31 Dec 2019

T 0688/16 - Rule 116 in opposition

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the OD had decided to not admit AR-3 into the proceedings.
  • The Board first notes that the impugned decision cites Article 114(2) as the legal basis. The Board notes that Article 114(2) refers to late-filed "Tatsachen und Beweismittel" (the language of proceedings is German) and not to late-filed requests. 
  • The Board notes that Rule 116(2) gives a discretion to hold late-filed requests inadmissible. Rule 116(2) is however only applicable "wenn der Patentinhaberin die Gründe mitgeteilt worden sind, die der Aufrechterhaltung des Patents entgegenstehen und sie aufgefordert worden ist, bis zu einer in Regel 116(1) EPÜ genannten Frist, neue Unterlagen einzureichen". Requests filed after the period of Rule 116 can he beld inadmissible. Hence, the discretion is restricted by the notification that grounds are prejudical to maintenance of the patent as granted. 
  • In this case, the preliminary opinion of the OD was favorable for patentee. Hence, without a negative notificaiton, Rule 116(2) does not apply. 
  • "Im Gegenteil, wegen der Änderung der vorläufigen Sichtweise der Abteilung erst in der mündlichen Verhandlung hätte der Patentinhaberin die Möglichkeit geboten werden müssen, durch Einreichung eines neuen Antrags darauf entsprechend zu reagieren".
  • The Board decides to admit AR-3 and examines whether the claims are novel over D10 (a prior right document). The Board concludes that the claims are novel and remits the case. 
  • I note that the novelty attack based on D10 was in the Notice of opposition.
  • I think that the Board's decision is possibly incorrect in that Rule 79 is also relevant. However, this may require a more detailed analysis at my end. Preliminary I note that it is not so clear if the competence of first instance departments to hold amended claims inadmissible can be based on a Rule only.  A reference to Article 123(1) EPC, first sentence would have been useful ("The [...] European patent may be amended in proceedings before the European Patent Office, in accordance with the Implementing Regulations").  
EPO T 0688/16 -  link


2. Hauptantrag - Zulassung zum Beschwerdeverfahren
Die Kammer ist außerdem zu der Auffassung gelangt, dass die (Nicht-)Zulassung des Hilfsantrags 3 überhaupt nicht im Ermessen der Einspruchsabteilung stand.
2.1 Die Entscheidung führt Artikel 114(2) EPÜ als Rechtsgrundlage an, siehe Punkt 7.6 der Begründung. Aus diesem Artikel lässt sich nur ein Ermessen, Tatsachen und Beweismittel zuzulassen oder nicht, ableiten. Ein Ermessen, verspätet eingereichte Anträge nicht zuzulassen, basiert dagegen auf Regel 116(2) EPÜ, ist aber demzufolge nur dann anzuwenden, wenn der Patentinhaberin die Gründe mitgeteilt worden sind, die der Aufrechterhaltung des Patents entgegenstehen und sie aufgefordert worden ist, bis zu einer in Regel 116(1) EPÜ genannten Frist, neue Unterlagen einzureichen. Dabei ist dann Regel 116(1) EPÜ, Sätze 3 und 4, entsprechend anzuwenden, d.h. solche Anträge, die dann nach einer solchen negativen Mitteilung nach der Regel 116(1) Frist eingereicht werden, brauchen nicht berücksichtigt werden, soweit sie nicht wegen einer Änderung des dem Verfahren zugrundeliegenden Sachverhalts zuzulassen sind. Somit ist das Ermessen durch eine Mitteilung, dass Gründe der Aufrecht-erhaltung des Patents entgegenstehen, bedingt. Dies geht auch aus den damalig geltenden Prüfungsrichtlinien (2015) E-V.2.2 b) hervor.

30 Dec 2019

T 0087/15 - Attack not preserved for appeal


Key points
  • "The four saddest words from the Court of Appeal are these: "Great argument; not preserved."" (R. Stumpf and K.Vogel, link)
  • The Board does not admit the inventive step attack of the opponent, although the attack starting from D1 was in the Notice of opposition. 
  • "However, the [opponent] had agreed during the oral proceedings before the opposition division that D2, and hence not D1, was to be considered the closest prior art". "In addition, the [opponent] did not further pursue the inventive step attack based on D1 after the opposition division had announced that the inventive-step attack based on D2 as the closest prior art failed, stating that it had no further comments "
  • Therefore, the Board does not admit the attack in appeal.
  • "The new allegation of fact based on the different choice of the closest prior art D1 thus clearly deviates from the [opponent's] position taken previously before the opposition division. By not pursuing this attack before the opposition division and reintroducing it before the board, the [opponent] avoided a decision on the relevance of this attack by the opposition division and, provided the new attack were admitted, would oblige the board to decide for the first time on the relevance of this attack."



EPO T 0087/15 - link

2.3 The board acknowledges that an objection of lack of inventive step considering D1 as the closest prior art was raised by the [opponent] in its notice of opposition (point 4.2). However, the appellant had agreed during the oral proceedings before the opposition division that D2, and hence not D1, was to be considered the closest prior art (see the penultimate paragraph on page 2 of the minutes of the oral proceedings before the opposition division and the fifth paragraph from the bottom of page 7 of the opposition division's decision).
In addition, the appellant did not further pursue the inventive step attack based on D1 after the opposition division had announced that the inventive-step attack based on D2 as the closest prior art failed, stating that it had no further comments (minutes page 4).

The new allegation of fact based on the different choice of the closest prior art D1 thus clearly deviates from the appellant's position taken previously before the opposition division. By not pursuing this attack before the opposition division and reintroducing it before the board, the appellant avoided a decision on the relevance of this attack by the opposition division and, provided the new attack were admitted, would oblige the board to decide for the first time on the relevance of this attack.

27 Dec 2019

T 2037/18 - Burden of allegation

Key points

  • The OD had rejected the opposition as inadmissible. The opposition is based on the public prior use of a train. The OD considered that an implicit confidentiality obligation was likely, such that the opposition was insufficiently substantiated by not commenting on the absence of a confidentiality agreement.
  • This is a German language case and the Board takes the rigorous approach. The conclusion is that there is "Keine negative Darlegungslast im Einspruchsschriftsatz" (no negative burden of pleading in the notice of opposition). The Board notes that each party has to plead (allege) and proof the facts that are favourable to its case. However, 'negativa non sunt probanda' (meaning: "eine Prozesspartei muss eine negative Tatsache nicht beweisen; vielmehr ist es an der Gegenseite, gegebenenfalls die ihr günstige positive Tatsache zu beweisen") (hn.1). Accordingly, the opponent has the burden to plead (allege) and proof the fact that some device was handed over to a buyer, whereas the patentee has to plead and proof a confidentiality obligation of the buyer (hn.2). The submissions of the patentee may give rise to a secondary burden of pleading and of proof for the opponent; however, this has only effect 'ex nunc' and does not affect the requirements to substantiate the case in the Notice of opposition in Rule 76(2)(c) (hn.3). 
  • After an analysis of the general rules of evidence, the Board concludes that "das Nichtbestehen einer Geheimhaltungsverpflichtung von der Einsprechenden nur dann zu beweisen ist, wenn die Patentinhaberin die Existenz einer solchen Verpflichtung prima facie bewiesen oder tatsächliche Umstände vorgetragen hat, die die jedenfalls implizite Vereinbarung von Vertraulichkeit vermuten lassen. "
  • The Board then concludes that such a reversal of the burden of proof can only follow from the patentee's reply to the opposition. 
  • The Board: "Da die Darlegungslast der Beweislast folgt, besteht auch erst dann die Notwendigkeit, zum Nichtbestehen einer Geheimhaltungsverpflichtung vorzutragen." Here the "Darlegungslast" can be translated as "burden of allegation" ("A plaintiff must make sufficient assertions of fact in the initial pleading to support a cause of action against a defendant (link)"). 
  • The Board finds that the opposition is admissible. The case is remitted to the OD.
  • As a comment, Rule 76(2)(c) requires " an indication of the facts and evidence presented in support of these grounds". The requirement to allege facts reflects the burden of pleading/allegation, the requirement to indicate evidence reflects the burden of proof.
  • An important step in the Board's reasoning is that "Die Darlegungslast folgt dabei regelmäßig der Beweislast". Accordingly, because in the Board's view there is no burden of proof to show a lack of a confidentiality obligation, there is also no burden to plead the lack of a confidentiality obligation, according to the Board. I'm not sure if this is reasoning is correct. Generally, the burden of proof follows from the burden of pleading. A party has to proof the facts that it asserts (possibly: if contested by the other party), not the other way around (link to once source, finding more sources is beyond the scope of this weblog post). Which facts must be asserted (pleaded) depends on the action sought, i.e. on the cause of action invoked. As held by WIPO case D2000-1467: "[m]any legal systems therefore rely on the principle negativa non sunt probanda. If a rule contains a negative element it is generally understood to be sufficient that the complainant, by asserting that the negative element is not given, provides prima facie evidence for this negative fact. The burden of proof then shifts to the respondent to rebut the complainant's assertion." The question appears to be whether an (implicit) secrecy agreement is an affirmative defense, or the lack thereof an element of the ground of opposition under Art. 100 and Art. 54/56 EPC.

EPO T 2037/18 -  link


Entscheidungsgründe


Die Beschwerde ist zulässig und begründet. Sie führt zur Aufhebung der angefochtenen Entscheidung und Zurückverweisung der Angelegenheit an die Einspruchsabteilung. Die Kammer erachtet eine Vorlage an die Große Beschwerdekammer nicht als geboten.

1. Es ist in der Rechtsprechung der Beschwerdekammern anerkannt, dass das Substantiierungserfordernis gemäß Regel 76(2)c), 3. Punkt, EPÜ "sowie die Angabe der zur Begründung vorgebrachten Tatsachen und Beweismittel" erreichen will, dass der Standpunkt des Einsprechenden in der Einspruchsschrift so deutlich dargelegt wird, dass sowohl der Patentinhaber als auch die Einspruchsabteilung wissen, worum es bei dem Einspruch geht (T 228/85), und diesen auf seine Begründetheit hin prüfen können; ob die vorgebrachten Argumente schlüssig oder gar überzeugend sind, spielt dabei zunächst noch keine Rolle (T 234/86, Gründe Nr. 2.1. bis 2.4, T 426/08, Gründe Nr. 5.1.3, T 934/99, Gründe Nr. 6).

2. Eine offenkundige Vorbenutzung ist dann ausreichend substantiiert, wenn Zeitpunkt (wann?), Gegenstand (was?) und Umstände der Benutzungshandlung (wie, einschließlich wo und durch wen?) dargelegt und Beweismittel dazu angegeben sind. Ob die dargelegten Tatsachen dann tatsächlich bewiesen sind bzw. noch werden, ist eine Frage der Begründetheit. "Der Nachweis, dass die angebliche Vorbenutzung tatsächlich öffentlich war, ist daher für die Zulässigkeit des Einspruchs unerheblich, kann jedoch unter Umständen für die Beurteilung der materiellrechtlichen Begründetheit des Einspruchs von Bedeutung sein", vgl. Rechtsprechung der Beschwerdekammern 2019, IV.C.2.2.8.d) mit weiteren Entscheidungszitaten. Das Nichtbestehen einer Geheimhaltungsvereinbarung muss daher im Einspruch noch nicht nachgewiesen sein.

24 Dec 2019

T 1147/16 - Bonus effect

Key points

  • This is an opposition appeal about inventive step. The Board finds that the distinguishing feature provides for the technical effect of "reduction of epimerisation". The Board also finds that none of the cited documents teaches that the feature at issue (adding lactose) will reduce epimerisation. The opponent then argues that adding lactose is well-known to provide for "a more general stabilisation effect", such that "the particular effect of reduction of epimerisation" is a bonus effect which can not provide for inventive step.
  • The Board: "As stated in T 227/89, in determining which effect is crucial and which is merely accidental (the so-called "bonus effect"), a realistic approach has to be taken, considering the relative technical and practical importance of those effects in the circumstances of a given case." 
  • The Board then turns to the technology at issue and concludes that "the known potential use of lactose to stabilise lyophilisates does not equate with the specific effect of lactose on [] epimerisation disclosed in the patent, nor does this known optional use justify that the crucial epimerisation problem be disregarded in the assessment of inventive step."


T 1147/16 - link


11.5 The appellants-opponents 1 regard the particular effect of reduction of epimerisation as a bonus effect, with the consequence that the known more general stabilisation effect of lactose on lyophilisates would render the claimed subject-matter obvious. The Board does not agree.
As stated in T 227/89, in determining which effect is crucial and which is merely accidental (the so-called "bonus effect"), a realistic approach has to be taken, considering the relative technical and practical importance of those effects in the circumstances of a given case.
It is not contested that lactose is one of many commonly known bulking agents that may optionally be used to physically stabilise lyophilisates. However, as submitted by the appellant-patent proprietor, there is no suggestion in the art that a bulking agent is needed for a tigecycline composition, let alone desired (see D37, paragraph 29). In contrast, the issue of tigecycline C-4 epimerisation appears crucial considering that the C-4 epimer lacks the anti-bacterial efficacy of tigecycline, and that the epimerisation rate of tigecycline is particularly fast (see paragraphs [0010] and [0012] of the patent).
Thus the known potential use of lactose to stabilise lyophilisates does not equate with the specific effect of lactose on tigecycline epimerisation disclosed in the patent, nor does this known optional use justify that the crucial epimerisation problem be disregarded in the assessment of inventive step.

23 Dec 2019

T 0315/15 - Clarity attack admissible

Key points

  • This case is an opposition appeal about clarity of an amended claim.
  • The Board first notes that the amended claim is open to examination of clarity: "[feature] 1-17 [] was not part of the granted claims but was taken from the description. It is, therefore, open to clarity objections " 
  • The Board however doubts whether to admit the clarity objection of the opponent, which raises the question whether a clarity objection is a new fact or a new argument. The Board: "[it] is also questionable whether a further clarity objection merely constitutes a new argument that has to be admitted in accordance with decision T 1914/12 and the jurisprudence of the Enlarged Board of Appeal on which it is based. However, the board is satisfied that the clarity objection raised by the appellant in its written submission []  constitutes a reaction to the [preliminary opinion of the Board]".
  • The Board therefore admits the clarity objection of the opponent, and concludes that claim 1 is unclear: "[as] the feature under consideration is part of the charactering [sic] features and, therefore, decisive for delimiting the claimed subject-matter over the state of the art, claim 1 does not clearly define the matter for which protection is sought. Thus, claim 1 does not comply with the requirements of Article 84 EPC." 
  • As a comment, I am not sure if the requirement of clarity is indeed stricter for the characterizing features in case a claim is drafted in two-part form according to established case law. The Board does not cite any case law.

EPO  T 0315/15 -  link


Consequently, the main request cannot be allowed.
2. Auxiliary request 1
2.1 Admissibility
Auxiliary request 1 corresponds to former auxiliary request 1, which was filed in response to the statement of grounds of appeal, with the exception of the replacement of "effected" by "affected" in claims 1 and 8. This amendment constitutes the correction of an obvious error. As a consequence, the board admitted the request into the proceedings.
2.2 Compliance of feature 1-17 with Article 84 EPC
Claim [sic] 1-17 ("such that by a downward movement of the bead the inside opening angle of the bead is not increased") was not part of the granted claims but was taken from the description. It is, therefore, open to clarity objections (see decision G 3/14 of the Enlarged Board of Appeal, published in OJ EPO 2015, A102).
2.2.1 Admissibility of the late-filed objection
The board cannot endorse the argument that a board of appeal has to examine ex officio the clarity of claims amended by incorporating features that are taken from the description. It is also questionable whether a further clarity objection merely constitutes a new argument that has to be admitted in accordance with decision T 1914/12 and the jurisprudence of the Enlarged Board of Appeal on which it is based. However, the board is satisfied that the clarity objection raised by the appellant in its written submission dated 9 February 2016  constitutes a reaction to the communication pursuant to Article 15(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (RPBA), and in particular, to the definition of the opening angle proposed in point 5.1.8 of that communication [note, of 07.05.2018; the Board may be referring to the opponent's letter of 12.02.2019]. The reaction was filed within the time limit defined by the board (one month before the oral proceedings, see point 7) and cannot, therefore, be considered to be late-filed. As a consequence, the objection cannot be dismissed as inadmissible.
2.2.2 Clarity of feature 1-17
As explained in point 1.1.2, the patent does not provide an unambiguous definition of what is meant by "opening angle". The skilled person trying to determine what exactly is covered by the claim would be at a loss. As the feature under consideration is part of the charactering [sic] features and, therefore, decisive for delimiting the claimed subject-matter over the state of the art, claim 1 does not clearly define the matter for which protection is sought. Thus, claim 1 does not comply with the requirements of Article 84 EPC.
As a consequence, auxiliary request 1 has to be dismissed. 

20 Dec 2019

G 4/19 - Referral - Double patenting - T 0318/14

Key points

  • The Board refers question to the Enlarged Board about double patenting. The questions were already announced during the oral proceedings of 07.02.2019, see here. The Board has now issued the written decision to refer the questions.
  • The questions are stated below. The more important thing is the extensive legal analysis of the Technical Board of Appeal, which stops shortly before concluding that there is no legal basis in the EPC for a prohibiting double patenting.
  • "The main conclusions by the [Technical Board of Appeal]  can be summarised as follows:
  • - There is no express provision in the EPC which prohibits double patenting.
  • - It is not clear whether such a prohibition became an implicit part of the Convention by way of an agreed statement or similar instrument adopted at the Munich Diplomatic Conference.
    - The legislator did not introduce an express prohibition on double patenting at the Diplomatic Conference for the revision of the EPC in 2000. Article 139(3) EPC remained unchanged.
  • - A prohibition on double patenting cannot be based on Article 60(1) EPC.
    - Neither Article 63(1) EPC nor Article 76(1) EPC offers scope for the idea of a prohibition on double patenting.
    - It is questionable whether Article 125 EPC is appropriate as a legal basis for a prohibition on double patenting. This provision cannot serve to introduce a new condition for patentability (or a ground for refusal). [...]
  • - If a prohibition on double patenting with respect to European patent applications may be introduced at all, this could be by way of case law filling an unintended gap in the law. 
  • However, in view of the policy considerations involved, it appears that a proper legislative procedure would offer a more favourable context for establishing a sound legal basis for a prohibition on double patenting."

The following questions are referred to the Enlarged Board of Appeal:

1. Can a European patent application be refused under Article 97(2) EPC if it claims the same subject-matter as a European patent which was granted to the same applicant and does not form part of the state of the art pursuant to Article 54(2) and (3) EPC?

2.1 If the answer to the first question is yes, what are the conditions for such a refusal, and are different conditions to be applied depending on whether the European patent application under examination was filed
a) on the same date as, or
b) as a European divisional application (Article 76(1) EPC) in respect of, or
c) claiming the priority (Article 88 EPC) in respect of a European patent application on the basis of which a European patent was granted to the same applicant?

2.2 In particular, in the last of these cases, does an applicant have a legitimate interest in the grant of a patent on the (subsequent) European patent application in view of the fact that the filing date and not the priority date is the relevant date for calculating the term of the European patent under Article 63(1) EPC?


EPO T 0318/14 - T0318/14 - link

EPO T0318/14 Double patenting
EPO G4/19 Double patenting
EPO G 4/19 Double patenting
EPO G 0004/19 Double patenting
EPO G0004/19 Double patenting
Note the case number was confirmed on 16.01.2020 (link).

Summary of Facts and Submissions


I. This appeal is against the decision of the examining division by which European patent application No 10718590.2, based on an international application published as WO 2010/130661, was refused under Article 97(2) EPC "in conjunction with Article 125 EPC".

II. The examining division found that claim 1 of the sole claim request on file was directed to subject-matter which was "100% identical" to the subject-matter claimed in European patent No 2 251 021, which was granted on European patent application No 09159932.4, the priority document of the present application. This was held to be contrary to the principle of the prohibition on double patenting referred to in decisions G 1/05 and G 1/06.

T 3023/18 - Wrong appeal fee paid

Key points

  • The appellant pays the appeal fee at the reduced level with a debit order, although it is a large chemical company.
  • " The appellant argued that it was evident from the Notice of Appeal that the full fee was due because no declaration of entitlement to a reduced fee was contained therein, hence the EPO should have deducted the full appeal fee." The appellant also cites case law where a 20% underpayment was considered small and thus rectifiable (the difference between the fee levels is 20%, at the applicable time).
  • " The appellant principally relies upon case T0152/82 as support for its argument that its intention to pay the correct appeal fee was clear." 
  • "The Board notes that all the cases cited by the appellant concern situations where there was a single correct fee that was to be paid. In such situations the intention of a party is relatively easy to establish as this intention can only have a single object, the one and only correct fee. In the present case there are two different appeal fees that a party can pay, both are correct in that they are both fees that the EPO is expecting to be paid." 
  • The Board concludes that: "The EPO has no duty to carry out any ex officio enquiry to determine an appellant's entitlement to pay the reduced appeal fee. In the light of the above, the Board does not accept that it is possible to establish that the appellant's intention was to pay the full appeal fee." As a comment, I note that the Board does not rule out the applicability of T152/82 a priori under the current ADA.
  • The Board decides that the amount lacking in the present case to be not "small" within the meaning of Article 8, fourth sentence, RFees.
  • The Board also clarifies the status of the "SME declaration" in appeal proceedings: "The appellant did not file the declaration necessary for the payment of the reduced appeal fee. The non-filing of such a declaration is not evidence of a clear intention by the appellant to pay the full appeal fee: it could also be a mistake, as well as an indication that the appellant does not consider itself entitled to pay the reduced fee. The Board notes that it is the practice of the Boards of Appeal to accept such declarations at any time during the appeal proceedings (see T1222/19, point III)." 
  • "A teleological interpretation of Article 8, fourth sentence, RFees, sheds light on the correct understanding of this article. In this context, it must be borne in mind that Article 8, fourth sentence, RFees, does not provide for the small amount lacking to be paid at a later date. In other words, "overlooking" within the meaning of the said provision entails that the EPO accepts the payment of an insufficient amount without the user being obliged to make good the shortfall. " As a comment, this not what is said in Singer/Stauder, Art.8 GebO rdn.4, 8th edition.
  • The Board also notes that "It seems reasonable to assume that the legislator saw this reduction as being of genuine financial assistance to the listed categories of persons, and not as a merely symbolic reduction. Thus the Board does not consider, for this reason as well, the shortfall to be "small"." 
  • The appeal is deemed to not have been filed. The appeal fee is refunded in line with G1/18.
  • The appellant was the opponent, so re-establishment was not available as a remedy.



EPO T 3023/18 -  link




Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. The opponent, Borealis AG, (hereafter "appellant"), appeals against the opposition division's decision to reject its opposition against the patent in suit.
II. The Notice of Appeal was filed, and the reduced appeal fee was paid, on the last day for doing so, 18 December 2018. The Notice of Appeal was filed at 16:22 hours on 18 December 2018.
III. The appellant paid the full appeal fee on 8 February 2019.

Reasons for the Decision


The intention of the appellant to pay the full fee was clear from the Notice of Appeal

1. The appellant principally relies upon case T0152/82 as support for its argument that its intention to pay the correct appeal fee was clear.

2. T0152/82 concerns the payment of the wrong amount of an appeal fee, when at the time of payment the appeal fee had just been increased. The appellant in T0152/82 became aware of this after the time limit for paying the appeal fee had passed and paid the difference thereafter. The board considered the intention expressed in the debit order: this intention was taken to be that the appellant wished the valid amount of the appeal fee to be debited. The board found that the debit order could therefore be carried out in the clearly intended manner by the EPO itself without any further enquiry being necessary.

19 Dec 2019

Visser's AEPC 2019




The new books just arrived! Just 964 pages (only two pages fewer than last year), but a bit heavier because this year we use thicker paper than last year (the new paper should work better with markers and highlighters).

You can still order your own copy here at Kluwer.

You can find our thoughts on the new RPBA2020 in particular in the notes to Art.110, Art.114 and R.12c (online here at Kluwer IP Law). We do more than merely repeating the text of the RPBA2020, even if there is, of course, no case law about the new rules.

As always, there are hundreds of small changes in the books which are not marked with the grey sidebars. The sidebars are only used for the major changes due to new rules etc. For instance, I can warmly recommend the thoroughly edited chapter on the Rules relating to fees.

By the way, I and the other authors highly appreciate feedback from readers of the book. Just email me or leave a comment.

edited 31.12.2019

T 1927/16 - Dialysis method

Key points

  • This examination appeal is about claim 1 of the main request directed to a method of initiating hemodialysis. The Board concludes that this method is excluded from patentability under Art.53(c) as being a surgical method. The Board recalls that blood is an organ, such that the removal of blood directly from the artery using the blood pumps of a dialysis device is to be regarded as a manipulation of an organ.
  • The Board finds that the method of manipulating blood at issue, by means of blood pumps of a dialysis machine, involves potentially significant health risks. The method is therefore excluded under G1/07.
  • The Board follows T1695/07 hn.I (" blood manipulation process involving the continuous removal of blood from a patient, its subsequent flowing through a circulating line of an extracorporeal circuit and its re-delivery to the patient is a method of treatment of the human body by surgery excepted from patentability under Article 53(c) EPC. "




EPO T 1927/16 -  link


VI. Anspruch 1 des Hauptantrags (ursprünglich eingereichte Ansprüche) lautet wie folgt:
"1. Verfahren zum Starten einer Hämodialyse mit einem Hämodialysegerät (10), wobei das Hämodialysegerät (10) aufweist:
eine Vorfüllflüssigkeits- Quelle (16), die Vorfüllflüssigkeit zur Verfügung stellt,
eine Dialysatseite (12) mit einer Dialysatkammer (29) eines eine Membran (31) aufweisenden Dialysators (28), einer Dialysatpumpe (22), die Dialysat zu der Dialysatkammer (29) pumpt, einer Saugpumpe (34), die das Dialysat oder die Vorfüllflüssigkeit von der Dialysatkammer (29) weg pumpt, und einem Dialysatdruck-Sensor (32) zwischen der Dialysatkammer (29) und der Abfallpumpe (24), und
eine Blutseite (14) mit einer arteriellen Leitung (42), einer Blutpumpe (40), einer Blutkammer (30) des Dialysators (28) und einer venösen Leitung (44),
mit den Verfahrensschritten:
Vorfüllen der arteriellen und der venösen Leitung (42,44) mit Vorfüllflüssigkeit aus der Vorfüllflüssigkeits- Quelle (16),
Anlegen der arteriellen und der venösen Leitung (42,44) an einen Patienten (50),
Vorfüllflüssigkeits-Entfernung durch Ultrafiltration des Vorfüllflüssigkeit aus der arteriellen und venösen Leitung (42,44) durch die Dialysator- Membran (31) in die Dialysatkammer (29) des Dialysators (28) durch die Saugpumpe (34), und
während der Vorfüllflüssigkeits- Entfernung: ständige Bestimmung des Fluiddrucks durch den Dialysatdruck- Sensor (32), wobei die Vorfüllflüssigkeits- Entfernung gestoppt wird, wenn der von dem Dialysatdruck- Sensor (32) gemessene Fluiddruck einen festgelegten Blutankufts- Grenzdruck unterschreitet."


Entscheidungsgründe
1. Die Beschwerde ist zulässig.
2. Das beanspruchte Verfahren
Das im ursprünglichen Anspruch 1 (Hauptantrag) beanspruchte Verfahren betrifft ein Verfahren zum Vorbereiten eines Hämodialysegeräts auf die anschließende Blutreinigungsbehandlung. Das Verfahren hat den Zweck, die Blutankunft des Patientenblutes im Dialysator zu detektieren, um den besten Zeitpunkt für den Start der Blutreinigung festzustellen. Das beanspruchte Verfahren ist also nicht auf die Blutreinigungsbehandlung selber gerichtet.
Das beanspruchte Verfahren zum Starten einer Hämodialyse enthält im Wesentlichen drei Schritte:

18 Dec 2019

T 1462/14 - The skilled person vs a lawyer

Key points

  • In this examination appeal, a feature is omitted in claim 1 of the main request compared to claim 1 as filed. The issue is whether this amendment complies with Art. 123(2) EPC.
  • The Board: "The mere fact that the conditions defining the essentiality test, referred to in the guidelines for examination are met, is not conclusive."
  • " Contrary to the general statement later incorporated into the Guidelines for Examination, the original English text of the decision [T331/87] did not state that meeting the three conditions would be sufficient for the amendment to be allowable; but rather that such an amendment may not violate Article 123(2) EPC" (italics in present decision; as a comment I refrain from discussing the meaning of the phrase "may not").
  • The requirement of G 2/10 refers to the skilled person. 
  • "Many of the appellant's arguments rely on the knowledge to be attributed to the skilled person, as opposed to that of a lawyer.  In the appellant's view, the skilled person would have recognised that the claimed circuit could be used in various environments.[...] Contrary to a lawyer's, the skilled person's understanding would not be limited to the literal content of a written disclosure." 
  • The Board is not persuaded. "The Board notes that the skilled person is a notional entity that has been elaborated by the jurisprudence of the boards of appeal in order to serve as an objective reference when deciding on various issues under the EPC. The jurisprudence makes it clear that this notional person cannot be equated with any real person in the technical field of the invention. Neither an inventor, nor an opponent, nor an examiner, nor a member of a board of appeal, can be equated with the skilled person. This also applies to a representative, independently of any qualification."
  • " The question to be answered is thus whether this fictional skilled person would have derived from the application as a whole that the disclosed circuit is not limited to the field of contactless communication devices." 
  • " The Board thus has no doubt that the skilled person would have construed the invention as a voltage supplying circuit to be used in the context of contactless communication devices only." 
  • As an obiter, the Boards add that  "[t]he Board finds further support for this view in the following observations. Rule 42 EPC specifies the requirements which apply to the patent description. A distinction is made therein between the technical field of the invention (Rule 42(1)(a) EPC), the disclosure of the invention (Rule 42(1)(c) EPC) and the possibility of incorporating examples when describing in detail at least one way of carrying out the invention (Rule 42(1)(e) EPC)."
  • The Board then discusses that para. [0006] at issue is the disclosure of the invention under Rule 42(1)(c) rather than an example under Rule 42(1)(e) EPC. " The reading in accordance with Rule 42(1) EPC confirms thus that contactless communication devices define the field of the invention and not a possible example of its use."
  • This raises the question of whether the "fictional skilled person"  reads a patent application with detailed knowledge of Rule 42 EPC.


T 1462/14 - link

Reasons for the Decision
Main request - Added subject-matter
1. Claim 1 of the main request specifies that the claimed circuit comprises first and second input terminals. The indication in original claim 1 according to which the circuit comprises an input "configured for coupling to an antenna and for receiving an alternating voltage from the antenna" has been deleted.
Essentiality test
5. The mere fact that the conditions defining the essentiality test, referred to in the guidelines for examination are met, is not conclusive.
6. The conditions defining the essentiality test were first defined in the context of case T 331/87, "Removal of a feature", OJ EPO 1991, 22. Contrary to the general statement later incorporated into the Guidelines for Examination, the original English text of the decision did not state that meeting the three conditions would be sufficient for the amendment to be allowable; but rather that such an amendment may not violate Article 123(2) EPC (see T 331/87 point 6, and also T 1852/13, points 2.2.3 and 2.2.7; Case Law of the Boards of appeal, Section II.E.1.4.4 c), 9th edition 2019).
7. As underlined in decision T 1852/13, the correct approach is the so-called "gold standard" as summarised in G 2/10, "Disclaimer/SCRIPPS", OJ EPC 2012, 376: "... any amendment to the parts of a European patent application or of a European patent relating to the disclosure (the description, claims and drawings) is subject to the mandatory prohibition on extension laid down in Article 123(2) EPC and can therefore, irrespective of the context of the amendment made, only be made within the limits of what a skilled person would derive directly and unambiguously, using common general knowledge, and seen objectively and relative to the date of filing, from the whole of these documents as filed" (G 2/10, point 4.3).
Gold standard - the skilled person
8. The definition of the invention, contained in paragraphs [0006] and [0007] of the published application, albeit imperfect, confirms that the claimed invention is to be used with antennas.
9. The patent application as originally filed is, in effect, devoid of ambiguity as to the fact that the claimed circuit is to be used in the context of contactless communication devices, the communication being established by means of antennas.
10. The appellant's reference to paragraph [0014] of the published application, in particualar to the statement that "In some implementations, LC circuit 110 comprises antenna 112", is not persuasive. Indeed, it would be misleading to say that, in other implementations, there may be no antenna. The whole sentence reads "In some implementations, LC circuit 110 comprises antenna 112 (e.g., a coil) coupled in parallel to capacitor 114." What is optional is not the antenna, but the specific arrangement consisting of the antenna in parallel to the capacitor.
11. Many of the appellant's arguments rely on the knowledge to be attributed to the skilled person, as opposed to that of a lawyer.
12. In the appellant's view, the skilled person would have recognised that the claimed circuit could be used in various environments. It was thus not limited to the field of contactless communication devices. Similarly, the skilled person would have also recognised that the claimed circuit could be used with a signal already rectified or provided by a DC source. Contrary to a lawyer's, the skilled person's understanding would not be limited to the literal content of a written disclosure.
13. The Board concurs that literal support is not required under Article 123(2) EPC: what is relevant is the actual teaching conveyed by the original disclosure, i.e. the technical information that the skilled person, reading the original disclosure, would have derived from its content (description, claims and drawings) considered in its entirety. This approach might lead to the identification of subject-matter which has not been explicitly stated as such in the application as filed, but nevertheless derives directly and unambiguously from its content (cf. T 667/08, point 4.1.4). What the skilled person will derive from the content of an application or other written disclosure depends, however, on both his skills and inabilities.
14. The Board notes that the skilled person is a notional entity that has been elaborated by the jurisprudence of the boards of appeal in order to serve as an objective reference when deciding on various issues under the EPC. The jurisprudence makes it clear that this notional person cannot be equated with any real person in the technical field of the invention.
15. Neither an inventor, nor an opponent, nor an examiner, nor a member of a board of appeal, can be equated with the skilled person. This also applies to a representative, independently of any qualification.
16. The question to be answered is thus whether this fictional skilled person would have derived from the application as a whole that the disclosed circuit is not limited to the field of contactless communication devices. In other words, it should be established whether the reference to an antenna would have been construed by the skilled person as referring to a mere example of use of the claimed circuit.
17. As stressed above, the original application is consistent as to the fact that the claimed voltage supply circuit is to be used in association with an antenna input i.e. in the context of contactless communication devices. The wording of original claim 1 is corroborated by the statement in the description regarding the definition of the invention (cf. paragraphs [0006], [0007]). Nothing in the description suggests that some other applications might have been envisaged. In particular, paragraph [0014] does not suggest it.
18. The Board thus has no doubt that the skilled person would have construed the invention as a voltage supplying circuit to be used in the context of contactless communication devices only.
19. The Board finds further support for this view in the following observations.
20. Rule 42 EPC specifies the requirements which apply to the patent description. A distinction is made therein between the technical field of the invention (Rule 42(1)(a) EPC), the disclosure of the invention (Rule 42(1)(c) EPC) and the possibility of incorporating examples when describing in detail at least one way of carrying out the invention (Rule 42(1)(e) EPC).
21. In the present case, the subject-matter is defined in paragraph [0001] as relating "generally to electronic interfaces, and more particularly to contactless interfaces..." in accordance with Rule 42(1)(a) EPC. As underlined above, the disclosure of the invention is disclosed in paragraphs [0006] and [0007] in relation with an inductive antenna in accordance with Rule 42(1)(c) EPC. In accordance with Rule 42(1)(e) EPC, the detailed description of the invention incorporates examples of the contactless interface, switching regulator circuit and timer for switch control.
22. The reading in accordance with Rule 42(1) EPC confirms thus that contactless communication devices define the field of the invention and not a possible example of its use.
23. It follows that the deletion of the reference to the antenna leads to a non-allowable generalisation of the claimed subject-matter, contrary to Article 123(2) EPC.
Subsidiary set of claims - Added subject-matter
24. The independent claim of the auxiliary request differs from claim 1 of the main request in that the features considered to be missing in claim 1 of the main request have been reintroduced.
25. The Board is satisfied that overcomes the objection under Article 123(2) EPC.
26. Since the decision to refuse the application relied exclusively on this objection, the case is remitted to the Examining Division for further prosecution.
Order
For these reasons it is decided that:
The case is remitted to the department of first instance for further prosecution on the basis of the set of claims 1 to 3 according to the subsidiary set of claims filed on 30 September 2019.

17 Dec 2019

T 1189/16 - Not the essentiality test

Key points

  • The essentiality test is dead, according to this Board. 
  • " Insbesondere ist der Wesentlichkeitstest kein Ersatz für die Anwendung des Goldstandards" 
  • " Wie insbesondere in T 1852/13 gefunden [], kann der Wesentlichkeitstest schon aus rein logischen Gründen nicht mit dem Goldstandard deckungsgleich sein, was auch aus dem Wortlaut der Entscheidung T 331/87 schon hervorgeht, und als solcher nicht die Anwendung des Goldstandards als dem einzig relevanten Maßstab ersetzen." 
  • The GL 2019 H-V 3.1 mention the essentiality test as a negative test only ("If the amendment by replacing or removing a feature from a claim fails to pass the following test by at least one criterion, it necessarily contravenes the requirements of Art. 123(2)").  


T 1189/16 -  link


Die Kammer kann im Übrigen diese Argumentationslinie nicht nachvollziehen, da nach geltender Rechtsprechung der Beschwerdekammern (G 2/10, supra) der "Goldstandard" der einzig relevante Maßstab für die Beurteilung der Zulässigkeit von Änderungen ist. Insbesondere ist der Wesentlichkeitstest kein Ersatz für die Anwendung des Goldstandards, also der Frage, was der Fachmann der Beschreibung, den Ansprüchen und den Figuren einer europäischen Patentanmeldung am Anmeldetag objektiv entnehmen konnte, auch wenn er unterstützend angewendet werden kann (vgl. T 755/12, Punkt 2.3 der Entscheidungsgründe). 

Der Verweis der Beschwerdeführerin auf den in den "Richtlinien für die Prüfung im Europäischen Patentamt" noch aufgeführten Wesentlichkeitstest, ist nicht entscheidend, da die Kammer nicht durch die Richtlinien gebunden ist. 

Wie insbesondere in T 1852/13 gefunden (2.2.7 der Entscheidungsgründe), kann der Wesentlichkeitstest schon aus rein logischen Gründen nicht mit dem Goldstandard deckungsgleich sein, was auch aus dem Wortlaut der Entscheidung T 331/87 schon hervorgeht, und als solcher nicht die Anwendung des Goldstandards als dem einzig relevanten Maßstab ersetzen.

16 Dec 2019

T 1222/19 - Wrong appeal fee paid

Key points

  • The applicant files a Notice of appeal and pays the appeal fee at the reduced rate for SME's (the Notice and debit order (Form 1038E) are signed by in house counsel). The Board requests evidence of the SME status. The applicant in reply acknowledges that it is not an SME and requests re-establishment of rights.
  • The Board decides that the appeal is deemed not to have been filed. 
  • The request for re-establishment is refused because all due care has not been shown. The Board recalls that an error of a representative is "grundsätzlich nicht entschuldbar" .
  • In this case, the representative had asked the assistant to fill in the debit order (with Online Filing Software) using the normal appeal fee. However, because the amount of the reduced rate was the same as the normal (only) fee rate until the fee increase of 1 April 2018, the assistant chose the familiar amount and the attorney did not spot the error when signing. 
  • The appeal fee is refunded. 
  • As a comment, the Board does not discuss the 'good faith' principle that the EPO should inform parties of easy-to-spot errors if there is still time for correcting the error. I note that the appealed decision was dated 15.11.2018, the Notice of appeal was filed 03.01.2019 without a declaration of SME status (see J8/18 about this SME declaration, see T 0703/19 about "good faith" being available as remedy for payments of appeal fees).

EPO  T 1222/19 - link

Sachverhalt und Anträge
I. Die Beschwerdeführerin wendet sich gegen die am 15. November 2018 zur Post gegebene Entscheidung der Prüfungsabteilung, mit der die Anmeldung Nr. 07 857 786.3 zurückgewiesen wurde.
II. Am 3. Januar 2019 reichte die Beschwerdeführerin Beschwerde gegen die Entscheidung der Prüfungsabteilung ein und zahlte am gleichen Tag den für kleinere und mittlere Unternehmen (KMU) i.S.v. Regel 6 (4) a) und (5) EPÜ geltenden, ermäßigten Betrag für die Beschwerde­gebühr i.H.v. EUR 1.880,00 anstelle des regelmäßigen Betrags i.H.v. EUR 2.250,00. Eine gesonderte Erklärung der Beschwerdeführerin über ihre Eigenschaft als KMU ging nicht ein. Die Beschwerde wurde mit Schriftsatz vom 5. März 2019, eingegangen am 21. März 2019, begründet.

III. Die Kammer wies die Beschwerdeführerin in einer Mitteilung vom 24. Mai 2019 darauf hin, dass sie begründete Zweifel an der KMU-Eigenschaft der Beschwerde­führerin habe und forderte sie auf, einen entsprechenden Nachweis einzureichen. Gleichzeitig wies die Kammer darauf hin, dass für den Fall, dass die Beschwerdeführerin kein KMU sei, die Beschwerdegebühr in zu geringer Höhe und damit nicht wirksam eingezahlt worden sei.
IV. Mit Schriftsatz vom 18. Juli 2019, eingegangen am 24. Juli 2019, hat die Beschwerde­führerin angegeben, kein KMU zu sein. Gleichzeitig hat sie Antrag auf Wiedereinsetzung i.S.v. Artikel 122, Regel 136 EPÜ in die Zweimonatsfrist gemäß Artikel 108 Satz 1 EPÜ gestellt, die Gebühr für den Wiederein­setzungs­antrag und den Differenzbetrag zu der vollständigen Beschwer­de­gebühr gezahlt sowie ihren Wiedereinsetzungs­antrag begründet.


Entscheidungsgründe
1. Die Beschwerdeführerin hat innerhalb der zweimonatigen Beschwerdefrist i.S.v. Artikel 108 Satz 1 EPÜ zwar Beschwerde eingelegt, nicht jedoch den vollständigen, für sie als Nicht-KMU geltenden Betrag für die Beschwerdegebühr i.H.v. EUR 2.255,00 gezahlt. Die Beschwerde gilt daher als nicht eingelegt, Artikel 108 Satz 2 EPÜ (vgl. G 1/18, Leitsatz 1 a)).
2. Etwas Anderes würde jedoch gelten, wenn der Antrag der Beschwerdeführerin auf Wiedereinsetzung in die Beschwerdefrist gemäß Artikel 122, Regel 136 EPÜ begründet wäre.
2.1 Die Zulässigkeitsvoraussetzungen gemäß Artikel 122 (2), Regel 136 (1) und (2) EPÜ für den Wiedereinsetzungs­antrag sind erfüllt.
2.2 Ein Antrag auf Wiedereinsetzung in den vorigen Stand ist dann begründet, wenn der Antragsteller gemäß Artikel 122 (1) EPÜ die nach den gegebenen Umständen gebotene Sorgfalt beachtet hat und trotzdem daran gehindert war, eine Frist einzuhalten. Die Recht­sprechung der Beschwerdekammern hat zwei Kriterien für die Beachtung der gebotenen Sorgfalt entwickelt. Die Fristversäumung muss

13 Dec 2019

T 2051/16 - Late filed late-filed-objections

Key points

  • I discuss this opposition appeal case mostly for the procedural issue. But let's start first with the Board's very useful summary of sufficiency of disclosure.
  • The Board: "sufficiency of disclosure must be assessed on the basis of the application as a whole, including the description and claims, and not on the claims alone. The skilled person may [...] use his common general knowledge to supplement the information contained in the application or correct errors. If at least one way to carry out the invention is clearly indicated, the non-availability of some particular variants of a functionally defined component feature of the invention is immaterial to sufficiency as long as there are suitable variants known to the skilled person through the disclosure or common general knowledge providing the same effect for the invention."
  • The procedural issue is the admissibility of AR-1 filed by the patentee (respondent) in its initial appeal submission (response under Art.12 RPBA). The opponent objected that AR-1 was filed late during the oral proceedings. 
  • "The board observes that this objection has been made at a very late stage, in particular when taking into account that the board in its preliminary opinion [] already acknowledged that the [AR-1 was likely admissible]. However, irrespective of whether the [opponent]'s late-filed objection might be admitted and considered only at the board's discretion (under Article 13(1) RPBA), the board cannot see, and the [opponent] has not argued, why this filing should not be considered as a direct response to the [opponent]'s appeal, as brought forward by the [patentee]." 
  • Hence, the Board leaves open whether a late-filed-objection can be late-filed itself. 
  • As a comment, I expect that late-filed-objections will be considered as liable to be late-filed by Boards in the future, especially if the objection is submitted only after the (future) case management conference. The Boards may very well require that parties make objections timely and sufficiently specifically during or before the case management conference, however probably without restricting the Board's power to hold submissions inadmissible ex officio


EPO T 2051/16 -  link

Reasons for the Decision
Patent as granted
1. Sufficiency of disclosure (Article 100(b) EPC)
1.1 The appellant's challenge of the sufficiency of disclosure of the patent in suit under Article 100(b) EPC is rejected.
According to the established case law, sufficiency of disclosure must be assessed on the basis of the application as a whole, including the description and claims, and not on the claims alone. The skilled person may even use his common general knowledge to supplement the information contained in the application or correct errors. If at least one way to carry out the invention is clearly indicated, the non-availability of some particular variants of a functionally defined component feature of the invention is immaterial to sufficiency as long as there are suitable variants known to the skilled person through the disclosure or common general knowledge providing the same effect for the invention.
[...]
First auxiliary request
4. Admissibility of the first auxiliary request
4.1 The respondent filed its first auxiliary request on 21 March 2017 with its reply to the grounds of appeal, thereby addressing the appellant's objection under Article 100(c) EPC with regard to claim 8 as granted.

12 Dec 2019

T 2492/18 - Continuation of opposition

Key points

  • This case concerns the continuation of opposition after the lapse of the patent. The OD issued the  "interlocutory decision to maintain the patent in amended form" in December 2016. In February 2017, a communication about the lapse of the patent was sent to the opponent (Rule 84). The opponent then filed an appeal and separately, a statement that it wished to continue the opposition proceedings. The opponent then withdrew the appeal (before filing a  Statement of grounds). More than a year later, the OD decided "not to continue the opposition proceedings. The reason given for the decision was that no timely request for continuation had been filed." 
  • The Board points out "[a]though the opposition proceedings had led to an interlocutory decision which had become final after the withdrawal of the appeal against it, the opposition procedure was not yet completed and continuation of the proceedings could still have legal significance. For completion of the opposition proceedings the new specification of the amended patent would have to be published (Article 103 EPC). This publication is conditional upon certain acts of the proprietor, see Rule 82 (2) EPC". "There is no indication in the file that an invitation under Rule 82(2) EPC has been sent to the proprietor." "It follows from the above that the opposition division apparently has not recognized and considered the request of the appellant for continuation and that the appellant is thereby adversely affected".
  • As a note, I don't think that the Boards reasoning is very useful. As I understand it, the publication of the new patent specification has no legal effect (just as for the first patent specification). What is, however, important, is that the formal decision to maintain the patent in amended form under Art.101(3)(a) EPC is only taken after the filing of the translated claims and payment of the fee under Rule 82. If the opposition is terminated under Rule 84(1), the patent is maintained as granted. Note that the interlocutory  decision of the OD was not "to maintain the patent in amended form"  (as the Board writes) but actually that "account being taken of the amendments ... the patent ... and the invention to which it relates are found to meet the requirements of the Convention" (link), which is one of the two requirements of Art.101(3)(a) for a decision to "maintain the patent as amended" (the other requirement is that "the conditions laid down in the Implementing Regulations are fulfilled").
  • The Board remits the case to the OD with the remark that "the opposition division should take a new decision, with due consideration of the request of the appellant". The Board does not use the opportunity to comment on whether a request of the opponent for a continuation of the proceedings is a necessary condition or a necessary and sufficient condition for the continuation of the proceedings (see my post about T 598/98). 


EPO T 2492/18 -  link



Reasons for the Decision
1. The appeal complies with Article 106 to 108 and Rule 99 EPC and is therefore admissible.
2. According to Rule 84(1) EPC, opposition proceedings may be continued, even if the patent concerned has been surrendered or has lapsed in all the designated Contracting States, at the request of the opponent, which has to be filed within two months of a communication informing him of the surrender or lapse.
3. In the present case the (somewhat unusual) chronology of events was as follows. The opposition division issued its interlocutory decision to maintain the patent in amended form on 22 December 2016. The opponent was informed with a communication pursuant to Rule 84(1) EPC dated 2 February 2017 of the lapse of the opposed European patent, and was given a time limit of two months to file a request for continuation if it so wished. On 28 February 2017 the opponent filed an appeal against the decision of the opposition division, receiving the file number T 0529/17. On 14 March 2017 the opponent stated its wish to continue the opposition proceedings, explicitly referring to the communication dated 2 February 2017. On 26 April 2017 the opponent withdrew the appeal in the appeal proceedings T0529/17, but at the same time confirmed its wish that the opposition proceedings be continued, by an express reference to its previous request for continuation dated 14 March 2017. On 27 July 2018 (and thus more than one year after the request was made, and also more than one year after the request was confirmed when notifying the withdrawal of the appeal!) the opposition division decided not to continue the opposition proceedings. The reason given for the decision was that no timely request for continuation had been filed.

11 Dec 2019

T 2732/16 - Unusual parameter and novelty

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the patentee argued that the claim was novel over D1 because of a parameter feature. The Board finds that the feature at issue is an unusual parameter feature. Therefore, the patentee has the burden of proof (to show novelty) once the opponent has filed experimental results of calculations which make the implicit disclosure of the feature by D1 at least very likely (umindest stark vermuten lassen). 
  • The Board thereby follows T 131/03 hn ("However, when the [opponent] has established a strong presumption that unusual parameters as used to define the claimed subject-matter are inherently disclosed in the prior art, the patent proprietor cannot merely claim the benefit of the doubt. It is incumbent upon him to contribute in establishing to which extent such parameters, which he freely chose to use in the definition of his invention, actually distinguish the claimed subject-matter from the prior art").



EPO T 2732/16 -  link




2.3.5 Beweislast
Die Beschwerdegegnerin [patentee] hat sich darauf berufen, dass die von der Beschwerdeführerin  [opponent] eingereichten Experimente und Berechnungen die Kriterien für eine implizite Offenbarung gemäß T 793/93 nicht erfüllten, da noch ein Graubereich bleibe, der durch die Offenbarung der D11 nicht abgedeckt sei. Es sei daher nicht nachgewiesen, dass die Gemische der D11 unter die vorliegenden Ansprüche fielen.
Die Kammer folgt dieser Argumentation nicht.
Die von der Beschwerdegegnerin [patentee] definierten NMR-Parameter wurden im Stand der Technik vor dem Anmeldetag nicht zur Charakterisierung von Phthalsäureisononanolen verwendet. Die Ansprüche sind daher durch ungewöhnliche Parameter charakterisiert. In so einem Fall ist die Beschwerdegegnerin als Patentinhaberin nach Überzeugung der Kammer in der Beweispflicht, sobald die Einsprechende nachvollziehbare experimentelle Daten oder Berechnungen vorlegt, die die implizite Erfüllung der beanspruchten Parameter im Stand der Technik zumindest stark vermuten lassen (im Einklang mit T 0131/03, Leitsatz).

10 Dec 2019

T 1684/18 - New secondary references in appeal

Key points

  • In this opposition case, the opponent appeals. The OD found the inventive step attack based on E22 in combination with E2 to be not convincing. In appeal, the opponent raises new inventive step attacks based on E22 (same closest prior art) in combination with E33, with E34 and with E35. The Board does not admit these attacks.
  • " Die Beschwerdeführerin führte lediglich aus, dass die Dokumente E33 - E35 bei einer mit der Vorbereitung der Beschwerdeschrift erfolgten Nachrecherche entdeckt wurden. Eine Nachrecherche bezüglich des Patents wie erteilt hätte jedoch ohne weiteres bereits innerhalb der Einspruchsfrist oder spätestens im weiteren Verlauf des erstinstanzlichen Verfahrens vorgenommen werden können. " 
  • " Auch stellt das Beschwerdeverfahren keine weitere Möglichkeit dar, beim Scheitern einer im Einspruchsverfahren vorgetragenen Argumentation nun einen erneuten Anlauf zu nehmen, mit neuen Beweismitteln und neuen Argumentationslinien das Streitpatent doch noch zu Fall zu bringen." 
  • The latter German paragraph  deserves a translation into English, preferably by a native speaker. 




EPO  T 1684/18 -  link

2. Artikel 12(4) VOBK
2.1 Gemäß Artikel 12(4) VOBK hat die Beschwerdekammer die Befugnis, Tatsachen, Beweismittel oder Anträge nicht zuzulassen, die bereits im erstinstanzlichen Verfahren hätten vorgebracht werden können oder dort nicht zugelassen worden sind.
2.2 Die Beschwerdeführerin hat bereits im Einspruchsverfahren fehlende erfinderische Tätigkeit als Einspruchsgrund geltend gemacht.
Dabei argumentierte sie ausgehend von E22 als nächstkommenden Stand der Technik, der mit der Lehre des Dokuments E2 (EP 0 872 853 A1) kombiniert wurde.
2.3 Diese Argumentationslinie konnte die Einspruchsabteilung im Vorverfahren jedoch nicht überzeugen, so dass die Einspruchsabteilung das Vorliegen einer erfinderischen Tätigkeit bestätigte (siehe Absatz 2.3.1 der angegriffenen Entscheidung).
2.4 Die Dokumente E33 ? E35 wurden erstmals mit der Beschwerdebegründung eingereicht und für drei neue Argumentationslinien zur erfinderischen Tätigkeit verwendet (jeweils ausgehend von E22 in Kombination mit E33, mit E34 und mit E35). Die auf den neu eingereichten Dokumenten E33 - E35 basierenden Argumentationslinien stellen dabei ein neues Vorbringen dar, mit dem das Patent wie erteilt wegen mangelnder erfinderischer Tätigkeit erstmalig im Beschwerdeverfahren angegriffen wird.

9 Dec 2019

J 0001/19 - Fee for restoration of priority

Key points

  • In this examination appeal, the applicant had requested restoration of priority in the PCT phase before the USPTO as receiving Office. The USPTO had granted the request based on the criterion of unintentionally. 
  • " Following the appellant's request for entry into the European phase, the Receiving Section informed the appellant's professional representative by EPO Form 1227 of 31 August 2017 that the EPO, as designated Office, did not accept the criterion of unintentionality. It invited the appellant to file a request under Rule 49ter.2 PCT for restoration of the right of priority under the due care criterion. The appellant's attention was expressly drawn to the one-month time limit under Rule 49ter.2(b)(i) PCT for filing the request. The form did not contain an explicit reference to the required payment of the restoration fee under Rule 49ter.2(b)(iii), (d) PCT." 
  • "  It is uncontested that the appellant filed a request for the restoration of the priority right in good time but did not pay the required fee under Rule 49ter.2(b)(iii), (d) PCT, Article 122(2), first sentence, Rule 136(1), third sentence, EPC within the one-month time limit under Rule 49ter.2(b)(i) PCT." 
  • " It follows from Rule 136(1), third sentence, EPC (and not from Article 122(1) EPC, as erroneously stated in the appealed decision) that the appellant's request for restoration is deemed not to have been filed." 
  • " the appellant essentially argued that, in accordance with the principle of good faith, the Receiving Section could and should have drawn its attention to the need to pay a fee for restoration. Furthermore, the Receiving Section could and should have warned it of the omitted payment." 
  • The Legal Board refuses to apply "legitimate expectations": " the principle of the protection of legitimate expectations does not require comprehensive legal advice to be included in such forms. In other words, forms do not need to include explanations of the law. Rather, parties to proceedings before the EPO - and their representatives - are expected to have knowledge of the relevant provisions of the EPC, even if such provisions are intricate" 
  • " To summarise, the principle of the protection of legitimate expectations did not oblige the Receiving Section to draw the appellant's attention to the required payment of the fee for restoration and/or to alert it to the omitted payment."



EPO J 0001/19 - link

Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. On 11 April 2016, the appellant filed international application PCT/US2016/026991, which claimed priority of previous applications US 62/114,215 of 10 February 2015 and US 62/259,993 of 25 November 2015.

II. As the earliest priority date was more than 12 months before the date of filing, the appellant filed a request for restoration of the right of priority under Rule 26bis.3 PCT. The USPTO, acting as the receiving Office, granted this request based on the criterion of unintentionality.

III. By EPO Form 1201 of 23 June 2017, the Receiving Section informed the appellant's United States representatives about the procedural steps required for entry into the European phase before the EPO. Point 8 of this form contains the relevant information on restoring priority right. It explicitly refers inter alia to the admissibility requirement of paying the requisite fee under Rule 49ter.2(b)(iii), (d) PCT.

6 Dec 2019

J 0015/18 - Adding priority claim under Rule 139

Key points

  • This appeal concerns the refusal of the Receiving Section to add a priority claim under Rule 139 EPC for a PCT application that had entered the European phase. The PCT application claims the priority of P2 only. P2 is a divisional application of P1 (both are US patent applications). The request is to add P1 as priority. P1 is still within the priority year.
  • "  The board concurs with the finding of the Receiving Section that the true intention of the applicant was indeed to claim the priority of P1, in addition to P2."

  • " However, with regard to the correction of priority data, the interest of third parties in maintaining legal certainty must be taken into account. Published data must be reliable as such. The established case law requires that the request for correction should be made early enough for a warning to be included in the publication of the application. When no warning is published, only special circumstances may justify the correction at a later stage if the interest of the public is not seriously affected. " 
  • " In the present case, the request for correction was filed on 6 July 2017, i.e. more than five years after the publication of the international application [...] on 29 March 2012, which then contained no warning that a request for the correction of the priority data had been made, and more than four and a half years after filing the request for entry into the European regional phase" (as a comment, the supplementary ESR was issued only still later in October 2017)
  • " The appellant is[...] of the opinion that any third party interested in the patentability or scope of the application would consult the priority document, which was readily available for consultation at the time the relevant PCT application was published.  At this point, it is necessary to consider the definition of the relevant "public" or "third party" who would consult the published PCT application. According to the appellant, the relevant "public" is defined as a qualified person, typically a patent attorney, who would assess the validity of the priority claim and therefore consult the priority document. Taking into account the primary purpose of the publication of the application, which is mainly to disclose technical information in order to foster innovation, the board considers that the published application would first be consulted by a person skilled in the art. That person would look for technical information in the field of the invention. They would closely review the technical content of the published application, as well as the details of the priority declaration, to determine the full scope of protection. But unless an obvious discrepancy regarding the details of the priority declaration prompts this, the person skilled in the art would rely on the published data without consulting the priority document." 
  • " The board comes to the conclusion that there are no special circumstances which would justify making an exception to the general rule that a request for correction should be made sufficiently early for a warning to be included in the publication of the application. The finding of the Receiving Section in the decision under appeal is therefore justified." 


EPO J 0015/18 (J 15/18) -  link
corresponding case J 0011/18 (J 11/18) - link



Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. This is an appeal against the decision of the Receiving Section, sent with reasons on 27 March 2018, to refuse the request dated 6 July 2017 pursuant to Rule 139 EPC to correct the PCT request form with respect to international application PCT /US2011/037235 (later European application No.11827111.3) by adding a second priority application US12/819,44 of 21 June 2010.

Reasons for the Decision


Admissibility of the appeal

1. The appeal is admissible. It complies with the requirements of Articles 106 to 108 and Rule 99 EPC.

Request for correction under Rule 139 EPC

2. European patent application No 11827111.3 was filed on 19 May 2011 as international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty No. PCT/US2011/037235. It claims priority to US application No 12/888,107 (P2) of 22 September 2010. The international application No PCT/US2011/037235 was published on 29 March 2012 under publication No WO2012/039794, and the request for entry into the European regional phase was filed on 21 January 2013.

3. The request for correction relates to the addition of an earlier priority claim to US12/819,944 of 21 June 2010 (P1).

4. Under Rule 139 EPC, first sentence, linguistic errors, errors of transcription and mistakes in any document filed with the European Patent Office may be corrected on request. A mistake is said to exist in a document filed with the EPO if the document does not express the true intention of the person on whose behalf it was filed. The mistake may take the form of an incorrect statement or it may result from an omission. Correction can take the form of amending the incorrect statement or adding omitted matter (J 8/80, J 6/91).

Presence of a mistake

5. The board concurs with the finding of the Receiving Section that the true intention of the applicant was indeed to claim the priority of P1, in addition to P2.

- P2 is a divisional application of P1, which means that the subject matter contained in P2 should be disclosed in P1.

- The relevant deadlines following PCT filing were monitored based on the filing date of P1 on 21 June 2010: the PCT application was filed within the 12- month period on 19 May 2011, and the request to enter the European regional phase was filed on 21 January 2013, precisely 31 months from the filing of P1.