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.

22 Aug 2019

J 0008/18 - SME appeal fee and restoration priority

Key points
  • An appeal against a decision of the Receiving  Section is filed by a Chinese SME. The Legal Board explains, firstly, that this small or medium-sized enterprise is entitled to the reduced appeal fee.
    • "whereas the reduction in the filing fee and the examination fee is only available for natural persons and the above-mentioned entities if they have their residence or principal place of business in a Contracting State having a language other than English, German or French as an official language, and nationals of such state who are resident abroad, the applicable amount of the appeal fee is not dependent on the restrictions in Article 14(4) EPC, and also not on the language in which the notice of appeal is filed." 
  • A second question what is the meaning of the self-declaration that the appellant is an SME. The EPO Notice OJ 2018, A5 states that " Appellants wishing to benefit from the reduced fee for appeal must expressly declare that they are a natural person or an entity covered by Rule 6(4) EPC".
    • The Legal Board observes firstly that "The Decision of the Administrative Council [OJ 2018, A4; i.e. amended Rfees2)(1)11] does however not refer to Rule 6(6) EPC, wherein such declaration is mentioned, either." The Board emphasizes that "the Board is in no way bound by Notices from the EPO concerning the application or interpretation of legal provisions". 
    • As a comment, I think the Board expresses here that the purported requirement of a declaration of OJ 2018 A15 simply lacks any legal basis and simply does not exist. This is somewhat similar to recent decision J 4/18 were the Legal Board concluded that the purported requirement that for reduction of the examination fee for SME's under Rule 6, there is no requirement that all applicants must fulfill the requirements of Article 14(4) EPC. 
    • The Board nevertheless finds that the Notice "appears to suggest that it is enough to benefit from the reduced fee for appeal if the appellant simply declares that it is an [entitled entity]." The Board finds that "at least based on the principle of legitimate expectations the appellant could rely on the information given by the EPO and furthermore assume that its appeal would either be deemed filed or admissible following the refund of the regular appeal fee before the file was transferred to the boards of appeal" 
    • The latter remark refers to the fact that the appellant had paid both the reduced amount and the full amount and the fact that the full amount was refunded, apparently the refund was made by the EPO already before the file was transferred to the Board. As a comment, I think the Legal Board could more straightforwardly have said that the even the higher appeal fee was validly paid by the applicant; the fact that someone in the EPO's accounting department decides to refund it does not make the payment invalid.
  • The impugned decision was taken by the Receiving Section and did not state the name of the employee. The Board finds this to be a substantial procedural violation of Rule 113(2). 
  • The substantive issue is that the applicant had filed a request for restoration of priority, within the time limit of one month from the expiry of the 31-month time limit but without paying the fee. The Board finds that the request is deemed to not have been filed by applying Rule 136(1) last sentence EPC mutatis mutandis.  
  • The applicant had argued that further processing should be available for the missed time limit of Rule 49ter.2(b)(i) PCT. The Board explains that under " Article 48(2)(a) PCT [...] further processing is not available if it is not available for not meeting a corresponding time limit under the EPC. Article 121(4) EPC expressly rules out further processing inter alia in respect of the time limit for requesting re-establishment of rights. A request for restoration of rights as specified in Rule 49ter.2 PCT is equivalent to, and identical in legal nature, to a request for re-establishment of rights under the EPC". Accordingly, neither further processing nor re-establishment are available. 
  • "The appellant's final argument [invoking  the principle of legitimate expectations] that it was not obvious that a fee was due for a request for restoration under Rule 49ter.2 PCT cannot convince the Board either. Apart from the fact that parties to proceedings before the EPO are expected to know the relevant legal provisions, it should also be known that the EPO charges fees for further processing and re-establishment of rights, and it would therefore be unlikely that the EPO did not charge a fee for the request for restoration under Rule 49ter.2 PCT. It would therefore have been incumbent on the appellant to check whether the EPO had made use of its right to charge a fee under Rule 49ter.2(d) PCT." 


J 0008/18 - J 8/18 - link



Reasons for the Decision
Admissibility of the appeal
1.1 The appeal fee was paid twice within the two month period of Article 108 EPC, once the reduced amount of ¤ 1880 on 3 April 2018 and once the regular amount of ¤ 2255 on 4 April 2018. The amount of ¤ 2255 was subsequently (on 17 April 2018) refunded to the appellant.
1.2 According to Article 1(4) of the Decision of the Administrative Council of 13 December 2017 amending Articles 2 and 14 of the Rules relating to Fees (OJ EPO 2018, A4) the fee for appeal for an appeal filed by a natural person or an entity referred to in Rule 6(4) and (5) EPC shall be ¤ 1880. The fee for an appeal filed by another entity shall be ¤ 2255. These amounts shall be applicable for appeals filed on or after 1 April 2018 (Article 3(4) of the Decision). The present appeal has been filed on 3 April 2018.

21 Aug 2019

T 0435/17 - Intervention by (not?) a third party

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, two notices of intervention were filed under Article 105 EPC. The patentee protests that the interveners are not really third parties, because of their "factual proximity" to the opponent " in geographical, accounting (i.e. EPO deposit account] and representational terms". The interventions would, therefore, be an abuse of procedure to delay the opposition.
  • The Board finds that there is no legal basis to hold an intervention inadmissible because of proximity to the opponent.


EPO T 0435/17 -  link



Motifs de la décision
1. Recevabilité des interventions
1.1 Dans la notification selon l'article 15(1) RPCR la Chambre a annoncé et motivé son avis provisoire que les deux interventions sont recevables comme suit:
"8.1 La Chambre juge les deux interventions recevables parce qu'elles satisfont aux dispositions de l'article 105 CBE et de la règle 89 CBE. En particulier, les deux contrefactrices présumées ont apporté la preuve qu'une action en contrefaçon fondée sur le brevet a été introduite à leur encontre (cf. assignation devant le TGI Paris du 22 décembre 2017).
8.2 La titulaire du brevet soutient que les deux interventions sont irrecevables parce que les contrefactrices présumées ne sont pas des tiers au sens de l'article 105(1) CBE, en raison de leur proximité factuelle en termes géographiques, comptables et de représentation avec l'opposante 1, et qu'elles utilisent donc la procédure d'intervention pour porter tardivement à la procédure des moyens qui auraient déjà pu être présentés devant la division d'opposition.
8.3 Toutefois, la Chambre estime que le terme "tout tiers" figurant à l'article 105(1) CBE doit être interprété au sens où le contrefacteur présumé doit être une entité juridique distincte des autres parties à la procédure (cf. par exemple la Jurisprudence des Chambres de recours de l'OEB, 2016, chapitre IV.C.3.1.1), et qu'il n'existe aucune base juridique pour exclure qu'un contrefacteur présumé partage avec un opposant des locaux, un compte courant pour le paiement de taxes - lesquelles peuvent par ailleurs être payées par toute personne - et/ou un mandataire agréé. Il ne ressort pas des éléments présentés par la titulaire du brevet que les contrefactrices présumées et l'opposante 1 ne sont pas des entités juridiques distinctes.
8.4 La Chambre n'est donc pas persuadée que le fait d'autoriser les interventions revienne à permettre à l'opposante 1 d'introduire tardivement de nouveaux moyens dans la procédure de recours."
1.2 La titulaire du brevet n'a pas répondu sur le fond à cet avis provisoire.
1.3 Au début de la procédure orale, la Chambre a constaté qu'en l'absence d'élément nouveau la conclusion communiquée à titre provisoire devait s'appliquer de manière inchangée et a ainsi décidé que les interventions étaient recevables.
1.4 Les intervenantes sont par conséquent assimilées à des opposantes pour la suite de la procédure (article 105(2) CBE).

20 Aug 2019

T 0085/16 - No three-point-test for omitted features

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, claim 1 at issue does not contain three features compared to claim 1 of the (parent) application as filed. 
  • "The [patentee] argued that the three-point-test developed in T331/87 was applicable in the present case. "
  • "However, the basic principle underlying Articles 76(1) and 123(2) EPC is independent of particular tests that have sometimes been used in other decisions, even if this might, in certain cases, have become common practice of the EPO. While such tests might give some guidance in certain situations, they do not substitute the application of said basic principle. The question to be answered is hence what a skilled person can derive directly and unambiguously, using common general knowledge, and seen objectively and relative to the date of filing, from the whole of the documents as filed. This is known as the gold standard (see G2/10, Reasons 4.3)."
  • Turning to the omitted features at issue, "The [patentee] argued that the non-woven fabric was not "essential" for solving the technical problems."
  • The Board: "However, whether something is essential or not is not the same as whether subject-matter is directly and unambiguously derivable by a skilled person. For example, a reader might well conclude, after having deliberated on the essentiality of the non-woven fabric for any particular purpose or reason, that another material could also have been used for the laminate's sheets, but this does not mean that it has been directly and unambiguously disclosed. There is no disclosure in the earlier application - be it explicit or implicit - of the general sheets with which the feature "non-woven fibre sheet" was replaced. These general sheets cannot be derived directly and unambiguously from the original documents. Having ascertained this, it is of no relevance whether the sheets of the non-woven fibre type have been presented as being essential for the invention or whether they were indispensable for its function."


EPO T 0085/16 -  link



1.3 Omission of features - the relevant standard and test
1.3.1 As already stated in the communication of the Board (see points 1.1 and 1.2), when assessing whether the subject-matter of granted claims 1 and 2 of the patent extends beyond the content of the earlier application as filed under Article 76(1) EPC the same principles apply as when examining whether the requirement of Article 123(2) EPC is met. The basic principle therefor can be found in the case law of the Enlarged Board of Appeal and was summarised in G2/10 (see Reasons 4.3).
1.3.2 The appellant argued that the three-point-test developed in T331/87 was applicable in the present case. It further referred to T2311/10, in which decision it was pointed out that the risk existed of applying the three-point-test in the wrong way by formulating an objective technical problem with regard to some state of the art instead of deriving it directly from the application. In the appellant's view, such risk did not exist in the present case and the test should be applied.

19 Aug 2019

R 0007/18 - Cancelled flights and the Enlarged Board

Key points


  • " VII. Oral Proceedings before the Enlarged Board of Appeal were scheduled to start at 10:30 on 4 February 2019. After no representative of the petitioner was present at 10:30 and taking into account that travel conditions might be difficult due to bad weather, the registrar of the Enlarged Board undertook enquiries with the office of the petitioner's representative. The start of the oral proceedings was delayed to allow said enquiries." 
  • " VIII. The Enlarged Board then took note of a telefax letter sent by an employee of [the professional representative's] office [a large patent attorney firm in The Netherlands), which contained the information that [the professional representative] would not attend the hearing taking place on 4 February 2019 at 10:30 am due to cancelled flights [presumably this fax] . The telefax letter did not contain any request for postponement of the oral proceedings. The information given in the telefax letter was also obtained in two telephone conversations between the registrar of the Enlarged Board and two employees of the representative's office, Ms [X1] and Mr [X2]. The Enlarged Board then decided that the oral proceedings would take place in the absence of the petitioner's representative and started the oral proceedings at 12:30.
  • The petition for review was unanimously rejected as being clearly inadmissible during the oral proceedings on 04.02.2019.
  • The petitioner sent a letter about the oral proceedings taking place in his absence on 25.02.2019 explaining that on Sunday 3 Feb there was heavy snow and "the flight was cancelled" from Turin to Munich (by the airline I understand). The next flight on Monday 4 Feb at 6AM the next flight was also cancelled. Furthermore, the Registrar of the Enlarged Board Mr. C had retired on 31.01.2019 and the representative could not contact anyone of the Enlarged Board by phone. At the same time, his assistant Ms. X1 sent faxes to the Enlarged Board, the representative could not see the content of these faxes. The first time his assistant could reach someone of the Enlarged Board by phone was about 13:14 when the decision had already been taken (still according to the petitioner's letter).
  • The fax of the assistant Ms. X1 of 09:24 stated in the entire relevant part: "Mr. [professional representative] will not the below hearing due to cancelled flights" (leaving open who had cancelled the flights).
  • The Registrar issued a Communication on 10.04.2019 informing the petitioner that the email (p.2 of the PDF) of the representative to the Registrar Mr.C of 4 Feb 07:53 a.m. (mentioning 'events have conspired to prevent my arrival in Haar today' and 'my flight ... is cancelled') had no effect firstly because Mr.C had retired on 31.01 and secondly because email has no legal force, recalling that 'urgent queries or communications should, therefore, be sent by fax only, referring tot he Notice OJ 200 p.458) (Interesting to note that  this Notice still has legal force as long as fax is not yet abolished). The Communication refers to phone calls with the assistants Ms.X1 and Mr.X2 on 10:45, 11:23 and indicates that the decision of the Enlarged Board becomes formally res judicata 'as soon as it was pronounced public oral proceedings'. The Communication acknowledges the petitioner's request for interruption under Rule 142(1)and then gives some reasoning - of the Registrar of the Enlarged Board.
  •  On 06.05.2019, the petitioner sent a further letter requesting in essence re-opening of the proceedings invoking inter alia interruption under Rule 142.  The written decision of the Enlarged Board was notified on 19.06.2019. With a letter of 10.07.2019 the petitioner formally requests interruption under Rule 142. With a letter of 25.07.2019, the Legal Division informs the petition that 'all proceedings before the EPO concerning [the patent] have been completed" and that the EBA has already dealt with the request in the Communication of 10.04.2019. On 06.08.2019, the petitioner files a further letter requesting for a decision on the interruption by the Legal Division itself (I don't understand the point fully, the letter of 25.07.2019 is signed by a lawyer of the EPO). 
  • As a comment, under recent decision T 54/17 the Enlarged Board itself appears competent to decide on interruption under Rule 142 caused by events occurring during the petition for review procedure.

EPO R 0007/18 - link

[text omitted; the relevant part is cited above].

16 Aug 2019

T 0473/15 - CPA from different field

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the Board is happy to take D5 as the closest prior art, as proposed by the opponents. However, claim 1 is about a filter medium (for removing particles from a fluid stream) whereas D5 is about "chromatographic separation of contaminants".  
  • "In other words, D5 relates to a different technical field than that of the patent in suit. However, a closest prior art that is not directed to the same purpose or effect as the invention cannot, according to established case law, lead the skilled person in an obvious way to the claimed invention " 
  • " pplied to the present case, this means that the skilled person would not, without hindsight, try to improve the particulate capture efficiency of the medium of D5, which is meant for chromatographic separation. Hence, the skilled person would not, when starting from D5, apply D4's, D10's or any other document's teaching since these documents do not deal with chromatographic separation." 


EPO T 0473/15 -  link


4.2 Closest prior art
In the appellants' [opponents'] view, D5 should be considered as the closest prior art. The board sees no reason to depart from this choice.
4.3 Problem to be solved
According to the patent in suit, one of the problems to be solved is the provision of a filter medium with improved filtration properties (paragraph [39] of the patent).
4.4 Solution
As a solution, the filter medium of claim 1 is proposed, characterised by a layer of fine fibers with a small diameter, spacer particulate and a specific fine fiber solidity, i.e. volume fraction taken by the fibers.
4.5 Success of the solution
It is plausible that fibers with a smaller diameter facilitate the capture of solid particulate matter. [...]

4.6 Obviousness
Although the positive influence of a decrease in the fiber diameter on the particulate capture efficiency is known from D10, as explained above, an inventive step within the meaning of Article 56 EPC is acknowledged:
While the medium of D5 is certainly suitable for capturing particulate from a fluid stream, it actually deals with the chromatographic separation of contaminants. This is illustrated on multiple occasions: see page 10, lines 13 to 31, as well as page 8, line 6, page 13, line 18 and page 14, lines 1 to 10. Consistently, dye is separated from water in the examples in D5 (page 22 lines 21, 22 and 28; Table 2, column "Percent Recovery (Disperse Red 1)").
Admittedly, D5 mentions the term "filtration", e.g. on page 13, line 14 and page 19, line 14). However, on page 10, lines 13 to 31 it is explained that the term "filtering" in D5 is to be understood in the sense of chromatographic separation: "... in which the particles can interact with (for example, chemically or physically react with, or physically contact and modify or to be modified by) a medium or a component thereof to which the particles are exposed".
Apart from page 1, line 12, which refers to the use of fiber fabrics in the prior art only, the term "particle" in D5 refers to the particles enmeshed in the web and not to fine particles to be captured from a fluid stream. page 11, lines 4 to 7 is to be understood in this sense, too.
In other words, D5 relates to a different technical field than that of the patent in suit. However, a closest prior art that is not directed to the same purpose or effect as the invention cannot, according to established case law, lead the skilled person in an obvious way to the claimed invention (see the introductory remarks to Case Law of the Boards of Appeal, 8th ed., I.D.3.2).
Applied to the present case, this means that the skilled person would not, without hindsight, try to improve the particulate capture efficiency of the medium of D5, which is meant for chromatographic separation. Hence, the skilled person would not, when starting from D5, apply D4's, D10's or any other document's teaching, since these documents do not deal with chromatographic separation.
For these reasons, an inventive step within the meaning of Article 56 EPC is acknowledged.

15 Aug 2019

T 2278/14 - Extent of opposition

Key points
  • In this opposition appeal, the opposition had been restricted to independent claim 13 as granted only. During the oral proceedings, the Board concludes that claim 13 is not novel. The proprietor then files a request wherein independent claim 13 is cancelled, the other claims are maintained. 
  • The Board applies G 9/91 and concludes that the remaining claims - which were not opposed - are "not subject of the opposition proceedings" and are therefore allowable without further examination.
T 2278/14 - link

Allowability of the claim request
4. The opposition was directed only against claim 13 of the patent (see notice of opposition, section V) and the grounds for opposition were also limited to claim 13 and its subject-matter (Rule 76(2)(c) EPC; see page 1 of these grounds). 
The Enlarged Board of Appeal in its decision G 9/91 (OJ EPO 1993, 408) remarked that "by limiting the extent to which the patent is opposed to only certain subject-matters, the opponent deliberately refrains from making use of his right under the EPC to oppose remaining subject-matters covered by the patent. Such subject-matters are therefore, strictly speaking, not subject to any "opposition" in the sense of Articles 101 and 102 EPC, nor are there any "proceedings" in the sense of Articles 114 and 115 EPC in existence concerning such non-opposed subject-matters. Consequently, the EPO has no competence to deal with them at all (see reasons, point 10). It is furthermore noted that, where an opposition is explicitly directed only to the subject-matter of an independent claim, subject-matter covered by claims dependent on that claim may also be examined as to patentability, in the case the independent claim falls in opposition or appeal proceedings, provided their validity is prima facie in doubt on the basis of already available information (see reasons, points 10 and 11).
5. Now that independent claim 13 and dependent claim 14 of the former main request, have been deleted, it follows that the main request and its subject-matter are allowable because they are not subject of the opposition proceedings.

14 Aug 2019

T 1525/17 - Inadmissible vs. not taking into account

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the OD had held documents E5 and E6 inadmissible. The Board explains that it is inconsistent to take into account a late-filed document in the examination of the patentability requirements (here, inventive step) on the one hand and, refuse the document as inadmissible on the other hand, as the OD had done.
  • "Die Entscheidung, bestimmte verspätete Tatsachen oder Beweismittel nicht zu berücksichtigen, wird auch als deren Nichtzulassung bezeichnet. Dass es sich insoweit um Synonyme handelt, hat die Entscheidung T 2324/14 unter Punkt 2.2.1 und 2.2.2 für den parallelen Fall der Nichtzulassung von geänderten Anspruchssätzen überzeugend herausgearbeitet" 
  • "Es ist somit in sich widersprüchlich, verspätet eingereichte Dokumente einerseits bei einer eingehenden Prüfung der Patentierbarkeitsvoraussetzungen zugrunde zu legen, damit also in der Sache zu berücksichtigen, und andererseits zu erklären, diese würden nicht in das Verfahren zugelassen, wie die Einspruchsabteilung dies vorliegend getan hat:" 
  • The fact that the examination of the substance (of the documents) had taken place, means that this examination can be reviewed by the Board and that the Board can not hold the document inadmissible under Article 12(4) RPBA.  
  • " Für künftige Fälle wäre es gewiss ratsam, eine klare Entscheidung zu treffen, ob ein Dokument in der Sache berücksichtigt wird oder nicht." 



EPO T 1525/17 -  link



3.3 Schriftlich hat die Beschwerdeführerin noch einen Einwand mangelnder erfinderischer Tätigkeit gegenüber E5 in Kombination mit E1 oder E2 vorgebracht.
Die Kammer folgt hinsichtlich der Beurteilung der erfinderische Tätigkeit ausgehend von E5 den Ausführungen der Einspruchsabteilung. Der Gegenstand des Anspruchs 1 ist ausgehend von der Entgegenhaltung E5 in Kombination mit E1 oder E2 nicht nahgelegt. Insbesondere ist die vom Einsprechenden auf der Grundlage der Entgegenhaltung E5 mit E2 oder E1 durchgeführte Analyse eine Ex-post-facto Betrachtung.
3.4 Die vorstehende Argumente gelten gleichermaßen auch für den auf ein Flurförderzeug gerichteten Anspruch 10, sodass auch der Gegenstand dieses Anspruchs auf einer erfinderischen Tätigkeit beruht.
4. Berücksichtigung der Dokumente E5 und E6
4.1 Artikel 114(2) EPÜ erlaubt es dem Europäischen Patentamt, Tatsachen und Beweismittel, die verspätet vorgebracht werden, nicht zu berücksichtigen. Dem Amt ist damit das Ermessen eingeräumt, die Prüfung der Anmeldung bzw. die Überprüfung des Patents im Einspruchsverfahren allein auf der Grundlage der sonstigen Tatsachen und Beweismittel vorzunehmen. Die Entscheidung, bestimmte verspätete Tatsachen oder Beweismittel nicht zu berücksichtigen, wird auch als deren Nichtzulassung bezeichnet. Dass es sich insoweit um Synonyme handelt, hat die Entscheidung T 2324/14 unter Punkt 2.2.1 und 2.2.2 für den parallelen Fall der Nichtzulassung von geänderten Anspruchssätzen überzeugend herausgearbeitet; die Kammer sieht angesichts des identischen Wortlauts keinen Grund, dies hinsichtlich der Nichtzulassung/Nichtberücksichtigung verspäteter Tatsachen und Beweismittel anders zu beurteilen.

13 Aug 2019

T 2377/16 - Basis for consisting

Key points

  • In this examination appeal, the Board appears not overly strict about Article 123(2) EPC.
  • " The replacement of "comprising" by "consisting of" is allowable in view of Table 5, which shows that slurries according to batches 2 to 5 containing water, cement, zeolite and an accelerating additive in the claimed ranges have the best compressive strength. The skilled person understands therefrom that these compositions are the most preferred. " 
  • A second matter is the basis for a combination of ranges. " The range 100% to 200% for water is a combination of the ranges 22% to 200% and 40% to 100% disclosed in claim 6 of the application as filed. In line with T 1170/02 (Reasons 4.5.2) and T 956/07 (Reasons 5.1), the exclusion of the most preferred range in the present case is consistent with the teaching of example 5 (Table 5) and is considered directly and unambiguously derivable from the application as filed.' 



EPO T 2377/16 -  link


2. Article 123(2) EPC
Claim 1 is based on claims 1 and 4 to 7 in combination with the last three lines on page 1 of the application as filed.
The replacement of "comprising" by "consisting of" is allowable in view of Table 5, which shows that slurries according to batches 2 to 5 containing water, cement, zeolite and an accelerating additive in the claimed ranges have the best compressive strength. The skilled person understands therefrom that these compositions are the most preferred. This is not contrary to T 2017/07 (point 4 of the Reasons) since in that case the amendment led to a composition that was in contradiction to the examples, which did not make technical sense. T 759/10 and the decisions cited therein (Reasons 5) are not of relevance, since they concern the amendment from "comprising" to "consisting essentially of".
The range 100% to 200% for water is a combination of the ranges 22% to 200% and 40% to 100% disclosed in claim 6 of the application as filed. In line with T 1170/02 (Reasons 4.5.2) and T 956/07 (Reasons 5.1), the exclusion of the most preferred range in the present case is consistent with the teaching of example 5 (Table 5) and is considered directly and unambiguously derivable from the application as filed.

12 Aug 2019

T 1558/18 - More than you want in opposition

Key points

  • Before the OD, the patentee had filed amended claims as sole request. The two opponents then withdrew their oppositions. The OD then decided to terminate the opposition proceedings under Rule 84(2) EPC, thereby leaving the patent unamended. The patentee appeals.
  • The Board finds that there is a substantial procedural violation because the decision violates Article 113(2) EPC. The Board also points out that interlocutory revision under Article 109 should have been granted because the opposition proceedings are now ex parte. 



EPO T 1558/18 -  link


Entscheidungsgründe
1. Antragsbindung (ne ultra petita) - Artikel 113 (2) EPÜ
Die Beschwerdeführerin beantragte im Einspruchsverfahren die Aufrechterhaltung des Patents in geänderter Fassung auf Basis eines mit dem Schriftsatz vom 19. Mai 2017 eingereichten neuen Anspruchsatzes. Dieser galt als einziger Antrag und wurde mit dem Schriftsatz vom 23. April 2018 durch die Einreichung einer angepassten Beschreibung nochmals bestätigt.
Die Aufrechterhaltung des Streitpatents in unveränderter Fassung war somit von der Beschwerdeführerin vor der Entscheidung der Einspruchsabteilung vom 2. Mai 2018 zweifelsfrei nicht mehr beantragt.

9 Aug 2019

T 1514/14 - Claim interpretation

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the Board finds the claimed subject-matter to be insufficiently disclosed. However, the Board begins with some general remarks about claim interpretation. The main point is that if the claims as such are clear, the skilled person does not rule out a claim interpretation that technically makes sense but is inconsistent with the description.
  • The Board recalls that according to Article 84, the claims define the subject-matter for which protection is sought. The Board states that third parties should be able to trust after grant that the claims define the protected subject-matter.
  • " dann stellt eine Inkonsistenz zwischen Anspruchsgegenstand einerseits und Beschreibung und Zeichnungen andererseits allerdings keinen Grund dar, Merkmalen des beanspruchten Gegenstandes eine andere Bedeutung zu geben als die, die sich aus seinem Wortlaut eindeutig und ohne Zweifel ableiten lässt."
  • The Board also warns that in case the EPO adopts a claim interpretation that differs from the actually defined subject-matter of the claims, this may introduce an element of arbitrariness into the proceedings.



EPO T 1514/14 -  link


Entscheidungsgründe
1. Die Beschwerde ist zulässig.
Unzureichende Offenbarung (Artikel 100 b) EPÜ)
2. Die Erfindung ist nicht so vollständig und ausführlich offenbart, dass ein Fachmann sie ausführen kann.
Notwendigkeit der Auslegung des Anspruchs
3. Gemäß Artikel 113 (2) EPÜ hat sich bei der Prüfung der europäischen Patentanmeldung oder des europäischen Patents und den Entscheidungen darüber das Europäische Patentamt an die vom Anmelder oder Patentinhaber vorgelegte oder gebilligte Fassung zu halten. Gemäß Regel 71 (5) EPÜ muss der Anmelder sein Einverständnis mit der Fassung, in der das Patent erteilt werden soll, erklären. Gemäß Artikel 84 EPÜ sind es die Ansprüche, die den Gegenstand angeben, für den Schutz begehrt wird. Sie müssen deutlich gefasst und von der Beschreibung gestützt sein.
4. Damit hat der Anmelder einerseits die Gestaltungsfreiheit bei der Formulierung seines Schutzbegehrens andererseits aber auch die alleinige Verantwortung, dass mit dem Anspruchstext auch tatsächlich der Gegenstand angegeben wird, den er schützen lassen möchte. Hierauf müssen sich Dritte nach der Erteilung verlassen können.
5. Es mag nicht immer gelingen oder auch anhand der inhärenten mangelnden Präzision menschlicher Sprache nicht immer vollständig erreichbar sein, den Anspruchsgegenstand so anzugeben, dass er keinerlei weiterer Auslegung bedarf. Ist dies der Fall, dann kann es vonnöten sein, die Beschreibung und die Zeichnungen heranzuziehen, um den Anspruch auszulegen.
6. Hiervon zu differenzieren ist aber der Fall, dass ein Anspruch deutlich einen Gegenstand definiert, so dass er zum Verständnis keines Rückgriffs auf weitere Auslegungsmittel bedarf, sich der Anspruchsgegenstand allerdings in der Beschreibung und Zeichnung nicht wiederfindet. Dieser zweite Fall sollte vor der Erteilung im Rahmen des Erfordernisses der Stützung durch die Beschreibung wie in Artikel 84 EPÜ angegeben behandelt werden.
7. Ist dies nicht geschehen, dann stellt eine Inkonsistenz zwischen Anspruchsgegenstand einerseits und Beschreibung und Zeichnungen andererseits allerdings keinen Grund dar, Merkmalen des beanspruchten Gegenstandes eine andere Bedeutung zu geben als die, die sich aus seinem Wortlaut eindeutig und ohne Zweifel ableiten lässt.
Würde das Europäische Patentamt nämlich eine bestimmte Interpretation des Anspruchsgegenstandes zum Gegenstand der Prüfung machen, die vom tatsächlich definierten Anspruchsgegenstand, der für sich genommen klar ist, abweicht, würde dies den oben genannten Grundsätzen, wie sie in den Artikeln 113 (1) und 84 EPÜ zum Ausdruck kommen, zuwiderlaufen. Denn dann würde das Europäische Patentamt de facto über einen anderen als den vom Anmelder vorgelegten Text entscheiden. Dadurch würde ein Element der Willkür in die Prüfung eingeführt, da der Gegenstand der Prüfung für Dritte nicht vorhersehbar wäre und möglicherweise nicht einmal objektiv festlegbar. Dadurch würde nach der Erteilung die Rechtsicherheit geschwächt. Des Weiteren würde man durch eine solche stillschweigende Uminterpretation de facto eine hypothetische Anspruchsänderung der Prüfung zugrunde legen, die von der mangelnden Stützung des tatsächlichen Anspruchsgegenstandes in der Beschreibung veranlasst ist. Da Artikel 84 EPÜ kein Einspruchsgrund ist, stünde ein solches Vorgehen im Widerspruch zu den Erfordernissen der Regel 80 EPÜ.

8 Aug 2019

T 0021/15 - New? ground of opposition

Key points

  • The opponent raises an attack insufficiency of disclosure in appeal. The OD had refused the attack (and the ground of opposition) of Article 100(b) EPC as inadmissible because it was late filed. The opponent argues in the course of the appeal that the OD had not correctly used its discretion to hold the ground inadmissible. However, it had not made that point in its Statement of ground. Therefore, this point is disregarded under Article 12(2) and (4) RPBA by the Board. 
  • The question arises whether Article 100(b) is a new ground of opposition in the sense of G 10/91. The Board notes that T 1286/14 indicates that a ground of opposition rejected as inadmissible by the OD and resubmitted with the Statement of grounds is a "new ground" in appeal. 
  • However, in T 620/08, the Board decided that it is not a new ground if it is "  einem verspäteten Einspruchsgrund [...], der nach ausführlicher Prüfung in der angefochtenen Entscheidung ausdrücklich nicht in das Verfahren zugelassen wurde." If this decision is followed, the admissibility of the ground falls under the discretion of the Board under Article 12(4) RPBA.
  • The Board uses the discretion, but makes it entirely dependent on the consent of the patentee to the new ground. Because the patentee does not give the consent, the new ground is rejected as inadmissible under Article 12(4) RPBA. Or at least in this way the Board can leave open the question whether the ground is a "new ground".
  • As a comment, I find it rather disappointing that we don't know whether in such a simple procedural scenario, the ground falls under G 10/91 or not. The present decision also confirms also my view that G 10/91 should be obsolete in view of (more recent) Article 12(4) RPBA. It is rather weird that you can present an entirely new novelty attack based on new arguments in appeal without consent of the proprietor (but subject to the Board's discretion of Article 12(4) RPBA) whereas reframing an argument of that the alleged technical effect is not credible  from Article 56 to Article 83 (or vice versa) can be forbidden by the patentee, without any discretion for the Board. 


T 0021/15 - link


Entscheidungsgründe
1. Zulassung des von der Beschwerdeführerin erhobenen Einspruchsgrunds gemäß Artikel 100 b) EPÜ 1973
1.1 In der mündlichen Verhandlung vor der Einspruchsabteilung hat die Beschwerdeführerin bezüglich des erteilten Anspruchs 1 erstmalig den Antrag gestellt, einen weiteren Einspruchsgrund gemäß Artikel 100 b) EPÜ in das Verfahren einzuführen. Die Einspruchsabteilung hat diesen Antrag (und damit den Einspruchsgrund) als verspätet vorgebracht und prima facie nicht relevant angesehen und gemäß Artikel 114 (2) EPÜ nicht in das Verfahren zugelassen hat (vgl. Punkt 19.2 der Entscheidungsgründe). Die Beschwerdeführerin hat im Beschwerdeverfahren geltend gemacht, dass die Einspruchsabteilung von ihrem Ermessen in fehlerhafter Weise Gebrauch gemacht habe (vgl. Beschwerdebegründung, Abschnitt II, Punkt 3 in Verbindung mit Abschnitt V). Sie hat jedoch in ihrer Beschwerdebegründung nicht weiter begründet, warum aus ihrer Sicht das Ermessen von der Einspruchsabteilung fehlerhaft ausgeübt worden sei. In ihrem Schreiben vom 2. Februar 2016 hat sie des Weiteren die Auffassung vertreten, dass ihre Ausführungen in der mündlichen Verhandlung und erst recht in der Beschwerdebegründung zur fehlenden Ausführbarkeit nach Regel 116 (1) EPÜ nicht verspätet seien und deshalb von der Einspruchsabteilung hätten berücksichtigt werden müssen. Sie wiederholte auch, dass sich der Beschwerdegegner in der mündlichen Verhandlung vor der Einspruchsabteilung zur Stützung der vermeintlichen erfinderischen Tätigkeit auf die Schwierigkeiten berufen habe, eine ausführbare Gestaltung der Lehre nach Anspruch 1 zu realisieren (vgl. Abschnitt II).

7 Aug 2019

T 0460/16 - Admissibility opposition and oral proceedings

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the Notice of opposition did not include a request for oral proceedings. The proprietor contested the admissibility of the opposition (as not including a sufficiently reasoned statement). The opponent then requested oral proceedings with a separate letter. The OD rejected the opposition as inadmissible without holding oral proceedings. The decision stated that "no oral proceedings were requested by the Opponent" . It must be assumed that the OD somehow overlooked the letter of opponent.
  • In any case, the Board decides that this violated Article 116 EPC: " According to Article 116(1) EPC "oral proceedings shall take place ... at the request of any party to the proceedings." The wording of the provision makes it clear that when oral proceedings have been requested, they have to be appointed, and that there is no room for discretion."
  • The patentee makes the argument that admissibility of the opposition is to be based on the Notice of opposition alone, so that later requests for oral proceedings are irrelevant. This argument does not convince the Board. "The [patentee] has argued that the requests were not contained in the notice of opposition and were therefore irrelevant for deciding on the admissibility of the opposition. However, according to Article 116(1) EPC, if there is a request of a party for oral proceedings, they shall take place, irrespective of the point in time they have been requested. Before this right to be heard has been granted to the party, the decision cannot be taken (Article 113(1) EPC)." 

EPO T 0460/16 -  link

Reasons for the Decision
1. The right of a party to oral proceedings in proceedings before the European Patent Office is set out in Article 116 EPC. According to Article 116(1) EPC "oral proceedings shall take place ... at the request of any party to the proceedings." The wording of the provision makes it clear that when oral proceedings have been requested, they have to be appointed, and that there is no room for discretion.
2. In the present case, the notice of opposition filed on 13 April 2012 (Fax) did not contain a request for oral proceedings.
However, with letter dated 1 August 2013, the opponent (now the appellant) requested oral proceedings in case the opposition was not allowed in the written proceedings ("Gleichzeitig wird für den Fall, dass dem Einspruch im schriftlichen Verfahren nicht stattgegeben werden sollte, die Durchführung einer mündlichen Verhandlung gemäß Artikel 116 EPÜ beantragt").

6 Aug 2019

T 0581/14 - Transfer of application

Key points

  • In this examination appeal, the applicant files a request for transfer of the application two days before the oral proceedings. On the day of the oral proceedings, the new applicant is not yet registered. Therefore, the Board examines whether the filed documents are sufficient evidence of the transfer in the sense of Rule 22 EPC. The Board finds that this is not the case.
  • The filed assignment document was signed by someone on behalf of the assignor (initial applicant) without indication of his function. The statement "duly authorized" in the assignment document itself is not enough. 
  • Moreover, the assignment document included a separate signature page with the signature of the assignee, however without date (the space for the date was left blank). This page was notarized by a (USA) notary; the notary also left blank the space for the date of notarization. 
  • The transfer was therefore not accepted. The proceedings continued with the initial applicant. The appeal is dismissed for lack of inventive step. 
  • I note that after the oral proceedings, but before the written decision, the applicant filed the  power of attorney for the person signing the assignment document and "the EPO" has registered the transfer (the form 2544 is signed "Receiving section / Examining Division/Opposition Division/Legal Division"). Interesting to see both the Board and the first instance department deciding on the same request.  



EPO T 0581/14 -  link

Exposé des faits et conclusions

V. Par lettre du 28 novembre 2018, le mandataire du requérant requit l'enregistrement par l'Office européen des brevets de la société InterDigital CE Patent Holdings comme nouveau demandeur. Par fax en date du 29 novembre 2018, l'Office signala des irrégularités dans cette requête selon la règle 22 CBE et invita le requérant à y remédier.
VI. Une procédure orale a eu lieu le 30 novembre 2018 en présence du mandataire du requérant.



Motifs de la décision
Transfert prétendu de la demande
1. Selon la règle 22(1) CBE le transfert d'une demande de brevet européen est inscrit au Registre européen des brevets à la requête de toute partie intéressée, sur production de documents prouvant ce transfert. Un transfert n'a d'effet à l'égard de l'Office que dans la mesure où ces documents lui ont été fournis et à partir de la date à laquelle ils ont été produits (règle 22(3) CBE).

5 Aug 2019

NL - Biogen vs. Celltrion: Transfer of priority

Key points

  • By way of exception, today's post is about a recent decision of a national court, namely the Court of Appeal The Hague (Judges Prof. Blok, Prof. Schaafsma and Prof. Van Nispen). The issue is whether the European patent in suit validly claims the priority of a US provisional application; in particular, the question is whether the transfer of priority from the inventors (as applicants of the US provisional) to the companies (the applicants of the PCT application resulting in the European patent) is valid. The Court first determines which law is applicable. Thereby the Court provides very detailed reasoning, starting from first principles, in order to find - rather surprisingly - that the matter is governed by the EPC rather than national law.

    The Court starts from the observation that the priority right is a right granted by the lex loci protectionis (and not the law of the country of filing the priority application), because the right of priority is part of the rules (of the country which grants the patent) concerning the grant and validity of patents. The lex loci protectionis is the EPC in this case about the validity of a European patent granted on a PCT patent application.
  • The court leaves open whether the issue of transfer of priority is a matter of patent law  or a matter of property law because both give -always- the same result. In the former case, the lex loci protectionis applies. In the latter case, the property law aspects of IP rights are governed by the lex rei sitae (according to Dutch conflict-of-law rules), which is the law of the country where protection is requested (lex loci protectionis), i.e. again the EPC. (As a comment, so far the analysis appears similar the one of the German Patent Office in its fundamental decision on priority of 16 December 1905).
  • The Court of Appeal then solves the tricky issues that the EPC does not seem to provide for property law rules for priority rights.
  • The Court: "In the opinion of the Court of Appeal, the question of who can invoke the right of priority must be answered on the basis of an autonomous interpretation of the EPC instead of an explanation based on national law." (r.4.20)
  •  The Court observes that the priority right can be transferred (conveyed) according to Article 87 EPC. The term "successor in title" in Article 87 indicates the assignee of the priority right, not the assignee of the priority-founding application. Moreover, the "successor in title" is not necessarily the same as the person having the right to the patent in the sense of Article 60 EPC, because the existence of the priority right does not require that the priority application has been filed by a person who is entitled to the patent.
  • According to the Court, any formal requirements for a transfer of priority right are determined, autonomously, by the EPC (as lex loci protectionis), because the rules about priority are part of the common rules about the grant and validity of European patents and because disputes about priority may also arise in procedures before the EPO.
  • Because the text of the EPC does not provide for any formal requirements for the assignment of the priority right, and taking into account the purpose of the right of priority (to facilitate the international filing of patent applications), the Court concludes that there are no formal requirements for the transfer (assignment) of priority rights under the EPC. In particular, there is no requirement of a written assignment document; this is different from what Article 72 EPC prescribes for the assignment of European patent applications. Nevertheless, the rules of evidence of the Court at issue (lex fori) apply for issues concerning the allowed means of evidence and the evaluation of the evidence.
  • Having established this framework, the Court applies it to the facts of the case (r. 4.25 ff.), namely the question of interpretation of the purported assignment document (an employment contract of one of the inventors). The Court distinguishes between the conflict-of-law rules concerning the property law matters and concerning the interpretation of the assignment agreement at issue. The latter is a matter of obligations, such that the applicable law is determined (what is now) the Rome I regulation No. 593/2008. The Court finds that the contract is an effective assignment of the priority right.
  • Disclosure: my colleague Martin Klok was involved as a patent attorney for the patentee(s).



Court of Appeal The Hague 30 July 2019 (Biogen vs. Celltrion).

ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2019:1962 

Note: Edited machine translation; [...] :  anonymization by the Court; <...>: additions and edits by me, PJL. Alternative translation here.

<...> priority

4.4. The dispute over the claim to the right of priority focuses on the question whether Biogen can invoke that right on the basis of the priority application P1 <a US provisional application> although not Biogen, but [name 2] and [name 1] <inventors> have filed the priority application.

4.5. In answering that question, a distinction must be made between (a) the question whether and, if so, under what conditions, a person other than the person who submitted the priority application may invoke the right of priority, and (b) how agreements between Biogen on the one hand and [name 2] and [name 1] on the other must be interpreted. This distinction is important, because among other things,  those subjects are governed by different rules for determining the applicable law (conflict rules) and must therefore be answered in the present case on the basis of the law of different legal systems. After this, the court will determine per question (i) which conflict rule applies and which law applies according to that conflict rule, and (ii) how the relevant question under applicable law must be answered.

Question (a) (i): priority right, conflict law, applicable law
4.6. The debate of the parties is placed in the framework of the question of whether the priority right invoked by  EP 304 <the Europen patent in suit> has been transferred to Biogen. The parties thereby both assume that (via the Massachusetts law as chosen in the agreement between [name 1] and Biogen Idec Inc.) federal US law applies to that property law question. In view of the following, this assumption is incorrect in the opinion of the court of appeal.

4.7. First of all, it must be stated that the right of priority is a right granted by the lex loci protectionis. The conditions for granting and revoking patents for a certain country are, after all, determined in accordance with Article 2 (1) of the Paris Convention (hereafter: PC) [footnote 1] by the law of that country, the lex loci protectionis. The right of priority, which relates to the reference date in the assessment of novelty and inventiveness, is part of the rules of the law of that country regarding granting and revocation of patents.    

4.8. In a case wherein a European patent is granted on the basis of an international application, such as EP 304, the lex loci protectionis is the supranational law of the Patent Cooperation Treaty [footnote 2] and the European Patent Convention (hereinafter: EPC) [footnote 3] , wherein the substantive requirements for patentability are exclusively determined by the EPC (Article 27, paragraph 5, Patent Cooperation Treaty). The EPC sets for the granting of a European patent inter alia a requirement that the subject matter of the patent is new and inventive in relation to the state of the art (articles 52-56 EPC) and stipulates that a European patent granted in violation of that condition is declared invalid (Article 138, first paragraph, under a,  EPC). The priority right governed by Articles 87 to 89 of the EPC forms part of those rules. Article 89 of the EPC stipulates that the right of priority has as effect that the filing date of the priority application is used as - in short - the reference date for the assessment of novelty and inventive step.  

4.9. The right of priority is therefore not, as the parties seem to assume, a right conferred by the legal system of the country where the priority application has been filed. After all, that legal system does not determine the conditions for granting and revoking the patent for which the later application <i.e. the priority-claiming patent application> is submitted, including the reference date for assessing the novelty and inventive step of the subject-matter of the later application.