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More fine-grain spam filtering is patent-eligible, says the EPO

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This recent decision is a good reminder about how the European Patent Office treats “mixed” inventions, i.e. inventions including both technical and non-technical aspects:

It is established jurisprudence of the Boards of Appeal that a non-technical feature of a claim is a feature relating to non-inventions within the meaning of Article 52(2) EPC and does not contribute to the solution of any technical problem by providing a technical effect, even when interacting with the technical features of the claim; it can thus be ignored for the purposes of assessing inventive step (see e.g. T 641/00, headnote I).

As always, it’s all about the technical contribution.

Apart from that, what I find particularly interesting is that the board considered the problem solved by the invention – more fine-grain spam identification – to be a technical problem without hesitation (even though without giving any reasons):

According to the present application, the problem to be solved by the present invention is to provide “a reputation-based system and method for determining a likelihood that a message is undesired which permits finer granularity in tracking reputations” (see paragraph [0013] of the description as originally filed). Given that the whole application is concerned with telecommunication messages (such as SIP or email messages) and that undesired messages correspond to spam messages, the board is satisfied that the underlying problem to be solved is indeed a technical problem.

…and when talking about the claimed solution:

Thus, by the use of those features, a more fine-grain assessment of whether or not a spam message has been received may indeed be achieved.

Whether or not the solution to this problem proposed in the patent application is also non-obvious has to be seen, since the board remitted the case back to the examining division.

Read the whole decision here: T 1028/14 (Non-technical features) of 22.8.2017

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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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bastianbest.com Software patents for emerging tech since 2008