16 Sep 2019

T 2378/13 - Not using the PSA, so disregarded?

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the opponent as the appellant had submitted with its statement of grounds (in translation) " a variety of different arguments against the inventive step of [operative claim 1]. However, none of these arguments are based on the generally accepted problem-solution approach for assessing inventive step. Consequently, the complainant's allegations concerning the inventive step in writing are disregarded in this decision. During the oral proceedings, before the board, the [opponent] made attacks using the problem-solution approach, which the board acknowledged." The board finds that claim 1 is inventive. 
  • The board does not indicate the legal basis in the EPC for disregarding the arguments in the opponents' statement of grounds and does not mention the opponent's right to be heard under Art.113(2) EPC. 
  • A petition for review was recently filed (R5/19). However, admissibility of the petition appears a bit of an issue because the opponent (who was represented by an employee during the oral proceedings before the board; minutes) did not raise an objection under Rule 106 EPC.
  • As a comment, the legal basis for the Boards assumed power to disregard (i.e. declaring inadmissible) any timely filed inventive step attacks on the ground that they are not in the problem-solution approach format is not at all apparent to me, unless the Board, of course, understood that the opponent had waived its arguments during the oral proceedings.
  • The statement of grounds of the opponent was drafted by a professional representative. It includes from page 19 three inventive step attacks which appear to each individual state the distinguishing feature and the objective technical problem (e.g. the attack on p.24 starting from D13), for each attack detailed comments are given on the (adverse) reasoning in the impugned decision.  Hence, I don't fully understand what the Board means with " Allerdings basiert keine dieser Argumentationen auf dem allgemein anerkannten Aufgabe-Lösungs-Ansatz zur Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit" unless this Board means that an opponent may present inventive steps attacks in appeal starting from only one single document as "the" closest prior art.



5. Erfinderische Tätigkeit (Artikel 56 EPÜ)
5.1 Mit der Beschwerdebegründung hatte die Beschwerdeführerin eine Vielzahl von unterschiedlichen Argumentationen gegen die erfinderische Tätigkeit des der angefochtenen Entscheidung zugrundeliegenden Anspruchs 1 eingereicht, der dem Anspruch 1 des gültigen Hauptantrags entspricht. Allerdings basiert keine dieser Argumentationen auf dem allgemein anerkannten Aufgabe-Lösungs-Ansatz zur Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit. Die schriftlich vorgebrachten Angriffe der Beschwerdeführerin bezüglich der erfinderischen Tätigkeit finden folglich in dieser Entscheidung keine Beachtung.
Während der mündlichen Verhandlung vor der Kammer hat die Beschwerdeführerin Angriffe unter Verwendung des Aufgabe-Lösungs-Ansatzes vorgebracht, die die Kammer gewürdigt hat.
5.2 Dokument E6 und allgemeines Fachwissen oder D2
Der Gegenstand des Anspruchs 1 ist ausgehend von der Offenbarung des Dokuments E6 weder in Zusammenschau mit dem allgemeinen Fachwissen noch in Zusammenschau mit der Offenbarung des Dokuments D2 nahegelegt.


EPO T 2378/13 -  link

13 Sep 2019

T 0703/19 - XML debit orders and good faith

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the patentee files a Notice of appeal and uses Form 1038E where the appeal fee is indicated, but the payment method is "not specified". As readers may now, this is something the EPO Online Filing Software allows and even can have as a default setting. You have to actively check "debit order", if you forget the filing software gives only a very subtle warning even if you have already specified a fee to be paid (a small white triangle, I believe). In this case, the appellant had checked the appeal fee but not checked "debit order". 
  • The issue is not whether the debit order was valid. Rather, the appellant invokes the principle of good faith (EPO should inform parties of clear mistakes which they can still repair, G2/97) because the Notice was paid one month before the time limit and the Notice contained the express statement "Die Beschwerdegebühr wird hiermit via Online-Gebührenzahlung entrichtet". The appellant filed this request (and paid the appeal fee) after receiving the Rule 112 notice of loss of rights from the "Geschaftsstellenbeambtin".  
  • The Board grants the request and considers the appeal fee to be timely paid.
  • The Board notes that the ADA are not outside the scope of G2/97. "Allerdings hat die Tatsache, dass die Gebühr nun über die Online-Gebührenzahlung möglich ist und von den Vorschriften über das laufende Konto reguliert wird nicht zur Folge, dass damit jeglicher Anspruch auf Vertrauensschutz automatisch erlischt." 
  • The Board recalls that in G2/97, the Enlarged Board had assumed that documents received by the EPO are read (by the EPO). The present Board concludes that users of the EPO may trust that a plausibility check is done (by the EPO) when an appeal is filed.
  • In the present case, the error was clearly to spot. In particular because of the unambiguous statement in the appeal letter that the debit order was attached which provides the required statement of intention to pay with the filing of the notice of appeal. Moreover, there was still enough time before the expiry of the appeal period.
  • " Die Beschwerdeführerin konnte daher erwarten, dass sie auf die fehlenden Angaben unter Rubrik "Zahlungsart" hingewiesen würde, was es ihr in Hinblick auf die über einen Monat vor Fristende erfolgte Einreichung der Beschwerde erlaubt hätte, die Beschwerdegebühr fristgerecht zu entrichten." 
  • The above decision makes sense to me. I understand it also reflects first instance practice. I really hope that the EPO updates the filing software to address this trap for parties (I am not sure if it is a bug or a feature, but this decision shows that there should be a better warning in the software in my view).
  • Note that the oppositions were withdrawn already before the filing of the notice of appeal.




EPO T 0703/19 (07.08.2019) - link
ECLI:EP:BA:2019:T070319.20190807

Sachverhalt und Anträge
I. Mit der am 30. Januar 2019 zur Post gegebenen Zwischenentscheidung hat die Einspruchsabteilung festgestellt, dass das Patent in der Fassung des Hilfsantrags 1 die Erfordernisse des EPÜ erfüllt. Die beiden Einsprüche gegen das Patent wurden mit Schreiben vom 1. Februar 2018 sowie vom 11. September 2018 zurückgenommen.
II. Die Patentinhaberin (Beschwerdeführerin)legte am 8. März 2019, und somit innerhalb der dafür vorgesehenen Zweimonatsfrist (Artikel 108 Satz 1), auf dem Wege der Online-Einreichung des EPA Beschwerde gegen die Entscheidung der Einspruchsabteilung ein. Im Zuge der Online-Einreichung des EPA wurde das Formular 1038 mit dem Titel "Begleitschreiben für nachgereichte Unterlagen" generiert, dem auch die Beschwerdeschrift als PDF angehängt war.
III. In der Beschwerdeschrift machte die Beschwerdeführerin unter anderem folgende Angabe: "Die Beschwerdegebühr wird hiermit via Online-Gebührenzahlung entrichtet". Auf dem Begleitschreiben für nachgereichte Unterlagen finden sich Angaben bezüglich der Art der Gebühren ("Beschwerdegebühr für eine Beschwerde..."), des zu zahlenden Betrags ("EUR 2 255.00"), nicht aber zur Zahlungsart. Zu letzterer ist "Nicht angegeben" aufgeführt. Die Angabe der Kontonummer fehlt. Eine Abbuchung der Beschwerdegebühr von dem laufenden Konto der Vertreterin der Beschwerdeführerin fand nicht statt.

12 Sep 2019

T 1304/18 - Not addressing the clarity objection

Key points

  • The Board holds this appeal against a refusal of a patent application inadmissible because the applicant did not properly address the ground of lack of clarity in his Statement of grounds (drafted by in-house counsel of an industrial company). The applicant had only submitted that the features were also used in the corresponding granted US patent.
  • " Der bloße Hinweis auf Ansprüche eines US-Patents, in denen die wesentlichen Merkmale bereits genannt sein sollen, ist nicht geeignet, um darzulegen, warum die in der angefochtenen Entscheidung genannten Einwände inkorrekt sein sollen und auf welche Tatsachen die Behauptung der Beschwerdeführerin gestützt ist. Ohne eigene Ermittlungen ist für die Kammer zum Beispiel nicht erkennbar, um welche "wesentlichen Merkmale" des ursprünglich eingereichten Anspruchs 1 der hier zu behandelnden Europäischen Patentanmeldung es sich dabei handeln könnte. Eine objektive Überprüfung des Beschwerdevorbringens auf seine Richtigkeit hin ist daher nicht möglich." 
  • The auxiliary requests do not make the appeal admissible either, because the objection was based on the claim failing to specify process conditions whereas in the auxiliary requests only feature concerning the device were added to claim 1.



EPO T 1304/18 - link

Entscheidungsgründe


1. Artikel 108 Satz 3 EPÜ erfordert, dass innerhalb von vier Monaten nach Zustellung der Entscheidung die Beschwerde nach Maßgabe der Ausführungsordnung zu begründen ist. Regel 99 (2) EPÜ führt dazu aus, dass in der Beschwerdebegründung vom Beschwerdeführer darzulegen ist, aus welchen Gründen die angefochtene Entscheidung aufzuheben oder in welchem Umfang sie abzuändern ist und auf welche Tatsachen und Beweismittel er seine Beschwerde stützt.

2. Um diesen Anforderungen zu entsprechen, muss nach der gefestigten Rechtsprechung der Kammern die Beschwerdeführerin in der Beschwerdebegründung darlegen, aus welchen rechtlichen oder tatsächlichen Gründen die angefochtene Entscheidung aufgehoben werden soll. Damit soll sichergestellt werden, dass eine objektive Überprüfung des Beschwerdevorbringens auf seine Richtigkeit hin möglich ist, ohne dass die Kammer dabei eigene Ermittlungen durchführen muss (siehe z.B. T 220/83, Abl. EPA 1986, 249, Punkt 4 der Entscheidungsgründe; J 10/11, nicht veröffentlicht, Punkt 2.1 der Entscheidungsgründe und die dort zitierte Rechtsprechung).

Ob die Anforderungen des Artikels 108 Satz 3 in Verbindung mit Regel 99 (2) EPÜ erfüllt sind, muss anhand der Beschwerdebegründung und der Gründe in der angefochtenen Entscheidung entschieden werden. Die Anforderungen an die Zulässigkeit können ausnahmsweise als erfüllt gelten, wenn bei Durchsicht der angefochtenen Entscheidung und der Begründung sofort zu erkennen ist, dass die Entscheidung aufgehoben werden soll. (J 10/11, ibid.).

3. Im vorliegenden Fall hat die Prüfungsabteilung die Klarheit eines Merkmals im Anspruch 1 bemängelt und ihren Einwand damit begründet, dass dieses Merkmal nur ein zu erreichendes Ergebnis darstellt, welches die der Patentanmeldung zugrundeliegende Aufgabe angebe, ohne dass die dafür notwendigen Merkmale angegeben seien, entgegen den in den Richtlinien F-IV 4.10 ausgeführten Grundsätzen.

11 Sep 2019

T 1895/13 - Rule 63 and no refund search fee

Key points

  • In this examination appeal of this Euro-PCT application, the Supplementary Search Report gave a declaration under Rule 63 EPC with Rule 164(2) and (3) EPC (referred to as the "no-search declaration" by the Board).
  • The applicant requests a refund of the search fee because no search was carried out.
  • The refund is refused. "the Board can only apply the EPC and associated provisions as they are. Article 9(1) Rules Relating to Fees provides for a refund of the search fee only in the case that the European patent application is withdrawn at a time when the Office has not yet begun to draw up the Search Report, but not in the case of a no-search declaration under Rule 63 EPC." 
  • The applicant had also requested interpretation (from and to German) for the oral proceedings before the Examing Division although the language of the proceedings was English. By not providing for the interpretation, the EPO had committed a substantial procedural violation, according to the applicant.
  • " The Board, however, indicated that even if a procedural violation might have occurred, it did not appear to have substantially affected the appellant's right to be heard (Article 113(1) EPC). The appellant had not set out any actual communication problem caused by the lack of official interpretation, neither at the oral proceedings before the examining division nor with its statement setting out the grounds of appeal. Instead, the appellant addressed only hypothetical problems that might occur in general if the right to exchange arguments in a desired language was restricted." I'm not sure what the requested remedy was, but the case is not remitted. 


EPO T 1895/13 -  link

Summary of Facts and Submissions


VII. The appellant argued that the examining division erroneously denied inventive step, contested that no search was performed and therefore argued that the search fee be refunded. Finally, the appellant argued that the examining division violated it's right to be heard by refusing to provide interpretation during oral proceedings before the first instance.


Reasons for the Decision
Main request

1. Article 56 EPC - Inventive step

The Board agrees with the decision under appeal that the subject-matter of independent claim 1 lacks an inventive step for essentially the same reasons.

1.1 The claim is directed to a mix of technical and non-technical features. The Board does not dispute that the system according to claim 1 appears in a technical context. The system involves technical means such as a processor, a user interface and a communication network and, therefore, has technical character. Accordingly, the claimed subject-matter is an invention in the sense of Article 52(1) EPC (see T 258/03 "Auction method/HITACHI").

1.2 However, the question of inventive step requires an assessment of whether the invention makes a technical contribution over the prior art. Features which do not make such a contribution cannot support the presence of an inventive step (see T 641/00 "Two identities/COMVIK", Headnote I).
[..]

No-Search declaration
2. While the International Search Report cited several prior art publications, neither the Supplementary Search Report nor the Search Opinion cited any further prior art publication. Instead, the Supplementary Search Report gave a declaration under Rule 63 EPC with Rule 164(2) and (3) EPC (referred to as the "no-search declaration" by the Board).
3. Regarding the examining division's reliance on a general purpose data processing system and in contrast to the appellant's arguments, the Board accepts such prior art as notorious, i.e. no documentary evidence had to be adduced by the examining division in this respect (T 1411/08, points 4.1, 4.2). In particular, the examining division was not required to prove the pre-existence of features which even the application itself fails to disclose (such as technical details of a processor, communication networks or a user interface).
[...]
4.2 In the absence of any technical contribution beyond the straight-forward computer-implementation, the Board judges that the subject-matter of claim 1 does not involve an inventive step (Article 56 EPC) in view of the skilled person's common general knowledge or in view of D1.
[...]

Refund of the Search Fee

7. Regarding the request for a refund of the European search fee in the absence of any cited document, the Board can only apply the EPC and associated provisions as they are. Article 9(1) Rules Relating to Fees provides for a refund of the search fee only in the case that the European patent application is withdrawn at a time when the Office has not yet begun to draw up the Search Report, but not in the case of a no-search declaration under Rule 63 EPC.

Furthermore, the search division can be assumed to have analysed the set of claims before taking the decision to issue a no-search declaration, and, hence, it cannot be argued that the EPO has been unjustly enriched. The Board is also not competent to decide on claims for compensation in respect of a loss or damage allegedly caused by the EPO in the course of patent grant proceedings (J 14/87, OJ EPO 1988, 295).

Reference is made to decision T 2249/13, which concerned a similar situation (see in particular points 24 to 29 of the reasons). The Board concurs with the reasoning in this decision.

Therefore, the request for a refund of the search fee is inadmissible.

Language of the oral proceedings before the first instance

8. Oral proceedings before the first instance were held in the absence of interpreters although the appellant's representative had informed the examining division that he intended to speak and hear in the German language and had requested simultaneous translation. The examining division saw no good reason to depart from the language of the proceedings (English), but offered to clarify its comments in German where necessary while declining to act officially as interpreters.

8.1 The appellant argued that Rule 4(1) EPC unambiguously allowed a party to both speak and hear an official language chosen by the party and announced in good time. The examining division had no discretion to refuse interpretation in such a situation. By refusing to provide interpretation, the examining division also infringed the appellant's right to be heard according to Article 113(1) EPC which reflects the principle of procedural fairness. Discussing the invention in a common language served procedural economy and prevented misunderstandings. By dismissing the appellant's request for interpretation, the examining division accepted the possibility of a misdirected discussion. The dismissal limited the appellant's right to present its arguments in a desired manner in accordance with procedural regulations of the EPC. Despite a specific complaint by the appellant, the examining division was not willing to conform to those provisions, which suggested that the division was biased at least with respect to the language issue.

8.2 Again reference is made to decision T 2249/13, which concerned a comparable situation (see in particular point VII c)). In that case, the Board stated that in effect, the appellant's allegation was that the examining division infringed Rule 4(1)(5) EPC by declining to provide official interpretation when the appellant's representative had filed a timely request to speak and hear an official language other than the language of the proceedings.

The Board, however, indicated that even if a procedural violation might have occurred, it did not appear to have substantially affected the appellant's right to be heard (Article 113(1) EPC). The appellant had not set out any actual communication problem caused by the lack of official interpretation, neither at the oral proceedings before the examining division nor with its statement setting out the grounds of appeal. Instead, the appellant addressed only hypothetical problems that might occur in general if the right to exchange arguments in a desired language was restricted.

Indicating a potential problem does not mean that the problem actually occurred. The burden of proof lies with the appellant, who has not satisfied its obligation to submit facts, which allows an assessment of whether there was a substantial violation of rights.

9. For the aforementioned reasons, the Board cannot identify any substantial procedural violation by the examining division. Furthermore, the Board is not competent to revise acts (including a potential procedural violation) of the search division or to remit a case to it (Article 106(1) EPC). The Board does not need to remit the case to the department of first instance, but is able to exercise its power within the competence of the examining division (Article 111(1) EPC), in particular to assess inventive-step and to take a corresponding decision on the substance of the present case.

Order

For these reasons it is decided that:

1) The appeal is dismissed.

2) The request to remit the case to the department of first instance and the request to refund the European search fee are rejected.

10 Sep 2019

T 1731/12 - Product resulting from medical or surgical method

Key points

  • The Board finds, based on a detailed analysis, that a claim for a product only obtainable by a medical or surgical method is excluded from patentability under Article 53(c) EPC thereby following T775/97.
  • A question for the interesting reader is how to relate this to G 2/13 ( Broccoli II) and G2/12 (Tomatoes II) holding that " The fact that the only method available at the filing date for generating the claimed subject-matter is an essentially biological process for the production of plants disclosed in the patent application does not render a claim directed to plants or plant material other than a plant variety unallowable" (under Article 53(b) EPC) (G2/13 does not cite T775/97)
  • The present Board itself notes in r.35 that the case at issue can be distinguished from G 2/13 in that it was argued in G2.13 that it is factually difficult to determine, in case of a plant, whether it is obtained with an essentially biological method or possibly by a (according to Article 53(b) second sentence patentable) microbiological method (referring to G 2/13, VIII.2.(6)(a)). (Note, the reference to VII.2.6.(a) appears a mistake). 
  • The present Board agrees with T 775/97 that " ein durch einen chirurgischen Schritt definiertes Erzeugnis ohne diesen gar nicht existieren kann, so dass der chirurgische Schritt zum beanspruchten Erzeugnis dazugehört.". 
  • The difference with medical products for use in a medical method lays in the principle of exhaustion. The provision of Article 53(c) second sentence that such products are patentable, does not limit the medical freedom of medical practitioners because once they have lawfully procured the patented product, they can use it in any way they like due to the exhaustion of the patent rights. This is different for a product claim for a product formed by a surgical method because for such a claim the manufacture is an infringing act. Hence, a medical practitioner would need a license of the patentee for making the product, if the resulting patent was patented, " was - im Falle eines chirurgischen oder therapeutischen Verfahrensschritts im Herstellungsverfahren - genau in die Freiheit des medizinischen Personals eingreifen würde, die durch die Patentierungsausschlüsse nach Artikel 53(c) EPÜ geschützt sein sollte." 
  • As a comment, the Boards remarks on the (apparent) focus in G2/13 on practical difficulties in case of product-by-process claims for plants does not really engage with the reasoning about the freedom to carry out the non-patentable method. 

EPO T 1731/12 -  link

EPO Headnote
Eine Vorrichtung, die durch ein Merkmal definiert ist, das nur durch einen chirurgischen oder therapeutischen Schritt erzeugt werden kann, ist nach Artikel 53(c) EPÜ von der Patentierung ausgenommen (in Fortführung von T775/97).


Entscheidungsgründe

Ausschluss von der Patentierbarkeit (Artikel 100(a) EPÜ in Verbindung mit Artikel 53(c) EPÜ): Anwendung von Artikel 53(c) EPÜ auf Erzeugnisse

11. Nach Artikel 53(c) EPÜ werden europäische Patente unter anderem nicht erteilt für Verfahren zur chirurgischen oder therapeutischen Behandlung des menschlichen Körpers. Satz 2 des Artikels 53(c) EPÜ sagt darüber hinaus explizit: "Dies gilt nicht für Erzeugnisse, insbesondere Stoffe oder Stoffgemische, zur Anwendung in einem dieser Verfahren."

12. Es ist allgemein akzeptiert, und wird beispielsweise auch in den Entscheidungen der Großen Beschwerdekammer, die sich mit medizinischen Verfahren auseinandersetzen (zuletzt in G 1/07) erläutert, dass das Patentierungsverbot für diese Verfahren gewährleisten soll, "dass die Freiheit von Human- und Veterinärmedizinern, ihren Patienten die beste verfügbare Behandlung angedeihen zu lassen, ohne Einschränkungen durch etwaige Patentrechte befürchten zu müssen, geschützt wird, und zwar dadurch, dass solche Aktivitäten von der Patentierbarkeit ausgeschlossen sind" (G 1/07, Entscheidungsgründe, Abschnitt 3.2.3.2). Dabei reicht ein einzelner chirurgischer Verfahrensschritt aus, um ein mehrschrittiges Verfahren als nicht patentfähig anzusehen. Auf die Frage, ob ein Mediziner das beanspruchte Verfahren dann verletzen würde, kommt es nicht an (G 1/07, Entscheidungsgründe, Abschnitt 3.2.3.2).

9 Sep 2019

T 0052/15 - Filing new main requests before the OD

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the proprietor had, during the oral proceedings before the OD, filed a new main request "after a negative opinion was announced by the chairman" with respect to the claims as granted which were the original main request. " This occurred again two more times in succession. The new main requests were named Annex I, Annex II and Annex III in the minutes. After deliberation on the last main request filed, the chairman announced the opposition division's opinion that this request did not meet the requirements of inventive step and then announced the decision that the patent was revoked." 
  • With the Statement of grounds, patentee submits as main request the claims as granted, as Auxiliary Request 1 the claims of Annex I and as Auxiliary Request 2 essentially the claims of Annex II. These requests differ substantially from the claims of Annex III, the only claims that are substantively discussed in the impugned decision. 
  • The Board does not admit these requests under Article 12(4) RPBA. 
  • " As is apparent from pages 1 to 6 of the minutes of the oral proceedings before the opposition division, which lasted two days, a lengthy discussion took place on whether the aforementioned requests (the last one in slightly different form) complied with Articles 123(2), 83 and 84 EPC."
  • "  Since a negative opinion was announced in respect of these requests, whereas the following request was considered positively, as far as these articles were concerned, it can be deduced that the addition of specific definitions relating to the strength of the seals, the addition of the materials used for preparing the films, and the deletion of an independent claim were conspicuous for overcoming pending objections. However, neither the minutes nor the written decision report the reasoning followed by the opposition division when it orally announced its negative conclusion with respect to these requests." 
  • " Accordingly, admitting these requests into the appeal proceedings would compel the board to decide as if it were the department of first instance on the aforementioned complex issues (e.g. for compliance with Article 83 EPC). This course of action would run counter to the primary purpose of appeal proceedings [...]
  • The Patentee points to T 155/88 and T 386/04 which " are based on the idea that, when requesting maintenance of a patent in more limited form, the patentee is not irrevocably abandoning the subject-matter that lies outside such a request." The Board replies that "Even if, as a rule, a proprietor could not be prevented from reverting to the patent as granted, it would be illogical if this right could be exploited without restrictions. For example, a proprietor may not steer the appeal proceedings in a manner that undermines the main purpose for which these proceedings were foreseen, i.e. to give a judicial decision on what was decided at first instance. This would also result in the board being precluded from exercising its discretionary power under Article 12(4) RPBA in these cases." 
  • Finally, Patentee disputes that the claims as granted and those of Annex I and Annex II were actually withdrawn during the first instance proceedings. " The [patentee] argued that the expectation of the then proprietor was that a request would only be considered withdrawn if the relevant party expressly withdrew it, which was not the case in this instance. " 
  • The Board notes that withdrawal does not need to be explicit. "However, an explicit withdrawal is not required if a party's behaviour or procedural steps it takes during the proceedings make its intention unequivocal (see T 388/12, point 4.2, mentioned by the appellant). Requiring an explicit statement to be made for a withdrawal to take legal effect would render the proceedings a purely formalistic exercise in which the entire body of evidence and facts surrounding the specific case would not be taken into account." 
  • " In the present instance, from the sequence of events which took place during the oral proceedings, it was correct to conclude that each new main request which was subsequently filed replaced the previously filed main request. Furthermore, on the basis of the facts recorded in the minutes, there was no reason to assume that the proprietor intended to maintain those previously filed requests." Accordingly Article 12(4) RPBA applies.



EPO T 0052/15 -  link

Reasons for the Decision
1. Requests decided/not decided upon in the appealed decision
1.1 As set out in detail in the facts and submissions and as apparent from the minutes of the oral proceedings before the opposition division, the proprietor initially confirmed the request that the patent be maintained as granted. After a negative opinion was announced by the chairman with respect to this request, the proprietor filed a new request and identified it as the "main request". This occurred again two more times in succession. The new main requests were named Annex I, Annex II and Annex III in the minutes. After deliberation on the last main request filed, the chairman announced the opposition division's opinion that this request did not meet the requirements of inventive step and then announced the decision that the patent was revoked.
1.2 The appealed decision deals only with this last request, which was filed and identified as the "main request" by the then proprietor and is annexed to the decision as Annex III. As stated on page 5 of the decision, during the oral proceedings, the then proprietor requested that the patent be maintained on the basis of this request. No reference is made to any other request for maintenance of the patent on the basis of any auxiliary request. The reasons of the decision deal exclusively with said main request, Annex III. From the content of the decision, it does not transpire that the opposition division failed to deal with any pending request.

6 Sep 2019

T 2073/15 - Not unsearched

Key points

  • In this examination appeal, a partial ISR had been established and no additional search fees had been paid so that the ISR covered only the first invention which included claims 1-4. The claims were then amended by a feature taken from the decision. The ED considered this claim request to be unallowable under Rule 137(5) EPC. 
  • "The board agrees with the appellant that the feature [at issue] was included in the search." (underlining added)
  • The feature at issue is " the application of the precoding weights to the beams in conjunction with beam-forming ". [Not my field of technology but it is about wireless communication.]
  • The Board: "originally filed claim 3, which was included in the search [i.e. claim 3 was expressly covered by the ISR], comprised a list of transmission modes, including SDMA precoding. With respect to SDMA precoding, which was thus included in the scope of the search related to the first invention, the description in paragraph [0067] teaches how sectors, virtual sectors, and beams within a virtual sector, are formed in this transmission mode. This description of SDMA precoding, a feature included in the scope of the search, corresponds fairly well to the description of paragraphs [0049] and [0050] in combination with Figure 4 related to precoding weights applied in conjunction with beam-forming to the beams. The board therefore holds that the claims meet the requirements of Rule 137(5) EPC."
  • As a comment, in my view it is rather strange for the Board to decide what is included in the search (rather than what ought to be included in the search). If the ISA did not search the features of para. [0049] of the description, then I don't see how the Board can decide that the ISA did. The Board can decide that the ISA should have searched the feature in the description, and accordingly admit the amended claim and remit the case (such that the ED has to carry out an additional search, free of fee, for the feature). As I've discussed in my article in epi Information 2018/2, for a claim to be unallowable under Rule 137(5) it must be both (i) unsearched (which on a factual level was the case here) and (ii) lack unity of invention with the claims pending at the time of the search. If the feature at issue is a simple implementation of searched claim 3, the feature should not lack unity of invention with that claim 3 and the amendment at issue is allowable because the second requirement of Rule 137(5) EPC is not met. There is however indeed case law which interprets  "unsearched" in Rule 137(5) as "did not need to be searched" and then asks if the feature should have been searched - raising the question when the Examiner should or should not search features only mentioned in the description.



EPO T 2073/15 -  link




2.2 Rule 137(5) EPC
The board agrees with the appellant that the feature defining the application of the precoding weights to the beams in conjunction with beam-forming was included in the search.
In that respect, the board notes firstly that, in the search report issued by the EPO as International Searching Authority [IPRP Chapter I here; no additional search fees were paid; the searched claims included claims 1-4], the invention which was first defined in the originally filed claims, and which was the subject of the search, was defined as being related to "the set of different transmission modes contained in the codebook, of which one can be selected". This indicates the relevance of the transmission modes for the search.

5 Sep 2019

T 0737/14 - Analyzing the business method


Key points
  • In this examination appeal for a patent application directed to an "authorisation system", claim 1 specifies that the terminal rather than a person is authorized. The Board finds that in the business method of D1 (cited by the Examining Division), authorizing the terminal makes no sense.
  • The Board then assesses inventive step. "It is clear that the transaction scenario in the invention is crucial to the question of inventive step because this sets the framework of the technical problem given to the skilled person to solve (see e.g. T 1463/11 - [])). In the communication, the Board raised the question what that scenario was in view of the widely different embodiments disclosed in the application. The appellant neither replied, nor attended the oral proceedings. Thus, the Board has to find a reasonable interpretation based on the examples in the application." 
  • The Board turns to the description and finds on page 11 a few sentences discussing that in an embodiment, the "third party" provides funds to the credit card user instead of the "agent". 
  • " The description suggests that this idea allows a third party to offer a new type of financial service using existing point-of-sale systems" 
  •  "The functions performed by those entities in claim 1 [access terminal at the side of the agent, an account server at the side of the credit card issuer/processor, and an authorisation server on the side of the third party] follow directly from the business scenario. " 




EPO Headnote
The proper application of the COMVIK approach requires a thorough analysis of the business constraints when formulating the problem to be solved before investigating what the skilled person would have done to solve it. The failure to reflect all aspects of the business method in the problem to be solved led the examining division to argue unconvincingly that the inconvenient distinguishing feature of authorising the access terminal was an alternative whose choice was governed by unspecified business constraints (see reasons 4.2).

EPO T 0737/14 -  link

IV. Claim 1 reads:
An authorisation system comprising:
an authorisation server (140);
an account server (120) for storing account data relating to a plurality of accounts;
an access terminal (100), including:
a token reader (106) for inputting token data from a selected one of a plurality of tokens, the token data identifying one of the plurality of accounts; and input means (108) for inputting transaction data;
wherein the access terminal (100) is operable: to receive token data from the token reader (106) and to receive transaction data from the input means (108); to transmit to the account server (120) a first transaction request containing the token data and the transaction data; and to transmit to the authorisation (140) server a second transaction request including access terminal identification data identifying the access terminal;
the account server (120) is operable to receive the first transaction request; to process the token data to generate account identification data, the account identification data being associated with a portion of the account data; and to transmit a third transaction request to the authorisation server, the third transaction request including the transaction data;
the authorisation server (140) is operable to receive the second transaction request and to receive the third transaction request; to process the transaction data and the access terminal identification data to determine whether the access terminal (100) is authorised to enable the transaction; and, if applicable, to transmit to the account server (120) an authorisation request to indicate that the access terminal is authorised; and
in response to receipt of the authorisation request from the authorisation server, the account server (120) is operable to process the transaction data and to modify the account data associated with the account identification data in dependence on the processing.
Reasons for the Decision
1. Background
1.1 The invention concerns an authorisation system for authorising a transaction on an account. Looking at Figure 7, there are three entities in this system: an access terminal 100, an account server 120, and an authorisation server 140. The access terminal sends a first transaction request 204 to the account server that forwards this, as the third transaction request 208, to the authorisation server. The access terminal also sends a second transaction request 206, including a terminal identifier, to the authorisation server. Based on the transaction data, the authorisation server determines whether the access terminal is authorised to enable the transaction, and sends the response 210 to the account server that carries out the transaction on the account.
1.2 The independent claims do not define what sort of transaction is processed by the system. As it turned out, this caused some difficulties in the assessment of the invention, both in examination and appeal proceedings.
[...]

4 Sep 2019

T 0749/15 - Revoking without oral proceedings


Key points
  • In this opposition appeal, the OD had amended the patent in amended form. The opponent appeals, in particular on the ground that the claims in amended form lack basis in the application as filed.
  • The proprietor did not ask for oral proceedings in their Statement of response and did not submit auxiliary requests.
  • The Board agrees with the opponent's reasoning on added subject-matter and, therefore, issues the decision without oral proceedings and without advance notification (four years after the filing of the patentee's reply). The Board sets aside the impugned decision of the OD and revokes the patent (entirely).
  • As a comment, the Board seems to correctly follow the envisaged procedure but I'm not sure if the patentee had intentionally decided to not request oral proceedings taking the risk of this outcome.



EPO T 0749/15 -  link


Motifs de la décision


1. Le recours est recevable.

2. Décision à l'issue de la procédure écrite

2.1 Selon l'article 12(3) RPCR, la chambre peut, sous réserve des articles 113 et 116 CBE, statuer sur l'affaire à tout moment après l'expiration du délai de quatre mois à compter de la signification des motifs de recours.

2.2 L'intimée n'a pas requis de procédure orale. La requérante n'a requis une procédure orale qu'au cas où la chambre n'aurait pas admis sa requête principale. La prise de décision en faveur de l'intimée sans recourir à la tenue d'une procédure orale respecte donc les exigences de l'article 116 CBE.

2.3 Cette décision de la chambre repose exclusivement sur des motifs présentés par la requérante dans son mémoire de recours, au sujet desquels l'intimée a pu prendre position.

Il découle de l'article 12(2) RPCR qu'il incombe aux parties de présenter l'ensemble de leurs moyens invoqués dans le mémoire de recours, ou dans la réponse à ce mémoire. En l'espèce, la réponse de l'intimée se bornait à un renvoi général aux moyens soumis au cours de la procédure d'opposition antérieure. La chambre n'est pas tenue de rechercher les moyens pertinents susceptibles de soutenir les prétentions de l'intimée, voir par exemple la Jurisprudence des Chambres de recours, 8ème édition, 2016, IV.E.2.6.4, ce qui s'applique de manière analogue aux réponses au mémoire de recours. En l'espèce, seuls les moyens figurant dans la décision attaquée seront donc considérés. Une prise de décision sans recourir à une procédure orale respecte donc les exigences de l'article 113 CBE.

2.4 La chambre peut donc statuer sur cette affaire en procédure écrite.

[...]

3.5 L'objet de la revendication 1 telle que maintenue représente donc une généralisation de l'objet revendiqué qui n'a pas de base et s'étend donc au-delà du contenu de la demande telle que déposée.

4. Pour ces raisons, la chambre conclut au bien fondé de la requête principale de la requérante.
Dispositif
Par ces motifs, il est statué comme suit
1. La décision attaquée est annulée.
2. Le brevet est révoqué.

3 Sep 2019

T 0913/15 - Killed by a comma

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, claim 1 directed to a hair iron lacks basis because of the feature "an electrode therein" - raising the preliminary issue of claim interpretation to decide where the electrode must be placed. To anticipate the conclusion, I note that the application as filed teaches that the case 28 comprises an opening 28a and that this opening is near the electrode. 
  • Claim 1 as granted however recites: "characterized in that the negative-ion generator (4) is built in the grip (1), and the grip further comprises an outlet (9) opening to the hair-care section (2) to emit the negative ions due to discharge around an electrode therein towards the hair-care section(2)."
  • "The board agrees with the respondent that the skilled person would first read claim 1 as granted on the assumption that it is grammatically correct."
  •  Due to the separation of the clauses [of the characterizing portions of claim 1] by a comma it can only be understood that there was a deliberate intention when drafting the claim to separate the specification of the second clause from the first clause."
  • "Thus, the skilled person would interpret the specification of the second clause as defining the outlet (9) to be comprised in the grip and that an electrode for emitting negative ions is situated in the outlet."
  • "the board agrees with the[opponent] that the structure of the second clause makes it clear, from both a linguistic and technical point of view, that the term "therein" must refer to "an outlet" which is part of the grip, i.e. the electrode is located within the outlet of the grip."
  • Hence, the opening has a different position in claim 1 as granted than in claim 1 as filed and claim 1 lacks basis. The Auxiliary Request specifying the position differently (as being in the grip) violates Art 123(3) EPC. The appeal is dismissed and the patent remains revoked.



EPO T 0913/15 -  link

VI. Claim 1 as granted reads:
"A hair iron (100,120,130,140,150,160,170,180) comprising:
a grip (1),
a hair-care section (2) connected to the grip (1), having a heater (11) for generating heat to hair for hair dressing; and
a negative ion generator (4) which generates negative ions to emit them toward hair held by the hair-care section (2)
characterized in that
the negative-ion generator (4) is built in the grip (1), and the grip further comprises an outlet (9) opening to the hair-care section (2) to emit the negative ions due to discharge around an electrode therein towards the hair-care section(2)."

 Reasons for the Decision
1. Main request (claim 1 as granted),Extended subject-matter, Articles 100(c), 123(2) EPC
1.1 The opposition division considered that the requirements of Article 123(2) EPC were not met since it interpreted claim 1 as granted as specifying that the electrode for discharging the negative ions is in the outlet, as opposed to being near the outlet, which it considered to be the originally disclosed location.
1.2 The board agrees with the respondent that the skilled person would first read claim 1 as granted on the assumption that it is grammatically correct.
1.3 The pre-characterising part of the claim defines a negative ion generator, and also a direction in which the negative ions it generates are to be emitted. However, it does not provide any further specifications as regards the location, constitution or configuration of the negative-ion generator.
1.4 The characterizing portion of the claim 1, comprises two clauses which are separated by a comma followed by the conjunction "and".

2 Sep 2019

NL - further comments transfer of priority

Key points

  • Today a different kind of post. I would like to follow up on my 5 August post about the transfer of priority and the Biogen vs. Celltrion decision of The Hague Court of Appeal. Partly because my post was mid-summer whereas it is 'must-read' decision (to quote Martin Wilming; @FPCreview).
  • To recall briefly, the Court found that the question of the validity of a transfer of priority must be decided by applying the EPC itself as lex loci protectionis (and not some national law) The Court then found that under an autonomous interpretation of the EPC there are no formal requirements for such an assignment. Whether you agree with the decision or not, the Court's  detailed reasoning on the topic seems to deserve attention because transfer of priority plays in quite a few cases.
  • My first comment is that the granted patent originated from a PCT application. However, according to T577/11, r.6.2 (of 22.03.2017), based on Article 27(5) PCT,  "Article 87(1) EPC 1973 (and not Article 8 PCT or Article 4 Paris Convention) [...] for the question at issue in the present case, namely whether the applicant was entitled to claim priority from the earlier application." (in that case, the Board found that the alleged assignment was invalid under any of the national laws invoked by the parties)
  • My second comment is a reply to the article of Mr. Bremi in GRUR Int. 2018, 128, because the Biogen vs. Celltrion decision addresses some of the concerns Mr. Bremi has about current EPO practice concerning the transfer of priority.
    • Mr. Bremi writes that "the EPO in the current practice has regarded Art. 87 (1) EPC as a sufficient basis to allow examination of the successorship, to ask for evidence and to find a loss of the right to priority in case of failure."
      In reply, where priority is invalid from the outset, there is no "loss" and this is a key difference with loss of priority due to late filing of a priority document.
    • Mr. Bremi signals that the idea was to keep the EPO out of entitlement issues under Article 60 EPC. Mr. Bremi then notes that "One additional reason for this is that the EPO should not be forced to be put into the “extremely difficult situation of having to apply the national law of the Contracting states”."  This situation is of course also avoided by EPC rule rather than national law, the former is the correct approach for transfer of priority issues according to the Court in Biogen vs. Celltrion.
      The same applies for Mr. Bremi's observation that " In assessing the validity of such assignments, the EPO is faced with highly complex conflict of law issues and, once the applicable law is determined, faced with having to apply basically any possible national law on earth, not only one of the laws of the Contracting States." This situation is equally avoided by adopting the approach of the Biogen vs. Celltrion decision.
    • Mr. Bremi proposes that: "it would then be sufficient if the applicant claiming priority to a previous application filed by another applicant, made a corresponding valid priority declaration and filed the corresponding certified copy of the priority filing. There is little risk of abuse during this step, since these must be submitted well before the publication of the subsequent application and normally before the mere existence of the priority application is known to the public." Mr. Bremi is presenting a proposal, not current EPO practice. In any case, Mr. Bremi appears to overlook that some priority applications are published by the national patent office almost immediately (weeks after filing), i.e. well within the priority year. The prominent example is, of course, a DE utility model application (this is even discussed in GL G-IV,1; see also this case). I wonder if possession of the certified priority document is really sufficient to avoid abuse.
    • Finally, Mr. Bremi argues that "in contrast to the above mentioned general principles in general law, that only the truly entitled may raise the issue, the EPO allows any third party to challenge a priority claim based on this argument." Although the precise meaning of "general principle" can be discussed of course, this rule " that only the truly entitled may raise the issue'" is not a common rule of all EPC states.  E.g. Italy has a different rule for entitlement of granted patents: 2 years after grant, any third party may request revocation if the patentee is not entitled. (Global Patent Litigation ; Hoyng and Eijsvogels (eds); Aug 2019; Chapter Italy, para. 30; Article 118(4) IP Code; "after two years from the publication of the grant of the patent, if the entitled party has not filed an action of reclaim, any interested party may seek the revocation of the patent" ). Perhaps the rule is a general principle in German law, but at least Italy does not have the rule.
    • See for another reply to Mr. Bremi's argument, here.
  • My third comment is about para. 4.16 of the decision where the Court actually rebuts the German BGH (at least that's what I think). The Court acknowledges that if the assignment of the priority right is done early in the priority year, it may not yet be known in which countries priority-claiming applications will be filed; therefore the lex loci protectionis may not yet be fully settled (e.g. the parties may decide after the assignment of the priority right that the PCT application will enter the national phase not only in USA, China and EPO, but also Peru; the may then still have to check if the assignment document also suffices under the law of Peru). 
    • The Court submits that "The practical problems that this may entail cannot set aside the principle enshrined in Article 2 of the PC that a country itself determines the conditions under which it grants and revokes patents for its territory (within the limits set by treaties)." (r. 4.16). 
    • More interesting is that in BGH X ZR 49/12, para. 12, it was decided that the transfer of priority rights follows " dem Recht des Staates der ersten Anmeldung, [...] (Benkard/Grabinski, EPÜ, 2. Aufl., Art. 87 Rn. 5; Singer/Stauder/ Bremi, EPÜ, 6. Aufl., Art. 87 Rn. 52; Wieczorek, Die Unionspriorität, 1975, S. 143; aA Ruhl, Unionspriorität, 2000 Rn. 260)." The BGH here overturns the precedent of KPA 16.12.1905 (see my post of last year) which had concluded that the lex loci protectionis applies based on very detailed reasoning.
    • The BGH's reasoning consists (entirely) of the references to the literature. So let's check it. Singer, 5th edition, Art.87 rdn.41 is silent about which national law applies. Benkard EPÜ 1st ed. Art.87 rdn.4 indicates the law of the state of first filing, referring to Benkard PatG. §15 Rdn.133 (9th ed.). I don't have Ruhl, but "a.a." indicates "other view" and indeed Benkard EPÜ  loc.cit. indicates that according to Ruhl, the law of the state of later filing applies to which the authors (Ullmann/Grabinski) add that "Dieser muß aber bei Übertragung des Prioritätsrechts noch nicht feststellen. Deshalb kann dessen Recht nicht grundsätzlich maßgebend sein" (idem Grabinksi in Benkard EPÜ 3rd ed. Art.87 rdn. 5) . Which brings us precisely at the point rebutted by the Court in Biogen vs. Celltrion, para. 4.16.
    • In Benkard PatG (11th ed.) I don't find anything in §15; § Int. Teil rdn.35 (p.43) says no more than that the assignment follows "innerstaatlichem Recht" .
    • Wieczorek discusses on p. 143 the KPA 16.12.1905  decision as "Grundleggend"; "diese Entscheiding fand in der Literatur allgemeine Zustimmung". As I've discussed last year, KPA 16.12.1905 unambiguously chooses the lex loci protectionis and not the country of first filing.  I am completely at loss (for more than a year by now) how BGH X ZR 49/12 can cite Wieczorek in support of the law of the state of first filing. 
    • Wieczorek (p.144) acknowledges that according to a French court decision, the form and " force probante" of acts done abroad are examined "aux préscriptions de la loi où ils sont rédigés; hence the conflict-of-law rules are different in Germany and France. The French decision is Cour de Cassation 01.02.1944, "JCP 1944 II 2588"; excerpts in Prop. Ind. 1951 (No.8) p. 38) (PDF at WIPO site here, but p.138 is blanked out; I think because it was a 'letter to the editor'). I'm curious to learn whether this is still current French law (and if you can sell and convey a French using a simple contract executed abroad, or if you need a French notary perhaps). I note that French law at the time was very strict and required the official registration of all contracts between parties having an effect on third parties (according to Wieczorek, p.144).
    • Finally, in the current Benkard EPÜ 3rd ed. Art.87 rdn. 5, Mr. Grabinksi writes that the law of the country of the first application applies, referring to Art. 14(2) Rome I Regulation. The Hague Court of Appeal explains why in their view Art. 14(20 Rome I Regulation does not apply in reason 4.17 in some detail. Mr. Grabinksi also highlights the difficulties in finding the lex contractus, as being uncertain for third parties and being difficult to determine if the parties do not make an express choice of law. Of course, the Biogen vs. Celltrion approach avoids this as well by finding an autonomous EPC rule which applies for all patents granted  by the EPO, irrespective of the place of residence of the parties and irrespective of the state of first filing.
  • In  the more recent BGH decision ECLI:DE:BGH:2018:040918UXZR14.17.0, para.68, the BGH indicates that the questions of the assignability ("Übertragbarkeit"), formal requirements and other requirements for an effective assignment, must be distinguished from those concerning the obligations between assignor and assignee. The questions of obligations are governed by the law governing the agreement ("Vertragsstatut"). The former issues are governed, according to German conflict-of-law rules (as established in BGH X ZR 49/12) by the law of the state of first filing. At least for the first question of whether a priority right can be assigned at all ("Übertragbarkeit"), established EPO case law is different in my view, in that it is acknowledged that Article 87 EPC governs this for all priority right claimed for European patent applications, irrespective of the state of filing of the priority application [Note 04.09.2019: see addendum below]. Hence the EPC governs the "Übertragbarkeit" according to the conflict-of-law rules applied by the EPO (Boards of Appeal) as forum, I think on the ground that the EPC is the lex loci protectionis or possibly because Article 87 is so clearly meant to cover priority invoked for European patent applications before the EPO, not for applicants using an EP application as first filing for claiming priority e.g. with the USPTO or Chinese Patent Office.

Addendum 04.09.2019: I realized that I don't know a T decision where this is said with so many words. The closest remarks in the case law are that: "It is generally accepted that the right of priority is transferable independently of the corresponding first application." (T969/14, reason 1.1);  "It is generally accepted that the right of priority is transferable independently of the corresponding first application which can remain with the original applicant. " (T205/14, r.3.3) and "Priority rights are assignable independently of the corresponding patent application, and furthermore their assignment may be restricted to specific countries." (T62/05, r.3.6) However, the FICPI country review indicates that under the national law of some countries, the priority right can not be assigned or not separately assigned (" Countries where these rights appear to be inseparable include the United States, Canada, Peru and Singapore." FICPI country review 6 June 2017 page 2).

Addendum 16.09.2019: I would like to add that Mr. Bremi in Singer/Stauder/Luginbuhl 8thd ed. Art.87 rdn 61, footnote 126 writes: "Es stellt sich z.B. auch die Frage, ob für das Verpflichtungsgeschäft zwar z.B. das Vertragsstatur oder eine Rechtswahl der Parteien im Vertrag Anwendung finden kann, hingegen für das Verfügungsgeschäft zwingend lex loci protectionis Anwendung finden muss." (














30 Aug 2019

T 1904/14 - Not addressing all grounds for refusal

Key points

  • In this examination appeal, the application was refused for lack of novelty, inventive step, and lack of clarity. The applicant (a large industrial company) did not comment on clarity in the Statement of grounds, only on novelty and (in detail) on inventive step. 
  • The Board finds that the appeal is inadmissible under Rule 99(2) EPC. The arguments in favor of clarity filed later in the appeal procedure do not help. The assertion of a substantial procedural violation (also only submitted later in the appeal procedure) neither helps. 
  • The Board: "Einen Widerspruch in der Begründung der angefochtenen Entscheidung hat die Beschwerdeführerin vielmehr erst in Reaktion auf die vorläufige Meinung der Kammer mit ihrem am 23. Mai 2019 eingegangenen Schreiben gerügt. Die Zulässigkeitsvoraussetzung gemäß Regel 99 (2) EPÜ, das heißt eine hinreichende Beschwerdebegründung, muss jedoch innerhalb der nach Artikel 108 Satz 3 EPÜ vorgesehenen Frist für die Einreichung der Beschwerdebegründung erfüllt sein und kann nicht durch einen verspäteten Vortrag nachträglich geheilt werden."
  • There were also no auxiliary requests implicitly addressing the clarity issue.
  • I note that oral proceedings took place before the Board, from 13:00 to 13:45.




EPO T 1904/14 - link



Entscheidungsgründe


Zulässigkeit der Beschwerde

1. Aus Artikel 108 Satz 3 EPÜ in Verbindung mit Regel 99 (2) EPÜ ergibt sich, dass in der Beschwerdebegründung anzugeben ist, aus welchen Gründen die Entscheidung aufzuheben ist. Es ist dementsprechend ständige Rechtsprechung der Beschwerdekammern, dass sich eine für die Zulässigkeit einer Beschwerde ausreichende Begründung mit allen tragenden Gründen der angefochtenen Entscheidung auseinandersetzen muss (siehe Rechtsprechung der Beschwerdekammern, 8. Auflage 2016, IV.E.2.6.3.b)). Dies gilt auch dann, wenn die Begründung in der angefochtenen Entscheidung falsch oder widersprüchlich ist.

2. In der angefochtenen Entscheidung war die Prüfungsabteilung zu dem Schluss gelangt, dass der Gegenstand des Anspruchs 1 des damaligen Hilfsantrags 1, der identisch mit dem jetzigen Hauptantrag ist, nicht klar im Sinne von Artikel 84 EPÜ sei (siehe die Entscheidungsgründe der angefochtenen Entscheidung unter Punkt 2.2 in Verbindung mit Punkt 1.3).

29 Aug 2019

T 2216/12 - Six year delay

Key points
  • In this opposition appeal, the Notice of appeal was filed  October 2012 and the reply in May 2013. There was no further substantive action until the summons for oral proceedings of 22 January 2018.
  • The appellant filed a new document D42 on 23.01.2018. The Board does not admit the document. " Das Beweismittel D42 wurde von der Beschwerde-führerin I mehr als sechs Jahre nach der Beschwerdebegründung mit Schriftsatz vom 23. Januar 2018 eingereicht. Sie begründete das späte Vorbringen damit, dass D42 aufgrund des Vertreterwechsels nicht zu einem früheren Zeitpunkt vorgebracht werden konnte. Zudem fasse D42 lediglich das allgemeine Fachwissen zusammen und werfe keine neuen und komplexen Fragen auf.". 
  • The Board considers D42 to be not merely common general knowledge and furthermore to address issues with the impugned decisions. Furthermore, a change of the representative is no excuse for filing documents late, according to established case law.
  • With the same letter of 23.01.2018, a new inventive step attack was also submitted which is neither admitted.
  • I'm not sure what to make of the Board's observation of the 6 year delay in this case were the summons were also issued only after six years.


EPO T 2216/12 - link


8. Zulassung der Beweismittel D34 bis D37 und D42

8.1 D34 bis D36 wurden mit den jeweiligen Beschwerdebegründungen (siehe Punkte V und VI oben) als direkte Reaktion auf die Entscheidung der Einspruchsabteilung eingereicht. Beiden Beschwerdeführerinnen dienten die eingereichten Beweismittel dazu, bereits vorgebrachte Angriffslinien bezüglich mangelnder erfinderischer Tätigkeit ausgehend von D2 (in Kombination mit D2d) oder D3 zusätzlich zu untermauern. Insbesondere sollten sie die Auffassungen der Beschwerdeführerinnen hinsichtlich dessen, was D2 den Fachmann lehrt, weiter stützen. Die Kammer wertete das Einreichen der Beweismittel D34 bis D36 daher als normales Verhalten der unterlegenen Parteien und sah keinen Grund diese nicht in das Verfahren zuzulassen.

8.2 Gleiches gilt für das Beweismittel D37. Die Beschwerdeführerin I berief sich in der mündlichen Verhandlung vor der Kammer auf D37 als weiteren Beleg für die bereits in der Beschwerdebegründung geltend gemachte unzureichende Ovulationshemmung. Inwiefern D37 dazu tatsächlich geeignet ist, ist für die Frage Zulassung ohne Bedeutung und wird im Rahmen der Beurteilung der erfinderischen Tätigkeit zu untersuchen sein.

8.3 Das Beweismittel D42 wurde von der Beschwerde-führerin I mehr als sechs Jahre nach der Beschwerdebegründung mit Schriftsatz vom 23. Januar 2018 eingereicht. Sie begründete das späte Vorbringen damit, dass D42 aufgrund des Vertreterwechsels nicht zu einem früheren Zeitpunkt vorgebracht werden konnte. Zudem fasse D42 lediglich das allgemeine Fachwissen zusammen und werfe keine neuen und komplexen Fragen auf.

28 Aug 2019

T 0105/14 - The Netherlands as opponent

Key points


  • In this opposition-appeal about a vaccine, the opponent is "The Kingdom of the Netherlands, represented by the Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Sports". Let me emphasize at the outset that it is otherwise a normal Notice of opposition with inventive step attacks and attacks based on insufficient disclosure competently drafted by a professional representative - no political statements or morality objections.
  • The case is also interesting about a request for apportionment of costs. The OD had revoked the patent for lack of inventive step. The Board issues its negative preliminary opinion. The patentee then announces that it will not attend the oral proceedings with a letter dated 3 April but submitted only on 9 April, without a courtesy copy being sent to the opponent; the oral proceedings were scheduled for 12 April. The opponent requests apportionment of costs: " [Patentee's] behaviour not only offended against the basic rules of courtesy but also deprived the respondent of any possibility to timely cancel any hotel and flight reservations." 
  • " The board agrees with the respondent on the relevance of the case law concerning the equitable obligation on every party summoned to oral proceedings to inform the board and, following the basic rules of courtesy, the other parties as soon as that party knows that it will not attend as summoned." 
  • " The board agrees with the respondent that such basic rules [of courtesy] are much desirable and certainly contribute to a fair development of all proceedings, not only of appeal proceedings. Unfortunately, most of these rules are not enshrined or laid down in the Convention, let alone any means and measures to enforce them." (As a comment, in my view the term 'reasons of equity' in Article 104 EPC can very well encompass "basic rules of courtesy", especially if these rules "contribute to a fair development of all proceedings". Clearly, the term "equity" refers to unwritten rules, so the observation that "these rules are not enshrined or laid down in the Convention" seems beside the point ).
  • " In the board's view, it is not possible to conclude with certainty from the date on the appellant's letter that a decision was already taken on this date. The board cannot be sure of the appellant's decision-taking process. Appellant's letter may have been drafted on 3 April but only approved at a later date." 
  • " [T]he decision whether to attend or not oral proceedings as summoned depends always not only on the party itself but on the other parties' actions and behaviour. In the light thereof, it is always up to a party to find and decide on the most appropriate conditions and suitable ways for arranging its travel and accommodation reservations accordingly. " 



EPO T 0105/14 - link


Apportionment of costs
22. The board agrees with the respondent on the relevance of the case law concerning the equitable obligation on every party summoned to oral proceedings to inform the board and, following the basic rules of courtesy, the other parties as soon as that party knows that it will not attend as summoned. It is also established by this case law that, under certain circumstances and in certain cases, if a party fails to attend as summoned, an apportionment of costs in favour of another party, who has attended as summoned, may be justified for reasons of equity in accordance with Article 104(1) EPC (cf. "Case Law", supra, IV.C.6.2.2, 990). In support of its arguments regarding the request for apportionment of costs, the respondent has also mentioned decision T 280/15 of 7 March 2019, wherein the board competent in that case decided an apportionment of costs in favour of the party attending as summoned (cf. point XVII supra).

27 Aug 2019

T 1844/15 - Claim interpretation with Google

Key points

  • This opposition appeal deals with the interpretation of the term "cart" in the claims. The opponent had supported their proposed - broad - interpretation by submitting "photo's retrieved by Google for "transportation cart" as search term".
  • The Board: " Without insight into the reputedly complex search algorithms employed by Google, their search results can hardly be considered authoritative for establishing the true meaning of terminology." 
  • The opponent had also submitted a USPTO examination report in support of their claim interpretation. The Board: "the Board is also not privy to examination practice in the USPTO or the considerations that may have motivated the US examiner to go so far as to cite as novelty destroying any wheeled structure including e.g. a shipyard crane - which in the Board's view no skilled person would reasonably consider subsumed under the term "cart". The Board is therefore unable to draw any convincing argument from this evidence that would change its opinion in respect of the scope of the term "transportation cart" in the sense of the contested claim." 
  • According to the Board, a cart is "a small wheeled vehicle", citing Merriam-Webster.


EPO T 1844/15 -  link

3.3 [...] Therefore, in the Board's view the skilled person when reading the feature "transportation cart" would give the term "cart" its usual meaning of "a small wheeled vehicle" (Merriam-Webster), thus excluding larger devices as boat trailers, trucks and portable building works elevators. This is also supported by the patent specification that is generally directed to a transportation cart primarily designed for use in an animal barn, see paragraphs [0001] and [0002], and thus of limited dimensions. 

3.4 The Respondent-Opponent submits in this respect that the term "cart" also has meanings other than merely a "small wheeled vehicle", and that interpreted thus, the claim wording would also encompass the devices of D1-D5. In support they referred to photo's retrieved by Google for "transportation cart" as search term (enclosure I) and a USPTO examination report (enclosures II and III ) citing a wide variety of movable apparatus against novelty. Without insight into the reputedly complex search algorithms employed by Google, their search results can hardly be considered authoritative for establishing the true meaning of terminology. The Board is also not privy to examination practice in the USPTO or the considerations that may have motivated the US examiner to go so far as to cite as novelty destroying any wheeled structure including e.g. a shipyard crane - which in the Board's view no skilled person would reasonably consider subsumed under the term "cart". The Board is therefore unable to draw any convincing argument from this evidence that would change its opinion in respect of the scope of the term "transportation cart" in the sense of the contested claim.

26 Aug 2019

T 0341/16 - Minor amendment, significant change

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the patentee submits amended claims two days before the oral proceedings, reverting from "consisting of" back to the (original) term "including" so as to address an objection under Article 123(2) EPC. The Board does not admit the request.
  • " Amended requests, in particular when used to overcome preliminary formal objections, can significantly change the structure of the proceedings even when they are based on apparently minor modifications. This appears to be the case in the present situation, because the appellants' late reaction to the formal objection under Article 123(2) EPC made in the Boards' preliminary opinion against the substitution of "including" by "consisting of", created a new situation for the respondent, as up until that moment the respondent could have expected that the main request as filed on 30 January 2019 would likely be rejected under Article 123(2) EPC. " 
  • In particular, the opponent could have expected that the focus would have been on the patentability of the first auxiliary request wherein a feature was narrowed, not on the patentability of the (broader) main request. 

EPO T 0341/16 - link

Reasons for the Decision
1. Main Request - Admittance (Article 13(1) RPBA)
1.1 The Board has decided to exercise its discretion under Article 13(1) RPBA not to admit this request for the following reasons:
Amended requests, in particular when used to overcome preliminary formal objections, can significantly change the structure of the proceedings even when they are based on apparently minor modifications. This appears to be the case in the present situation, because the appellants' late reaction to the formal objection under Article 123(2) EPC made in the Boards' preliminary opinion against the substitution of "including" by "consisting of", created a new situation for the respondent, as up until that moment the respondent could have expected that the main request as filed on 30 January 2019 would likely be rejected under Article 123(2) EPC. 
Since in the main request the feature "metallic salt" was not restricted to CaCl2, and this feature was restricted to CaCl2 in the following requests, the respondent might have not expected to discuss patentability of claim 1 defining this broader version of the feature. Thus, the removal of the main cause of non-compliance with Article 123(2) EPC (i.e. the substitution of "consisting of" by the originally defined term "including" in claim 1) two days before the oral proceedings potentially confronted the respondent with a patentability discussion which he might have not expected in view of the preliminary opinion of the Board.
1.2 The appellant argued that the request was a reaction to the new objections raised in the preliminary opinion of the Board, and that this reaction had arrived at such late stage because only then had it become apparent that the prior art taught away from the subject-matter of claim 1, so that a more general definition of the composition (i.e. "including" instead of "consisting of") could be used. Furthermore, the new main request was the result of a minor amendment which could not be regarded as taking the other party by surprise.
1.3 The Board cannot follow this argumentation, because the appellant had ample opportunity to react to the preliminary opinion of the Board as evidenced by the fact that it filed a substantive reaction as well as a new main request and auxiliary requests 1-9 with letter dated 30 January 2019. The appellant thus created the impression that it consciously and deliberately only wanted to defend the main request with the "consisting of" wording. Furthermore, as explained above, even minor amendments can potentially lead to significant changes in the structure of the proceedings, in particular affecting the substance to be discussed in the assessment of patentability.

23 Aug 2019

T 2704/16 - Refund appeal fee only

Key points

  • In this examination appeal, the applicant had requested a refund of the appeal fee. The applicant then submits a letter stating that the appeal was withdrawn and requesting a decision according to the state of the file. The Register then explained (in a telephone conversation) that this contradictory. The appellant then conformed the intention to request a decision according to the state of the file. 
  • Subsequently, the renewal fee is not paid, also not with an additional fee.
  • This makes that the application is withdrawn. The Board still decides on the request for refund of the appeal fee and refuses it, because the appeal was not (actively) withdrawn. 
  • " A withdrawal of an appeal must be expressed in unambiguous terms. The appellant's statement in his letter dated 18 May 2018 that the appeal was withdrawn was in direct contradiction to the request for a decision according to the state of the file, because a withdrawal of the appeal leads to the decision of the department of first instance taking legal effect without a decision by the Board. In view of this contradiction the letter dated 18 May 2018 did not contain a valid request for a withdrawal of the appeal." 



Reasons for the Decision
1. This decision only concerns the appellant's request for reimbursement of the appeal fee. No substantive requests can be considered as the application is deemed withdrawn pursuant to Article 86(1) EPC. The request for oral proceedings is considered withdrawn in view of the subsequent request for a decision according to the state of the file.
2. The appellant has not given any reason as to why the appeal fee should be reimbursed. The Board cannot see any such reason either. The legal basis for reimbursement of the appeal fee is provided for in Rule 103 EPC. According to this rule the appeal fee may be reimbursed if a substantial procedural violation occurred in the proceedings before the department of first instance (and certain additional conditions are fulfilled - see Rule 103(1)(a) EPC) or if the appeal has been withdrawn at a certain stage of the appeal proceedings (Rule 103(1)(b) and (2) EPC). However, neither of these conditions have been fulfilled in the case before the Board - the appellant has neither alleged a substantial procedural violation nor has he withdrawn the appeal.
3. A withdrawal of an appeal must be expressed in unambiguous terms. The appellant's statement in his letter dated 18 May 2018 that the appeal was withdrawn was in direct contradiction to the request for a decision according to the state of the file, because a withdrawal of the appeal leads to the decision of the department of first instance taking legal effect without a decision by the Board. In view of this contradiction the letter dated 18 May 2018 did not contain a valid request for a withdrawal of the appeal. The appellant's letter dated 11 June 2018 clarified the appellant's intention to request a decision according to the state of the file and not to withdraw the appeal.
Order
For these reasons it is decided that:
The request for reimbursement of the appeal fee is refused.