its claim requests, the board could only proceed as far the order of the requests was clear to it. It cannot be for the board to speculate which of the various sets of claim requests the appellant might prefer, or to choose the order which might seem suitable. That would run counter to the principle of party disposition and undermine confidence in the objectivity and impartiality of the board. [...] Accordingly, the board dealt with the appellant's main request but, as it was not in a position to establish which of the auxiliary requests should follow, it had no other choice than to ignore them. "

Reasons for the Decision
1. With its letter of 7 April 2015 the respondent withdrew its opposition. It thus ceased to be a party to the appeal proceedings. The appeal proceedings were not affected by the withdrawal of the opposition. The board was still obliged to examine the substance of the opposition division's decision in order to ascertain if it was to be set aside and whether the patent, on the basis of the appellant's requests, met the requirements of the EPC. In so doing, under Article 114(1) EPC the board was able to take account of the submissions and evidence filed by the respondent prior to its withdrawal of the opposition (see also T 629/90, OJ EPO 1992, 654, Headnote).
2. The duly summoned appellant did not attend the oral proceedings, as announced in its letter of 7 May 2015. In accordance with Rule 115(2) EPC and Article 15(3) RPBA the oral proceedings took place in the absence of the appellant, who was taken to rely on its written submissions.

26 Nov 2015

T 0942/12 - Re-establishment granted

T 0942/12
For the decision, click here.



Key points

  • A renewal fee was not paid. Re-establishement is granted in this case.
  • The European patent attorney had express instructions to not monitor payment of the renewal fee. Accordingly, he had forwarded the reminder from the EPO only without further reminders.
  • " The Board therefore concludes that the duty of care of [the representative] involved the forwarding of the notice drawing attention to Article 86(2) EPC to GH, not however checking whether GH indeed received the notice and took the appropriate action."
  • " If a European representative is expressly instructed that he is not required to monitor the payment of renewal fees, the duty of due care does not involve that he nevertheless does so. It cannot be expected that the European representative monitors renewal fee payments at his own expense (he will not be able to charge fees for actions he is to refrain from according to his instructions)." 


25 Nov 2015

T 2369/10 - No second medical use of device

EPO T 2369/10
For the decision, click here 


Key points

  • In essence, the main issue to be resolved in the current appeal was whether a second (or further) medical use could confer novelty to a known device (rather than a substance or composition). 
  • The Board concludes it can not confer novelty.
  • The applicant was possibly hawking on this statement in G 2/08: " In other words either a product for use in a method under Article 53(c) EPC is new per se and can constitute the subject-matter of a product claim under Article 53(c), second sentence, EPC, or a product (substance or composition) is already known per se but can nevertheless be granted patent protection provided, under Article 54(4) EPC, said product has not yet been used in a method under Article 53(c), first sentence, EPC." 

Claim at issue
V. Claim 1 of Alternative A reads as follows:
"Neurostimulator system for treating a patient having a substance addiction to alleviate a symptom of the substance addiction, the neurostimulator system comprising an electrode configured for directly coupling to a cranial nerve of the patient and applying an electrical signal to said cranial nerve."
Claim 1 of Alternative B reads as follows:
"Use of an electrode configured for directly coupling to a cranial nerve of a patient and applying an electrical signal to said cranial nerve for the manufacture of a neurostimulator system for treating a patient having a substance addiction to alleviate a symptom of the substance addiction."


Reasons for the Decision
1. The appeal is admissible.
2. Citation practice
In the present decision, Articles and Rules of the EPC 1973 shall be referred to using the notation "EPC 1973" and Articles and Rules of the EPC 2000 shall be referred to using the notation "EPC".
3. Preliminary comments

24 Nov 2015

T 2340/10 - Withdrawal during OP

T 2340/10
For the decision click here

Key points

  • The applicant had withdrawn the application during oral proceedings before the Board of appeal.
  • The Board issues this decision announcing that the appeal proceedings are terminated.




Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. The applicant (appellant), which at the time was I-LOR, LLC, appealed against the decision of the Examining Division refusing European patent application No. 01930476.5.
II. With effect from 19 March 2014, the application was transferred to Google Inc., which thereby obtained the status of appellant.
III. In the course of oral proceedings held on 5 November 2015, the appellant declared that it withdrew the application. The Chairman then pronounced the Board's decision.
Reasons for the Decision
1. The withdrawal of the application has deprived the present appeal of its purpose.
2. Consequently, the appeal proceedings are to be terminated. The termination may be pronounced by means of a formal decision (see decision T 477/05 of 22 February 2007, reasons 6).
Order
For these reasons it is decided that:
The appeal proceedings are terminated.

23 Nov 2015

J 0016/14 - Undoing transfer patent

EPO J 16/14
For the decision, see here. 


Headnote
When a title to a European patent or patent application has been transferred and the European Patent Register has been amended to reflect this, it is not justified, if doubt later arises as to sufficient proof of succession in title, to undo the registration of the transfer. Nevertheless a request,(by the party having been registered before), for staying the grant and/or the opposition proceedings could be taken into consideration

Key points
  • English version of recent (identical) decisions J17/14 - J22/14 that were given in German.

For the decision, see here.