According to Chapter II PCT (International Preliminary Examination) the International Preliminary Examination Authority (IPEA) draws up the International Preliminary Examination Report (IPER) which is forwarded to the elected national patent Offices upon national phase entry. Since most national Offices use the IPER as a basis for their substantive examination, it is vital for the applicant that a positive IPER is established.
Based on Rule 66.4 PCT, reading
Additional Opportunity for Submitting Amendments or Arguments:
(b) On the request of the applicant, the International Preliminary Examining Authority may give him one or more additional opportunities to submit amendments or arguments.
the EPO now announced an important procedural change for international applications entering Chapter II PCT before the EPO functioning as IPEA (see Notice from the EPO dated 31 August 2011). According to that revised practice, the EPO obtains discretion to issue additional written opinions before establishing the IPER, either on its own initiative or upon applicant’s request. This will give applicants more control and influence and better chances to enter the national phase with a positive IPER.
Yesterday the EPO News channel reported on a “renewed commitment to cost-efficient European patents” by the EPO and the European Commission. As nobody really had the slightest doubts on the continued and strong support by the project’s two main driving forces, this “news” does not sound that confident and persuasive as it apparenty was intended.
I cannot help, but to me it sounds more like political PR language or even autosuggestion if the President of the EPO, Benoît Battistelli, and the European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier, jointly confess that “the unitary patent is [...] expected to simplify procedures and lower the costs for applicants by up to 70%“.
As of 1 September 2011 the fees for international (PCT) applications will change (see EPO Notification of EPO of 3 Augst 2011) as follows:
- International filing fee: from EUR 999 to EUR 1 088
- Fee per sheet in excess of 30: EUR 11 to EUR 12
- Reductions (under the Schedule of Fees, item 4):
- Electronic filing (the request being in character coded format) from EUR 150 to EUR 164
- Electronic filing (in character coded format) from EUR 225 to EUR 245
- Handling fee: from EUR 150 to EUR 164
The fees for international applications are calculated in Swiss Francs (CHF). The fee change is due to another amendment (after that of 1 January 2011) of the equivalent amounts in EUR by the International Bureau (see Official Notice in PCT Gazette of July 2011 (p. 94).
Back in September 2010 the EPO-sponsored 15th European Patent Judge’s Symposium took place in Lisbon, where the judges discussed developments in European patent law. The symposium was attended by 120 patent judges from Europe and guests from the USA and Japan. A big issue of course was the EU patent and the related litigation system, but the related discussion is now meaningless in view of the recent developments in this regard. But there were other interesting topics discussed as well.
For instance, in a working session on “Patentability of Computer implemented inventions”, Mr. Dai Rees – Chairman of an EPO appeal board and member of the Enlarged Board of Appeals that issued the G3/08 opinion – outlined the developments of the respective EPO case law. His contribution is documented in an article in the conference proceedings: Special edition 1/2011 of EPO Office Journal (PDF, 5 MB), pp. 93 to 102. The below summary reflects my personal observations and understanding of Mr. Rees presentation and also contains some individual flavours and thoughts.
Relevant Provisions: As a reminder, the provisions of the EPC to be considered for computer programs or technicality issues not only involve Art 52 EPC (“programs for computers as such“), but also Articles 18, 19, 21, 22 and Rules 42(1)(a), (c), 43(1) and 44 EPC, which use the term “technical” in different contexts. Further, in the EPC 2000 revision, Art 52(1) EPC was clarified in that patents shall be granted for inventions “in all fields of technology”, which, however, was regarded as a clarification rather than a substantive amendment of the Convention.
Amazon’s so called “One-Click Patent” is one of the most controversially discussed software inventions ever. The term, which nowadays is used as a cipher for a prototypical business method patent, was originally coined for US 5,960,411 titled “method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network” (filed 12 Sep 2007, granted 28 Sep 1999; pdf), which has been enforced against competitor Barnes & Noble and licensed to Apple.
The respective teaching enables easy Internet shopping in that a customer visits a website, enters address and payment information and is associated with an identifier stored in a “cookie” in his client computer. A server is then able to recognize the client by the cookie and to retrieve purchasing information related to the customer, who thus can buy an item with a “single click”.
EP Parent Application: The first “1-click” application in Europe, EP 0 909 381 A2, related to an Internet-based customer data system and claimed a “method for ordering an item using a client system“. The application has been withdrawn on 08 June 2001 in view of approaching oral proceedings that had been summoned by the Examining Division with a negative preliminary opinion saying that the claimed teaching was not inventive over prior art document D3 (Baron C: “Implementing a Web shopping cart”, Dr. Dobbs Journal, Redwood City, CA, 01.09.1997). During the proceedings, Dutch Internet bookseller BOL.COM supported the Examining Division by a number of third party observations according to Art. 115 EPC, all of which pointing the Examining Division to the relevance of D3 (see e.g. here or here).
I. RECENT CASE LAW
In the past two years we have seen a number of quite interesting decisions of the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof; BGH) dealing with patent-eligibility of software-related inventions.
The first decision in the row was X ZB 22/07 („Steuerung für Untersuchungsmodalitäten“, “Control of Examination Modalities”) of 20 January 2009, in which the BGH analysed the circumstances under which an embedded software represents statutory subject-matter (see comments). In this decision the BGH sketched a two-step approach to examine whether or not an invention is sufficiently “technical” to qualify for patent eligibility:
- Is the subject-matter a “technical invention” as required by § 1 I PatG ?
- Does the invention fall under the exclusion of a “computer programs as such” as requited by § 1 III No. 3, IV PatG ?
An additional third step completes the examination scheme:
- Do the technical features render the invention novel and inventive over prior art?
The k/s/n/h::law blog
Some of the patent attorneys of the KSNH law firm have joined their efforts to research what is going on in the various branches of IP law and practice in order to keep themselves, their clients as well as interested circles of the public up to date. This blog is intended to present results of such efforts to a wider public.
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- kelle on Germany: Copyright Protection More Easily Available For Works Of “Applied Arts”
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- Time Limits & Deadlines in Draft UPCA RoP: Counting The Days | ksnh::law on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Cou... on Wiki Edition of Agreement on Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA)
- European Commission Takes Next Step Towards Legalising Software Patents in Europe | Techrights on EU Commission publishes Proposal of amendend Brussels I Regulation for ensuring Enforcement of UPC Judgements
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