Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Resived Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal in force from 1 January 2020

On 4 July 2019, a communication was posted  the Board of Appeal website indicating that the revised Rules of Procedure were approved by the Administrative Council and will come into force on 1 January 2020. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

T 551/15 - Outcome of G 1/18 not relevant (?)

Within the two-month period under Article 108 EPC, the opponent filed notice of appeal and paid the corresponding appeal fee. On 17 March 2015, i.e. prior to the expiry of the two-month period under Article 108 EPC, the patent proprietor submitted, via the electronic filing system, a document entitled "Letter accompanying subsequently filed items". The document indicated the patent application number, the name and address of the representative and the representative's reference number. Under the heading "Fees" it specified the fee for appeal, and under the heading "Payment" it contained a debit order authorising the EPO to debit the appeal fee from the deposit account, followed by the details as to the deposit account and an indication relating to where any reimbursement was to be made. The document did not contain any further text, nor was it accompanied by any further document. The payment of the appeal fee was effected with the date of 17 March 2015. In its statement of grounds of appeal, the patent proprietor stated: "Further to the Notice of Appeal filed on 17.03.2015 by the payment of the appropriate fee, we hereby submit the Grounds of Appeal...". Together with this letter, the patent proprietor filed claim sets as the main request and auxiliary requests. Did the proprietor file a notice of appeal? If so, did he file it in time or too late? if it was too late, was the appeal deemed not filed or inadmissble? Did the proprietor's appeal get into existence? Did the opponent get the appeal fee reimbursed (which can only be done if there was no legal basis for its payment or if there is a legal provision for the refund/reimbursement)? What is the effect of G 1/18 on this case - in particular, did it need to be stayed? Is it of relevance herein that appeal proceedings anyhow got into existence due to the appeal of the opponent, and that the proprietor would be a party as of right in both situations (deemed not filed or inadmissible)? If G 1/18 is applicable, but the case is not stayed as the outcome on the merits of the appeal does not change, can a decision on the reimbursement/refund be made without staying in view of the relevance of G 1/18 on that decision (esp. as refund is not at the discretion of the EPO/Board)?  

Friday, 28 June 2019

T 1360/13 - Drawings much improved, but patent invalid

Drawing sheet 1 as replaced
Drawing sheet 1 as originally filed

The patent was granted with drawing sheets exchanged according to Rule 26 PCT during the international phase, the originally filed drawing sheets being of poor quality, essentially showing black or grey elements. The same exchanged drawing sheets which were part of the patent as granted are part of the main request documents.

The board concluded that many details present in the figures of the patent as granted are not disclosed directly and unambiguously by the application as originally filed.

To overcome this problem, the proprietor filed a series of requests 9-17 in which all drawing sheets have been deleted and all references to the figures in the description and claims have been deleted as well.  (Requests 1-8 were withdrawn.) For the BA this corresponded to an extension of protection, not allowable under Art 123(3) in view of Art 69. The board provided the following catchword. 


In view of Article 69(1) EPC which states that the description and the drawings shall be used to interpret the claims when determining the extent of the protection conferred by a European patent, after grant, any information in the description and/or drawings of a patent directly related to a feature of a claim and potentially restricting its interpretation cannot be removed from the patent without infringing Article 123(3) EPC.

Monday, 17 June 2019

T 1391/15 - Deviations and displacements

An interesting decision concerning what the skilled person would directly and unambiguously derive from the application as filed, when disputes concerning translations of terms from a non-official language arise.

In the present case, part of the objections raised by the opponent-appellant stem from an (alleged) error in the original Italian language application and a supposedly incorrect translation into English of another term in the original application.

More specifically, whereas the original application (concerning a system and apparatus for dehumidifying walls) mentioned “spostamenti” which was subsequently translated into English as "movements", the patentee later amended this term to “differences” based on the corresponding Italian term “scostamenti”, arguing that this amendment was an obvious correction within the meaning of Rule 139 EPC. The opposition division agreed.

While the Board considered it plausible, perhaps even probable, that the term "spostamenti" was erroneous, it found that within the context of the patent spostamenti/movements could in fact meaningfully refer to movements of the apparatus of the invention over the wall; accordingly, it found that the strict conditions for allowing the correction under Rule 139 EPC were not met. Regardless, the Board considered that the overriding issue was in fact whether or not this amendment complied with Article 123(2) EPC. In this regard, the Board argued that it would be clear to the person skilled in the art reading the application as filed that operation of the claimed apparatus would implicitly result in a “difference” or “differences” in certain observed values. Accordingly, in the Board’s view, the term "(in function of the) differences" in claim 1 would not present the skilled person with any new information not directly and unambiguously derivable from the application as filed, thus allowing (under Art. 123(2) EPC) the amendment of (spostamenti) ”movements” to (scostamenti) ”differences”.

The Board further considered the term “monitor” - rather than "control" - in claim 1 based on the original “controllo/controllare” not to contravene Article 123(2) EPC in view of the disclosure of the patent as a whole, which discloses both monitoring and controlling of the dehumidifying process.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

T 473/15 - Closest prior art not directed to the same purpose or effect as the invention

In the present case, novelty and prior art were challenged in opposition appeal. The main request was considered novel, in view of it being considered a multiple selection from alternatives and parameter ranges disclosed in different parts of the description of a prior art document D5 and there being no pointer towards applying them in combination. The opponent considered the same document as the closest prior art, and the board saw no reason to depart from this choice. However, the claim aimed for an improved filtereing whereas D5 related to a different purpose or effect: chromatography. "In other words, D5 relates to a different technical field than that of the patent in suit. However, a closest prior art that is not directed to the same purpose or effect as the invention cannot, according to established case law, lead the skilled person in an obvious way to the claimed invention (see the introductory remarks to Case Law of the Boards of Appeal, 8th ed., I.D.3.2).  Applied to the present case, this means that the skilled person would not, without hindsight, try to improve the particulate capture efficiency of the medium of D5, which is meant for chromatographic separation. Hence, the skilled person would not, when starting from D5, apply D4's, D10's or any other document's teaching, since these documents do not deal with chromatographic separation."

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

T 1218/14 - No accidental anticipation; relevant for inventive step?

Does the finding that (a disclosure in) a prior art document D1 does not qualify as an accidental anticipation (thus not allowing the use of an undisclosed disclaimer) because it does not fulfill the criterion laid down in G 1/03 that it is so unrelated to and remote from the claimed invention that the skilled person would never have taken it into consideration when making the invention, imply that it is automatically relevant for inventive step? Or, turned around, if it is found that the claimed subject matter is inventive in view of D1, does this mean that D1 is in fact irrelevant for inventive step, such that the criterion in G 1/03 is met and that D1 is an accidental anticipation after all?

Not necessarily - according to this decision. Herein, the Board argued that the requirement in G 1/03 that an accidental novelty-destroying disclosure has to be completely irrelevant for assessing inventive step is to be understood not as an alternative, or additional criterion, but as a consequence of the criterion that, from a technical point of view, said disclosure is so unrelated and remote that the person skilled in the art would never have taken it into consideration when making or working on the invention.

Consequently, if this criterion is met, it follows that said disclosure is completely irrelevant for assessing inventive step. However, not meeting said criterion does not necessarily imply the opposite, namely that the disclosure in question will contribute to a finding that inventive step is lacking.

Accordingly, in the present case, as D1 was considered to deal with a side aspect of the claimed subject matter, the patentee was not able to maintain his broader claims by disclaiming a relevant disclosure of D1; the subject matter of duly limited claims was however deemed inventive in view of D1 as secondary document.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

T 314/15 - Wrong/no place of business on notice of appeal: (in)admissible?

In the present case, a notice of appeal by facsimile was received at the EPO on 9 February 2015, carrying at the top of its first page the letterhead "MAN Truck & Bus AG", and below the addressee a line containing various references including inter alia an indication that the letter was written on that same date in Nürnberg, followed by a paragraph designating the number of the above European patent and its underlying application, the name of the patent proprietor and the name of the opponent as "MAN Truck & Bus AG". In the subsequent paragraphs it is declared, with reference to the impugned interlocutory decision, the European patent and its proprietor, that an appeal was filed. A list of requests and a statement concerning the payment of the appeal fee by debit order submitted in the annex completed the letter which was signed by an employee of MAN Truck & Bus AG together with a reference to an EP authorisation 58 1060.1. The letter's footer contains in a left column an indication of inter alia the place of business being München and in a right hand column, a postal address of the company MAN Truck & Bus AG in Nürnberg. In response to a communication pursuant to Rule 101(2) EPC, sent to MAN Truck & Bus AG at its postal address in Nürnberg and stating that the notice of appeal did not contain the address of the appellant and requesting the deficiency be remedied within a period of two months. the address of appellant-opponent was provided, corresponding to the address indicated by opponent in the notice of opposition. It was requested that all correspondence be sent to the Nürnberg postal addres. 
Thus, the notice of appeal of appellant-opponent did not contain the address, contrary to the requirement of Rule 99(1)(a) EPC, but the address of its principle place of business (Sitz) was provided later (together with an address from the company, other than its principle place of business, as address of correspondence). Did the Board consider the appeal admissible in view of Rule 99(1)(a) EPC?