Monday, 20 April 2015

Purposive use of Information Modelling may be Patentable

The decision T 0049/99 relates to a patent application relating to a method for modelling a physical system in a computer. Inputs are various data describing the physical system and the output is an object-oriented model thereof.

The question arose under which conditions such kind of information modelling may contribute to the technical character of the invention and consequently be accounted for when assessing the inventive step.

Here is the catchword of the decision:
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.
While the first sentence is not very surprising, the second sentence might be a pointer to what could have been patentable if properly claimed.

The applicants/appellants had apparently argued that the link to the tangible application of power systems lends some technical character to the features. The BoA responds as follows:

The claimed invention, however, is not restricted to power systems; as expressly indicated in the description the invention may be applied to various types of systems, "large, complex systems" including manufacturing plants and other physical systems (see description, page 30, lines 10 ff.). Claim 1 uses the generic expression "physical system", which is actually a term including any real world system, even business and administrative organisations. 
In the light of the broad meaning of the expression "physical system", information modelling in terms of the first part of claim 1 has to be construed as an abstract non-technical activity using abstract constructs like objects, types, attributes, and relationships.

Eventually, a more specific definition of the purposive use would have helped to classify the feature as a technical one.


Dan said...

Interesting, but the decision is dated 5.3.2002, published online on 06.02.2003. Why this post now?

Michael Thesen said...

Ooops.. I had just come across a recent post on the decision on the blog by Bastian Best without realizing it was an old one.

I thought it was worthwhile noting the positive glimmer of hope in the second sentence of the headnote.