Delta Patents

T 540/13 - Impossible to establish whether facts or arguments were filed or not

Delta Patents Patent Law -


The opposition division had informed opponent O1 that "The notice of opposition contains no statement of grounds on which the opposition is based (Rule 76(2)(c) EPC)" and that "the notice of opposition will be rejected by the opposition division as inadmissible...". The opposition division issued a decision revoking the European patent as the ground for opposition pursuant to Article 100(c) EPC prejudiced the maintenance of the patent as granted. In addition to revoking the patent, the title page of the decision states: "Additional decision: The opposition of the opponent(s) O1 is rejected as inadmissible". Appeals were filed by the patent proprietor and opponent O1.  In its statement of grounds of appeal, appellant-opponent O1 requested that "the decision of the Opposition Division that rejected Opponent O1's opposition on grounds of inadmissibility pursuant to Rule 77 EPC be set aside and that Opponent O1's opposition be considered admissible". The Opponent argued that the facts and arguments in support of the grounds for opposition required by Rule 76 EPC were included in the DHL package that was timely filed within the opposition period, whereas the opposition division held that "Facts and arguments substantiating the indicated grounds for opposition have not been filed within the opposition period. Even the paper confirmation received on 4 October 2007 ... did not comprise facts and arguments, as has been confirmed by file inspection". How did the Board deal with these opposite positions of Opponent O1 and the opposiion division? And how did this effect the party status of the Opponent?

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. This case concerns appeals arising from the decision of the opposition division to revoke European patent No. 1 350 373.

II. Oppositions to the patent were filed by the company Intesa S.p.A (henceforth opponent O1) and, jointly, by the companies INFOCAMERE Soc. Cons., Actalis S.p.A., Cedacri S.p.A. and Postcom S.p.A. (henceforth jointly referred to as opponent O2) citing Articles 100(a) and (b) EPC.

III. In the course of the opposition procedure, an admissible intervention was filed by the assumed infringer Microsoft Deutschland GmbH (henceforth opponent O3), citing Articles 100(a), (b) and (c) EPC.

IV. Of the cited grounds for opposition, only that of Article 100(c) EPC is relevant to the board's decision.

V. The opposition division issued a decision revoking the European patent as the ground for opposition pursuant to Article 100(c) EPC prejudiced the maintenance of the patent as granted. In addition, the opposition division either did not admit or did not allow any of the 21 auxiliary requests on file.

In addition to revoking the patent, the title page of the decision states:

"Additional decision: The opposition of the opponent(s) INTESA S.p.A is rejected as inadmissible".

As to the facts concerning the filing of the opposition of opponent O1, reference is made to point 2.1 below.

VI. Appeals were filed by the patent proprietor and opponent O1.

Opponents O2 and O3 are respondents.

VII. In its notice of appeal, the appellant-proprietor requested that the impugned decision be set aside and that the patent be maintained as granted, or, in the alternative, that the patent be maintained in amended form "according to any of the auxiliary requests filed by the patent owner during the Opposition proceedings".

VIII. In its statement of grounds of appeal, appellant-opponent O1 requested that "the decision of the Opposition Division that rejected Opponent O1's opposition on grounds of inadmissibility pursuant to Rule 77 EPC be set aside and that Opponent O1's opposition be considered admissible".

IX. In subsequent replies to the appeal of the appellant-proprietor, all opponents requested that the appeal of the appellant-proprietor be dismissed.

X. In a communication accompanying a summons to oral proceedings, the board gave a preliminary opinion that the opposition of opponent O1 was admissible. It however doubted that the appeal of opponent O1 was admissible as it could not see that opponent O1 was adversely affected by the decision to revoke the patent. It considered that opponent O1 had the status of respondent, at least until a negative decision on the admissibility of its opposition was taken.

The board further gave a preliminary opinion that claim 1 of the main request did not comply with Article 123(2) EPC, i.e. that the ground for opposition pursuant to Article 100(c) EPC prejudiced the maintenance of the patent.

With respect to the auxiliary requests, the board stated that auxiliary requests 1 and 2 had been withdrawn during the opposition procedure and that auxiliary requests 3, 4, 11 and 12 had not been admitted. The board therefore saw no reason to admit these requests (Article 12(4) RPBA). As to auxiliary requests 5 to 10 and 13 to 23, the board noted that claim 1 of each request, although amended, did not comply with Article 123(2) EPC for essentially the same reasons as claim 1 of the main request.

XI. Oral proceedings took place on 29 March 2017 in the presence of all parties.

During the oral proceedings, the appellant-proprietor submitted an amended request as auxiliary request 24.

The appellant-proprietor requested by way of a main request that the decision under appeal be set aside and that the oppositions be rejected. Alternatively, it requested that the decision under appeal be set aside and that the patent be maintained in amended form on the basis of one of auxiliary requests 3 to 23 as filed during the opposition proceedings and auxiliary request 24 as filed during the oral proceedings. Further, it requested that the appeal filed by opponent O1 be dismissed.

The appellant-opponent O1 requested that the decision under appeal be set aside to the extent that its opposition filed on 2 October 2007 be held admissible. Further, appellant-opponent O1 requested that the appeal filed by the appellant-proprietor be dismissed.

Respondents O2 and O3 both requested that the appeal of the appellant-proprietor be dismissed.

XII. Claim 1 as granted reads as follows:

"A method of certifying transmission, reception and authenticity of electronic documents between at least one sender user (2) and at least one addressee user (3) in a telecommunication network (4), wherein [...]"

XIII. For the sake of economy, the wording of claim 1 of each of auxiliary requests 3 to 24 is not reproduced in full. [...].

Reasons for the Decision

1. Admissibility of the appeal of appellant-opponent O1

1.1 The Opposition Division held that the opposition of opponent O1 was inadmissible. Opponent O1 appealed this part of the decision (see above point VIII).

1.2 As regards the admissibility of opponent O1's appeal, the board notes that only persons adversely affected by a decision are entitled to appeal (Article 107 EPC, first sentence). On the one hand, opponent O1 was not adversely affected by the decision to revoke the patent. On the other hand, the opposition division also held that O1's opposition was inadmissible and took a separate "additional decision" to this effect (see above point V). It is open to question whether this additional decision, which seemed to have a negative outcome for opponent O1 but did not change the fact that its main request that the patent be revoked had been granted, is open to a separate admissible appeal. However, for the reasons given below, this question does not need to be answered in the present case, where also the patent proprietor appealed the decision and did not withdraw its appeal.

1.3 As a matter of principle, the boards of appeal have to examine the question of party status ex officio before dealing with the substance of the case (cf. T 384/08, point 3 of the reasons).

1.4 It follows that in the present case, in order to determine whether opponent O1 has party status as of right (Article 107 EPC), here as a respondent with respect to the proprietor's appeal, the board has to decide on the admissibility of opponent O1's opposition, irrespective of whether or not the appeal of opponent O1 is admissible.

1.5 Following T 1178/04 (OJ EPO 2008, 80; cf. points 24 to 30 of the reasons) rather than T 898/91, which took another view (cf. point 1.2 of the reasons), the board is therefore of the view that when an opposition division decides that an opposition is inadmissible in a case where at least one other admissible opposition has been filed, it is not necessary for the opponent of the opposition held inadmissible to appeal this decision in order to preserve party status in appeal proceedings initiated by another party.

1.6 Since the board holds the opposition to be admissible (see below), meaning that, in any case, opponent O1 is a party as of right to these appeal proceedings as respondent, a formal decision as to the admissibility of the appeal of opponent O1 is not necessary.

1.7 Being a party as of right to the patent proprietor's appeal, opponent O1 has the right to request that a formal decision denying its party status be formally set aside. For this reason, the board has included this matter in the order.

2. Admissibility of the opposition of opponent O1

2.1 The essential facts and submissions concerned with the filing of the opposition of opponent O1 are the following:

(i) Opponent O1 filed a notice of opposition by fax on 2 October 2007 in which it was stated that the facts and arguments [in support of the grounds for opposition required by Rule 76 EPC] "will follow".

(ii) Opponent O1 sent a package by DHL, which was received at the EPO on 4 October 2007. The package contained EPO Form 2300.1, a confirmation of the notice of opposition sent by fax as well as the documents cited in the notice of opposition. However, contrary to what was stated in EPO Form 2300.1 ("VII. Facts and arguments (Rule 55(c) EPC) presented in support of the opposition are submitted herewith on a separate sheet (annex 1)"; "XI. List of documents Enclosure No. ... 1 Facts and arguments (see VII.) No. of copies: 2", apparently, there was no statement of facts and arguments. This was the last day for filing an opposition (9 months after grant on 3 January 2007, plus 1 extra day due to the public holiday in Germany on 3 October 2007).

(iii) In a communication dated 24 October 2007 from the formalities officer on behalf of the opposition division, opponent O1 was informed that there were no sheets of facts and arguments filed with the letter dated 2 October 2007.

(iv) A statement of facts and arguments was then sent by fax by opponent O1 on 30 October 2007 under cover of a letter dated 29 October 2007, saying "As requested in your communication dated 24 October 2007, we enclose herewith Facts and Arguments". The enclosed statement showed the Representative's letterhead and the date "29 October 2007". There was not the slightest indication that any "Facts and Arguments" had already been submitted earlier.

(v) In a communication dated 18 January 2008 from the formalities officer on behalf of the opposition division, opponent O1 was informed that "The notice of opposition contains no statement of grounds on which the opposition is based (Rule 76(2)(c) EPC)" and that "the notice of opposition will be rejected by the opposition division as inadmissible...".

(vi) In a letter dated 25 January 2008, opponent O1 expressed "amazement" at the substance of the communication. It argued that the facts and arguments had been submitted with the DHL package, and submitted declarations of persons involved in the sending of the package in support thereof. Opponent O1 requested that the office communication be withdrawn. Conditionally, oral proceedings were requested. That the "Facts and Arguments" as submitted later didn't show the date 2 October 2007 but 29 October 2007 was explained with an alleged reprinting under new letterhead whereas a first version had allegedly been printed on plain white paper. A copy thereof was enclosed. Opponent O1 did not give any explanation as to why the alleged presence of "Facts and Arguments" in the DHL package, sent on 02 October 2007 was not mentioned in the letter of 29 October 2007. Later, in the statement of grounds of appeal they explained that it was their belief that the formalities officer, when issuing the communication dated 24 October 2007, had not been able to find the original of the Facts and Arguments as handed in with DHL package of 2 October 2007 and was simply asking for a replacement. The fact that when posting the DHL package on 2 October 2007 with a letter dated the same day, this very letter still said that the "Facts and Arguments will follow", was explained with the observation that this letter was marked and only meant as a confirmation copy of the fax sent on the same day.

(vii) The opposition division subsequently first dealt with the matter in a communication accompanying a summons to attend oral proceedings dated 9 August 2012. It stated that "Facts and arguments substantiating the indicated grounds for opposition have not been filed within the opposition period. Even the paper confirmation received on 4 October 2007 ... did not comprise facts and arguments, as has been confirmed by file inspection". Consequently, the opposition division considered that "the opposition of O1 has to be rejected as inadmissible".

(viii) At the oral proceedings dated 4 December 2012, after hearing the parties, the opposition division decided that the opposition of opponent O1 was inadmissible. In the impugned decision, it is stated that the arguments of opponent O1 supported by the statements of the persons involved in sending the notice of opposition "cannot dispel the fact that "facts and arguments" were not filed within the opposition period".

2.2 In accordance with case law, in cases where there is a dispute as to whether documents have been filed with the EPO, it is necessary to determine the likely course of events. In the present case, this would be to determine which of the following two scenarios is more likely to have happened: (i) the DHL package did not include the statement of facts and arguments; or (ii) the statement was lost in the EPO.

2.3 Re (i): Opponent O1 tried to convince the Board that, although not having mentioned such content in the letters of 2 and 29 October 2007, it believed the DHL package to include the statement of facts and arguments. Of course, that does not rule out that an error occurred on the part of opponent O1. On the other hand, with letter of 28 January 2008, it provided evidence regarding the alleged submission of Facts and Arguments together with the DHL package.

2.4 Re (ii): It appears that neither the formalities officer nor the opposition division undertook any effort to investigate what may have happened when the DHL package was opened in order to determine the likelihood of the statement of facts and arguments having being mislaid within the EPO.

2.5 In a similar case, J 20/85 (OJ EPO 1987, 102), in which missing pages of claims were the issue, the board found that (cf. reasons 3):

"Article 114(1) EPC provides that "In proceedings before it, the European Patent Office shall examine the facts of its own motion". In the present case, faced with the contention and evidence identified above, it was necessary for the Receiving Section to investigate, in detail, what had happened to the set of documents inside the European Patent Office, from the moment when the envelope containing the documents was opened in the Post Room."

The decision goes on to state the following (cf. reasons 5):

"Having regard to the provisions of Article 114(1) EPC quoted in paragraph 3 above, the Board has considered whether the case should be remitted to the Receiving Section for further investigation, or whether it should itself investigate the facts of the case in relation to the handling of the documents which were filed in the Post Room on 27 September 1984. However, although it was filed in due time, the Statement of Grounds of Appeal was not filed until September 1985, so that any such investigation and taking of evidence would necessarily have to have taken place more than a year after the relevant events. It could not be expected in those circumstances that the personnel in the Post Room would have a clear recollection of what happened to the documents of this particular case, and therefore to conduct such an investigation now would not be fair either to the Appellant or to the European Patent Office. This consideration emphasises the importance of what is stated in paragraph 4 above, to the effect that in a case such as the present the department or section concerned should initiate the taking of evidence as soon as it is apparent that there is a dispute as to facts between the European Patent Office and a party to proceedings before it."

2.6 In the board's view, the opposition division should have made an attempt to investigate the circumstances of opening the DHL package and/or ascertaining whether the statement of facts and arguments could yet be found in the EPO, at the latest following receipt of the letter dated 25 January 2008, at which point it was clear that opponent O1 believed that the statement of facts and arguments had indeed been filed within the opposition period. Without such an investigation, it is unclear how the opposition division could, more than four years later, regard it as a "fact" that the statement of facts and arguments had not been received. Further, by waiting so long before considering the matter, any meaningful investigation was rendered impossible. The board is now in the position that nine years have passed since the filing of the opposition. It is more than doubtful, whether hearing witnesses, either those offered by opponent O1 or those within the EPO, after such a long time could now still serve any useful purpose.

2.7 Under the circumstances that no investigation took place within the EPO it now seems impossible to establish whether it was more likely that the statement of facts and arguments was omitted by mistake on the part of opponent O1, or was lost within the EPO. In such a case, the opponent has to receive the benefit of any doubt.

2.8 Consequently, the board considers that the opposition of opponent O1 is admissible. Opponent O1 is therefore at least a party as of right, i.e. has the status of respondent with respect to the proprietor's appeal (cf. point 1.5 above).

3. Main request - claim 1 as granted - Articles 100(c) and 123(2) EPC

[...]

4. The board therefore concludes that the ground for opposition pursuant to Article 100(c) EPC prejudices the maintenance of the patent as granted. The main request is therefore not allowable.

5. Auxiliary requests 3, 4, 11 and 12

5.1 In accordance with Article 12(4) RPBA, the admitting of requests which were not admitted by the department of first instance is at the discretion of the board.

Auxiliary requests 3, 4, 11 and 12 were not admitted by the opposition division because they were subject to the same objection as the main request. The appellant-proprietor has not challenged that assessment, which the board shares. The appellant did not provide any further reasons why the Board should exercise its own discretion under Article 12(4) RPBA in a different way than the opposition division had done.

5.2 Consequently, auxiliary requests 3, 4, 11 and 12 are held to be inadmissible (Article 12(4) RPBA).

6. Auxiliary requests 5 to 10 and 13 to 23 - claim 1 - Article 123(2) EPC

6.1 - 6.1 [...]

6.3 However, in the board's view, all aspects of these added features are implicitly comprised in claim 1 as granted. Consequently, these amendments make no difference to Article 123(2) EPC. In particular, each claim 1 still embraces both the "double checking" embodiment and the technical certification embodiment.

6.4 Consequently, claim 1 of each of these requests does not comply with Article 123(2) EPC for the same reasons as given above (cf. point 3) in respect of claim 1 of the main request.

7. Auxiliary request 24 - admissibility

7.1 In accordance with this request (cf. point XIV), the term "a certified sender user" is replaced by the expression "a certified namely identified sender user".

7.2 In accordance with Article 13(1) RPBA, "Any amendment to a party's case after it has filed its grounds of appeal or reply may be admitted and considered at the Board's discretion. The discretion shall be exercised in view of inter alia the complexity of the new subject-matter submitted, the current state of the proceedings and the need for procedural economy".

7.3 Auxiliary request 24 was filed at a late stage of the oral proceedings before the Board. A new request may be admitted at such a late stage if it overcomes, prima facie, all the objections previously discussed and does not introduce new objections or complications.

7.4 However, that is here not the case. Amended claim 1 is, in the board's view, even more unclear than claim 1 as granted, contrary to Article 84 EPC. Moreover, the amendment does not overcome the objection under Articles 100(c) and 123(2) EPC discussed in connection with claim 1 of the main request, and introduces considerable doubt as to compliance with Article 123(3) EPC.

7.5 In respect of Article 84 EPC, the expression "a certified namely identified sender" is manifestly unclear. In this respect[...]. If the claim is to mean "certified and identified sender", it would still apparently be subject to the same objection of non-compliance with Article 123(2) EPC discussed in connection with claim 1 of the main request. If it is to be understood as "not certified but identified", effectively the requirement of being certified has been deleted, which renders doubtful whether claim 1 complies with Article 123(3) EPC.

7.6 With respect to Article 123(3) EPC, the appellant-proprietor argued that in claim 1 as granted, "certified" has the possible sub-meaning "identified". Consequently, the amendment merely limited "certified" to one of its possible meanings.

However, the board notes that, although whether or not "certified" has a possible sub-meaning "identified" might have been relevant to a discussion on Article 123(3) EPC, the argument is moot, since a formulation of claim 1 has been chosen which, for the reasons given above, is prima facie not clear and not compliant with Article 123(2) EPC. Further, allowing an amendment at this stage which would require an in-depth discussion of Article 123(3) EPC would be contrary to procedural efficiency.

7.7 The appellant-proprietor further argued that the board was unfairly giving speculative meanings to the claim rather than considering the merits of the "invention" as described in the description. Such an approach was not in the spirit of the EPC. The board should take into account, when amendments are formulated by non-native speakers, that these might not be in position to find the clearest formulation. With regard to procedural efficiency, the appellant-proprietor found that the fault lay essentially with the EPO, who had taken nine years in processing the file through opposition and appeal proceedings.

7.8 The board finds these arguments unconvincing. In accordance with Article 84 EPC, the claims shall define the matter for which protection is sought and shall be clear. Consequently, it is incumbent on the board to ensure that this requirement is met. It is not possible to relax this requirement in view of a party not being a native speaker of the language of the proceedings, or because of alleged errors of drafting, all the more so in inter partes proceedings. As regards the length of the proceedings, the board does not see how that is relevant to admissibility of requests filed late in the oral proceedings to counter objections that had been on file for a very long time.

7.9 For above reasons, the board used its discretionary power under Article 13(1) RPBA to not admit auxiliary request 24.

8. Conclusions

8.1 As none of the proprietor's requests is allowable, it follows that the proprietor's appeal has to be dismissed.

8.2 The board holds the opposition of opponent O1 to be admissible. Opponent 1's request that the "additional decision" taken by the opposition division be set aside is therefore acceded to.

Order

For these reasons it is decided that:

1. The appeal of the appellant-proprietor is dismissed.

2. The "additional decision" is set aside and the opposition filed by opponent O1 is held admissible.


This decision T 540/13 (pdf) has European Case Law Identifier:  ECLI:EP:BA:2017:T054013.20170329. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo "Sherlock Holmes the invisible detective" by Matt Brown obtained via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license (no changes made).

T 1852/13 - Essentiality test vs. gold standard

Delta Patents Patent Law -

The gold(en) standard?

This case concerns a divisional application in which a feature was removed from claim 1 with respect to claim 1 of the parent application, and whether such removal satisfies the requirements of Art. 76(1) EPC (and equivalently Art. 123(2) if it were to be performed as amendment).

This situation is dealt with by the 'essentiality test' of T 331/87.

This case discusses the essentiality test as it differs across its various versions (English original vs. German translation, original decision vs. guidelines), how it was applied in the recent past, criticism on the test including the criticism raised previously in T 910/03, and most importantly, how it fits into the 'gold standard' established by G 2/10.

After various deliberations, the Board considers the essentiality test to be dead: "Die Kammer ist zum Schluss gelangt, dass der Wesentlichkeitstest nicht mehr zum Einsatz kommen sollte", with one of the reasons being that the original phrasing of 'may not' in T 331/87 leaves open the possibility that all three conditions of the test are satisfied yet that Art. 123(2) is still violated.

As such, the Board considers that the essentiality test cannot replace the gold standard even in its specific application area (removal or replacement of a feature).

Is the essentiality test now finally dead? After T 910/03 it languished but occasionally reappeared.

The Board refrains from referring the matter to the EBoA as it considers such referral not to be decisive in the present case, since according to the Board a same conclusion would be reached using both the essentiality test and the gold standard (being that the removal violates Art. 76(1) EPC).

Entscheidungsgründe
(...)

2. Hauptantrag

Der einzige Unterschied zwischen Anspruch 1 der vorliegenden Teilanmeldung und Anspruch 1 der Stammanmeldung besteht darin, dass das Merkmal, dem zufolge "die Achse der mindestens einen zweiten Spritzeinheit mit der Maschinenachse einen spitzen Winkel einschließt" gestrichen wurde.

Strittig ist, ob diese Änderung den Erfordernissen von Artikel 76 (1) EPÜ genügt.

2.1 Auslegung des strittigen Merkmals

Mathematisch ist ein spitzer Winkel definiert als ein Winkel, der größer als 0° und kleiner als 90° ist.

Zwei Achsen, die einander schneiden, schließen grundsätzlich immer einen spitzen und einen (komplementären) stumpfen Winkel ein, es sei denn, die Achsen sind identisch (Winkel: 0°) oder stehen normal aufeinander (Winkel: 90°). So gesehen, bedeutet das Merkmal, dem zufolge "die Achse der mindestens einen zweiten Spritzeinheit mit der Maschinenachse einen spitzen Winkel einschließt" nur, dass die Achse der zweiten Spritzeinheit nicht mit der Maschinenachse identisch ist und mit ihr auch keinen rechten Winkel einschließt.

2.2 Grundsätzliches zu den Änderungen

Artikel 76 (1) Satz 2 EPÜ legt fest, dass eine Teilanmeldung nur für einen Gegenstand eingereicht werden kann, der nicht über den Inhalt der früheren Anmeldung in der ursprünglichen Fassung hinausgeht. Dieses Erfordernis entspricht im Wesentlichen demjenigen von Artikel 123 (2) EPÜ, dem zufolge ein europäisches Patent nicht in der Weise geändert werden darf, dass sein Gegenstand über den Inhalt der Anmeldung in der ursprünglich eingereichten Fassung hinausgeht.

2.2.1 Grundlage der Prüfung: der "Goldstandard"

In ihrer Entscheidung G 2/10 (ABl. EPA 2012, 376) hat die Große Beschwerdekammer die frühere Rechtsprechung bekräftigt, der zufolge das Grundprinzip des Artikels 123 (2) EPÜ darin besteht, dass jede Änderung an den die Offenbarung betreffenden Teilen einer europäischen Patentanmeldung oder eines europäischen Patents (der Beschreibung, der Patentansprüche und der Zeichnungen) nur im Rahmen dessen erfolgen darf, was der Fachmann der Gesamtheit dieser Unterlagen in ihrer ursprünglich eingereichten Fassung unter Heranziehung des allgemeinen Fachwissens - objektiv und bezogen auf den Anmeldetag - unmittelbar und eindeutig entnehmen kann (siehe Punkt 4.3 der Entscheidungsgründe). Zu prüfen ist also, ob der Fachmann unter Heranziehung des allgemeinen Fachwissens den beanspruchten Gegenstand als - explizit oder implizit - unmittelbar und eindeutig in der ursprünglichen Fassung der Anmeldung offenbart ansehen würde (Punkt 4.5.4 der Entscheidungsgründe). Dieser allgemein akzeptierte Maßstab für die Beurteilung der Frage, ob eine Änderung mit Artikel 123 (2) EPÜ in Einklang steht, wird von der Großen Beschwerdekammer selbst als 'Goldstandard' bezeichnet (letzter Absatz von Punkt 4.3 der Entscheidungsgründe: "... one could also say the "gold" standard ..."). Der Einfachheit halber wird im Folgenden ebenso dieser Begriff verwendet; in der Fachliteratur nennt man den Goldstandard manchmal auch den "Offenbarungstest" (disclosure test).

Der Goldstandard ist auch analog bei der Prüfung, ob das Erfordernis von Artikel 76 (1) Satz 2 EPÜ erfüllt ist, anzuwenden, wobei anstatt der ursprünglichen Fassung der Anmeldung die ursprüngliche Fassung der Stammanmeldung in Betracht zu ziehen ist (siehe dazu Entscheidung G 1/05 (ABl. EPA 2007, 362), Punkt 5.1 der Entscheidungsgründe).

2.2.2 Konkrete Tests

Die Schwierigkeit, den Goldstandard in konkreten Fällen zur Anwendung zu bringen, hat zu einigen Versuchen geführt, konkrete und einfach anzuwendende Prüfungskriterien einzuführen. Die Problematik dieser "Tests" besteht darin, dass sie auf Einzelfällen beruhen, die entscheidungsrelevante Betrachtungen aber zum verallgemeinerten Prüfstein machen. Die Gültigkeit solcher Verallgemeinerungen wird danach zumeist nicht mehr hinterfragt. Außerhalb des Überlappungsbereichs, in dem der Test zu den gleichen Ergebnissen führt wie die Anwendung des Goldstandards, kann es aber Bereiche geben, in denen der Test andere Ergebnisse liefert. Deshalb ist bei der Anwendung solcher Tests grundsätzlich große Vorsicht geboten.

Ein Beispiel für einen Test, der nur sehr beschränkt und mit Vorsicht angewandt wird und kaum mehr zum Einsatz kommt, ist der sogenannte "Neuheitstest" (siehe "Rechtsprechung der Beschwerdekammern des EPA", 8. Auflage, 2016, Punkt II.E.1.2.5). Der sogenannte "Wesentlichkeitstest", der im Folgenden besprochen wird, stellt ein anderes Beispiel dar.

2.2.3 Der "Wesentlichkeitstest" gemäß T 331/87

Im Zusammenhang mit der Streichung von Merkmalen eines ursprünglich offenbarten Anspruchs wurde in der Entscheidung T 331/87 (ABl. EPA 1991, 22), welche auf der Entscheidung T 260/85 (ABl. EPA 1989, 105) aufbaut, ein Drei-Punkte-Test, der oft auch als "Wesentlichkeitstest" bezeichnet wird, formuliert.

Diesem Test zufolge verstößt das Ersetzen oder Streichen eines Merkmals aus einem Anspruch nicht gegen Artikel 123 (2) EPÜ, sofern der Fachmann unmittelbar und eindeutig erkennen würde, dass

(1) das Merkmal in der Offenbarung nicht als wesentlich hingestellt worden ist,

(2) es als solches für die Funktion der Erfindung unter Berücksichtigung der technischen Aufgabe, die sie lösen soll, nicht unerlässlich ist, und

(3) das Ersetzen oder Streichen keine wesentliche Angleichung anderer Merkmale erfordert (siehe Punkt 6 der Entscheidungsgründe).

In diesem Zusammenhang muss darauf hingewiesen werden, dass die Entscheidung T 331/87 diesen Test vorsichtiger formuliert hat, als es die amtliche deutsche Übersetzung erahnen lässt. Im englischen Originaltext liest man nämlich im Punkt 6 der Entscheidungsgründe: "... the replacement or removal of a feature from a claim may not violate Article 123(2) EPC provided the skilled person would directly and unambiguously recognise that (1) ..." (Unterstreichung durch die Kammer). Das bedeutet, dass das Erfüllen der drei Bedingungen nicht notwendigerweise bedeutet, dass die Erfordernisse von Artikel 123 (2) EPÜ auch erfüllt sind. Hätte die Kammer das zum Ausdruck bringen wollen, hätte sie "does not" statt "may not" geschrieben.

Der Wesentlichkeitstest wurde in der Folge oft angewandt und fand auch in jüngerer Zeit noch manchmal Verwendung. Die jüngsten der Kammer bekannten Entscheidungen stammen aus den Jahren 2011 und 2012: T 239/08, T 2135/08, T 1600/09, T 207/10, T 648/10 und T 747/10. Der Kammer ist keine klare und bedingungslose Anwendung des Wesentlichkeitstests durch die Beschwerdekammern nach dem Jahr 2012 bekannt. In der Entscheidung T 2282/10 vom 13. Februar 2014 (Punkt 2.5) wurde der Test nur mit Vorbehalt ("even if") benützt; in der Entscheidung T 1840/11 vom 13. November 2015 (Punkt 1.6) wurde er angesichts der Umstände des Falls als nicht anwendbar betrachtet.

Der Wesentlichkeitstest hat auch Eingang in die Richtlinien für die Prüfung im EPA gefunden (siehe Abschnitt H-V,3.1 in der derzeit geltenden Fassung vom November 2016: "Ersetzen oder Streichen eines Merkmals aus einem Anspruch"), allerdings wurde in der englischen Fassung das "may not" der Entscheidung T 331/87 hier durch ein "does not" ersetzt.

2.2.4 Wesentlichkeit und Priorität

In ihrer Stellungnahme G 2/98 (ABl. EPA 2001, 413) hat sich die Große Beschwerdekammer mit dem Erfordernis "derselben Erfindung" in Artikel 87 (1) EPÜ 1973 beschäftigt und festgestellt, dass die Priorität einer früheren Anmeldung für einen Anspruch nur dann anzuerkennen ist, wenn der Fachmann den Gegenstand des Anspruchs unter Heranziehung des allgemeinen Fachwissens unmittelbar und eindeutig der früheren Anmeldung als Ganzes entnehmen kann.

Dabei hat sich die Große Beschwerdekammer kritisch mit der Entscheidung T 73/88 (Entscheidung "Snackfood"; ABl. EPA 1992, 557) auseinandergesetzt. In dieser Entscheidung hatte die zuständige Kammer dargelegt, dass ein technisches Merkmal in einem Anspruch, das für die Bestimmung des Schutzbereichs wesentlich ist, nicht zwangsläufig auch für die Feststellung der Priorität wesentlich sei (siehe Punkt 2.3 der Entscheidungsgründe). Werde ein zusätzliches, einschränkendes Merkmal, das mit dem wesentlichen Charakter und der Art der Erfindung als solche nichts zu tun hat, in den Anspruch aufgenommen, so habe dies keinen Prioritätsverlust zur Folge.

Die Große Beschwerdekammer hat diesen Ansatz als "problematisch" bezeichnet, weil es keine geeigneten und eindeutigen objektiven Kriterien für eine Unterscheidung zwischen technischen Merkmalen, die mit der Funktion und der Wirkung der Erfindung in Zusammenhang stehen, und technischen Merkmalen, bei denen dies nicht der Fall ist, gebe und daher die Gefahr der Willkürlichkeit bestehe (siehe Punkt 8.3 der Entscheidungsgründe).

Die Große Beschwerdekammer hat in der Folge den auf Erfindungswesentlichkeit basierenden Ansatz der Entscheidung T 73/88 verworfen und einen dem Goldstandard analogen Maßstab befürwortet.

2.2.5 Kritik am Wesentlichkeitstest

Aufbauend auf die Stellungnahme G 2/98 hat die Kammer 3.2.05 (in anderer Besetzung) in ihrer Entscheidung T 910/03 vom 7. Juli 2005 Kritik am Wesentlichkeitstest geübt. Die Kammer war der Auffassung, dass die Stellungnahme G 2/98 im Zusammenhang mit der Offenbarung keine Unterscheidung zwischen wesentlichen und unwesentlichen Merkmalen zulasse. Mit Berufung auf Regel 29 (3) EPÜ 1973 stellte sie fest, dass alle Merkmale eines unabhängigen Anspruchs per definitionem wesentliche Merkmale seien. (Punkt 3.4 der Entscheidungsgründe). Die Kammer zog daraus den Schluss, dass der Wesentlichkeitstest gemäß T 331/87 nicht mehr angewendet werden sollte (Punkte 3.5 und 6 der Entscheidungsgründe).

Diese Kritik am Wesentlichkeitstest wurde seitdem mehrmals und von verschiedenen Kammern explizit bekräftigt; siehe zum Beispiel die Entscheidungen T 681/08 vom 25. Januar 2011 (Punkt 2 der Gründe), T 1180/08 vom 8. Oktober 2010 (Punkt 2), T 1003/09 vom 29. April 2015 (Punkt 4.1), T 2146/09 vom 22. September 2015 (Punkt 11), T 2311/10 vom 24. September 2012 (Punkt 2.9) und T 2561/11 vom 4. Juli 2016 (Punkt 8.1).

Unabhängig von der Entscheidung T 910/03 sind auch andere Kammern zum dem in der Entscheidung T 910/03 gezogenen Schluss gelangt, so zum Beispiel in den Entscheidungen T 1202/03 vom 14. Februar 2006 (Punkt 2.2 der Gründe), T 765/07 vom 31. März 2010 (Punkt 1.4), T 1643/10 vom 26. November 2014 (Punkt 2.22) und T 755/12 vom 23. Januar 2014 (Punkt 2.3).

2.2.6 Kritik an der Kritik

Die Entscheidung T 910/03 und die nachfolgenden Entscheidungen, die den Wesentlichkeitstest in Frage stellten, haben aber de facto nicht dazu geführt, dass der Test aufgegeben wurde: der Kammer sind mehr als zwanzig Entscheidungen bekannt, die zwischen 2006 und 2012 von Beschwerdekammern getroffen wurden und in denen der Test zur Anwendung kam. Allerdings gehen diese Entscheidungen in der Regel in keiner Weise auf die Kritik an T 331/87 ein. Die Entscheidung T 308/06 vom 21. Dezember 2006 erwähnt die beiden einander widersprechenden Standpunkte, sieht aber keine Notwendigkeit, sich für oder gegen den Wesentlichkeitstest zu entscheiden (siehe Punkt 1.8 der Entscheidungsgründe).

Der Kammer ist nur eine Entscheidung bekannt, die der Entscheidung T 910/03 Argumente entgegensetzt, nämlich die Entscheidung T 404/03 vom 12. Juli 2006, in der die zuständige Kammer in einem obiter dictum diesbezüglich Bedenken anmeldet und sie folgendermaßen begründet: Die Stellungnahme G 2/98 habe sich mit einem Fall der Hinzufügung (und nicht einer Streichung) eines Merkmals befasst. Darüber hinaus widerspreche die Streichung eines Merkmals, von dem der Fachmann weiß, dass es nichts mit der Erfindung zu tun hat, nicht der dem Artikel 123 (2) EPÜ zugrundeliegenden Idee - nämlich dass der Anmelder keinen ungerechtfertigten Vorteil aus der Änderung ziehen dürfe und die Rechtssicherheit Dritter gewahrt werden müsse. Es sei daher angebracht, Streichungen und Hinzufügungen von Merkmalen unterschiedlich zu behandeln. Die Streichung betreffe zwangsläufig Merkmale, die ursprünglich offenbart waren und daher dem Fachmann zur Bewertung der Wesentlichkeit vorlagen, während hinzugefügte Merkmale keinerlei Grundlage in der ursprünglichen Offenbarung hätten (siehe Punkt 11 der Entscheidungsgründe).

2.2.7 Auffassung der Kammer

Die Kammer ist zum Schluss gelangt, dass der Wesentlichkeitstest nicht mehr zum Einsatz kommen sollte. Diese Schlussfolgerung stützt sich wie folgt auf die Rechtsprechung der Großen Beschwerdekammer:

a) Goldstandard

Mit der Bekräftigung des Goldstandards (siehe Punkt 2.2.12.2.1 ) hat die Große Beschwerdekammer einen klaren Maßstab für die Prüfung von Änderungen vorgegeben. Demzufolge ist zu prüfen, ob der im geänderten Anspruch definierte Gegenstand in der ursprünglichen Fassung der Anmeldung unmittelbar und eindeutig offenbart ist.

Der Wesentlichkeitstest kann schon aus rein logischen Gründen nicht mit dem Goldstandard deckungsgleich sein. Dies geht auch schon aus dem Wortlaut der Entscheidung T 331/87 ("may not"; siehe Punkt 2.2.32.2.3 oben) hervor: die zuständige Kammer hat selbst die Möglichkeit gesehen, dass die Bedingungen ihres Drei-Punkte-Tests erfüllt, Artikel 123 (2) EPÜ aber dennoch verletzt sein könnte. Daraus folgt aber schon, dass der Wesentlichkeitstest als solcher nicht die Anwendung des Goldstandards ersetzen kann. Auch wenn der Wesentlichkeitstest in Einzelfällen nützliche Indizien liefern kann, ist der Goldstandard der einzig relevante Maßstab (vgl. T 755/12, Punkt 2.3 der Entscheidungsgründe).

b) G 2/98

Die Große Beschwerdekammer hat im Zusammenhang der Gültigkeit der Priorität den auf Erfindungswesentlichkeit fußenden Ansatz der Entscheidung T 73/88 verworfen und ein dem Goldstandard analoges Kriterium aufgestellt (siehe Punkt 2.2.42.2.4 oben). Die Bedenken der Großen Beschwerdekammer bezüglich der Willkürlichkeit der Abwägung der Wesentlichkeit lassen sich auch auf den Fall von Änderungen übertragen. Daher stimmt die Kammer der Entscheidung T 910/03 dahingehend zu, dass die ratio decidendi der Stellungnahme G 2/98 einer weiteren Anwendung des Wesentlichkeitstests im Wege steht.

2.2.8 Würdigung der Gegenargumente

a) Argumente der Entscheidung T 404/03

Es ist richtig, dass die Stellungnahme G 2/98 konkret durch den Fall "Snackfood" ausgelöst wurde, in dem das strittige Merkmal in der zweiten Anmeldung hinzugefügt wurde. Das bedeutet aber nicht, dass die der Entscheidung zugrunde liegende Logik nicht auf den Fall einer Streichung anwendbar wäre. In Punkt 8.3 der Entscheidungsgründe geht die Große Beschwerdekammer vielmehr konkret auf die verschiedenen Möglichkeiten ein und erwähnt ausdrücklich auch die Streichung von Merkmalen ("... the answer to the question whether the claimed invention remains the same, if one of these features is modified or deleted, or if a further feature D is added, depends very much on the actual assessment of the facts and circumstances of the case ..."; Unterstreichung durch die Kammer).

Das Argument, dass der Wesentlichkeitstest der dem Artikel 123 (2) EPÜ zugrunde liegende Idee, nämlich dass der Anmelder keinen ungerechtfertigten Vorteil aus der Änderung ziehen dürfe und die Rechtssicherheit Dritter gewahrt werden müsse, nicht widerspricht, überzeugt die Kammer nicht. Der Goldstandard ist vermutlich nicht der einzige Maßstab, der dieser Idee gerecht wird, aber er ist der einzige von der Großen Beschwerdekammer für richtig befundene Maßstab. Darüber hinaus ist fragwürdig, ob der Wesentlichkeitstest tatsächlich die Rechtssicherheit Dritter wahrt; die Ausführungen in Punkt 8.3 der Stellungnahme G 2/98 suggerieren vielmehr, dass Kriterien, die auf der Wesentlichkeit fußen, der Rechtssicherheit abträglich sind.

Der Goldstandard ist dem Wesentlichkeitstest auch darin überlegen, dass er einen einheitlichen Maßstab für alle Änderungen darstellt und gleichermaßen auf Streichungen und auf Hinzufügungen anwendbar ist.

b) Argumente der Beschwerdeführerin

Die Kammer stimmt der Beschwerdeführerin zu, dass der Verweis auf Regel 29 (3) EPÜ 1973 in Punkt 8.3 der Entscheidung T 910/03 ("... All features of an independent claim are by definition essential features, cf. Rule 29(3) EPC.") nicht besonders hilfreich ist. Auch wenn die Aufzählung von Merkmalen in einem unabhängigen Anspruch die Vermutung rechtfertigt, dass die Merkmale nach Auffassung des Verfassers des Anspruchs zur Lösung der erfindungsgemäßen Aufgabe wesentlich sind, handelt es sich dabei um Überlegungen, die dem Fachmann im Sinne des Patentrechts fremd sind. Dieser liest ein Dokument nur in Hinblick auf seine technische Offenbarung und befasst sich in der Regel nicht mit redaktionellen Besonderheiten von Patenten und Patentanmeldungen, mit denen der Verfasser formalen Erfordernissen zu entsprechen sucht, sofern sie die technische Offenbarung als solche nicht beeinflussen.

Allerdings ist der Verweis auf Regel 29 (3) EPÜ 1973 in keiner Weise entscheidend für die Argumentation der Entscheidung T 910/03. Selbst wenn man dieses Argument der Entscheidung nicht weiterverfolgt, bleibt der Einwand eines Widerspruchs zwischen der Entscheidung T 331/87 und der Stellungnahme G 2/98 bestehen.

Die Kammer stimmt der Beschwerdeführerin auch dahingehend zu, dass die Gefahr einer fehlerhaften Anwendung des Wesentlichkeitstests (wie sie in Punkt 2.6 der Entscheidung T 2311/10 beschrieben wird) allein nicht ausreicht, um den Test zu disqualifizieren. Jeder Test, einschließlich des Goldstandards, kann falsch angewandt werden. Die Kammer hat aber, wie oben unter Punkt 2.2.72.2.7 dargelegt wurde, andere gute Gründe, den Wesentlichkeitstest als obsolet anzusehen.

Dass mehrere Kammern den Wesentlichkeitstest auch noch in jüngeren Jahren angewandt haben, ist kein Argument für die Richtigkeit des Tests. Allenfalls könnten widersprüchliche Entscheidungen der Kammern zu einer Vorlage an die Große Beschwerdekammer führen (siehe dazu Punkt 3.3. ).

Die Tatsache, dass die "Richtlinien für die Prüfung im Europäischen Patentamt" den Wesentlichkeitstest vorschreiben, ist ebenso nicht entscheidend, da die Kammer nicht durch die Richtlinien gebunden ist. Die Beschwerdeführerin hat ausgeführt, "dass weder überzeugend, noch befriedigend ist, dass die Prüfungs- und Einspruchsabteilungen des EPA zur Anwendung eines Prüfungsschemas gehalten sind, das aus Sicht der vorliegend erkennenden Beschwerdekammer "obsolet", d.h. eben gerade nicht anwendbar ist" (siehe Erwiderung vom 15. April 2016, Seite 2, letzter Absatz). Die Kammer teilt diese Auffassung, hat aber nur die Möglichkeit, im Rahmen von Artikel 20 (2) VOBK darauf hinzuweisen, dass sie die Erfordernisse des EPÜ betreffend Streichungen von Anspruchsmerkmalen anders auslegt.

2.3 Die Änderungen im vorliegenden Fall

Die ursprüngliche Stammanmeldung beschreibt die Erfindung als eine Lösung der Aufgabe, bei besonders kurzen Zykluszeiten und günstigen statischen Verhältnissen die Beschränkungen hinsichtlich der Anordnung weiterer Aggregate zu verringern (Seite 3, Zeilen 4-14). Sie listet dann vier Merkmale auf, mit denen dies erreicht wird. Das Merkmal, dem zufolge die Achse der zweiten Spritzeinheit mit der Maschinenachse einen spitzen Winkel einschließt, ist Teil dieser Auflistung (Seite 3, Zeilen 18-20).

Die Kammer kann dem Argument der Beschwerdeführerin, dass der Fachmann diesem Teil der Beschreibung keine Beachtung schenken würde, da es sich nur um eine Wiederholung des Anspruchs in der Beschreibung handle, also um eine rein formale, "handwerkliche" Pflichtübung bei der Abfassung von Patentanmeldungen, nicht zustimmen. Wie unter Punkt 2.2.82.2.8 b)b) dargelegt wurde, liest der Fachmann ein Dokument nur im Hinblick auf seine technische Offenbarung. Sofern ein Absatz der Beschreibung technische Offenbarungen enthält, nimmt der Fachmann diese zur Kenntnis, ohne sich die Frage zu stellen, ob patentrechtliche oder andere Überlegungen den Verfasser zur Einfügung des Absatzes bewegt haben. Im gegenwärtigen Fall würde der Fachmann unzweifelhaft verstehen, dass ein Vorteil erreicht wird, und zwar durch die Kombination von vier verschiedenen Merkmalen.

In der Folge werden diese vier Merkmale jeweils näher im Hinblick auf ihre Vorteile untersucht. Die spitzwinklige Anordnung wird auf Seite 5, Zeilen 1-14, behandelt:

"Durch die schräge Anordnung der zweiten Spritzeinheit mit einer einen spitzen Winkel, der bevorzugt zwischen 20° und 60°, besonders bevorzugt zwischen 30° und 50° beträgt, mit der Maschinenachse einschließenden Orientierung hält sich im übrigen die Verlagerung des Massenschwerpunkts des bewegten Teilsystems (zweite, bewegbare Formaufspannplatte samt der zugeordneten, mitbewegten Spritzeinheit(en)) gegenüber der Maschinenachse in einem vertretbaren Rahmen, so daß die beim Öffnen und Schließen des Werkzeugs auftretenden asymmetrischen Kräfte und Momente auch im Falle von vergleichsweise hohen Schließgeschwindigkeiten in einem beherrschbaren Rahmen bleiben."

Der Fachmann, der diese Ausführungen zum spitzen Winkel liest, würde verstehen, dass nicht alle spitzen Winkel zu einer technisch bedeutsamen Verlagerung des Massenschwerpunkts führen würden. Ein Winkel von 89.9°, obwohl streng mathematisch als spitz anzusehen, würde den Massenschwerpunkt in der Tat kaum verlagern. Das bedeutet aber nicht, dass der geltend gemachte Vorteil nur bei den bevorzugten Werten (zwischen 20° und 60° bzw. zwischen 30° und 50°) auftritt. Die Offenbarung macht dem Fachmann vielmehr klar, dass die Spitzwinkeligkeit mit dem Vorteil der Verlagerung des Massenschwerpunkts verbunden ist, wobei dieser Vorteil in Randbereichen verschwindend klein sein kann. Welche Verlagerungen des Massenschwerpunktes dem Fachmann signifikant oder wünschenswert erscheinen würden, das hängt vom konkreten Fall ab und lässt sich nicht allgemein beantworten.

Der Fachmann würde aber jedenfalls nicht verstehen, dass das Merkmal der Spitzwinkeligkeit bedeutungslos ist, nur weil es Bereiche gibt (insbesondere den Winkelbereich nahe 90°), in denen trotz mathematischer Spitzwinkeligkeit kein Effekt zutage tritt. Er würde vielmehr begreifen, dass es einen Winkelbereich gibt, in dem eine vorteilhafte Wirkung auftritt, auch wenn die genauen Grenzen dieses Bereichs nicht offenbart sind. Es geht aus der Beschreibung klar hervor, dass der Winkelbereich mindestens Winkel von 20° bis 60° umfasst und aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach beiderseits darüber hinausgeht.

Eine Streichung des Merkmals der Spitzwinkeligkeit wäre gemäß dem Goldstandard nur dann zulässig, wenn der Fachmann unter Heranziehung seines allgemeinen Fachwissens den beanspruchten Gegenstand (also eine Spritzgießmaschine in Drei-Platten-Bauweise mit zwei Spritzeinheiten, bei der die Achse der zweiten Spritzeinheit mit der Maschinenachse einen beliebigen Winkel einschließt) explizit oder implizit unmittelbar und eindeutig in der ursprünglichen Fassung der Stammanmeldung offenbart ansehen würde. Angesichts der Lehre der Stammanmeldung bezüglich des spitzen Winkels ist dies jedoch nicht der Fall.

Damit genügt die der Teilanmeldung zugrundeliegende Änderung den Erfordernissen des Goldstandards nicht.

2.4 Ergebnis

Der Gegenstand von Anspruch 1 erfüllt nicht die Erfordernisse von Artikel 76 (1) Satz 2 EPÜ.

3. Vorlage an die Große Beschwerdekammer

Wie unter Punkt 2.22.2 dargelegt wurde, ist die Praxis der Beschwerdekammern im Hinblick auf den Wesentlichkeitstest nicht einheitlich. Trotz deutlicher Kritik am Test durch mehrere Kammern wurde der Test zumindest bis zum Jahr 2012 noch zum Einsatz gebracht. Insofern teilt die Kammer die Auffassung der Beschwerdeführerin, dass eine Vorlage an die Große Beschwerdekammer Klarheit schaffen und zu einer einheitlicheren Rechtsprechung führen könnte.

Im vorliegenden Fall würde eine entsprechende Vorlage aber von der Großen Beschwerdekammer als unzulässig zurückgewiesen werden, da die Antwort auf die Frage, deren Vorlage an die Große Beschwerdekammer beantragt wurde (siehe Punkt IV.IV. ) nicht entscheidungserheblich ist.

Die Kammer ist nämlich zum Schluss gelangt, dass die Anwendung des Wesentlichkeitstests nicht zu einem anderen Ergebnis führen würde als die Anwendung des Goldstandards.

Der Wesentlichkeitstest verlangt nämlich unter anderem, dass das Merkmal in der Offenbarung nicht als wesentlich hingestellt worden ist. Als "wesentlich" ist in diesem Zusammenhang zu verstehen, was zur Lösung der in der ursprünglichen Anmeldung formulierten Aufgabe beiträgt. Wie unter Punkt 2.32.3 dargelegt wurde, offenbart die Stammanmeldung, dass der geltend gemachte Vorteil durch die Kombination von vier Merkmalen, zu denen die Spitzwinkeligkeit gehört, gelöst wird. Damit stellt die Stammanmeldung aber die Spitzwinkeligkeit als wesentlich dar.

Das Argument, dass der Verfasser hier einen "Kunstfehler" begangen hat, ist in diesem Zusammenhang irrelevant. Entscheidend ist, was der Fachmann der Stammanmeldung unter Heranziehung seines allgemeinen Fachwissens entnehmen würde, und nicht, was die eigentliche Absicht des Verfassers war.

Da die Anwendung des Wesentlichkeitstests zu keinem anderen Ergebnis führen würde als die Anwendung des Goldstandards, ist die Antwort der Großen Beschwerdekammer auf die Vorlagefrage nicht entscheidungserheblich.

Somit kann dem Antrag auf eine Vorlage an die Große Beschwerdekammer nicht stattgegeben werden.

4. Hilfsantrag

Wie von der Beschwerdeführerin selbst eingeräumt wurde, wurde dieser Antrag nur im Hinblick auf einen möglichen Einwand der Doppelpatentierung eingereicht. Er räumt den Einwand einer unzulässigen Erweiterung im Sinne von Artikel 76 (1) Satz 2 EPÜ nicht aus. Daher kann auch diesem Antrag nicht stattgegeben werden.

Entscheidungsformel

Aus diesen Gründen wird entschieden:

Die Beschwerde wird zurückgewiesen.

This decision T 1852/13 (pdf) has European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:2017:T185213.20170131. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo "The Gold Standard" by Caleb Roenigk obtained via Flickr under CC BY 2.0 license (no changes made).

T 1965/11 Materialised Views

Delta Patents Patent Law -






The claimed invention makes use of available materialised views in order to improve database query performance. Due to the age of the application (filed in 2001), the Board examines inventive step in an appeal concerning added subject matter.

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. The applicant (appellant), which at the time was Microsoft Corporation, appealed against the decision of the Examining Division refusing European patent application No. 01123065.3.

II. In the course of the appeal proceedings, the application was transferred to Microsoft Technology Licensing, LLC, which thereby obtained the status of appellant.

III. The Examining Division decided that the subject-matter of claims 1 and 9 of the main request contained added subject-matter. Moreover, it refused to admit the first and second auxiliary requests using its discretion under Rule 137(3) EPC, stating that the first and second auxiliary requests appeared to comprise the same violations of Article 123(2) EPC as the main request.

IV. In the written proceedings the Examining Division cited the following prior-art documents:

[...]

V. In the statement of grounds of appeal, the appellant requested that the decision be set aside. It also asked the Board to decide that the claims of one of the main and the two auxiliary requests, considered in the contested decision and resubmitted with the grounds of appeal, were allowable.

VI. In a communication under Article 15(1) RPBA accompanying a summons to oral proceedings, the Board expressed its provisional opinion that the reasons for the refusal were not convincing. However, the Board raised several objections under Articles 123(2) and 84 EPC.
The Board also drew the appellant's attention to the following document:
[...]

VII. With its reply to the Board's communication, the appellant submitted third and fourth auxiliary requests and new description pages 3, 3a, and 3b to replace description page 3 as on file.

VIII. In the course of the oral proceedings the appellant replaced its previous requests with a sole request corresponding to the fourth auxiliary request. At the end of the oral proceedings, the chairman pronounced the Board's decision.

IX. The appellant's final request is that the decision under appeal be set aside and that a patent be granted on the basis of the following application documents:
- description pages 1, 2, and 4 to 13 as originally filed, and pages 3, 3a and 3b as filed with the letter dated 24 February 2017;
- drawings of Figures 1 to 8 as originally filed;
- claims 1 to 3 of the sole request maintained at the oral proceedings before the Board, corresponding to the fourth auxiliary request filed with letter dated 24 February 2017.

X. Claim 1 of the sole request reads as follows:
"A method for a computer-implemented query optimizer for selecting an execution plan for use in execution of a relational database query, the method comprising:
   generating, by a cost-based query optimizer, a table (300) of alternatives, the table (300) of alternatives comprising several groups, one group having a root entry representing the database query and additional entries representing alternative possibilities for executing the database query and the other groups having root entries representing sub-expressions of the database query and additional entries representing alternative possibilities for executing the respective sub-expression of the database query;
   selecting candidate views for the query from a number of materialized views by using information about what database tables are referenced in the query and whether or not the query contains aggregations;
   for each root entry,
      extracting an operator tree for the root entry,
      collapsing binary joins contained in the operator tree to obtain a query graph for the root entry, the query graph listing all underlying tables along with predicates that are applied on them,
matching the query graph for the root entry and the candidate views, and
   if a match is found, extending the table (300) of alternatives with the corresponding candidate view by extending the group of the root entry with the corresponding candidate view; and
using the cost based query optimizer to select an execution plan based on the extended table (300) of alternatives."

Claim 2 reads as follows:
"A computer readable medium having instructions for causing a computer to perform a method according to claim 1."

Claim 3 reads as follows:
"A computer-implemented query optimizer configured to perform a method according to claim 1."

XI. The appellant's arguments relevant to the decision are discussed in detail below.

Reasons for the Decision

1. The appeal complies with the provisions referred to in Rule 101 EPC and is therefore admissible.

The invention

2. The application relates to the optimisation of relational database queries in the presence of materialised views. According to page 1, last paragraph, of the description, the basic idea of materialised views is to store the result of a query and to use this stored result to answer similar later queries. The invention addresses the known view utilisation problem: given a user query written over base tables, as well as a collection of materialised views, which materialised views can be used to answer the query (description, page 2, first paragraph)?

According to the technical background section on page 2 of the application, prior attempts to determine which views should be used treated the problem in isolation, handled limited scenarios, and often assumed a "global" structure that covered the whole query. There was a need to deal with arbitrary queries, and to integrate view utilisation within the actual architecture of query optimisers. There was a further need to decide whether a view that could be used to answer the query, should actually be used to execute that query. Constructing a "global" structure for the user query, for the purpose of view matching, was incompatible with common optimiser architecture and was sometimes infeasible.

According to page 7, lines 14 to 16, query optimisers are normally structured such that there is an initial simplification stage, followed by exploration of alternatives and cost-based selection of an execution plan as illustrated in Figure 2 of the application. Considering materialised views during query simplification is inadequate, because only a single solution can be generated, and there is no detailed cost information (page 7, lines 31 to 33). Hence, the invention proposes to extend the table of alternatives, which is generated by the query optimiser at the exploration stage and which compactly encodes for each sub-expression of a query the various possibilities for its execution (page 3, lines 9 to 13, and page 10, lines 1 to 21). In other words, materialised views are detected and substituted during exploration of the various query execution possibilities and added to the table of alternatives.

Admission of request

3. Since the current request was a legitimate response to the preliminary opinion of the Board, does not introduce additional complexity into the proceedings and could be dealt with without adjournment of the oral proceedings, the Board admitted it into the appeal proceedings.

Clarity and added subject-matter

The appealed decision found that the following features of the method of claim 1 of the then pending main request infringed the requirements of Article 123(2) EPC:
(a) "selecting candidate views for the query from a number of materialized views";
(b) "extracting, for each candidate view, an operator tree from a view definition of the candidate view".

4.1 The appellant argued that present claim 1 was based on claims 1 to 3, 8 and 17 as originally filed and page 1, lines 3 to 5 and 18 to 26, page 3, lines 9 to 14 and 21 to 24, page 4, line 32, to page 5, line 1, page 8, lines 12 to 19 and 21 to 31, page 9, lines 8 to 16, page 10, lines 14 to 19, and page 11, lines 2 and 3, of the original description and original Figures 3 and 5.

4.2 The method of present claim 1 no longer contains feature (b). Feature (a) is still present, but the method of present claim 1 adds at the end of that feature the text "by using information about what database tables are referenced in the query and whether or not the query contains aggregations".

4.3 The appellant argued in the statement of grounds of appeal that feature (a) was supported by page 9, lines 8 to 14. In particular, page 9, lines 8 to 10, stated that for a particular query there was in general a number of "candidate views", as not all of the materialised views stored in conjunction with previous database queries were relevant to a particular query submitted to the database.

4.4 The Board agrees with the appellant that a database usually has a limited set of materialised views (for example due to the high costs associated with maintaining views). A particular database query will normally refer only to a subset of all base tables and hence some materialised views will not be relevant for this query. Other views might not be relevant due to the use of aggregation. The appellant points correctly to page 9, lines 10 to 13, in support.

Hence, the Board does not share the view of the Examining Division that the cited passage on page 9 merely describes "the process of narrowing down a set of already present candidate views" and that the "origin of this initial set of candidate views ... remains undefined". The appellant suggested that the Examining Division had misinterpreted the following sentence (page 9, lines 13 to 14): "This provides the ability to narrow down the set of candidate views." The Board does not share the alleged interpretation by the Examining Division, namely that the first word ("this") of the cited sentence referred to the process of identifying views as not relevant for a particular query. The sentence simply means that the initial set of (all) materialised views is reduced to a subset of the candidate views by eliminating irrelevant views as described on page 9, lines 11 to 13.

4.5 Hence, the Board accepts the basis for the amendments to claim 1. Present claims 2 and 3 are directed to a computer-readable medium and to a computer-implemented query optimiser, both defined by reference to the method of claim 1.

4.6 Moreover, the amendments to the claims overcome the Board's objections under Article 84 EPC as detailed in its communication to the appellant.

4.7 Hence, the Board is satisfied that the claims comply with the requirements of Articles 84 and 123(2) EPC.

Novelty and inventive step

5. Inventive step was not examined in detail during the proceedings before the first instance. Nevertheless, in view of the age of the application, the Board considers it appropriate to deal with this issue itself under Article 111(1) EPC.

5.1 According to decision T 1569/05 of 26 June 2008, reasons 3.6, retrieving data in a computer database is normally considered to have technical character. While the method of claim 1 does not include the actual data retrieval, the Board considers that the cost-based optimisation of a query in a relational database system has normally technical character (see T 1003/09 of 29 April 2015, reasons 13.3 and 13.5). Such cost-based query optimisation searches for low-cost query execution plans using a cost estimate for the computer resources (such as CPU, main memory or hard disk) needed to execute a query plan (see D8, section 2, for technical background). Hence, this cost-based approach involves further technical considerations (see opinion G 3/08, "Programs for computers", OJ EPO 2011, 10, reasons 13.5) relating to the internal functioning of the computer system.

5.2 The Board summarises below the relevance of the prior art on file. Seven documents, D1 to D7, were cited in the European search report.

Document D1 describes that a query rewriter intercepts and attempts to rewrite user database queries using aggregate tables (materialised aggregate views; see for example page 12, line 18 to page 13, line 5; page 15, line 18 to page 16, line 12) in order to improve query performance. The query rewriter uses a cost-based algorithm to choose among potential rewrites and is detailed only in document D5 (D1 refers on page 24, lines 9 to 12, to U.S. Application Serial No. 09/049,784, the priority document of D5).

[...]

Document D8, introduced into the proceedings by the Board, provides an overview of known query optimisation techniques in relational database systems. Section 7.3 describes the optimisation problem for materialised views. It explains that the steps of enumerating and generating equivalent expressions in the presence of materialised views may overlap, but does not explain in detail how the exploration phase or the table of alternatives is implemented.

5.3 None of these prior-art documents addresses the problem of extending a table of alternatives generated by the query optimiser by adding further alternatives using materialised views. The invention makes it possible to find low-cost query execution plans that make use of the available materialised views in order to improve query performance (see page 2, third paragraph). Moreover, in order to explore the search space for such low-cost query execution plans, it proposes integrating the materialised views into the table of alternatives during the plan exploration stage. For this integration, it is necessary to match query plans with materialised views in order to identify useful plan alternatives for such views. The invention teaches using query graphs for the matching in order to substantially reduce the complexity of extracting operator trees which encode a specific join order. In the technical context of query optimisation in relational database systems, this teaching is based on further technical considerations and solves the problem of providing a technically feasible implementation, in particular one that achieves an acceptable time complexity for query optimisation in relational database systems. In the oral proceedings the appellant argued along these lines in favour of inventive step, and the Board agrees.

5.4 The Board therefore concludes that the subject-matter of independent claims 1 to 3 involves an inventive step (Articles 52(1) and 56 EPC) over the available prior art.

Conclusion

6. Since the appellant's request complies with the provisions of the EPC, the appeal is to be allowed.

Order

For these reasons it is decided that:
1. The decision under appeal is set aside.
2. The case is remitted to the department of first instance with the order to grant a patent on the basis of the following application documents:
- description pages 1, 2, and 4 to 13 as originally filed, and pages 3, 3a and 3b as filed with the letter dated 24 February 2017;
- drawings of Figures 1 to 8 as originally filed;
- claims 1 to 3 of the sole request maintained at the oral proceedings before the Board, corresponding to the fourth auxiliary request filed with the letter dated 24 February 2017.

This decision T 1965/11 (pdf) has European Case Law Identifier ECLI:EP:BA:2017:T196511.20170324. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo "View from LUC" by Fabian Beitsma (c) 2017.

T 1811/13 - Can lack clarity imply lack of sufficiency?

Delta Patents Patent Law -

Where exactly are the boundaries of the forbidden  area?

Can a lack of clarity in a claim lead to insufficiency of disclosure? The opponent tries to convert a clarity objection into a lack of sufficiency. The argument is that, the impossibility for the skilled person to know whether he is working within the forbidden area entails the impossibility of carrying out the invention.
To support the point a number of T decisions are cited which side with this argument. The board trumps it though with even more T decisions that do not agree. At the end, the board does concede though that in other situations this argument might work. 

Reasons for the Decision
(...)
5. Sufficiency of disclosure
Apart from general references to first instance submissions - which are not part of the appeal proceedings within the meaning of Article 12 of the Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (RPBA) of the EPO (see OJ EPO 1/2016, Supplementary publication, page 41 et seq.)) - appellant II has raised two objections under Article 83 EPC 1973.
5.1 The first objection (paragraph bridging pages 7 and 8 of the statement of grounds of appeal of appellant II)
is based on the lack of clarity of a feature; appellant II argued that the impossibility for the skilled person to know whether he was working within the forbidden area entailed the impossibility of carrying out the invention.
This approach has its origin in decision T 256/87 of 26 July 1988. In this case, the board, having found the claim under consideration to be clear, declared:
"The further question then arises, however, of whether this information, although clear in itself, is sufficient to enable the skilled person to carry out the invention in the sense of his (a) being able to establish whether a composition containing an amount of EAC falling within the range claimed, and (b) being able reliably to prepare such a composition." (reasons, point 10)
This decision appears to have gone unnoticed until 2003. From that time on it has been cited in two ways.
First, there have been four decisions of board 3.2.06, issued between 2004 and 2007 (T 387/01, T 252/02, T 611/02, and T 464/05) in which the board found that the skilled person was not in a position to know whether he was working within the area covered by the claim, and, as a consequence, that the claimed invention was not disclosed in a manner sufficiently clear and complete for it to be carried out by a person skilled in the art. These decisions appear not to have been followed since then; to the best knowledge of the present board, the only decision following the same logic (without referring to previous decisions) is decision T 18/08 (see reasons 4.2.4). Decision T 909/12 cited by appellant II does not make an explicit statement in this respect but can be read accordingly, in particular when the last paragraph of point 4.7.3 and point 4.8 of the reasons are combined.
Secondly, there are many decisions of various other boards, in particular chemical boards, that have qualified the approach of decision T 256/87 and have pointed out that the definition of the scope of a claim was related to Article 84 EPC rather than Article 83 EPC. Since 2003, more than twenty decisions reaching this conclusion have been issued, the most recent so far (of which the board is aware) being T 1948/10, T 608/12, T 2331/11 and T 1507/10.
It may, therefore, be said that today there is agreement or at least a clearly predominant opinion among the boards that the definition of the "forbidden area" of a claim should not be considered as a matter related to Article 83 EPC. The present board shares this opinion.
It should be noted in this context that, as stated in decision T 608/07, reasons 2.5.2, "... care has to be taken that an insufficiency objection arising out of an ambiguity is not merely a hidden objection under Article 84 EPC ...").
This is not to say that a lack of clarity cannot result in an insufficient disclosure of the invention. However, in such a case it is not sufficient to establish that a claim lacks clarity, but it is necessary to establish that the application or patent, as the case may be, does not disclose the invention in a manner sufficiently clear and complete for it to be carried out by a person skilled in the art. In other words, it is not sufficient to establish a lack of clarity of the claims for establishing lack of compliance with Article 83 EPC 1973; it is necessary to show that the lack of clarity affects the patent as a whole (i.e. not only the claims) and that it is such that the skilled person - who can avail himself of the description and his common general knowledge - is hindered from carrying out the invention (cf. T 1886/06, reasons 1.4.2; T 593/09, reasons 4.1.4). Appellant II has not shown that this is the case here.
5.2 The second objection (statement of grounds of appeal, page 8, second paragraph) is based on a particular interpretation of feature e2). The board has not adopted this interpretation (see point 3.3. ) and cannot, therefore, endorse this objection.
5.3 As a consequence, the board has reached the conclusion that the request complies with the requirements of Article 83 EPC 1973.
This decision T 1811/13  (pdf) has European Case Law Identifier ECLI:EP:BA:2016:T181113.20161108. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo by Jorge Guillen (Fotocitizen) obtained via Pixabay under a CC0  license (no changes made).

T 1463/11 - Business man versus Skilled person

Delta Patents Patent Law -

Is it technical to centralize a function?

The appeal concerns a centralized merchant authentication processing system. The Examining division rejected the application as a "straight-forward implementation of an administrative (outsourced payment) scheme using a notorious distributed information". Initially, also the Board did much like the invention. In the summons, the Board considered the invention to be a "straightforward implementation, on a standard computer network, of non-technical measures (business measures and programming measures)".
Something must have happened after that because the appeal resulted in an order to grant. The reasons provide a detailed discussion of the 'business man' versus the 'skilled person'. 
Reasons for the Decision
Background
1. The invention is concerned with online shopping. A consumer, having decided to buy something from an online shop, chooses how to pay. That could be a choice of credit card or of some other means of paying. To complete the transaction, the consumer has to be authenticated. The online store will pass information about the intended transaction to the credit-card company (for example), which handles the task of ensuring the consumer is entitled to use the chosen means of payment, and which informs the online shop of the outcome.
2. The technical implementation of this authentication involves the server of the online shop (the "merchant server") communicating with the computer of the credit-card company (as it may be). This communication is conventionally handled by a "plug-in" in the merchant server, a piece of software specific to the particular authenticating authority and to the needs of the authentication process. There will be a plug-in for each of the different means of payment: one for one type of credit-card; one for another; one for direct transfer from a particular bank, and so on.
3. The invention is about the plug-ins. It does not change their function, or how they perform it. All that is unchanged. Rather, the plug-ins are no longer installed in each online shop, but are installed on a separate server that can be accessed by several online shops and that handles access to several authenticating authorities. The idea is to alleviate the shop's server from the installation and upkeep of the plug-ins.
4. Thus, the invention replaces the three-machine prior art (consumer's computer, merchant's server, authenticating server) with a four-machine system (consumer's computer, merchant's server, authenticating server, and "merchant authentication processing system" - MAPS).
The starting point for inventive step
5. Document D1 foresees a single payment instrument (an "ATM card"). Authentication involves the merchant's server, an authenticating server, and a consumer's computer. There is no mention of plug-ins or of the organisation of software in layers.
6. Document D2 foresees a plurality of payment instruments and corresponding plug-ins (D2, page 6, lines 12-14 for example). The term "plug-in" is not used, but that is what the payment clients are. They take the form, preferably, of thin clients (D2, page 9, lines 13 - 15). There is no disclosure of whether software is arranged in layers.
D3 foresees a plurality of payment instruments and corresponding plug-ins for authentication (D3, page 16, lines 3-6, for example). There is, again, no disclosure of software being arranged in layers.
8. The appellant, on appeal, has filed document D4. D4 is not prior art. It was published after the priority date of the present application. The appellant argues that it nevertheless reflects the prevailing thinking in the field at the priority date. If that is so, then D4 is a secondary indicium; but it cannot be a starting point for an assessment of inventive step.
9. The application sets out along the lines described above. While D1 is somewhat further away, because it deals with a single payment instrument, D2 and D3 are broadly similar to the disclosure in the application itself. The invention, starting from either D2 or D3, or from the prior art set out in the application itself, differs by the centralised location of the plug-ins, in the means of communicating with the new location, and in the details of how the software is organised.
The approach to the assessment of inventive step
As the Examining Division found, and as the appellant agreed, claim 1 defines a method with both technical and non-technical elements. As is well established, non-technical elements do not contribute to inventive step, and, to that end, may appear in the formulation of the objective technical problem (T 0641/00, Two identities/COMVIK, OJ 2003, 352). If the essential idea of the invention lies in a non-technical field (usually one excluded by Article 52(2) EPC, such as business, programs, or presentations of information), the objective technical problem often amounts to a statement of requirements that any implementation must meet.
11. The basic principle of the Comvik approach is that only technical features can contribute to inventive step; but all technical features potentially do so.
12. The assessment of what is and what is not technical is, therefore, a critical step in the formulation of the objective technical problem. A non-obvious difference over the prior art leads to a positive outcome, if it is deemed technical; but a non-obvious difference that is deemed non-technical leads to a negative outcome. This often leads to opposing definitions of the problem and must therefore be analysed precisely.
13. The formulation of the objective technical problem in terms of non-technical requirements raises the question of what requirements the business person (for example) can actually give to the technically skilled person. Naturally, any requirement that is purely a business matter can be included. The business person can formulate requirements such as, "Move the money from the payer's account to the payee's account", but in the normal course of things, the business person will not include any technical matter.
14. In the real world, there might be circumstances under which a business person might require some particular technology be used. A real business person is not unaware of technology, and might, for example say, "We should do this on the internet", or "Let's do this by wireless", or "We have a lot of XXXX processors, please use them to implement my business idea."
However, in the assessment of inventive step, the business person is just as fictional as the skilled person of Article 56 EPC. The notion of the skilled person is an artificial one; that is the price paid for an objective assessment. So it is too with the business person, who represents an abstraction or shorthand for a separation of business considerations from technical. A real business person, a real technically-skilled person, or a real inventor does not hold such considerations separately from one another.
16. Thus, the notional business person might not do things a real business person would. He would not require the use of the internet, wireless, or XXXX processors. This approach ensures that, in line with the Comvik principle, all the technical matter, including known or even notorious matter, is considered for obviousness and can contribute to inventive step.
17. Similarly, the notional business person might do things that a real business person would not, such as include requirements that go against business thinking at the time - a sort of business prejudice, as is alleged in this case (see below). If this were not the case, business requirements would need to be evaluated and would contribute to inventive step, contrary to the Comvik principle.
Application to the present case
The examining division, in essence, considered that the problem solved by the invention amounted to how to outsource the authentication of a commercial transaction to a third-party, which was an administrative or business activity. It would thus be a requirement given to the skilled person. The appellant argued that the business person would never have formulated this problem because it went against thinking at the time. In the Board's view both of these approaches are too simplistic and need to be qualified by the considerations given above. In particular, neither approach distinguishes precisely enough between technical and non-technical aspects.
19. Firstly, the Board agrees that outsourcing a purely commercial transaction could be a requirement given to the skilled person. In such a case, it would follow from the above that a prejudice against this would not help the applicant. However, the Board judges that the transaction authentication in the present case cannot be abstracted to a purely business activity because it has aspects such as the use of plug-ins and servers.
20. It also follows from the above that the business person cannot require the technically-skilled person to use, for the plug-ins, a server other than the merchant server, and which is (perhaps) accessible to other vendors. The business person might well have noticed that expense and difficulties were involved in running the merchant server; but she has no technical appreciation of why that is or that using another server might help. Those are matters for the a programmer or network engineer.
Programs for computers are, in general, not considered technical. However, the choice of where a particular computation is carried out in a distributed system will normally have implications for availability, for latency and so on, and those are technical matters. The Board is persuaded, that the decision to centralise the plug-ins in a separate server that can be accessed by several merchant servers, in order to simplify installation and maintenance and reduce load, should be considered a technical one.
22. Thus, the question is whether the technically skilled person, from the starting point set out in the application, or from D2 or D3, would relocate the plug-ins in a centralised server. Having taken that decision, a series of other decisions would be needed such as how merchant servers access the plug-ins. If the relocation was not obvious, then an inventive step must be acknowledged. If it was obvious, then the further decisions must be looked at, to the extent they are reflected in the claims.
The obviousness of relocation
23. The issues of where particular software can best be located and whether it can be shared rather than copied, are familiar to network engineers. Thus, the technically-skilled person, seeking to simplify the merchant server or the installation or updating of plug-ins, might have considered placing them in a separate server that could be accessed by various merchants' servers. That speaks against inventive step. However, as pointed out by the appellant, there are a number of other possibilities, such as centrally managing the plug-ins, combining them into a single plug-in, and introducing a proxy server as in D4. None of the prior art suggests relocating the plug-ins in a centralised server and the appellant has argued that there was a technical prejudice against doing it, all of which speak in favour of inventive step.
A number of the appellant's submissions were, in fact, business prejudices, if they were prejudices at all.
Merchants considered it was essential that they keep control over consumer transactions, and the payment operators were worried the introduction of another party would affect profits. As mentioned above, these cannot affect the assessment of inventive step. Business is business.
25. The appellant supported its argument with four sworn statements. They are all intended to show that there really was a technical prejudice.
26. Mr Gallagher was Director of ECommerce and Products and Services at First Data Corporation(1996 - 2000), Senior Vice President of Corporate Alliances at Chase Paymentech (2000 - 2007). In 2002 - 2003, he evaluated the appellant's technology on behalf of Chase Paymentech. He says that he, and Chase Paymentech generally were dismissive of the invention for business reasons, but also because it "had the potential of creating latency of delay during a transaction", "increased the opportunities for a communications or other failure interrupting the transaction", and "created opportunity for a hacker to breach or compromise system security".
Mr Grace was employed at Bank One (now JP Morgan Chase) in retail banking and Management positions (1990 - 1994), by NYCE Corporation as Director of the Advanced Products Group (1999 - 2005). Mr Grace evaluated the appellants invention in 2002. He says the NYCE customers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Cybersource were all of the view that the merchant had to keep control of interactions with the consumer. There were doubts regarding additional latency and security, but also as to the merchant losing track of the transaction while the authentication process via the MAPS was taking place.
28. Mr Heatherington has worked for the National Westminster Bank, for MasterCard International (1992 - 1999) in senior management positions, for Bank One Canada (1999 - 2000) as Chief Executive Officer, for Cyota Inc (2000 - 2001) as Chief Executive Officer, and for First Data Loan Company Canada (2001 - 2013). He evaluated the appellant's invention for Cyota Inc. and for First Data Loan Company Canada. He explains that there were several approaches to authentication of credit-card transactions over the internet. The present invention was another, which changed the flow of information and was counter-intuitive, because, in order to cope with millions of transactions each day, banks and issuers of cards were loath to relinquish control. That might decrease the speed of transactions, increase the opportunities for failure, create new opportunities for hacking, and render the system less predictable by allowing the appellant to control part of the flow. Mr Heatherington states that the approach taken by the invention were ridiculed at a conference in 2001.
29. Mr Chandra Balasubramanian is one of the inventors in the present case. He worked as a software developer (1993 - 1999). He has been the appellant's Chief Technical Officer since 1999. His submission is that the system assessed by Mr Grace was an embodiment of the claimed invention.
The Board can ascribe little value to these statements, but neither can it simply ignore them. Messrs Gallagher, Grace, and Heatherington were evidently speaking more as businessmen than as engineers; the submissions are by reference to particular working embodiments rather than to the generality of the claimed subject matter;
Nevertheless, they tend to show that there were technical considerations that spoke against relocating the plug-ins. These were the potential for an increase in latency, possible reductions in the number of transactions that can be processed in a given time period, and the increase in the number of points at which communications could be subject to hacking. The argument about the merchant losing track of a transaction during authentication does not seem pertinent, since that happens in the prior art anyway. The argument concerning the appellant controlling part of the flow assumes that the MAPS server is under the control of the appellant, but the claim says nothing about that; and who owns the server is a non-technical matter anyway. On balance, these observations establish a prima facie case for technical prejudice against relocating the plug-ins to a centralised server.
Conclusion on inventive step
31. Thus, the situation at the priority date was that plug-ins were installed on the merchant's web server. The skilled person might have been aware that their installation and maintenance involved difficulties and their relocation on a central server was possible. However, there was no hint to do so and a prima facie prejudice against doing so which is not rebutted by any of the documents on file. In the Board's judgment, in such circumstances, their re-location cannot be considered to have been obvious.
32. Claim 1 defines, in a certain amount of detail, how the merchant's server is set up to communicate with the MAPS. Prima facie, they look like perfectly normal software structures, but since the provision of the MAPS at all is already a non-obvious step, there is no need to consider whether these details add to the inventive step, and the Board refrains from doing so.
33. The above applies to claim 11 as well as to claim 1.
Further issues
34. The Board has questioned compliance with Articles 84 and 123(2) EPC, but is now persuaded that the application is compliant.
35. In particular, the Board is satisfied that the software layers in the client need not match corresponding layers in the MAPS, though it would often be convenient if they did. In the Board's view, the particular layers and connections set out in the description are optional but convenient ways of organising the software that provide the communication between the merchant's server and the MAPS and between the MAPS and the authenticating servers.
36. The Board is also satisfied that the term "thin client" is a term of art. It is a relative term, but that is harmless in the present case, because the client is "thin" in relation to the MAPS, which bears the main burden of processing.
Conclusion
37. The Board sees nothing that stands in the way of the grant of a European patent. In particular, the claimed subject matters involve an inventive step (Article 56 EPC), are clear (Article 84 EPC), and do not extend beyond the contents of the application as filed (Article 123(2) EPC).
Order
For these reasons it is decided that:
The decision under appeal is set aside.
The case is remitted to the department of first instance with the order to grant a patent on the basis of the following documents:
Claims 1 to 14 of the main request filed during the oral proceedings before the Board.
Description pages 4 and 5 filed with the grounds of appeal dated 30 May 2011.
Description pages 1 to 3 and 6 to 17 as published.
Figures 1 to 3 as published.
This decision T 1463/11 (pdf) has European Case Law Identifier ECLI:EP:BA:2016:T146311.20161129. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo by pixelia obtained via Pixabay under CC0  (no changes made).

T 1658/12 - When prior art Claims and Description contradict

Delta Patents Patent Law -


A cupcake dispensing machine

The Examining division has rejected a patent application for a dispensing system on the basis of a document D2. 
According to the Examining division, the subject-matter of claim 1 was not explicitly disclosed in the description of D2, since it did not explicitly disclose that "the processor sends a signal to said at least one dispensing means" in combination with the feature that "presentation of the user-identifier to the reader causes dispensing of the selected item". However, document D2 did disclose such an automated use of the system in claims 35-38.
The Board does not agree with the Examining division and offers the following catchwords:
In determining what is made available to the public within the meaning of Article 54(2) EPC by a prior art patent document, it must be borne in mind that it is the description which chiefly serves to disclose the invention in a manner that it may be carried out, whereas the chief function of the claims is to define the subject-matter for which protection is sought. Where a combination of features is found only in the claims (or only in the claims and a "Summary of the Invention" which merely recites the features of the claims), it must be very carefully considered whether this combination truly corresponds to the technical teaching of the document as it would be understood by a skilled person, or whether it is merely an artefact of the claim drafting process aimed at obtaining maximal scope of protection (see Reasons, point 3.8; also T 312/94, Catchword; T 969/92, Point 3, and in particular, page 4, first paragraph; T 42/92, "Orientierungssatz").




Reasons for the Decision
(...)
3. Differences over document D2
3.1 Document D2 was taken as the closest prior art in the the contested decision.
The analysis of the difference over document D2 in the contested decision is based on features which are no longer present in claim 1, and therefore does not need to be discussed here.
3.2 Document D2 discloses a system for dispensing beverages in which a typical interaction between a customer ("Frank") and the system is set out in Example 6 (page 29). According to this example, user-specific information ("unique identification number") is read from a user-identifier ("beverage card") by a card reader, and the system uses this to retrieve predetermined criteria ("Frank's profile").
This information is not, however, used to dispense a beverage directly, but is analysed "to determine the beverage options to display to Frank". Only after Frank inputs his selection from this customised menu is the beverage dispensed. A step of active selection by the user is provided even in cases where a particular beverage formulation is saved (possibly even on the card - see page 8, lines 11-12). For example, consumers "can get their own designed drink or choose from a variety of drinks that are close to their prescribed customized beverage in personal acceptance" (Examples 2-4).
Thus, document D2 discloses a system configured to dispense a particular item selected by a user.
3.3 In the contested decision, it was argued that the technical teaching of document D2 also included variants in which a previously selected beverage stored in the profile is directly dispensed. The Board does not believe this to be an accurate assessment (see points 3.6 to 3.10, below), but even if it were, this would still correspond to dispensing an item according to a specific selection made (previously) by the user.
3.4 In the light of the above, a first difference over document D2 is that the claimed system is configured to dispense "a user-appropriate item".
In the Board's judgement, the term "user-appropriate" clearly conveys the idea that what is dispensed is something which the system has determined would, at least potentially, be useful or of interest to the user, rather than an item which is specifically selected by the user.
According to some embodiments of the present invention it is certainly the case that the user-specific information may include user preferences (see e.g. page 7, lines 17-21), but it is clear that this does not refer to the prior user-selection of a specific product. Firstly, the word "preference", in its normal sense, indicates a predilection or liking for something e.g. certain types of food or music, rather than a selection of a specific product. Secondly, interpreting the word "preference" to extend to an instruction to dispense a specific item would be inconsistent with the invention as defined in claim 1, since it would mean that the dispensed item would be based on user-specific information only, and not on the combination of user-specific information and predetermined criteria, as defined in the claim.
3.5 A further difference arises as a result of the following features:
"coded instructions to dispense at least one user-appropriate item based on predetermined criteria and said user-specific information (210, 220, 230)"
and
"said processor (400) capable of executing said instructions to actuate the dispensing means (500, 502, 504, 506, 508) to dispense at least one user-appropriate item based on said user-specific information and said predetermined criteria, the system being configured such that once the processor accepts the user-specific information, it executes an instruction to actuate said dispensing means (500, 502, 504, 506, 508)."
Taken together, these features define a system configured such that the presentation of a user-identifier to the reader leads directly to the dispensing of a user-appropriate item, without any further intervention by the user.
3.6 The Examining Division argued that D2 disclosed examples where presentation of the user-identifier to the reader led directly to dispensing, citing the following passages of the description: page 6, lines 19-22; page 17, line 18 - page 18, line 13; page 26, lines 4-13 and page 30, lines 1-9 (Reasons, Point 12.1, feature f).
The Board, however, can find nothing in these passages which would point unambiguously to the sort of direct dispensing of beverages defined in claim 1. In fact, the last cited passage is part of Example 6, which, as previously noted, explicitly provides for user selection from a menu.
3.7 The Examining Division also argued that claims 35-38 disclosed a system configured in the claimed manner.
Claim 35 defines a method for providing a customized beverage product to a consumer, comprising inter alia the steps of obtaining consumer preference data; determining a consumer beverage formulation corresponding to the consumer preference data; and providing the consumer with a corresponding customized beverage. Essentially the same combination of features is recited in the Summary of the Invention (page 4, lines 28-32). Claim 36 defines that the step of obtaining consumer preference data comprises collecting a user identification from the consumer and retrieving the consumer preference data from a data store corresponding to the user identification.
Since claims 35-38 do not define a user selection step, the Examining Division found that they provided a disclosure of direct dispensing of items (beverages) as defined in claim 1 of the present application.
3.8 In determining what is made available to the public within the meaning of Article 54(2) EPC by a prior art patent document, such as International Application D2, it must be borne in mind that it is the description which chiefly serves to disclose the invention in a manner that it may be carried out, whereas the chief function of the claims is to define the subject-matter for which protection is sought. Where a combination of features is found only in the claims (or only in the claims and a "Summary of the Invention" which merely recites the features of the claims), it must be very carefully considered whether this combination truly corresponds to the technical teaching of the document as it would be understood by a skilled person, or whether it is merely an artefact of the claim drafting process aimed at obtaining maximal scope of protection.
This applies all the more in the case of unexamined applications such as document D2.
3.9 As noted above, many clear examples may be found in document D2 of systems configured to dispense beverages based inter alia on a user selection step. The Board has not, however, found any example or embodiment in which it is unambiguously clear that a user selection step is absent, including in those passages cited by the Examining Division. Consequently, the Board concludes that on the basis of the contents of the document as a whole, D2 does not disclose direct dispensing without a user selection step, as defined by the claimed features set out under point 3.5, above.
3.10 This approach is consistent with the settled case law of the boards of appeal as set out, for example, in T 312/94:
"It is a general legal rule for the interpretation of any document, in particular a patent application or patent, in order to determine its true meaning and thus its content and disclosure, that no part of such a document should be construed in isolation from the remainder of the document: on the contrary, each part of such a document must be construed in the context of the contents of the document as a whole. Thus, even though a part of a document appears to have a particular meaning when interpreted literally and in isolation from the remainder of the document, the true meaning of that part of the document may be different having regard to the remainder of the document." (T 312/94, Catchword; see also T 969/92, Point 3, and in particular, page 4, first paragraph; T 42/92, "Orientierungssatz").
4. Inventive step based on document D2
4.1 Unlike document D2 the claimed system is configured such that the presentation of a user-identifier to the reader leads directly to the dispensing of a user-appropriate item, understood in the above sense.
The effect is that a suitable item is dispensed, which corresponds, in the words of the appellant, to "what the operator wants to dispense to the user". As explained in the description, one problem addressed by such a system would be in providing an appropriate promotional item to a user.
4.2 The Examining Division argued that choosing to dispense promotional items would be a business or commercial decision with an obvious technical implementation.
The Board, however, agrees with the appellant that the claimed system provides a technical solution (involving technical features such as a reader, a user-identifier, user-specific information, coded instructions and a processor) to a technical problem, i.e. rapid and accurate dispensing of a user-appropriate item. By configuring the system to dispense the item without user selection, user error is eliminated.
4.3 The system of document D2 is designed for an entirely different purpose (dispensing of a user-selected item), and the Board sees no realistic pathway by which the skilled person would be led to the claimed subject-matter in an obvious manner from this document.
5. Inventive step based on document D1
5.1 Document D1, which was cited in the International phase, discloses a system for dispensing items (a vending machine) in which a user making a purchase may be invited to take part in a marketing promotion or survey, for which the reward may be a supplementary product.
According to certain embodiments (see paragraphs [0027], [0031]) user data may be read from a card and combined with information stored in the system, such as a customer's purchase history (i.e. "predetermined criteria").
5.2 However, it is the marketing promotion (e.g. a "sales pitch" - see paragraph [0041]) which may be based on the customer's purchase history, (paragraphs [0027], [0031]), and which may therefore be appropriate for the user. It is not disclosed that the product dispensed as a reward is the subject of the marketing promotion, or that this product is determined on the basis of the customer's purchase history. Thus, in document D1, neither the product purchased (which is selected by the user) nor the reward item are "user-appropriate" items as defined in claim 1.
5.3 Furthermore, the system of document D1 is configured to dispense items only in conjunction with steps of user intervention and selection, as set out, for example, in Figs. 9A-9C. The purchased product is selected in a conventional manner, and the reward product is dispensed after a user firstly agrees to participate in a survey or marketing promotion, and secondly provides responses as part of that participation. Document D1 does not therefore disclose a system configured such that once the processor accepts the user-specific information, it executes an instruction to actuate said dispensing means.
5.4 The system of document D1 is essentially a conventional vending machine adapted to carry out customer surveys or marketing promotions. The Board does not find it plausible that a skilled person would incorporate into this vending machine the distinguishing features of claim 1 of the present invention, which have nothing to do with the purpose for which the system of document D1 was created.
6. The Board therefore concludes that the subject-matter of claim 1 involves an inventive step within the meaning of Article 52(1) EPC and Article 56 EPC 1973.
(...)
This decision T 1658/12  (pdf) has European Case Law Identifier ECLI:EP:BA:2017:T165812.20170406. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo by quinntheislander obtained via Pixabay under CC0  (no changes made).

J 12/16 - Same patent transferred twice to different parties

Delta Patents Patent Law -

Finding the right transfer

The EPO was confronted in this case with a patent that was transferred twice. After sending out the intention to grant, the EPO received a first transfer on 01.06.2015 from the applicant to a second party. About a week later, on 10.06.2015 the EPO received a second transfer of the same patent but to a different, third party. 

Unfortunately, for the second party, there is a problem with his transfer (the fee wasn't timely paid). Although the third party sent its transfer later, the formal requirements were satisfied sooner. According to Rule 22 EPC a transfer request is not deemed to have been filed until the fee has been paid, and so it is the second transfer request that is executed.  

Of course the second party is not happy with this, the more so that his contract with the applicant was signed much sooner, on 5.6.2014. The second contract with the third party was signed only the day before it was registered, i.e., on 09.06.2015. The second party appeals the rejection of his transfer, but in the meantime the patent has been granted in the name of the third party. 

The appeal board does not side with the unlucky second party; for transfers it is first come first serve. Since the third party satisfied the requirements sooner, his request wins. Nonetheless, the board is not happy with the way the case has been dealt with. Because the patent granted, the EPO lost its competency regarding transfers. This made the appeal pointless. 

The board offers the following catch phrase (my translation)

During the time period for filing an appeal against the simultaneous rejection of request of a transfer and of a stay of proceedings, and because of the suspensive effect of a still-to-be-filed appeal, the register should not be changed in a way that could affect the course of a subsequent appeal procedure.


Entscheidungsgründe
1. Nach Regel 22(1) EPÜ wird der Rechtsübergang einer europäischen Patentanmeldung auf Antrag eines Beteiligten in das Europäische Patentregister eingetragen, wenn der Rechtsübergang durch Vorlage von Dokumenten nachgewiesen wird, wobei der Antrag erst als gestellt gilt, wenn eine Verwaltungsgebühr entrichtet worden ist, Regel 22(2)S.1 EPÜ.
1.1 Die Rechtsabteilung hat die angegriffene Entscheidung zu Recht damit begründet, dass der Umschreibungsantrag der Beschwerdeführerin zeitlich zwar vor dem entsprechenden Antrag der Dritten gestellt worden war, die formalen Voraussetzungen für eine Umschreibung nach Regel 22 EPÜ zugunsten der Beschwerdeführerin aber erst mit der Zahlung der erforderlichen Verwaltungsgebühr am 22. Juni 2015 vollständig vorgelegen hatten.
Die Voraussetzungen für die Umschreibung betreffend den Antrag der Dritten waren jedoch unstreitig bereits zuvor, nämlich am 10. Juni 2015, vollständig erfüllt. Folglich ist die Rechtsübertragung zugunsten der Dritten nach Regel 22(3) EPÜ an diesem Tage gegenüber dem EPA wirksam geworden, weswegen ihre Eintragung in das Register vorzunehmen war. Die Rechtsabteilung hat auch zutreffend darauf abgestellt, dass materiell-rechtliche Umstände wie die Frage nach der rechtlichen Wirksamkeit der Übertragungsverträge von ihr nicht zu überprüfen waren. Dies obliegt allein den nationalen Gerichten im Rahmen der entsprechenden Vindikationsklagen, Artikel 61(1) und Regel 14 EPÜ.
1.2. Soweit die Beschwerdeführerin demgegenüber meint, die Rechtsabteilung habe den Nachweis des Rechtsübergangs zugunsten der Dritten wegen der beiden widersprüchlichen Patentübertragungsverträge nicht als erfüllt ansehen dürfen, ist dem entgegenzuhalten, dass die Voraussetzungen der Umschreibung nach Regel 22 EPÜ rein formaler Natur sind. Auch dann, wenn zwei widerstreitende Anträge auf Umschreibung vorliegen, kommt es nicht darauf an, welcher der vorliegenden Übertragungsverträge materiellrechtlich wirksam ist. Nach alledem hat die Rechtsabteilung zutreffend entschieden.
2. Allerdings kann vorliegend über den Beschwerdegegenstand nicht mehr entschieden werden. Nach Regel 85 EPÜ in Verbindung mit Regel 22 EPÜ ist das EPA für Rechtsumschreibungen betreffend Patentanmeldungen und erteilte Patente (nur) während des Laufs der neunmonatigen Einspruchsfrist oder bis zur Beendigung eines etwa anhängigen Einspruchsverfahrens zuständig. Da im vorliegenden Fall kein Einspruch eingelegt und die Einspruchsfrist zwischenzeitlich abgelaufen ist, hat sich die Hauptsache, die auf Eintragung in das Register gerichtet war, erledigt. Anträge auf Umschreibung sind nunmehr an die nationalen Patentämter der Mitgliedsstaaten zu richten, für die das Patent jeweils Schutz beansprucht.
3. Über den Antrag der Beschwerdeführerin, die Beschwerdegebühr wegen eines wesentlichen Verfahrensfehlers aus Billigkeitsgründen nach R. 103(1)(a) EPÜ zu erstatten, ist gleichwohl zu entscheiden. Nach dieser Vorschrift ist die Beschwerdegebühr in voller Höhe zu erstatten, wenn der Beschwerde abgeholfen oder ihr durch die Beschwerdekammer stattgegeben wird und die Rückzahlung wegen eines wesentlichen Verfahrensmangels der Billigkeit entspricht. Nach der Erledigung der Hauptsache kann nach dem Sinn der Vorschrift für die Erstattung der Beschwerdegebühr nur maßgeblich sein, ob die Beschwerdekammer der Beschwerde stattgegeben hätte (und die Rückzahlung wegen eines wesentlichen Verfahrensmangels der Billigkeit entspricht).
3.1 Nach der bereits mit dem Ladungszusatz geäußerten Auffassung der Kammer, zu der die Beschwerdeführerin inhaltlich keine Stellung genommen hat und an der die Kammer auch zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt festhält, wie oben unter Punkt 1. dargestellt, wäre der Beschwerde nicht stattzugeben gewesen, so dass dem Antrag auf Rückzahlung der Beschwerdegebühr schon aus diesem Grund nicht zu entsprechen ist.
3.2 Abgesehen davon hat die Beschwerdeführerin auch keinen wesentlichen Verfahrensmangel dargelegt. Sie wendet sich allein gegen die aus ihrer Sicht unzutreffende rechtliche Würdigung des Sachverhalts im Rahmen der Regel 22 EPÜ durch die Rechtsabteilung. Darin folgt ihr die Kammer jedoch nicht, siehe oben Punkt 1. Zum anderen stellte eine fehlerhafte Beurteilung von Sachfragen ohnehin keinen Mangel "im Verfahren" dar (st. Rspr. der Beschwerdekammern, siehe Entscheidungen T 690/06, Punkt 12 der Gründe, J 29/95, Punkt 10 der Gründe; J 8/13, Punkt 2.4 der Gründe), der die Erstattung der Beschwerdegebühr auslösen könnte.
4. Der vorliegende Fall weist allerdings die Besonderheit auf, dass die Prüfungsabteilung während des Laufs der Beschwerdefrist gegen die Zurückweisung des Umschreibungsantrags durch die Rechtsabteilung die Bekanntmachung des Hinweises auf die Erteilung des Patents bewirkt hat. Diese Vorgehensweise kann erhebliche Probleme nach sich ziehen, da mit dieser Bekanntmachung der Lauf der Einspruchsfrist gegen das erteilte Patent ausgelöst wird, Artikel 99 (1) EPÜ. Das kann, wie der vorliegende Fall zeigt, wiederum zur vorzeitigen Erledigung des Beschwerdegegenstands während des laufenden Beschwerdeverfahrens führen, obwohl die Beschwerde an sich aufschiebende Wirkung hat. Da während des Laufs der Beschwerdefrist theoretisch jederzeit mit der Einlegung einer Beschwerde und damit mit dem Eintritt der aufschiebenden Wirkung nach Artikel 106(1) letzter Satz EPÜ gerechnet werden muss (vgl. auch Entscheidung J 28/94, Punkt 5 der Gründe), sollten solche Bekanntmachungen nicht bewirkt werden. Wollte man dies anders sehen, würde nach Auffassung der Kammer die aufschiebende Wirkung der Beschwerde unterlaufen werden. Das ist aber in jedem Fall zu vermeiden.
5. Dies führt vorliegend allerdings ebenfalls nicht zu der Erstattung der Beschwerdegebühr. Zum einen hätte die Beschwerde gegen die Entscheidung der Rechtsabteilung auf jeden Fall eingereicht werden müssen, so dass keine Kausalität zwischen der zwischenzeitlichen Bekanntmachung der Erteilung und der Anfechtung der Entscheidung der Rechtsabteilung besteht. Zum anderen hat die zwischenzeitliche Bekanntmachung durch die Prüfungsabteilung auch deswegen keine Auswirkungen gehabt, weil die Kammer, wie oben bereits ausgeführt, inhaltlich der angefochtenen Entscheidung der Rechtsabteilung betreffend die Zurückweisung des Umschreibungsantrags folgt und zudem die Zurückweisung des Aussetzungsantrags letztlich von der Beschwerdeführerin nicht ebenfalls mit der Beschwerde angegriffen worden ist.
6. Soweit die Beschwerdeführerin in ihrem Schreiben vom 24. Februar 2017 zudem die Auffassung vertreten hat, der Umschreibungsantrag vom 22. Februar 2017 der Dritten im Mediationsverfahren vor dem Landgericht München I zugunsten der Beschwerdeführerin bestätige im Nachhinein, dass die Beschwerdeführerin im Zeitpunkt der Stellung ihres Umschreibungsantrags bereits materiell-rechtlich legitimierte Inhaberin der Anmeldung war, stellt sie wiederum auf materiell-rechtliche Gesichtspunkte ab, die für die Entscheidung in diesem Fall unerheblich sind.
Entscheidungsformel
Aus diesen Gründen wird entschieden:
1. Die Beschwerde ist gegenstandslos.
2. Die Beschwerdegebühr wird nicht erstattet.


This decision J 0012/16 (no pdf available) has European Case Law Identifier ECLI:EP:BA:2017:J001216.20170425. The file wrapper can be found here. Photo by fritsdejong obtained via Pixabay under CC0  (no changes made).

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