Live Streaming of Enlarged Board of Appeal Proceedings relating to computer-implemented inventions

July 2020

Live Streaming of Enlarged Board of Appeal Proceedings relating to computer-implemented inventions

An excellent livestream of EBoA proceedings for G1/19 in respect of whether a computer simulation of pedestrian movement through a building is patentable under the EPC.

Three questions were referred to the EBoA: 1) If a simulation is claimed as such, can the simulation of a technical system solve a technical problem/provide a technical effect external to the simulation’s implementation on a computer? 2a) If yes, what are the criteria for assessing whether the simulation as such solves a technical problem? 2b) Is it sufficient that the simulation is, at least in part, based on technical principles of the simulated system? 3) Do these answers changed if the computer simulation is claimed as art of a design process, rather than claimed as such? How so?

Appellant/applicant argued by analogy the following: if aerospace engineers build a physical simulation to try and recreate turbulence in a ‘real-world’, but laboratory, setting, this physical simulation would be patentable as such, and it would be understood that this provides a technical effect. Therefore, it would be absurd to deny a patent toward an computer simulation that would give the same benefit. Similarly, the presently claimed invention, whilst computer implemented, still has a ‘real-world’ technical effect of enabling better building design etc.

EBoA appeared to agree that the answer to 1) is ‘yes’, and provided the example of computer rendering, in particular the ‘ray-tracing’ of light in a virtual setting using the laws of optics. Such a simulation is patentable, and there is a technical effect of improved virtual environments i.e. a technical effect on human perception. EPO appears to back away from 2a). It looks like they may deem this question to be inadmissible. Very little time spend in respect of 3), all parties appeared to appear that the answers to 1) and 2) would carry through to a computer simulation claimed as part of a design process. Initial position of EBoA in respect of 2b) appears to be ‘no’. The final decisions and more detail is to be provided by EBoA in due course!

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