German Federal Court of Justice raises requirements for software-related inventions to overcome exclusion from patent protection

Note This article is a contribution to the BARDEHLE PAGENBERG IP Report III/2011 discussing the most recent developments in German case law with respect to patent protection for software – and how the German approach differs from that of the EPO. Read the article as originally published at the BARDEHLE PAGENBERG website.

According to the present decision “Webpage Display” of the German Federal Court of Justice (decision of February 24, 2011 – Case X ZR 121/09 – Webseitenanzeige), software-related inventions have to pass a two-step assessment with respect to exclusion from patent protection. In this context, the German Federal Court of Justice for the first time positively identifies types of features needed for a software-related invention to overcome the exclusion.

The case to be decided in “Webpage display” related to German patent DE 101 15 895 of Siemens AG (English readers may have a look at its US counterpart US 7,296,062) which claims a method for generating a displayable presentation for relocating an information page that has been called up by a user from a homepage and which has subsequently been exited. The patent to be assessed was essentially directed to the concept of logging and later displaying the sequence of visited (sub)pages of a complex website in order to facilitate the return of the user to a certain page of the website.

In first instance, the Federal Patent Court had argued that the claimed method was not an invention in a field of technology and was hence excluded from patent protection. The Federal Court of Justice, however, held that the claimed method indeed possessed technical character, since the claimed method steps involve networked technical devices, wherein the registering of visited internet pages and the generating of a displayable presentation constitute typical steps of processing, storing and transmitting data by technical devices (cf ...

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