Friday, 13 October 2017

T 0231/13 - no inventor needed, a professional representative is enough

At the opening of the oral proceedings their postponement was requested, because one of the inventors, who wished to accompany the professional representative, could not be present due to serious illness that required medical intervention. This was proven by a medical certificate dated 28 July 2017 and filed during the oral proceedings. The applicant submitted that the request for postponement could not have been made before because the need for medical intervention had been sudden and the representative had been informed of it only the evening before the oral proceedings. The Board denied the request, as it was not made as soon as possible, and because the party was duly represented. 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

T 1204/12 - Stern but fair?

The city 'Brusque' in Brazil

In this examination appeal, the invention relates to the entering and setting of an 'availability status' in a 'Push-to-talk' application in a mobile communication device, with the independent method claims defining the associated data processing. Unfortunately for the applicant-now-appellant, the Board of Appeal quickly 'strips away' the semantic meaning of the data (e.g. 'alert status') and the data processing entities ('server', 'communication device'), to conclude that the invention merely pertains to 'storing/transmitting the data on/to different computers'. Any remaining feature+effect combinations are swept off the table as 'obvious'.

The claim of the main request:

1. A method of establishing a user communications availability in an application (206) operative on a mobile communications device (200), the method comprising:

determining an alert status associated with the mobile communications device (200);

responsive to the determination of the alert status being in a first state, presenting to a user a first plurality of options, each of the first plurality of options corresponding to establishing the user communication availability in the application with a status applicable to said application (206);

responsive to the determination of the alert being in a second state, presenting to the user a second plurality of options having at least one option different from the first plurality of options, each of the second plurality of options corresponding to a user communication availability with a different status applicable to said application (206);

receiving a selection from the user of an option from said first or second plurality of options;

responsive to said selection of the option from said first or second plurality of options, auto­matically establishing and setting, at the mobile communications device, the status of the user communication availability in said application (206) in accordance with the status corresponding to the selected option; and

sending the status of the user communication availability in said application to a server (114), wherein the sending causes the server (114) to transmit an availability status representative of the status of the user communication availability in said application to at least one other mobile communications device associated with said application.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

T 2016/16 - All due care: assistant well-trained but not properly instructed/ not properly supervised by the patent attorney

The applicant timely filed a notice of appeal and paid the appeal fee. However, the applicant missed the 4-month period to file the grounds of appeal, because the 4-month period had never been recorded in the internal electronic docketing system.  With the late-filed statement of grounds, the applicant filed a request for re-establishment of rights in respect of the time limit for filing the statement of grounds of appeal was filed and the prescribed fee was paid. A well-trained, competent and experienced assistant, who has the CIPA Patent Administrator Qualification had overlooked to record the 4-month period and the responsible patent attorney did not think to check whether the period for filing the grounds of appeal had been logged in the docketing system. The Board concluded that, even with a system of double checking in place, the representative is not discharged from his or her duty to properly instruct and supervise the assistant (cf. T 1465/07, reasons 18, last paragraph). In the case at hand, the appellants have not shown that the assistant was properly instructed or that she was properly supervised. Thus, the appellants have not discharged their burden to prove the existence of a normally satisfactory monitoring system. The omission from the docketing system of the time limit for filing the statement of grounds can therefore not be said to equate to an isolated mistake in a normally satisfactory monitoring system. The request for re-establishment of rights is to be refused.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

R 2/15 - Suspected partiality of a deputy of the vice president

It's all about the right to be heard.

In review case R 19/12 it was decided that an objection of suspected partiality against the chairman of a board of appeal may be based on his capacity as vice president. Can such an objection of partiality also be raised if during the course of the appeal proceedings, the chairman is or was deputy of the vice president? Can you ask the members of a board it they have been a deputy of the vice president?  This case also confirms that a petition for review can concern an interlocutory decision

The petitioner claims his right to be heard has been violated numerous times. These include:

-During the oral proceedings before the board of appeal, the objected to chairman handed out a statement which said that the chairman did not wish to make comments. 

- The petitioner had asked for an interruption of the Oral Proceedings of an hour, but got only half an hour. The petitioner also requested return to written proceedings, which was denied. .

- The board rejected the objection of partiality on the basis that the scope of a deputy's responsibilities are more limited than that of a vice president. Petitioner alleges this was not communicated to the parties prior to the decision.

An earlier decision in this case also featured on this blog.  

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

T 914/13 - One 71(3) in the hand worth two in the bush?

During oral proceedings before the Examining Division, an auxiliary request of the applicant was found to meet the requirements of the EPC.  However, in response to the Rule 71(3) EPC communication, the applicant reverted to earlier higher-ranking requests. The application was refused by the ED. 

The applicant appeals, but in its preliminary opinion, the BoA essentially concurs with the ED in respect of the higher-ranking requests, and additionally finds claim 2 of the auxiliary request for which the intention to grant was issued earlier to contravene Art. 84 EPC.

Ultimately, the applicant files a sole main request based on the subject matter of the 'previously allowed' auxiliary request but with claim 2 deleted, and argues that, except for claim 2 having been deleted, the claims of the main request correspond to those on the basis of which the ED had issued its intention to grant during the examination proceedings.

However, rather than ordering a grant, the BoA remits the case back to the ED for further prosecution, while noting that it is not bound to the previous intention to grant, and suggesting that the arguments provided by the applicant in support of inventive step of the main request were to be heard.

Friday, 15 September 2017

J 19/16 - does a loss of rights in the international phase after regional entry have any effect?

An international application was filed in 2005 (with priority of 2004) with the wrong receiving office -the USPTO- who assigned an application number to it. The international application entered the EP regional phase in Nov 2006, and the EPO assigned a EP application number to it. About three years (!!!) later, the USPTO recognized that they were not a competent receiving office and transmitted the international application to the International Bureau, which assigned it a new international application number. The EPO assigned a new European application number to it. Somewhat later, the EPO issued a loss-of-rights communication due to non-performance of the acts for entry for the application with the new number. The IB/RO notified the (original) applicant's professional representative that the international application (with the new number) was declared to be considered withdrawn for failure to pay the prescribed fees to the IB/RO. Various renewal fees were paid in the European phase. But then, in 2014, the Receiving Section issued a communication that the Euro-PCT application that had two European application numbers assigned would be consolidated as a single application. Furthermore, the appellant was informed that the application could not be processed by the EPO as designated Office, as it was considered withdrawn in the international phase, and that the time limit for requesting review of the findings of the IB/RO under Articles 24(2) and 25(2)(a) PCT seemed to have expired. The Receiving Section on 17 August 2016 decided that the application was deemed to be withdrawn with effect from 22 January 2009. It came to the conclusion that, as the IB/RO with notification of 22 January 2009 considered the international application withdrawn by virtue of Article 14(3)(a) PCT for failure to pay the prescribed fees, its effect as a regular Euro-PCT application (Articles 11(3) PCT, 153(2) EPC) had ceased as from the date of mailing of the notification from the IB/RO, with the same consequences as the withdrawal of a European application (Article 24(1)(ii) PCT). The applicant appealed this decision. Despite a range of arguments, including good faith, the applicant was not successful.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

T 1329/04

In the decision T 488/16, recently discussed in this blog, it became again clear that the EPO is strict in allowing post-published evidence to prove inventive step. The core decision where this follows from is this decision, T 1329/04. 
The cathwords of this decision: The definition of an invention as being a contribution to the art, i.e. as solving a technical problem and not merely putting forward one, requires that it is at least made plausible by the disclosure in the application that its teaching solves indeed the problem it purports to solve. Therefore, even if supplementary post-published evidence may in the proper circumstances also be taken into consideration, it may not serve as the sole basis to establish that the application solves indeed the problem it purports to solve.
Thus, post-published evidence of a technical effect/advantage is allowed as long as there was enough information in the application as filed to make this 'new' information already plausible.