Tuesday, 29 September 2015

T 1461/12 - Inventive step for "mixed inventions"

After a refusal of an application for lack of inventive step based on the approach of T 641/00 (COMVIK), the applicant criticized tat approach in appeal. Assessment of claims involving technical as well as non-technical features, inclusion of non-technical aims as constraints to be met in the problem statement, and earlier case law are addressed in detail in the decision.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

T 285/11 Wrong composition of the Opposition Division

The Board of Appeal discovers that both the first and second examiners of the Examining Division were also present in the Opposition Division. The Board remits the case to the Opposition Division and reimburses the appeal fee because the faulty constitution of the Opposition Division was a substantial procedural violation. The appellant requests that all examiners are replaced as being potentially biased. This request is refused.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

T 2001/14 - No requests, application refused

This decision shows that filing amended claim sets after receiving an intention to grant R.71(3) is not without risk.

After the applicant had received the intention to grant based on a claim set filed during oral proceedings, new requests were filed.

The Examining division did not allow these new claims and refused to issue new oral proceedings; "without an allowable request on file, the application shall be refused under Article 90(5), Rule 137(3)".

The applicant appealed the decision to refuse and filed a main and two auxiliary requests.  The second auxiliary request is identical to the claims for which the R.71(3) was issued.

The statement of grounds does not discuss Rule 137(3); That is, the statement of grounds does not question if the Examining division was correct not to allow the new auxiliary requests in to the proceedings. The board is tempted to refuse the appeal on this basis as the appeal is unsubstantiated. 

The current version of R.71 is applicable in this case.

Reasons for the Decision

1. Admissibility of the appeal

Friday, 18 September 2015

T 327/13 - Standing and falling as a whole

This opposition appeal is against the Opposition Division's decision to maintain claim 3 as granted (in the context of claim 1 of auxiliary request 1). The appellant considered himself to be adversely affected as by the Opposition Division's decision not to maintain claim 2 as granted. Of relevance in the present case is that claim 2 as granted was not the subject of an individual request in the opposition proceedings, but rather only included as a dependent claim in the main request.

Summary of Facts and Submissions

III. The Opposition Division held that the patent proprietors' main request could not be allowed because the subject-matter of amended claim 1 lacked novelty over D1, but that, account being taken of the amendments in the patent proprietors' auxiliary request 1, the patent and the invention to which it relates meet the requirements of the EPC.

IV. This interlocutory decision has been appealed by the patent proprietors (in the following "the appellants").


IX. The written and oral arguments of the appellants, insofar as they are relevant for the present decision, can be summarised as follows:

The Opposition Division's decision to maintain claim 3 as granted (in the context of claim 1 of auxiliary request 1) is not challenged; however, the appellants are adversely affected by the Opposition Division's decision not to maintain claim 2 as granted, although its subject-matter is novel and inventive in view of D1 (WO 00/35614 A1, filed with the notice of opposition and cited in the decision under appeal).

Clearly the appellants are adversely affected by the Opposition Division's decision to dismiss their main request. It also follows from T 528/93 that, only when a request is withdrawn during the opposition proceedings and re-filed in appeal, is the appellant not adversely affected by the decision of the Opposition Division as far as this request is concerned. In the present case, the appellants did not withdraw their main request and thus, following the reasoning of T 528/93, they are adversely affected by the decision of the Opposition Division to dismiss it.

It is established case law, see for instance T 760/08 (point 2 of the reasons) and T 1708/08 (point 1.3 of the reasons), that the statement of the grounds for appeal satisfies the requirements of Article 108 EPC, third sentence, even if it does not state any specific reason why the decision is contested, provided there is a change in the subject of the proceedings due to the filing of new claims and where the reasons for the decision are no longer relevant in view of the new claims. The appellants filed two new sets of claims which remedy the deficiency of the appellants' main request as identified by the Opposition Division in its decision. Thus, the appeal should be considered as being sufficiently substantiated.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

T 169/12 - late lines of attack

In appeal against the rejection of the opposition, the opponent submitted new lines of attacked based on documents that were originally mentioned in the notice of opposition, but were never used in any attack before the opposition division. The appellant (opponent) further submitted two new documents in the appeal procedure. Which of the documents and which lines of attack were admitted into the procedure in view of Art. 12 and 13 RPBA?

Friday, 11 September 2015

T 1155/11: the Board introduces a new document - unravelling a web of priority claims


The Board of appeal introduced an additional document that was not mentioned before in the Examination procedure. I didn't see this before and I was surprised. The Board writes in its "Communication of the Board" (dated 3/2/15, sent to the appellant (applicant) together with the invitation to attend oral proceedings):
"The Board notes that in addition to D1 and D2, there are several European patent applications from the same applicant describing subject-matter very close to that of the present application. [...] At least some of those European patent applications have earlier priorities than the second priority date of the present application, 16 April 2003, and describe similar subject-matter. Such applications may be relevant under Article 54(3) EPC in case the first priority date is found to be invalid or to cover only part of the claimed subject—matter."
Subsequently a new document D9 is introduced in the proceedings which claims priority from three priority documents and one of these documents is also a priority application of the patent application that is subject of this Appeal. It seems that, in this decision, the Board tries to unravel the web formed by multiple applications of the same Applicant that claim priority of a multitude of priority applications.
In this decision the subsequent priority claims are relevant:
The patent application that is subject of this appeal is filed on 1 Oct 2003 and claims priority from Korean priority patent application P1 of 17 Feb 2003 and P2 of 16 Apr 2003.
Document D9 (EP1573723), as introduced by the Board, is filed on 1 Oct 2003 and claims priority from Korean priority patent application P3 of 21 Feb 2003, P4 of 3 Mar 2003 and also of P2 of 16 Apr 2003.
If the priority claim from P1 for some of the features of the amended claims from P1 is not valid, and these features are described in D9 and also in one of P3 and P4, then document D9 is an Art. 54(3) EPC document for the amended claims. In the decision a certified translation of P4 and P2 is introduced in the proceedings as respective documents D10 and D11.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

T 2371/10 - How not to write a claim

Sometimes one may wonder why parties bother to start an appeal procedure (or worse, write a claim and file an application). In this particular case, the applicant did not get past the Examining Division because a severe lack of clarity under Art 84 EPC. The Board did not think differently and the applicant (appellant) did not attend the oral proceedings. Just a good example of how one should not draft a claim. You can read the frustration of the Board in the decision text, and it took them 15 minutes to come to their decision. If someone knows how this HIFU system works, feel free to comment.

Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. The European patent application was refused by a decision of the examining division for reasons of lack of inventive step (Articles 52(1) and 56 EPC 1973) of the subject-matter of claim 1 of each of a main request and three auxiliary requests then on file and of lack of clarity (Article 84 EPC 1973) of claim 1 of the main request.
II. The applicant lodged an appeal against the decision.
The appellant requested that the decision be set aside and that a patent be granted on the basis of a new set of claims 1 to 10 filed with the statement setting out the grounds of appeal. Furthermore, an auxiliary request for oral proceedings was made.
III. The appellant was summoned to oral proceedings to take place on 23 July 2015.
In a communication pursuant to Article 15(1) RPBA the Board commented on the issues to be addressed during the oral proceedings. In this context, the Board pointed inter alia to a variety of clarity problems with the request on file.
IV. The appellant did not reply to the Board's observations nor did it file any further amendments. Instead, the appellant withdrew its request for oral proceedings by letter of 23 June 2015 and informed the Board that it would not attend or be represented at the oral proceedings. In addition, the appellant requested a decision on the state of the file.
V. Oral proceedings were held in the absence of the appellant.
VI. Independent claim 1 of the appellant's request reads as follows :
"1. A high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) system for scanning and treating tumor, comprising a combined probe, a high frequency electric power source, a B-mode ultrasound scanner, a multi-dimensional motional apparatus, a vacuum degasser, a therapeutic bed, and a computer operating system, wherein the combined probe comprises:
- a therapeutic head which generates high intensity focused ultrasound; and
- an image-displaying probe of the B-mode ultrasound scanner which is integrated with the therapeutic head,
wherein the combined probe is mounted on the multi-dimensional motional apparatus which comprises a three-dimensional rectangular coordinate and one- or two-dimensional rotational coordinate, the upper end of the combined probe being connected to a central hole of the therapeutic bed through an open water bag;
wherein the open water bag is mounted on the central hole;
wherein the lower end of the open water bag (2) is connected to the head of the combined probe (3);
wherein the combined probe (3) is further connected to the high frequency electric power source (6);
wherein the B-mode ultrasound probe is connected to the B-mode ultrasound scanner;
wherein the motional system (4) is connected to the digit-controlled scanning system;
wherein the open water bag (2) is connected to the vacuum degasser (5); wherein the computer operation system (9) is connected separately to the high frequency electric power source (6), B-mode ultrasound scanner (7), digit-controlled scanning system (8) and the vacuum degasser; and
wherein the therapeutic head can cause a temperature greater than 70 degrees centigrade in a focal region."

Friday, 4 September 2015

T 1436/12 Change of a referenced document

In this appeal following a refusal by the examining division, the Board did not allow a change of reference to a document incorporated by reference as a correction or as an amendment. The applicant had in the application made a reference to a US application identified by the internal patent attorney docket number (the US application number was not yet known). The applicant requested in appeal proceedings to change the reference to a PCT application which claimed priority from the US application. The Board examined the matter thoroughly. One consideration for not allowing the change was that at the moment of filing the European application the US files was not public; so it could not be verified based on the attorney docket number, which was in the US file, which applications were involved.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

T 943/13 - Not obvious as a food supplement

The opposition division revoked the following second medical use claim:

"1. A soluble dietary fibre for use in the treatment or reduction of the incidence of muscle wasting and/or chronic muscle wasting and/or sarcopenia, the dietary fibre comprising at least 30 wt.% of oligosaccharides having a chain length of 3-10 anhydromonose units."

I understand that document D12 appears to disclose a soluble dietary fibre for use in the treatment or reduction of the incidence of muscle wasting which contains the required oligosaccharides. However, D12 does not disclose that the oligosaccharide prevents muscle wasting. On this basis the board finds the claim inventive. 

To be a bit pedantic, claim 1 does not actually say that it is the oligosaccharides that prevent the muscle wasting, but from the description this is clearly the purpose of including them. 

The board also devotes an interesting discussion to the sufficiency of this broad claim.