31 Jan 2017

T 0350/13 - Implicit consent fresh ground

Key points

  • A fresh ground of opposition in appeal can only be admitted with the consent of the patent proprietor. An initial substantive rebuttal of the new ground does not amount to implicit consent. In any case, the consent can be later denied by the proprietor.
  • The Board appears to indicate that the date of an appealed decision of the OD is that of the written decision, not that of the oral proceedings. 
  • The name of the professional representative of a party is sufficient for identifying the appellant in view of admissibility.  Another Board said recently the opposite In T 2561/11, at 2.4 (decision date is that of oral proceedings, not that of written decision). 

T 0350/13 - link

Reasons for the Decision
1. Admissibility of the opponent's appeal
1.1 According to Rule 99(1)(a) EPC the notice of appeal shall contain the name and address of the appellant. According to established case law of the Boards of Appeal the requirements of Rule 99(1)(a) EPC are satisfied if the notice of appeal contains sufficient information for identification of the party (cf. T 624/09). Furthermore, deficiencies concerning the indication of the appellant's name and address do not necessarily need to be remedied within the time limit pursuant to Article 108 EPC, but can be remedied later following an invitation under R 101(2) EPC (cf. T 2330/10).

30 Jan 2017

T 2154/11 - Breadth does not diminish clarity

Key points
  • The decision under appeal relieD on the finding that the claims of the main request did not comply with Article 84 EPC due to the "extreme breadth" of the claim wording. 
  • "  It is established jurisprudence of the boards of appeal that the clarity of a claim is not diminished by the mere breadth of a term of art contained in it if the meaning of such term - either per se or in the light of the description - is unambiguous for a person skilled in the art ([CLBA] II.A.3.3)." 
  • " Hence, the objections of the examining division that the expressions "metadata describing an event", "taking", "connecting" were broad and embraced well-known activities are not considered per se a valid reason for a lack of clarity." 
  • " Similarly, the fact that some of these method steps may be understood to refer to "mental acts" or "normal human actions" is no valid reason for a finding of lack of clarity as long as these steps do not give rise to ambiguity, as in the case at hand. If a method step can be interpreted to refer to a normal human activity, then this assessment should be taken into account for novelty and inventive step."
  • The Board accepts as technical effect of the distinguishing feature that " information about similar events in other episodes of the television program is retrieved from a website" . The Board does not expressly discuss why this feature is technical. 

Reasons for the Decision
1. The appeal is admissible.
2. The present application
The present application relates to a method and system for retrieving information about television programs.
The invention aims at providing more significant information about the program such as its history or background. Information about a particular character's role in the program, a description of a particular program in a series, a history of a series or a summary of other episodes may be retrieved using one or more tags that provide links to dedicated websites [].

27 Jan 2017

T 1630/11 - Modelling system not inventive

Key points
  • A claim for making, on a computer, a model of multi-processor system, and simulating the model, was found to lack inventive step.
  • " The major part of claim 1 is thus concerned with the expressions of a graphical programming environment which were found in T 1539/09 (reasons 5) not to contribute to inventive step (see also T 2270/10, reasons 7), even if, as the appellant argues, it "enables users to" develop the program in question "in a convenient and efficient way" [] and simplifies the modelling or the model ..." .
  • "The board follows its earlier jurisprudence according to which modifications to a programming language or system that enable the programmer to develop a program with greater ease and thus, presumably, speed and accuracy, do not make a technical contribution to the art." 
EPO T 1630/11 -  link 

III. Claim 1 reads as follows:
"A method for simulating a multi-processor system in an electronic device that provides a graphical modeling environment using a deployment model and a functional model for the multi-processor system, the method comprising:
providing a functional model of a multi-processor system in the graphical modeling environment, the functional model including one ore more functional units;
creating a deployment model for the functional model in the graphical modeling environment, the deployment model comprising one or more processing units represented by node blocks interconnected via an inter process communication (IPC) channel, wherein:
the IPC channel comprises a shared memory, a bus or a broadcast medium, that exchanges data between one or more processing units represented by the node blocks, and

26 Jan 2017

T 0377/14 - No bonus effect

Key points

  • In the present case, the opponent argued essentially that the achieved technical effect was a mere bonus effect of an otherwise obvious combination, and therefore could not contribute to inventive step. 
  • The Board does not agree. " It is established jurisprudence that the patent proprietor (...) can rely on a technical effect in formulating the objective technical problem, if it is proven to have been credibly obtained by the distinguishing feature(s). Only if this is not the case can the problem be reformulated in a less ambitious way as the provision of an alternative. Arguing the other way round, like the [opponent], and saying that the provision of an alternative is obvious and that therefore any effect has to be disregarded as being a mere bonus effect, would turn the problem-and-solution approach on its head, and thus is not permissible. The cited decision T 936/96 is not relevant; it concerns a different question, namely whether, starting from a technical problem defined in the patent, an additional problem invoked by the proprietor and based on new experimental evidence qualifies merely as a bonus effect." 
  • As a comment, the Guidelines state that : "However, if, having regard to the state of the art, it would already have been obvious for a skilled person to arrive at something falling within the terms of a claim, for example due to a lack of alternatives thereby creating a "one-way street" situation, the unexpected effect is merely a bonus effect which does not confer inventiveness on the claimed subject-matter (see T 231/97 and T 192/82). " (GL G-VII 10.2)

EPO T 0377/14 - link
As set out above, E2 does not disclose the feature of claim 1 of a multilayer polymeric material, produced as a blown film with no subsequent lamination step, in combination with the thickness required by this claim.
2.1.2 The respondent explained that the objective problem to be solved in view of E2 was the reduction of distortions created in the longitudinal weld or join during the welding process.
2.1.3 As a solution to this problem, the invention proposes the collapsible tube container of claim 1 with a side wall formed from a multilayer polymeric material, the side wall comprising a longitudinal weld or join and the multilayer polymeric material having a thickness of between 150 and 350 microns, characterised in that the multilayer polymeric material is produced as a blown film with no subsequent lamination step.
2.1.4 It needs to be examined whether this problem has been credibly solved over E2.

25 Jan 2017

T 1296/13 - Non-working embodiments

Key points

  • The literal claim wording encompasses embodiments which do not provide the invoked technical effect. The Board rejects the argument of the proprietor, that such embodiments are excluded in view of the description. Article 69 EPC does not help for inventive step.
  • Because the claim wording allows for embodiments that do not provide the invoked technical effect, that effect is not acknowledged. The objective technical problem is therefore providing alternative formulations.

EPO T 1296/13 - link
3.4 Gemäß Patentinhaber besteht die objektive technische Aufgabe darin, ein absorbierendes Polymerisat bereitzustellen, welches eine vorteilhafte Kombination aus Retention und Permeabilität, nämlich einen TB Wert von mindestens 25 und einen SFC-Wert von mindestens 30, aufweist. Es wird vom Patentinhaber jedoch anerkannt, dass diese Aufgabe nur dann gelöst wird, wenn das Polymerisat unter gleichzeitiger Anwesenheit der Komponenten e) (1,3-Dioxolan-2-on) und f) (Aluminiumsalz) oberflächennachvernetzt wurde. Dies wird auch durch Absatz [0064] und Vergleichsbeispiel 14 des Streitpatents bestätigt. In diesem Vergleichsbeispiel wird das kommerzielle Produkt Favor**(®) SXM 6860, welches bereits mit organischem Oberflächennachvernetzer nachvernetzt ist, in einem nachgelagerten Schritt zusätzlich mit Aluminiumsulfat nachvernetzt. Das so erhaltene Produkt weist einen sehr niedrigen SFC-Wert von 15 auf und löst somit die vom Patentinhaber formulierte Aufgabe nicht.
3.5 Vom Patentinhaber wurde argumentiert, dass solche, die von ihm genannte Aufgabe nicht lösende Ausführungsformen, d. h. Produkte die sequentiell zuerst mit 1,3-Dioxolan-2-on (Komponente e)) und dann mit Aluminiumsalz (Komponente f)) oberflächennachvernetzt wurden, nicht unter den Wortlaut des Anspruchs 1 fielen. Diesem Argument kann sich die Kammer nicht anschließen. Anspruch 1 verlangt nur, dass mit Komponente e) und f) beschichtet und nachvernetzt worden ist. Dies schließt Ausführungsformen ein, bei denen zuerst mit Komponente e) beschichtet und nachvernetzt wird und erst anschließend das so erhaltene Produkt mit Komponente f) einem zweiten Beschichtungs- und Nachvernetzungsschritt unterzogen wird.
Vom Patentinhaber wurde zusätzlich noch vorgebracht, dass auf der Grundlage des Absatzes [0064] der Beschreibung des Streitpatents Anspruch 1 dahingehend beschränkend auszulegen sei, dass mit beiden Komponenten e) und f) beschichtet und dann nachvernetzt wird. Auch diesem Argument kann sich die Kammer nicht anschließen. Insbesondere liefert Artikel 69 EPÜ und das dazugehörige Protokoll keine Grundlage dafür, Ausführungsformen aus einem Anspruch auszuschließen - vorliegend die sequentielle Oberflächennachvernetzung mit organischem Oberflächennachvernetzer und anschließend mit Aluminiumsalz - die unter den Wortlaut des Anspruchs fallen (T 223/05, Schlagwort und Punkt 3.5).
Somit umfasst Anspruch 1 Ausführungsformen, die die vom Patentinhaber genannte Aufgabe nicht lösen. Daher muss die objektive technische Aufgabe weniger anspruchsvoll als die Bereitstellung eines alternativen absorbierenden Polymerisats definiert werden.

24 Jan 2017

T 0820/14 - Reviewing Rule 137(3) discretion

Key points

  • The ED gave five grounds for not admitting the 2nd Auxiliary Request under Rule 137(3) EPC. In particular, claim 1 would be based on  non-searched original claim 10, lack unity of invention with the searched claims, and be non-convergent.
  • The Board finds that feature added to claim 1 should have been searched, as it is a foreseeable implementation of the general features of original claim 1. Hence, the feature in fact not having been searched (i.e. not paying additional search fees during the international phase), has no effect. 
  • The Board comments that the finding of unity (and 14 inventions) with the ISR was not sufficiently substantiated. The Board holds that lack of unity can not be based on the allegation that each of the dependent claims solves a different problem. 
  • The Board agrees that the 2nd Auxiliary Request is not convergent and not prima facie allowable, and that therefore that the Examining Division could correctly decide to not admit it.
  • The Board finds that it has a discretion to nevertheless admit the request into the procedure, despite G 7/93 stating essentially that the Board should only do so in case of abuse of the discretion in the first instance procedure. The Board finds that G 7/93 only uses " should", that a substantive review is desirable, and that it agrees with T 971/11. 
  • The Board then finds that the 2nd Auxiliary Request lacks inventive step. 

EPO T 0820/14 -  link

(decision omitted)

23 Jan 2017

T 0313/13 - Functional feature thus clear

Key points
  • The Board finds the expression "nearly abutting" in the claims to be clear in this examination appeal, because it is considered as a "functional feature".

EPO T 0313/13 - link

3. Article 84 EPC 1973
The appellant has introduced the expression "nearly abutting" several times in the amended independent claims. This expression was objected to for lack of clarity, because it was vague (see point 2.2 of the decision under appeal).

The board notes that the wording of a claim has to be clear in itself (see T 454/89 of 11 March 1991).

In view of the passages of the description referred to by the appellant, in particular [0052] of the application as filed, the board interprets "nearly abutting" as a functional feature.

Paragraph [0052] reads "... a distance of separation for nearly abutting key structures corresponds to a distance that is of the order of a tolerance level for assembling the housing and interconnecting components or layers (excluding the actual keypad)) [sic] to make the keyboard effective. That is to say, as close together as the manufacturing process can achieve whilst reliably providing independent movement of one key structure relative to an adjacent key structure" (emphasis added).
Taking the expression "nearly abutting" to be a functional feature, the board considers the independent claims comprising these words to fulfil the requirements of Article 84 EPC 1973.

20 Jan 2017

T 0123/15 - Repeating opposition, inadmissible

Key points

  • A decision illustrating that admissibility of an appeal of an opponent requires more than simply reiterate the Notice of opposition. Rather the opponent-appellant should give precise reasons why the Opposition Division's decision is incorrect in the Statement of grounds.

EPO T 0123/15 - link

Reasons for the Decision
1. The appeal was filed within the time limits laid down in Article 108 EPC. From the assertion in the statement of grounds of appeal that the patent is to be revoked due to lack of patentability the Board deduces that the appellant's request within the meaning of Rule 99(1)(c) EPC is to set aside the decision under appeal and to revoke the patent. The lack of a proper request within the meaning of Rule 99(1)(c) EPC is therefore as such not a reason to declare the appeal inadmissible.

19 Jan 2017

T 1992/10 - Technical contribution for inventive step

Key points
  • In this examination appeal, relating to software and RFID tags, the Board denies inventive step because the distinguishing features provide no technical contribution. The Board states that the case does not fall under the Comvik approach, because it is not a case wherein "a clearly non-technical method, consisting of non-technical steps, is performed by a computer, essentially by telling it to carry out the steps involved"
  • For the claim at issue,  "although the steps are per se non-technical, a technical contribution cannot be immediately ruled out. The need to investigate the obviousness of these steps depends on such a contribution." 
Blogpost first posted on 20 January 2017.
EPO T 1992/10 - link
Reasons for the Decision
1. The invention concerns the identification of objects and of groups of objects. Each object is provided with a "tag", from which a "tag reader" can obtain an identifier. For the purpose of exposition, it is useful to think of the invention in terms of radio-frequency identification, "RFID", tags, with which every shopper is familiar. The invention is not limited to RFID, but the appellant relied on such a comparison with existing RFID when arguing in favour of inventive step.

18 Jan 2017

T 2284/13 - Wayback machine as prior art

Key points

  • The Board accepts a combination of an incomplete archive version of a web page (on the Wayback Machine; with only small images) with a recent download of the webpage (with full images) as evidence of a prior art publication. 

EPO T 2284/13 - link

IV. The Opponent's submissions may be summarized as follows:
The subject-matter of claim 1 of the main request is not inventive over document D5 (Air Force Technology, "A310 MRTT Multirole Tanker Transport, Europe", http://web.archive.org/web/20040407041 621/http://ww.airforce-technology.com/projects/mrtt/ (publicly available on 7 April 2004)) or D5' (Air Force Technology, "A310 MRTT Multirole Tanker Transport, Europe", http.//www.airforce-technology.com/projects/mrtt (copy extracted from the Internet on 23 February 2009)), in view of the skilled person's common general knowledge
Reasons for the Decision
1. The appeals are admissible.
2. In the Board's view there cannot be any reasonable doubt that the Internet publications D5' and D5 disclose one and the same air refueling system. Both D5 and D5' illustrate the Airbus Industrie A310 MRTT wide-bodied multi-role tanker transport aircraft, the texts including technical features and data of the refueling system corresponding in a 1:1 fashion, the texts being structured and formatted in the same way (same paragraphs) and both documents having identical (unexpanded) figure captions. The (unexpanded) figures in the margin permit e.g. to identify 1:1 identical refueling pods or fuel tank location (see figure "for the air-to-air refuelling (Tanker) role") and identical fuel lines (see figure "the MRTT fuel systems"). Obviously, not all features in the (unexpanded) figures of D5 and D5' can be compared due to the their considerably small size. The only discrepancies to be noted between the two texts relate to non-technical features, i.e. to an updating in D5' informing that "four A310 MRTT aircraft are in service with the German Air force" and that "two A310 aircraft of the Canadian Air Force have been converted to the MRTT configuration" (see D5', page 1). By contrast, in D5 the corresponding older text stated that "the German Air force has ordered four A310 MRTT aircraft" and that "the Canadian Air Force has ordered two MRTT Aircraft". This however does not affect the information in D5 and D5' concerning purely technical aspects of the refueling system. Consequently, the Board is convinced that the expanded figures of D5' also form part of the disclosure of D5 in the sense that by expanding the (unexpanded) figures of D5, the same expanded figures as shown in D5' would have been obtained at the time at which D5 was made available to the public, which time is, undisputedly, before the relevant date of the patent in suit. Accordingly, when considering the prior art disclosure of D5, also the expanded figure "the MRTT fuel system" shown in D5' must be regarded as forming part of that disclosure.

17 Jan 2017

J 0005/16 - Appeal decision on stay

EPO Headnote (informal translation)
1. If the Legal Division decides with a single decision in a number of examination procedures, such a decision can be appealed with a single appeal and payment of a single appeal fee.
2. If the Legal Division has [correctly] exercised its discretion when deciding on the continuation of a stay, [and] has fully considered the aspects to be taken into account, has avoided being influenced by extraneous considerations, and if the assessment of the circumstances does not show flaws in the reasoning, then the Board barred from substituting its own discretion for that of the Legal Division.
3. The occasion of changed circumstances [during the appeal procedure], in this case the decision of the appeal court in a national entitlement procedure, can nevertheless form a reason for modifying the decision which is otherwise to be confirmed.

Key points

  • Article 60 EPC and Rule 14 are also applicable to court procedures based on contractual "assignments" ( " auf vertragliche Rechtsübergänge"), according to the Legal Board. 

EPO Headnote

1. Hat die Rechtsabteilung in einer einzigen Entscheidung inhaltlich über das Schicksal mehrerer Patenterteilungs­verfahren entschieden, ist es legitim, diese Entscheidung mit einer einzigen Beschwerde anzufechten und hierfür nur eine Beschwerdegebühr zu entrichten.
2. Hat die Rechtsabteilung bei einer Entscheidung über die Fortsetzung der Aussetzung den ihr eingeräumten Ermessensspielraum erkannt und ausgeschöpft, die bei der Abwägung einzubeziehenden Aspekte umfassend herangezogen, keine sachfremden Erwägungen einfließen lassen und bei der Würdigung der Umstände keine gedanklichen Fehler erkennen lassen, ist es der Kammer verwehrt, ihr eigenes Ermessen an die Stelle desjenigen der Rechtsabteilung zu setzen.
3. Der Eintritt veränderter Umstände, hier eine Entscheidung des Berufungsgerichts im nationalen Vindikationsverfahren, kann jedoch Anlass sein, die im Grunde zu bestätigende Entscheidung anzupassen.

EPO J 0005/16 - link 

Die zulässige Beschwerde hat keinen Fehler der angefochtenen Entscheidung aufzeigen können. Die Entscheidung war daher dem Grunde nach zu bestätigen. Sie war jedoch im Hinblick auf die zwischenzeitlich veränderte Sachlage dahin anzupassen, dass die weitere Aussetzung von der Kammer befristet wurde.
1. Die fristgerecht eingereichte Beschwerde ist hinsichtlich aller streitgegenständlicher Patentanmeldungen zulässig. Die Bezahlung einer Beschwerdegebühr war im vorliegenden Fall ausreichend.

16 Jan 2017

T 2561/11 - Request in appeal

Key points

  • An appeal is admissible, even if it does not contain any explicit request (as prescribed in Rule 99(1)(c) EPC). The Board follows existing case law that in such a case, an opponent filing an appeal implicitly requests revocation of the patent, even if auxiliary requests were pending before the OD.
  • The appeal is furthermore admissible despite not mentioning the name or address of the appellant, only that of the firm of the professional representative acting for the opponent before the OD. " Considering all the elements on file, the board is satisfied that a reader willing to understand would have understood, before the end of the time limit for filing an appeal, that the notice of appeal of 16 December 2011 had been filed on behalf of the opponent. There is no reasonable doubt as to the identity of appellant 1." The Board treats the omission of the name of the appellant as an error correctable under G 1/12. 

EPO T 2561/11 - link

Reasons for the Decision
[] 2. Admissibility of the appeal of appellant 1
2.1 Legal framework
The provisions governing the admissibility of appeals are Articles 106 to 108 EPC. An appeal can only be admissible if the notice of appeal is filed by a party adversely affected (Article 107 EPC 1973) by an appealable decision (Article 106 EPC), within two months of notification of the decision (Article 108 EPC). Pursuant to Rule 99 EPC the notice of appeal has to contain the name and the address of the appellant (Rule 99(1)(a) EPC), an indication of the decision impugned (Rule 99(1)(b) EPC) and a request defining the subject of the appeal (Rule 99(1)(c) EPC). Non-compliance leads to the appeal being declared inadmissible (Rule 101 EPC).
2.2 Factual situation
In the present case the decision was taken on 4 October 2011 and notified on 19 October 2011. The notice of appeal under consideration was filed on 16 December 2011, i.e. in good time, by Mr Bruno Vuillermoz. The letter head used identifies Mr Vuillermoz as member of the Laurent Charras law firm. The notice of appeal does not mention the name of the appellant. The header states
"Appeal after Opposition, European patent No 1 789 717
In the name of: B.V. Holmatro Industrial Equipment ...".
There is no further statement that would allow to directly determine the identity of the appellant. The decision impugned is identified ("la décision de la Division d'Opposition du 19 octobre 2011"). The notice of appeal does not contain any request defining the subject of the appeal other than the statement "we file an appeal against the decision ..." ("... nous formons un recours à l'encontre de la décision ...").
In what follows, the board will examine in detail whether this notice of appeal complies with the requirements of Rule 99(1) EPC.

13 Jan 2017

T 0773/12 - Product and inventive step

Key points

  • Claim 1 of the Second Auxiliary Request in this opposition appeal is for a process for making a dispersion. The description explains that the dispersion can be used advantageously  for making paper coatings. However, this does not contribute to inventive step, according to the Board. The Board seems to require, for inventive step based on the use, that a " specific technical feature of claim 1 [] links its subject-matter exclusively to the use for paper coating" (emphasis added). 
  • " The respondent [patent proprietor] argued that the "formulation itself" represents the solution to the problem as defined in [the description]. According to the respondent the intended particular use renders the novel formulation/composition, which is the direct result of the claimed process, allowable. The respondent has stressed the advantages of high solids contents for paper coating. The respondent has however not provided any arguments which specific technical feature of claim 1 of the second auxiliary request links its subject-matter exclusively to the use for paper coating. Also, the board can see no such link. Consequently, the board comes to the conclusion that the subject-matter of claim 1 of the second auxiliary request is not restricted to the technical field of paper coating."

EPO T 0773/12 - link

Inventive step
3.1 The subject-matter of the patent in suit are dispersions of polymer particles having high-solids contents and low high-shear viscosities (paragraph [0001]). When used in paper coatings said formulations exhibit high water retention and good runability during application with a device such as a blade coater (paragraphs [0003]-[0007]). Additional applications, such as paints, impregnants and adhesive compositions are foreseen (paragraph [0023]).

12 Jan 2017

T 1921/12 - Correction of errors

Key points
  • In this opposition case, it became apparent that one Examiner had "corrected" the Druckexemplar.
  • " This is also not affected by the "Rule 139 EPC correction decision" dated 23 May 2012 which introduced the "or less" into claim 1. This decision was taken by only one member of the Examining Division, as could be established from EPO form 2051 which the Board could retrieve from the non-public part of the file. [] Such a decision would be, in the opinion of the Board, non-existent. The result would be that the valid version of the patent is the version as granted, as was notified by the Board to the parties with its communication annexed to the summons to oral proceedings." 
  • "[The] Board [wishes] to note that it is rather disturbing that such decisions, more in particular the details of the persons that took them, are not at all retrievable by the public via file inspection"
EPO T 1921/12 -  link

Reasons for the Decision
1. Allegations of procedural violation - insufficient reasoning of the appealed decision
1.1 The appellants argue that the impugned decision is not sufficiently reasoned on the issues of sufficiency of disclosure, priority, novelty and inventive step.
1.2 The Board disagrees and notes that the decision contains under point 1.1 general reasoning on sufficiency of disclosure, related to what the skilled person would make of the wording of the claim and how the objections of the appellants should in fact be seen.
The Board establishes that the reasoning on "reach through" claims is insufficient as it amounts to "we do not agree that these are reach through claims". However, since the minutes do not refer to this argument of appellant 1, it cannot be established whether this argument was presented extensively or only as an allegation at the oral proceedings. In the latter case the simple answer mentioned above is regarded as sufficient.

11 Jan 2017

T 2355/14 - Requests without substantiation

EPO Headnote
Reicht die Patentinhaberin mit der Beschwerdebegründung oder Erwiderung Hilfsanträge ein, gibt aber nicht an, aus welchen Gründen, die angefochtene Entscheidung abzuändern bzw. das Patent aufrechtzuerhalten ist, können diese Hilfsanträge nicht zum Verfahren zugelassen werden, vgl. Artikel 12 (2) VOBK in Verbindung mit Artikel 12 (4) VOBK (siehe Entscheidungsgründe Punkt 3).

Key points
  • Auxiliary requests filed with the Statement of grounds or the response but without substantiation (arguments why they are allowable), are not to be admitted.
EPO T 2355/14 -  link


3. Zulässigkeit der Hilfsanträge
3.1 Artikel 12 der Verfahrensordnung der Beschwerdekammern des Europäischen Patentamts (VOBK) bestimmt die Grundlagen des Beschwerdeverfahrens. Gemäß Artikel 12 (1) VOBK liegen dem Beschwerdeverfahren die Beschwerde und die Beschwerdebegründung nach Artikel 108 EPÜ, in Fällen mit mehr als einem Beteiligten alle schriftlichen Erwiderungen des bzw. der anderen Beteiligten und Mitteilungen der Kammer sowie Antworten hierauf zugrunde.

10 Jan 2017

T 2338/13 - Proof of presentation

Key points

  • The Board considers it not proven, that PowerPoint (i.e. oral) presentation A3 was made public. The proof of the oral presentation is considered to lie in the sphere of the opponent. Hence, it needs to be proven up to the hilt. 
  • Because the witnesses disagree about whether handouts were provided, and there are inconsistencies in the PowerPoint, the Board decides that the proof of the presentation is insufficient, and hence that the claims are not anticipated by it. 

EPO T 2338/13 - link

A3 : copie d'un diaporama PowerPoint intitulé "Effect of Fe2O3 and Al2O3 addition on Microstructure and Mechanical Properties of Ce-TZP Ceramics"

Motifs de la décision
2. Mise à disposition du public du contenu de A3
2.1 Selon les écrits du requérant 1, le document A3 aurait été rendu accessible au public, son contenu ayant été présenté sous forme d'un diaporama projeté publiquement. Cependant, selon le témoin (voir infra), le document A3 aurait été présenté sous la forme d'un affichage (poster). Dans les deux cas, le niveau de preuve à appliquer pour établir les circonstances et le contenu de la mise à disposition du public dudit document est le même que celui d'un usage antérieur public (cf. T 1210/05, point 2.4.2 des motifs).
2.2 Selon la jurisprudence des chambres de recours, lorsque toutes les preuves d'un usage antérieur public se trouvent en la possession de l'opposant qui est seul à en avoir connaissance, si bien que le titulaire du brevet ne peut que difficilement ou même ne peut absolument pas se les procurer, il revient à l'opposant de produire la preuve au-delà de tout doute raisonnable de l'utilisation antérieure alléguée (La Jurisprudence des Chambres de recours de l'Office européen des brevet, ci-après "Jurisprudence", 8ème éd., III.G.4.3.2).
Dans le cas d'espèce, la preuve principale A3 de l'usage antérieur allégué se trouve en la possession du témoin M. Hong, ce dernier ayant été contacté par une tierce personne qui n'est pas celle qui à formé l'opposition du requérant 1, soit M. Gassenhuber. Cette tierce personne est désignée par le témoin M. Hong comme "mon ami" (voir le procès verbal de l'audition du témoin, page 9) et comme "tierce partie" par M. Gassenhuber (voir procès verbal, page 12). Etant donné que le requérant 1 s'appuie sur la preuve A3 et sur le témoignage de M. Hong et que le requérant 1 se voit dans l'impossibilité d'identifier le lien entre le témoin, la tierce personne et lui-même, la chambre considère que ce manque d'information lui est imputable et que, par conséquent, la preuve principale A3 doit être considérée comme étant en possession du requérant 1. Parallèlement, le témoin M. Hong est considéré comme appartenant à la sphère du requérant 1. Il s'ensuit qu'il revient au requérant 1 de produire la preuve au-delà de tout doute raisonnable de mise à disposition du public du contenu de A3.
2.3 Concernant les circonstances dans lequel cette mise à disposition du public alléguée s'est déroulée, la chambre note que dans toutes les écritures du requérant 1 et les attestations du témoin, le diaporama A3 a été présenté comme projeté devant un public comprenant un grand nombre de personnes. Ceci n'est pas contesté par le requérant 1 qui, selon lui, a été lui-même "surpris" d'apprendre peu avant la procédure orale devant la chambre de recours que le document A3 avait été présenté en fait sous la forme d'un affichage (poster). La chambre note en outre que selon l'attestation "Affidavit 2" de M. Hong (A19), le diaporama A3 aurait été projeté (voir point 4: "the time used for projecting each of the slides was sufficiently long...") et ni A5 ni A19 ne mentionnent que le diaporama A3 avait été présenté sous la forme d'un affichage. Cependant, selon le témoin, A3 avait été présenté sous forme d'un affichage, les diapositives ayant été imprimées et affichés sur un mur (voir pages 5 et 38 du procès-verbal de l'audition). Selon le compte-rendu de la conférence, il est confirmé que la contribution de Messieurs Hong, Lee et Kang a été présentée sous la forme d'un affichage (voir A33, section "Posters", P21).
La chambre en conclut que, pour ce qui concerne les circonstances de la présentation du contenu de A3, il est avéré que celle-ci a bien eu lieu sous la forme d'un affichage. Néanmoins, les différences entre le contenu des attestations et les explications orales du témoin jettent un doute sur la fiabilité du témoignage.
2.4 Quant au contenu de la présentation alléguée, la conclusion de A3 contient d'une part une erreur : la valeur de 6,29g/cm**(3)pour la densité étant trop élevée tel que cela a été confirmé par le requérant 1 et le témoin (cf. procès-verbal de l'audition du témoin, page 37). D'autre part, dans la section intitulée "Experimental" de A3, il est fait référence au procédé de moulage par barbotine et non pas au procédé sol-gel. C'est ce dernier qui est pourtant incontestablement utilisé pour produire des céramiques sous forme de billes (cf. page 23 du procès verbal) et non pas le procédé de moulage par barbotine, seul mentionné dans A3. Il existe donc un doute sérieux sur le fait que la présentation ait compris une partie relative à des billes, ce doute ne pouvant être levé par l'allégation du requérant 1 selon lequel la présentation A3 n'était pas focalisée sur la forme physique du matériau céramique, à savoir des pastilles ou des billes mais sur sa composition. 
Un autre doute résulte des incohérences entre d'une part le document A4/A20 et d'autre part le document A3. Ainsi, selon la section "Result and Discussion" de A4/A20, il y aurait un maximum de densité à 1300**(o)C en présence de Fe2O3 et un maximum de densité à 1250**(o)C lors de l'addition de Al2O3 et la densité ne diminuant qu'au-delà de 1400**(o)C, alors que la diapositive 8 de A3 ("Change of Properties by Fe2O3 (16Ce-TZP)") ne montre pas de maximum de densité à 1300**(o)C et que la diapositive 9 de A3 ("Change of Properties by Al2O3 (16Ce-TZP, 0.6 Fe2O3)") ne montre ni maximum de densité à 1250**(o)C ni diminution de densité seulement au-delà de 1400**(o)C.
2.5 En conclusion et au vu de ces incohérences, la chambre estime que le requérant 1 n'a pas produit la preuve incontestable de la mise à la disposition du public du contenu de A3. Par conséquent, la chambre ne prendra pas en compte ce document lors de l'appréciation de la brevetabilité.

9 Jan 2017

T 1291/13 - Merely an assertion

Key points

  • The Board finds the refusal decision to lack sufficient reasoning.
  • " With respect to the objection pursuant to Article 84 EPC, the reasoning consists merely of an assertion to the effect that it follows from the description at various cited passages that the additional feature of claim 3 is essential to the definition of the invention and that as claim 1 does not contain this feature, it does not meet the requirement following from Article 84 EPC taken in combination with Rule 43(1) and (3) EPC that any independent claim must contain all the technical features essential to the definition of the invention."
  • The application was filed in 2007. The applicant had filed 11 letters during examination, 9 communications had been issued by the Examiner (including a Rule 71(3) EPC based on a proposal from the Examiner to combine claims 1 and 3).  

EPO T 1291/13 - link

Reasons for the Decision

2. Lack of a reasoned decision - Rule 111(2) EPC
2.1 It is established case law that a decision, in order to be reasoned within the meaning of Rule 111(2) EPC, must contain at least some reasoning on crucial points of dispute, i.e. deal with at least the main counter-arguments presented by the applicant (cf. e.g. T 70/02, point 7 of the reasons).
2.2 With respect to claim 1 of the main request, the impugned decision is based on, on the one hand, lack of compliance with Article 84 EPC and Rules 43(1) and (3) EPC for the reason that claim 1 does not comprise a feature "essential to the definition of the invention", and, on the other hand, lack of novelty of the subject-matter of claim 1 with respect to the disclosure of D1 (= EP 1 605 605 A).
2.3 With respect to the objection pursuant to Article 84 EPC, the reasoning consists merely of an assertion to the effect that it follows from the description at various cited passages that the additional feature of claim 3 is essential to the definition of the invention and that as claim 1 does not contain this feature, it does not meet the requirement following from Article 84 EPC taken in combination with Rule 43(1) and (3) EPC that any independent claim must contain all the technical features essential to the definition of the invention.
2.4 With respect to the objection of lack of novelty, the reasoning consists of reciting the wording of claim 1 together with a single global reference to paragraph 31 of D1, followed by a discussion which appears to concern the feature of claim 1 "determining a relative power offset ....", but does not refer to the final feature of claim 1, namely "transmitting (106) the relative power offset to the subscriber station in an Uplink Channel Descriptor, UCD, message, wherein the relative power offset is contained in a format of Type, Length and Value, TLV, in the UCD message".
2.5 In both cases, the applicant challenged this reasoning by providing detailed counter-arguments, cf. e.g. the letter dated 27 September 2011, last two paragraphs of page 1 and pages 2 and 3 (which is one of nine letters filed by the applicant during the substantive phase of the examination procedure). The decision however does not deal with crucial (and, on the face of it, plausible) counter-arguments presented by the applicant. In this respect, the applicant, inter alia, gives reasons why in its opinion the additional feature of claim 3 need not be incorporated into claim 1 (cf. page 2, second paragraph of the applicant's letter) and argues, with respect to novelty, that there is no disclosure in D1 of the final feature of claim 1 (cf. page 1, last paragraph, and page 2, first paragraph of the applicant's letter).
2.6 The board concludes that the decision is not reasoned in the sense of Rule 111(2) EPC. This amounts to a substantial procedural violation requiring the decision to be set aside.

6 Jan 2017

T 1585/12 - A123(2) and the description

Key points

  • The application was filed in Dutch, and the opponent asserts that the claims involve added subject-matter due to an imprecise translation of a term from the Dutch application as filed. The Board finds the term (as translated) to be unclear, but not to involve added subject-matter. 
  • The Board also indicates that for Article 123(2) EPC, in case on unclear terms, the description has to be taken into account. 
  • " As follows from above the unclear term "shielder" only derives its full meaning in the light of the description and figures, and therefore cannot have a broader meaning than what can be inferred therefrom." 

EPO T 1585/12 - link

Reasons for the Decision
3. Added subject-matter
3.1 The present application Nr 07075198.7 was originally filed in the Dutch language and subsequently translated into English pursuant to Art. 14(2) EPC.
Pursuant to Art 70(2) EPC the Dutch filing therefore constitutes the authentic text of the application as filed. For the purpose of determining whether the patent extends beyond the application as filed, it should be examined whether the subject-matter of claims 1 and 22 has a basis in the original Dutch application. In particular, does the use of the term "shielders" introduce subject-matter not originally disclosed in the application as filed in Dutch.

4 Jan 2017

T 0378/12 - Purposive selection

Key points
  • The present Board is also of the view that purposive selection is relevant for assessing inventive step but not novelty [of selection inventions]. Consequently, since the claimed sub-range meets the criteria (a) and (b), the Board judges that the subject-matter of claim 1 is new
EPO T 0378/12- link

Reasons for the Decision
4. Novelty
[] 4.4 The remaining feature [not disclosed in D1] is essentially that a mixture of light exiting the lighting device emitted by the first group of solid state light emitters and the first luminescent material would, in an absence of any additional light, produce a sub-mixture of light having x, y colour coordinates corresponding to a point on a 1931 CIE Chromaticity Diagram lying within an area defined as being enclosed by the straight lines joining the points (0.32, 0.40); (0.36, 0.48); (0.43, 0.45); (0.42, 0.42) and (0.36, 0.38).
4.5 According to document D1 (paragraph [0055] and Fig. 7), the "combination of the blue LED chip 11 and yellow (YAG) phosphor 13 theoretically realizes any chromaticity within the range 45...", the preferred range being the range 43. By mapping the above points onto the CIE Chromaticity Diagram, it is apparent that the area defined by claim 1 of the present application falls entirely within the general area 45 disclosed in document D1 (but ldoes not overlap the preferred area 43). The claimed region of chromaticity is therefore a two-dimensional sub-range lying entirely within a disclosed two-dimensional range.

3 Jan 2017

T 1789/11 - Replenishing deposit account

Key points

  • The Board confirms that old point 6.5 of the ADA, which provided the possibility to replenish a deposit account with 30% administrative after a time limit for payment, resulting in  a valid payment, was valid. (This rule is now abolished).
  • The application was filed in 1995, the patent is revoked in 2016. The application was first refused, in the examination appeal T 0424/03, the Board inter alia found Article 56 EPC to be complied with, because, essentially, copying e.g. an image from an email and pasting as a file in a folder (and not pasting into another document) was not obvious in view of Windows 3.1.
  • The present Board revokes the patent based on lack of inventive step as the same features would be obvious in view of the same prior art (Windows 3.1), even if the OD decision was based on insufficiency of disclosure. The Board also notes that it sees no basis in the description of the patent for the statement in T 0424/03 that the data format would be changed during the transfer operation. The parent, and the five divisional applications, are all revoked for lack of inventive step. 

EPO  T 1789/11 - link

2. The admissibility of the opposition
2.1 The appellant has questioned the admissibility of the opposition. Hence the board has considered this issue, since, if the opposition were inadmissible, then the appeal would already be allowable for this reason alone.
2.2 For the reasons set out below, the board finds that the opposition fees for all six notices of opposition were paid on 23 May 2008, the last day of the opposition period, Article 99(1) EPC, extended under Rule 134(1) EPC, and that all six oppositions are therefore admissible.
2.5 In a submission received on 29 October 2010, the proprietor stated that online file inspection revealed that in all five divisional cases the opponent had made a payment of ¤ 201 on 30 May 2008, this being 30 % of the opposition fee, meaning that the opposition fee for the five divisional cases had not been paid prior to expiry of the opposition period.

2 Jan 2017

J 0009/14 - Correction of withdrawal designation

Key points

  • The applicant had withdrawn the designation of one Contracting State, possibly to avoid double patenting issues with a national patent in that state. The applicant requested a correction of the withdrawal, after entry of the withdrawal in the register but before publication thereof in the Bulletin. The Board refuses this. 
  • The Legal Board confirms that the withdrawal can not be undone under Rule 139 EPC after the publication thereof in the Register (even if the request is filed before the publication of the withdrawal in the Bulletin). 
  • Interestingly, the request for correction was filed after the decision to grant. G 1/10 is of course only about using Rule 140 for correcting the text of a patent. The withdrawal was after the Rule 71(3) EPC Communication. There is no mention of the question whether the Examining Division is still competent to decide on a change in its decision under Rule 139 EPC after the Decision to grant. The Notice of Appeal was against the refusal of the correction, not against the grant decision. 

EPO J 0009/14 - link

Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. On 22 May 2013 the applicant's representative informed the EPO that it withdrew the designation of the United Kingdom for the European patent application EP 07 733 714.5.
The information on the withdrawal was made public in the Register of European Patents on 24 May 2013 by way of EPO form 2056 and a communication confirming the deletion which was sent on the same day to the applicant.