Software patents for emerging tech since 2008

Datenbank-Indexe waren schon 2003 notorisch bekannt (T0313/10)


Die Entscheidung T 0313/10 (Item matching/AMAZON) vom 19. Juli 2012 dürfte für Datenbankspezialisten interessant sein. Denn dort hat sich die technische Beschwerdekammer 3.5.01 zu der Frage geäußert, ob das Konzept eines Datenbankindex im Jahr 2003 etwas Neues war. Die Kammer hat festgestellt, dass Datenbankindizierung bekannt war — und zwar sogar “notorisch bekannt”, sodass nicht einmal ein Nachweis nötig ist.

Ferner erklärt die Kammer auch noch einmal, was “notorisch bekannt” heißt (siehe die Gründe Nr. [4]). Zuletzt gibt es eine saubere Schelte für die erste Instanz, die hinsichtlich der Frage des Patentierungsausschlusses einen kreativen Maßstab angelegt hatte (siehe die Gründe [1] und [2]).

Anspruch 1 lautete:

“A method performed by a computer system (100; 110) for identifying an item definition that matches an item description, the item definition and item description having attributes with values, the item definitions being stored in an item definition table (101), the method comprising:

providing one or more rules (211) that specify how to generate a similarity score based on similarity between the values of the attributes of an item definition and an item description, wherein at least one rule specifies a criterion for identifying candidate item definitions;

identifying one or more candidate item definitions in accordance with the rules using indexes (212) of attributes into the item definitions in the item definition table, each index for an attribute mapping values of that attribute to the item definitions;

for each of the one or more candidate item definitions, generating a similarity score for the candidate item definition and the item description in accordance with the rules (403, 902), wherein said generating comprises assigning a score to the attributes of the candidate item definition and the item description, and aggregating scores of the attributes to derive the similarity score (909); and

selecting the candidate item definition whose generated similarity score indicates it is most similar to the item description as the matching item description.”

Aus der Begründung

[1.] The first issue in this case is whether the claimed method, performed by a computer, of matching items in a table is excluded from patentability (Article 52(2) and 52(3) EPC). It is the established case law of the Boards of Appeal (see G 3/08 — published OJ 2011, 10, T 258/03, Hitachi (supra) and T 424/03, Clipboard formats I/Microsoft) that claimed subject-matter specifying at least one feature not falling within the ambit of Article 52(2) EPC is not excluded from patentability by the provisions of Article 52(2) and (3) EPC. In this case, claims 1 to 16 are all method claims which specify that the method is “performed by a computer system”. Claims 17 to 24 are claims to a computer system and claims 25 to 41 are claims to a “computer-readable medium”. None of these features fall under the exclusions of Article 52(2) EPC and hence the claimed subject-matter of the present request is not excluded from patentability by the provisions of Article 52(2) and (3) EPC.

[2.] The examining division argued, using their own criteria, that a method performed by a computer was excluded. This was contrary to the established jurisprudence as set out in the Guidelines for Examination at the time. After stating that they were only bound by the EPC and the Guidelines, the division ignored the applicant’s observations that their approach was in fact in breach of the Guidelines. Both of these acts were procedural violations.

[4.] It is established jurisprudence that an additional search can be dispensed with if the only technical features of the claims are considered to be “notorious”, i.e. generic and so well known that they cannot reasonably be refuted (see T 1242/04 — Provision of product-specific data/MAN, OJ EPO 2007, 421, point 9.2 and T 1411/08 — Pairing providers with consumers/IN-DEVELOPMENT, not published in OJ EPO, point 4).

[12.] In conclusion, the Board judges that the only features having technical character are the computer system and potentially the use of indexes. However, a computer system in general is clearly notorious. As stated above, the Board is of the view that indexes are certainly well known in the field of databases. The question is then whether they are so well known as to qualify as “notorious”. The Board judges that they are and were at the priority date of 2003. The problem of searching databases has been known for a very long time and methods of speeding this up using some kind of “index” have been implemented in virtually all commercial database products. Decision T 1411/08 requires not only that the features be notorious, but also generic, that is, features which are defined in such a way that technical details are not significant (see [headnote]). In the Board’s view, the present description of the use of the index does not specify any technical features and so is “generic” by that standard. In conclusion, the Board judges that claim 1 contains only technical features that are notorious so that no additional search is required.

Link zur Entscheidung: T 0313/10 (Item matching/AMAZON)

About Bastian Best

Bastian Best

I'm a European patent attorney specializing in software patents and a partner in one of the most renowned IP only firms in Europe.

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By Bastian Best Software patents for emerging tech since 2008