14 Dec 2018

T 1163/13 - Withdrawing appeal and requests

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the OD had maintained the patent in amended form. Both the patentee and the opponent appeal. In the course of the appeal, the patentee withdraws his appeal and also all auxiliary requests.
  • The Board concludes that there is no text approved by the patentee and the patent is revoked. 



EPO T 1163/13 - link

Entscheidungsgründe
1. Zulässigkeit der Beschwerde
Die Beschwerde der Einsprechenden 1 wurde frist- und formgerecht eingereicht und ist daher zulässig.
2. Gebilligte Fassung (Artikel 113 (2) EPÜ)
Die Antragslage des Patentinhabers lässt sich wie folgt zusammenfassen.
Der Hauptantrag des Patentinhabers auf Aufrechterhaltung des Patents wie erteilt war von der Beschwerde des Patentinhabers umfasst. Mit der Rücknahme der Beschwerde des Patentinhabers ist folglich der von der Beschwerde des Patentinhabers umfasste Antrag, d.h. der Hauptantrag, gegenstandslos geworden.
Da der Patentinhaber darüber hinaus sämtliche Hilfsanträge zurückgenommen hat, liegt keine gebilligte Fassung für die Aufrechterhaltung des Patents mehr vor, Artikel 113 (2) EPÜ.
Die Anträge der Einsprechenden 1 und 3 sind damit ebenfalls gegenstandslos geworden.
Das Patent ist folglich zu widerrufen.
3. Mündliche Verhandlung (Artikel 116 EPÜ)
Da der Patentinhaber seinen Antrag auf mündliche Verhandlung zurückgenommen hat und die Einsprechende 1 lediglich einen bedingten Antrag auf mündliche Verhandlung für den Fall gestellt hat, dass das Patent nicht widerrufen wird, kann die Entscheidung ohne die Durchführung einer mündlichen Verhandlung ergehen.
Entscheidungsformel
Aus diesen Gründen wird entschieden:
1. Die angefochtene Entscheidung wird aufgehoben.
2. Das Patent wird widerrufen.

13 Dec 2018

T 0867/13 - Plausibility, or derived from the patent

Key points

  • This opposition appeal clearly was a good fight about a pharmaceutical patent. 
  • The CPA D67 "reports that a phase II clinical trial in infantile Pompe patients with recombinant human acid alpha-glucosidase (rhGAA) produced in the milk of transgenic rabbits "has finalised with positive results"" 
  •  The subject-matter of claim 1 differs from the disclosure of document D67 in that the human rhGAA used for the treatment of GSD-II is produced in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells.
  • The Board concludes that this was an obvious alternative, no improvement being shown in the patent. Some post-published data allegedly showing the improvement is disregarded because " no improvement over the treatment known from document D67 is derivable from the patent". (the opponent had indeed used the term 'plausibility' on this point).
  • The Board rejects the argument that the skilled person would not look for further improvements after the success of D67. "it is established case law that it is the normal task of a skilled person working in a certain field not to remain inactive but to seek alternatives, to be constantly occupied with the elimination of deficiencies, with the overcoming of drawbacks and with the achievement of improvements of known devices and/or products " 
  • The Board concludes that the use of CHO cells was obvious in view of D73f which teaches  that "although no efficacy data is yet available for the two ongoing clinical trials of rhGAA replacement therapy, "pre-clinical data suggest that enzyme replacement therapy will be successful" (one of these clinical trials using CHO cells, as D73f mentions).



EPO T 0867/13 -  link

Thus, no improvement over the treatment known from document D67 can be derived from paragraphs [0008], [0009] and [0043] of the patent.

8.3 Paragraph [0013] of the patent discloses that CHO-cell-derived rhGAA is preferred and further that it "is assumed that the glycosylation differs from that of GAA that is produced in transgenic mouse and rabbit milk (...)". In the board's judgement, it does not follow directly and unambiguously from this statement that the assumed difference in glycosylation leads to an improved treatment if CHO-cell-derived rhGAA is used rather than transgenic rabbit-milk-produced rhGAA.
8.4 Documents D60a and D103 - both published after the priority date - relate to effects seen in Pompe mice (document D60a; see left-hand column, second paragraph under the heading "Results", and right-hand column, first paragraph under the heading "Conclusions") and GAA knockout mice (see document D103, page 452, right-hand column, fourth and fifth paragraphs, and Figures 3 and 4). However, these results obtained in mice do not establish that CHO-cell-derived rhGAA is better than rabbit-milk-derived rhGAA at effecting glycogen clearance in humans. Moreover, the alleged effect - an improved treatment for GSD-II - could only be taken into account when determining the problem underlying the invention for the purpose of assessing inventive step, if it can be deduced by the skilled person from the patent considered in relation to the closest prior art (see also Case Law of the Boards of Appeal, 8th edition 2016, I.D.4.4.2 and I.D.4.4.6). In the present case, no improvement over the treatment known from document D67 is derivable from the patent (see points 8.1 to 8.3).
8.5 In the board's judgement, the subject-matter of claim 1 can thus not be considered to provide an improved treatment over the treatment disclosed in document D67.

12 Dec 2018

T 0221/13 - New attack is new evidence

Key points
  • This decision seems to have been unpublished by the EPO (12.12.2018 21:00)
  • In this opposition appeal, the Board does not admit a new inventive step attack raised with the Statement of grounds of the opponent which is based on prior art already available in the file. The Board reasons that a document, or a relevant paragraph of it, only becomes evidence in connection with the factual arguments based on it.
  • "Allein der Umstand, dass zu einem Dokument bereits im Einspruchsverfahren vorgetragen und bestimmte Textstellen oder Figuren daraus als Beweismittel für bestimmten Tatsachenvortrag genannt wurden, schließt es nicht aus, dass neue auf dieses Dokument gestützte Tatsachen und die Benennung des Dokuments bzw. bestimmter Dokumentstellen als Beweismittel für diese neuen Tatsachen im Beschwerdeverfahren nicht zugelassen werden. Nach Artikel 114 (2) EPÜ und Artikel 12 (4) VOBK kommt es nämlich nicht darauf an, ob ein Dokument verspätet eingereicht wird, sondern maßgeblich ist, ob ein Beweismittel oder Tatsachen verspätet vorgebracht werden. Ein Dokument wird nicht durch die bloße Benennung im Verfahren bzw. durch seine Einreichung zum Beweismittel an sich. Vielmehr ist es notwendig, konkret anzugeben, welche Tatsache durch welchen konkreten Inhalt des Dokuments belegt werden soll. Ein Dokument, bzw. eine bestimmte Textstelle oder Figur darin, wird daher erst aufgrund der Verknüpfung mit einem bestimmten Tatsachenvortrag zum Beweismittel, siehe hierzu auch Bühler in Singer/Stauder, EPÜ, 7. Auflage, Artikel 114, Rn 50 und Fußnote 66. 
  • Ein Beteiligter kann sich dementsprechend nicht darauf beschränken, ein Konvolut von Dokumenten vorzulegen, ohne substantiiert vorzutragen, welche Tatsachen durch welche konkreten Passagen oder Figuren der jeweiligen Dokumente belegt werden sollen." 
  • " Da die Beschwerdeführerin die Dokumente E8 und E10 erstmals im Beschwerdeverfahren als Beleg für das Naheliegen des mit dem erteilten Patentanspruch 1 beanspruchten Gegenstands benannt hat, handelt es sich vorliegend um neue Beweismittel." 
  • The present decision appears to be part of a judicial dialogue with recent decision T 1914/12.


EPO T 0221/13 - link



4. Artikel 114(2) EPÜ und Artikel 12 (4) VOBK - Verspätetes Vorbringen
4.1 Die Beschwerdeführerin hat erstmals in der Beschwerdebegründung vorgebracht, dass der Gegenstand des erteilten Anspruchs 1 ausgehend von E1 als nächstliegendem Stand der Technik in Kombination mit E8 oder E10 nicht erfinderisch sei. Im Einspruchsverfahren beschränkte sich ihr Vorbringen hingegen darauf, dass der Gegenstand des erteilten Anspruchs 1 nicht neu gegenüber der aus Dokument E1 bekannten Maschine sei und dass ausgehend von Dokument E2 als nächstliegendem Stand der Technik keine erfinderische Tätigkeit vorliege.
Für das Naheliegen des mit Patentanspruch 1 beanspruchten Gegenstands hat die Beschwerdeführerin die Dokumente E8 und E10 im Einspruchsverfahren indes nicht als Beweismittel benannt und auch die zugehörigen Tatsachen nicht vorgetragen und zwar weder ausgehend von E2 noch ausgehend von E1.
4.2 Vorbringen der Beschwerdeführerin im Hinblick auf das Dokument E10 findet sich im Einspruchsverfahren lediglich in Zusammenhang mit ihrem Angriff gegen die erteilten Patentansprüchen 2 bis 8 dahingehend, dass E2 der nächstliegende Stand der Technik sei und dass E10 Figur 1 "verschiedenste Ausführungen von Diffusoren und deren Einsatz in elektrischen Maschinen" zeige. Demgegenüber trägt die Beschwerdeführerin mit der Beschwerdebegründung vor, dass E1 nächstliegender Stand der Technik sei und im Zusammenhang mit der Figur 1 in E10 den mit Patentanspruch 1 beanspruchten Gegenstand nahelege, weil in E10 "ein Diffusor offenbart wird, wobei der Diffusor eine Umlenkung des Kühlgases von einer im Wesentlichen radialen Strömungsrichtung in eine im Wesentlichen axiale Strömungsrichtung bewirkt". Dieses Vorbringen beinhaltet daher sowohl neue Tatsachen als auch ein neues Beweismittel.
Gleiches gilt für das Vorbringen in der Beschwerdebegründung in Zusammenhang mit dem Dokument E8, zu dem die Beschwerdeführerin im Einspruchsverfahren lediglich vorgetragen hat, dass es in Spalte 1, Zeile 50 ff die in Anspruch 9 des erteilten Patents beanspruchten Leitschaufeln zeige. Die Behauptung, dass E1 in Kombination mit E8 den beanspruchten Gegenstand nahelege, weil E8 "einen stromaufwärts des Ventilators befindlichen Umlenkdiffusor aufweist, wobei der Diffusor eine Umlenkung des Kühlgases von einer radialen Strömungsrichtung in eine im Wesentlichen axiale Strömungsrichtung bewirkt (siehe Figur 1 der E8)" beinhaltet damit neue Tatsachen und Beweismittel.

11 Dec 2018

T 1946/17 - Decision state of the file unreasoned

Key points

  • Another decision 'according to the state of the file' (EPO Form 2061), another substantial procedural violation. Three substantial procedural violatons, even. 
  • The applicant had submitted some arguments. In the last substantive Communication, the ED had" merely stated that the "arguments were carefully considered", but "no new evidence" was provided. Such blanket statements cannot be considered to address the arguments raised. Hence, the present "standard form" decision [...] does not comply with the requirement of Rule 111(2) EPC that the decision be reasoned." 
  • The decision is also inconsistent in that in 2015, the ED had stated that examination of A54 and A56 was deferred, but in the last communication, the ED had stated that the earlier objections under A54 and A56 were maintained. Hence, the decision is not properly reasoned.
  • Furthermore, the decision is factually incorrect in that it states that the applicant had merely requested a decision according to the state of the file with the letter of 17.03.2017 without comments, whereas in fact, the letter included four substantive comments. 


EPO T 1946/17 -  link


Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. The Appellant (Applicant) is contesting the Examining Division's decision dated 3 April 2017, with which the European patent application no. 07 811 466.7 was refused.
II. The contested decision is a decision according to the state of the file, taken by means of a standard form referring to previous communications. The grounds for the decision read as follows:
"In the communication(s) dated 26.02.2016, 11.05.2015, 17.02.2014 the applicant was informed that the application does not meet the requirements of the European Patent Convention. The applicant was also informed of the reasons therein.
The applicant filed no comments or amendments in reply to the latest communication but requested a decision according to the state of the file by a letter received in due time on 17.03.2017.
The application must therefore be refused."

 Reasons for the Decision
1. The appeal is admissible.
2. Main Request, Rule 111(2) EPC
2.1 At the time when the contested decision was issued, the requirements for issuing a refusal using a standard form referring to previous communications were set out in the Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, November 2016, C-V, 15.2.
According to the first paragraph of Guideline C-V, 15.2, in order to comply with the requirement that a decision be reasoned (Rule 111(2)), it is only possible to use this form of decision where the previous communication addresses all the arguments raised by the applicant.

10 Dec 2018

T 1840/15 - Ping pong between Board and ED

Key points

  • This is an examination appeal.
  • " The patent application was refused for lack of inventive step only. As the subject-matter of claim 1 of the present auxiliary request 1 fulfils the requirements of Article 56 EPC, the appeal is allowable and the appealed decision is to be set aside." 
  • "Since the examining division did not deal with the subject-matter of independent claim 2 or with requirements for patentability other than inventive step, the board decides to remit the case to the examining division for further prosecution."
  • As a comment, if there are two independent claims, and the ED sees a problem with one independent claim and refuses the application, there is no legal obligation for the ED to discuss any of the other independent claims. However, if the Board then restricts itself to mere review, a very slow ping pong can come into play (in this case, the appeal took a bit more than 3 years, examination before the ED took 5 years). 




Allowability of the appeal
19. The patent application was refused for lack of inventive step only. As the subject-matter of claim 1 of the present auxiliary request 1 fulfils the requirements of Article 56 EPC, the appeal is allowable and the appealed decision is to be set aside.
Remittal (Article 111(1) EPC)
20. Pursuant to Article 111(1) EPC, following the examination as to the allowability of the appeal, the board must decide on the appeal and, in this respect, it may either exercise any power within the competence of the department which was responsible for the decision or remit the case for further prosecution.
21. Since the examining division did not deal with the subject-matter of independent claim 2 or with requirements for patentability other than inventive step, the board decides to remit the case to the examining division for further prosecution.
Order
For these reasons it is decided that:
1. The decision under appeal is set aside.
2. The case is remitted to the examining division for further prosecution on the basis of the set of claims of auxiliary request 1 submitted with the letter of 27 April 2018.

7 Dec 2018

T 0144/11 - Technical but still in the business specification

Key points

  • The Board provides a gloss to T1463/11: describing the problem as "how to implement the business method" is only a starting point. If a technical effect of the implementation becomes apparent, the problem must be reformulated has "how to achieve the technical effect". 
  • The Board also emphasizes that "that the technically skilled person must receive a complete description of the business requirement, or else he would not be able to implement it and he should not be providing any input in the non-technical domain".
  • The applicant had submitted: " The present invention enabled a safe and reliable security rating system which automatically provided investors with objectively calculated security rating values. This was technical. The popularity of a security was taken into account by counting the transmissions of rating values to investors. " The question is how to deal with the feature of counting the transmissions for the assessment of inventive step.
  • The Board: "The popularity is measured by counting the number of transmissions. The observation that the "transmission of data" between a client and server is technical - which is undoubted - does not necessarily imply that the mere idea of "counting" these transmissions is also technical. The question is whether the idea of counting is on the business side of the line or on the side of the technical implementation." 
  • "The Board judges that counting is rather part of the business specification. The more popular a security is, the higher is the number of investors interested in receiving information about it. Within a business setting, this would amount to counting the number of telephone calls, the number of emails sent, the number of letters, votes received, etc. All these thoughts are made by the notional business person." 

EPO T 0144/11 -  link


Key points
A problem of the type "implement [the business requirement]" will normally never lead to an allowable claim. Either the implementation will be obvious or have no technical effect, or if not, the implementation will have a technical effect that can be used to reformulate the problem essentially to "achieve [the effect of the implementation]".

However, the implementation-type problem is just a starting point that might have to be modified when the implementation is considered. It helps when a technical problem is not apparent at the outset. Examining the business requirements carefully and correctly establishing what is to be implemented ensures that all technical matter arising from the idea of the invention and its implementation is taken into account for inventive step.



2. Article 56 EPC - Deriving the technical problem
2.1 This case, like many in this field, is all about drawing the line between technical and non-technical subject-matter. This is of critical importance since as stated in decision T 641/00 (COMVIK), only features with technical character can support the presence of inventive step. As a result, non-technical aspects of the invention may legitimately appear in the formulation of the problem as part of the framework of the technical problem that is to be solved, in particular as a constraint that has to be met.

6 Dec 2018

T 0754/16 - Article 114(2) not for amended claims

Key points

  • The OD did not admit AR's filed during the oral proceedings. The Board concludes that this is a procedural violation. 
  • " The opposition division assumed that it had a discretion not to admit these requests on a prima facie basis and referred to Article 114(2) and Rule 116 EPC. This presupposes, in the first place, that the requests were late filed, which is however not the case." 
  • " Under Rule 116(2) EPC, requests filed after the final date set for making written submissions, can only then not be admitted if the patent proprietor had been notified of the grounds prejudicing the maintenance of the patent. This was clearly not the case. Neither does Article 114(2) EPC provide a basis for disregarding these requests, since, firstly, it does not apply to late filed requests in the form of amended claims, but only to late filed facts and arguments (see Bühler in Singer/Stauder, Europäisches Patentübereinkommen, 7. Auflage 2016, Artikel 114, point 52). Secondly, the auxiliary requests were filed in due time, as a direct and immediate response to the opposition division's changed opinion and since the proprietor had no earlier opportunity to react thereto." 
  • As a comment, the Board refers to "only to late filed facts and arguments" but Art. 114(2) states that the EPO may disregards "facts or evidence".



EPO T 0754/16 -  link





Reasons for the Decision


1. Remittal of the case to the opposition division based on a substantial procedural violation
1.1 The appellant requested that the case be remitted to the opposition division because it had committed a substantial procedural violation by not not giving the opportunity to comment on the patentability of auxiliary requests 1 to 7 and not admitting auxiliary requests 8 and 9 into the proceedings based on a prima facie examination.