The European Patent Office and its Approach to 'Software Patents' including some comparative Comments on the German PTO's Practice

On the ksnh::law blog we take exceptional care about the discussion on and legal development of protection of computer-implemented inventions, aka 'software patents'. With our latest posting we completed a small series of three articles on the respective legal foundations of and the examining practise in this field of European and German patent law. EPO Examining Practice: Patents for Software? How the EPO Examines Software Inventions and what Lessons can be Learned. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the extended problem/solution approach, the most important formal examining scheme for software inventions as developed by the Boards of Appeal around the turn of the century. The specific characteristics of that approach is that non-technical features of a claim can be considered as prior art upon examining inventive step – to the detriment of applicants (!). The second headnote of the Comvik decision T 641/00 puts this important finding like that:
II. Although the technical problem to be solved should not be formulated to contain pointers to the solution or partially anticipate it, merely because some feature appears in the claim does not automatically exclude it from appearing in the formulation of the problem. In particular where the claim refers to an aim to be achieved in a non-technical field, this aim 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.
Consequently, applicants and especially their patent attorneys should make sure that the specification and the claims do not at all comprise non-technical aspects or or only to the required extent, in order to prevent that proper and limiting technical features are “devaluated”. EPO Legal Foundations (Boards of Appeal Case Law): EPO Case Law on Patentability of Software Inventions From the 80ies Until Now ...Zum vollständigen Artikel

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