16 Sep 2019

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

Key points

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



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


EPO T 2378/13 -  link

13 Sep 2019

T 0703/19 - XML debit orders and good faith

Key points

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




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

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

12 Sep 2019

T 1304/18 - Not addressing the clarity objection

Key points

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



EPO T 1304/18 - link

Entscheidungsgründe


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

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

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

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

11 Sep 2019

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

Key points

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


EPO T 1895/13 -  link

Summary of Facts and Submissions


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


Reasons for the Decision
Main request

1. Article 56 EPC - Inventive step

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

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

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

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

Refund of the Search Fee

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

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

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

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

Language of the oral proceedings before the first instance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Order

For these reasons it is decided that:

1) The appeal is dismissed.

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

10 Sep 2019

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

Key points

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

EPO T 1731/12 -  link

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


Entscheidungsgründe

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

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

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

9 Sep 2019

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

Key points

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



EPO T 0052/15 -  link

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

6 Sep 2019

T 2073/15 - Not unsearched

Key points

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



EPO T 2073/15 -  link




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