Tuesday, 18 February 2020

T 2227/15 - Transition from RPBA2007 to RPBA2020

Since 1/1/2020, the revised  Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (RPBA2020) are in force. Its Article 25 lays down the transitional provisions, and provides that the revised version of the RPBA will in principle apply to all appeals pending on the date of its entry into force (see explanatory notes). However, as submissions already on file may be affected, two exceptions are provided in order to protect legitimate expectations which parties may have had at the time of filing such earlier submissions. A first exception is made, in Art. 25(2), with respect to revised Article 12, paragraphs 4 to 6 relating to the basis of appeal proceedings. In the explanatory notes to Art. 13(3), it further provides: "A further exception is made with respect to the strict provision of revised Article 13, paragraph 2. It will only apply to a submission filed after the statement of grounds of appeal or reply thereto if, at the date of entry into force of the revised version, the summons to oral proceedings or a communication of the Board under Rule 100(2) EPC has not been notified. Otherwise, Article 13 of the Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal in the version valid until the date of the entry into force of the revised version will continue to apply." The applicability of Article 13(1) RPBA 2020 to cases where the summons to oral proceedings were notified before the entry into force of the RPBA 2020 has been a topic of the present appeal.
The decision is further issued, in part, in abridged form according to the new provisions of  Article 15(7)-(8) RPBA2020 and also already used (to our knowledge for the first time) for T 1687/17 of 9 January 2020.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

T 1621/16 - Multiple selections from lists of converging alternatives

In the present case, amendments were based on multiple selections from lists of converging alternatives (i.e. lists of options ranked from the least to the most preferred, wherein each of the more preferred alternatives is fully encompassed by all the less preferred and broader options in the list). The appellant (patentee) argued that these should not be considered to be equivalent to selections from lists of non-converging elements, and that these rather represented a restriction of the scope of protection and were allowable under Article 123(2) EPC. The opponent and the opposition division argued that amendments based on the selection of at least two intermediate options (i.e. different from the most preferred) from lists of converging alternatives infringed Article 123(2) EPC, and that lists of converging and non-converging alternatives had to be treated in a similar way, because the convergence could only be considered to provide a specific pointer to the most preferred options. The Board had to settle on the matter.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

We normally discuss decisions of the Boards of Appeal on this blog, but every once in a while a first instance decision is worth discussing, as it is today.
On 20 December 2019, the EPO published a news message on the EPO website indicating that:

"The EPO has refused two European patent applications in which a machine was designated as inventor. Both patent applications indicate “DABUS” as inventor, which is described as “a type of connectionist artificial intelligence”. The applicant stated that they acquired the right to the European patent from the inventor by being its successor in title.
After hearing the arguments of the applicant in non-public oral proceedings on 25 November the EPO refused EP 18 275 163 and EP 18 275 174 on the grounds that they do not meet the requirement of the EPC that an inventor designated in the application has to be a human being, not a machine. A reasoned decision may be expected in January 2020."
The decision is now available including the full reasoning from the Receiving Section. An appeal may be expected in due course.

Friday, 24 January 2020

T 1491/14 - A medicament for patients who have ceased use of another medicament due to sleep problems

Sleepless nights

This opposition concerns a medicament whose novel feature is that it is prescribed to particular patients. Claim 1 of the main request reads:
1. A use of 1-[2-(2,4-dimethylphenylsulfanyl)phenyl] piperazine and pharmaceutically acceptable salts thereof in the manufacture of a medicament for the treatment of a disease selected from depression, anxiety, abuse or chronic pain, wherein said medicament is for use in a patient who has previously received another medication for the treatment of said disease which medication was ceased or reduced due to sleep or sexually related adverse events.

The board accepts this as a valid claim. It turned out to be novel but obvious to prescribe the medicament to a patient who has previously received another medication which medication was ceased due to sexually related adverse events, but after limiting the claim to sleep problems it was allowed.  

Monday, 20 January 2020

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

T 1711/16 - Prima facie (ir)relevance is not always relevant

The admittance of evidence into appeal proceedings is left to the discretionary powers of the Board of Appeal (Article 12(4) RPBA). It is established case law (cf. G 7/93) that Boards of Appeal should only overturn discretionary decisions of the department of first instance if it is concluded that the department of first instance exercised its discretion according to the wrong principles, or without taking into account the right principles or in an unreasonable way.

In the present appeal case, prior art documents D6 and D7 were submitted by the opponent in response to concerns regarding the nature of a certain additive "Disperbyk-111", as expressed by the Opposition Division in its preliminary opinion accompanying summons for oral proceedings. Documents D6 and D7 were filed within the final date for making submissions set in this communication. The Opposition Division considered D6 and D7 late filed and prima facie not constituting evidence regarding the nature of "Disperbyk-111"; accordingly, the Division did not admit D6 and D7 into the proceedings.

The Board however found that D6 and D7 were timely submitted by the opponent in a fair attempt to dispel doubts about the meaning of "Disperbyk-111" voiced by the Opposition Division. As such, the "prima facie relevance" (or lack thereof) in providing convincing evidence of the identity of "Disperbyk-111" was in this case irrelevant, as the decisive point is rather whether these documents and the submissions made in their respect deal with that issue and were timely submitted. Consequently, the decision of the first instance department not to admit D6 and D7 into the proceedings was overturned.

The Board did not admit the second to nineteenth auxiliary requests of the proprietor - already filed during first instance proceedings - to the proceedings for lack of proper substantiation.

Friday, 10 January 2020

An electronic debit order is a document filed with the EPO, so errors can be corrected

Payment of the appeal fee  in this case was not executed on the date the electronic debit order was received, because in the box for "method of payment", no method was indicated. The correct fee code had been entered, indicating that the appellant intended to pay the appeal fee, but the EPO only received the money via a separate payment after the 2m period for filing the notice of appeal had expired. This payment was accompanied by a request for correction under R. 139 of the submitted electronic debit order, to indicate that the method of payment was "from deposit account".

The notice of appeal was filed on time and contained a statement that the appeal fee was being paid from the deposit account using the attached electronic debit order. This statement was refused as a valid debit order because not in electronically processable format, but was accepted by the Board as evidence of the true intent, along with correctly indicated fee code in the incomplete debit order. 

The Board further remarked that the present case clearly falls under the principles established in G 1/12 for corrections in documents filed in appeal: the request was made without delay and the true intent was immediately apparent. Furthermore, no legitimate interests of the public in being able to rely on the information published by the EPO were affected in this case.

The correction was allowed and had retroactive effect, meaning that because on the date the incomplete debit order was received, the payer's deposit account had sufficient funds to cover the appeal fee, that date was considered the date of payment and the notice of appeal had thus been validly filed.