Software patents in Europe: Information modelling is in itself not patent-eligible

von Bastian Best

The patent application at stake in decision T 0049/99 (Information modelling/INTERNATIONAL COMPUTERS) of March 5, 2002 concerned a method for analysing a physical system such as a manufacturing plant. The output of the claimed method was in essence an object-oriented information model reflecting the essential properties of the system.

The technical board of appeal 3.5.01 thus had to answer the following question: Is information modelling patent-eligible subject-matter?


Information modelling is an intellectual activity and should be treated like any other human activity in a non-technical field, which is, as such, not an invention for the purposes of Article 52(1) EPC. Only the purposive use of information modelling in the context of a solution to a technical problem may contribute to the technical character of an invention.

From the reasons

5. Article 56 EPC defines that an invention shall be considered to involve an inventive step if, having regard to the state of the art, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art.

Furthermore, consideration has to be given to the “problem-and-solution approach” which is applied by the boards of appeal in examining inventive step (see the EPO publication “Case Law of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office”, 4th edition 2001, pages 101 ff.). According to this approach an invention is to be understood as a technical solution to a technical problem, if it involves an inventive step, demanding more from the person skilled in the art than the technical skills and knowledge a technical professional in the respective technical field is expected to have ...

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