Software patents for emerging tech since 2008

Verbesserung der Bildqualität nicht zwingend technisch (T0631/08)


In diesem Fall ging es um einen Content-Server, der “value-added content”, insbesondere Bilddaten, bereitstellt. Der Content-Server sollte bestimmte Bereiche innerhalb eines Bildes identifizieren, die wahrscheinlich für den jeweiligen Zieluser von Interesse sind (auf Basis von Informationen darüber, welche Bereiche ähnliche User vorher interessant fanden). Der interessante Bildbereich sollte dann gegenüber den anderen Bildbereichen hinsichtlich der Bildqualität verbessert werden.

Die Beschwerdekammer hatte unter anderem zu entscheiden, ob eine solche Verbesserung der Bildqualität einen technischen Beitrag leistet und somit die Erfindungshöhe begründen kann.

Aus der Begründung:

[2.] Claim 1 defines an information-processing apparatus for providing content data to a terminal device, i.e. essentially a content server. Its functions encompass, in a first stage, the storage of features of image data which are of interest to certain users connected via a terminal device to the content server, including an exemplary “target user” and a “similar user” as defined in the claim. Subsequently, this information is used to improve the image quality of a part of an image transmitted to the target user. The improved image part comprises features which resemble those that have been found to be of interest to the similar user, and which can thus be assumed to be of interest to the target user. The improvement is relative, namely “more than” the image quality of the other parts of the image data. Hence, according to the appellant, a reduction of the amount of the image data to be transmitted to the target user is achieved since only the areas of interest have to be transmitted in high-quality.

[4.] Present claim 1 defines, as differences to the prior art, a specific profiling of user preferences and a processing step for improving image quality. The preferences of the target user for particular features of image data are determined by analysing the input information delivered from a similar user, i.e. by analysing and storing the input of another user who has similar interests as the target user regarding the features extracted from the image data.

[5.] Determining and storing user profiles is typically done for promotion and marketing purposes and does per se not involve the use of technical means or any other technical aspects. Compilation and analysis of data concerning human behaviour and interests are activities closely related to business methods which are excluded from patentability. The Board considers that such activities as profiling of human behaviour for promotion or other business purposes lack technical character and are as such not able to contribute to inventive step even if carried out as a computer implemented process. The appellant has argued that the invention provides an innovative way of choosing the parts of an image that are likely to be of interest to a user. The Board cannot accept this argument since the claimed process performs the same steps a human being might choose to take in the same circumstances, viz. collect information about users’ interests (non-technical), group the users accordingly (non-technical), and present information to a target user on the assumption of similarities of personal interests (non-technical). Merely automating this process involved no inventive step.

[6.] There remains in claim 1 the step of improving the image quality. Unlike profiling, the improvement of image quality (resolution etc) is possibly, but not necessarily, a technical process. An improvement of image quality for aesthetic purposes, for example, would normally not contribute to the technical solution of a technical problem and thus not qualify as technical in terms of a patentable invention. Present claim 1 defines that the image quality of the image parts likely to be of interest according to the target user’s preferences is improved “more than the image quality of the other parts of the image data” (see the claim wording). Hence, the improvement is only a relative improvement between parts of the image, and can in fact be achieved by decreasing the quality of other parts of the image without any improvement of image quality at all (see eg dependent claim 8). Hence, the claimed processing means does not necessarily improve the technical image transmission and rendering process but is simply employed to attract the user’s attention to certain information contents, i.e. a kind of “value-added content” as referred to in claim 1. The image improvement as defined in claim 1 is thus not a technical function or feature of the invention and does consequently not contribute to inventive step.

[7.] For these reasons, the technical contribution provided by the claimed invention to the prior art system of document D1 does not go beyond the normal computer implementation of a non-technical concept of user profiling and content presentation. The requirement of inventive step is thus not fulfilled.

Link zur Entscheidung: T 0631/08 (Improving image quality/SONY) vom 7. März 2014

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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