For patent applications before the European Patent Office (EPO), the formal requirements are published in the Guidelines for Examination at the European Patent Office. With the last update, the EPO has mainly dealt with computer-implemented inventions.
EPO defined application requirements for computer-implemented inventions
The Directives in the guidelines for patent application are regularly updated to take account of developments in European patent law and practice. In particular, patent requirements relating to computer-based or computer-integrated technologies have been defined. This applies to a wide range of applications such as medical technology, measurement techniques, logistics, e-commerce, market research, optics, electromechanics and also industrial production processes.
The EPO’s patent application guidelines distinguish between two cases:
- Computer-implemented data structure with its own technical features
This also includes cases where the process steps require special data processing services or additional technical support as a feature. If the invention is therefore an interaction between data processing steps and other technical means such as sensors, these technical means must be included in the independent claims if they are essential for the implementation of the invention.
- Claims with technical and non-technical characteristics
Whether it’s e-commerce processes such as shopping with a mobile device or logistics or research, the application requirements are defined. In addition to the claim to each patent to be regarded as new and innovative, technical features must also be demonstrated in these areas. The EPO describes the procedure in three steps:
(i) The characteristics that contribute to the technical character are initially appear to be identified as a distributed system consisting of a mobile device connected to a server computer that has cache memory and is connected to a database.(ii) Document D1, which discloses a method of facilitating purchase on a mobile device, wherein the user selects an individual product and the server determines from a database which supplier sells the product closest to the user and transmits this information to the mobile device, is selected as the next state of the art.(iii) The objective technical problem shall be formulated from the perspective of the expert as an expert in a technical field. It is assumed that such a person has no knowledge of business matters. The assumed expert would be able to acquire the knowledge necessary for the formulation of the technical problem to be solved, as would be the case in the form of a specification sheet.
In addition, the EPO Guideline Update also provides information on the patent applicant’s right of contact with the search department at the European Patent Office.
Telephone conversations and informal interviews with an examiner can only take place after registration has been made in the examination phase. Exceptions to this rule are the applicant’s response in good time to the Office’s request, for example, to indicate the subject-matter to be searched or to indicate a particular category which the EPO is to search for.
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