mardi, novembre 30, 2010

Qui pourrait me dire ce qui me mettait dans un tel état?

A chaque tribunal son fonctionnement propre

Les assises

Tirés au sort sur des listes électorales, les jurés d'assises jugent les crimes (assassinat, viol, braquage…). Ils siègent et délibèrent aux côtés de trois juges professionnels. Appelés à se prononcer sur leur intime conviction, ils n'ont pas à motiver leurs verdicts. Ils sont neuf en première instance, et douze en appel.

Le conseil des prud'hommes

Les conseillers prud'homaux doivent trancher les litiges du monde du travail. Le tribunal est composé de juges élus représentant – en nombre égal et pour moitié – les employeurs et les salariés. Si aucune majorité ne se dégage, l'affaire est renvoyée devant la même formation de jugement présidée, cette fois, par un juge professionnel dit « juge départiteur ». En appel, le dossier est soumis à des juges professionnels.

Le tribunal pour enfants

Les juges pour enfants sont assistés, lors des audiences, de deux assesseurs nommés pour quatre ans. Volontaires, ces derniers sont sélectionnés au vu de leur parcours professionnel et de l'intérêt qu'ils portent aux questions liées à l'enfance. Retraités pour la plupart, ils ont souvent été enseignant, psychologue ou assistant social. En cas d'appel, la chambre se compose de trois magistrats professionnels.

Le tribunal de commerce

Chargé de régler les litiges entre commerçants, ce tribunal est composé de trois juges élus parmi les dirigeants d'entreprise.

Les tribunaux des affaires de sécurité sociale

Tranchant les litiges entre assurés sociaux et caisses de sécurité sociale, ils sont composés de deux juges non professionnels représentant l'un les salariés, l'autre les employeurs.

Les juges de proximité

Créés en 2001, ils sont recrutés parmi des praticiens du droit (avocat, juriste en entreprise…). Ils jugent les contraventions les moins graves et tranchent les litiges civils pour lesquels la demande n'excède pas 4 000 €. Ils sont régulièrement appelés à siéger en tant qu'assesseurs en correctionnelle.

Quand le mobile détecte les activités quotidiennes de l'utilisateur

En croisant les données collectées par les différents capteurs embarqués dans un téléphone portable, il est possible de déterminer à quelle vitesse évolue son utilisateur, s'il est à pied, et quels trajets il suit.

Pourquoi ne pas utiliser les capteurs désormais embarqués dans plusieurs modèles de téléphone portable pour retirer des informations sur les activités quotidiennes physiques d’un individu ? En croisant les données prélevées par l’accéléromètre, le GPS, le gyroscope ou le microphone, par exemple, il est possible de fournir une analyse précise des mouvements effectués par une personne, affirment des scientifiques de l’université de Dartmouth et du Centre de Recherche de Nokia. Ils proposent, sous la forme d’une interface de programmation (API), un système qui fait appel à plusieurs capteurs de l’ordiphone. Baptisé Jigsaw, celui-ci vise à collecter des informations, et à les replacer dans un contexte bien défini. L’accéléromètre seul ne permet pas de connaître précisément l’activité de l’utilisateur.

Analyser les informations collectées par plusieurs capteurs

En effet, les données qu’il prélève varient en fonction que l’appareil soit placé dans la poche d’une veste, ou tenu dans la paume de la main, par exemple. En combinant les informations collectées par plusieurs capteurs du téléphone, le système parvient à déterminer à quelle situation les données correspondent. Plusieurs catégories et sous catégories sont ainsi distinguées par les scientifiques : état stationnaire, marche, course, cyclisme, autre véhicule ; appareil placé dans une poche, tenu dans la main, positionné dans une veste, etc. En clair, les informations fournies par le GPS intégré dans l’ordiphone permettent de déterminer à quelle vitesse évolue l’individu, sur une période donnée. S’il est à pied, l’accéléromètre peut permettre de connaître son rythme de marche, par exemple.

Deux applications test

Pour prouver les usages d'un tel système de suivi automatisé, les scientifiques ont mis au point deux applications. JigMe propose à l’utilisateur de retracer ses activités quotidiennes, les transports qu’il privilégie, la durée de ses trajets, etc. Et GreenSaw propose de lui faire un compte-rendu calorique de ses mouvements, ou celui des émissions de carbone de son véhicule, par exemple. L’utilisateur devant au préalable renseigner sa taille, son poids, ou son modèle de voiture. Le système est pour le moment compatible avec deux types d’appareils : le Nokia 95 et l’iPhone d’Apple. Les chercheurs ont présenté Jigsaw à la Conférence ACM sur les réseaux de capteurs embarqués, qui s’est récemment tenu à Zurich. 

Sources : http://www.atelier.net/articles/mobile-detecte-activites-quotidiennes-de-lutilisateur

 

lundi, novembre 29, 2010

Demande de poste au sein de votre organisme social

En annexe ma demande que je vous demande de lire, si possible, le plus rapidement possible !

 

Votre Bien Dévoué,

 

_______________

M. Jean –Bernard CONDAT

B.P. 59

93402 Saint-Ouen Cedex

condat@chrystol.com

06 79 39 91 70

act

c

samedi, novembre 27, 2010

CR Banque Alimentaire - Mairie Paris 13e (75)

La banderole Collecte de la Banque Alimentaire 2010 est apposée au fronton de la Mairie dès le mercredi 25 novembre. Des cartons vides (400) sont distribués aux associations : La Mie de Pain, Emmaüs, Lions Clubs. Un communiqué annonce l’opération sur la page d’accueil du site de la Mairie du 13e.

Ayant repéré que les magasins hard discount avaient été les grands oubliés de la collecte 2009, je prends l’initiative d’associer à l’opération le Leader-Price de la place Pinel. M. Condat, délégué de la Banque alimentaire, se rend sur place la semaine qui précède.

Le samedi matin 27 novembre 2010 peu avant 9 heures, sont présents 3 agents de la Mairie du 13e, 5 agents du CAS-VP, sans oublier les agents de sécurité et M. Condat : en tout 6 hommes et 5 femmes, la parité est respectée !

Sur une vieille palette trouvée dans les caves de la Mairie, nous montons 30 cartons d’aliments non périssables arrivés la veille. A 10 heures, M. Iaichouchene, chauffeur des TAM, nous précise qu’il stationnera une partie de la journée devant la mairie. Peu après, il dépose 10 palettes vides dans le hall.

Malgré le froid, nous travaillons dans de bonnes conditions : le hall de la Mairie est spacieux. Le parvis se transforme pour un jour en dock de livraison alimentaire.
Accompagné de M. Condat (voir photographie en fin de message), je me dirige place Pinel à la rencontre du gérant du Leader-Price, un patron à l’ancienne en blouse blanche, qui vante les mérites des produits sélectionnés par Jean-Pierre Coffe. Une grande affluence se presse aux caisses du magasin.

Passage éclair dans un des plus gros supermarchés de l’arrondissement : le Carrefour-market Italie 2. L’association Les Enfants du canal s’est taillé la part du lion : 2 tonnes collectées dès vendredi et 4,5tonnes prévues le samedi. Le sourire du directeur masque une organisation quasi militaire.

Au cours de la matinée, on note le passage de Hervé Déom, co-organisateur de l’opération au CAS-VP et de Laurence Bodeau, directrice de la Section du 13e. Le Lions Clubs livre quelques cartons de denrées alimentaires. Guillemette, indépendante de la société Saint-hubert, à la tête d’une équipe de 6 bénévoles, vient retirer 100 cartons vides pour le Carrefour-market de la rue Nationale et le Leader-Price de la place Pinel.

A midi et demi, déjeuner de pizzas et vin rouge bio. Peu après, les mariages sont annoncés à la mairie. On essaie de ne pas gêner les familles et amis des mariés, lorsqu’ils descendent de la salle des mariages.

A 16 heures, départ du camion des TAM avec les 3 premières palettes, via la Mairie du 5e, vers l’entrepôt de la Banque alimentaire dans le Val-de-Marne.

Dans l’après-midi, passage un peu bohème de l’association Gasol (étudiants des arts et métiers). La flamboyante Audi du Lions Clubs a récolté une amende de 35 euros sur une place livraison devant le Franprix. Son conducteur est un peu énervé. Les indépendants (société saint-hubert) nous annoncent que leur Scénic a un pneu crevé. Elle n’a pas résisté à la charge des cartons. Ils s’arrangent pour livrer quand même.

De quoi constituer 3 nouvelles palettes et un chargement d’aliments pour bébé.

Les aliments sont, pour près d’un tiers, des pâtes et du riz. Notable augmentation des conserves de poissons malgré la manifestation, la veille, des WWF anti-pêche-au-thon-rouge. Et un doublement inexpliqué des biscuits et confitures, signe de crise ou annonce d’un hiver particulièrement rigoureux ?

Peu après 20 heures, arrive un camion de déménageur du Lions Clubs, en provenance du plus gros supermarché de l’arrondissement : Masséna 13. 121 cartons d’un coup. Nous trions l’équivalent de 4 palettes en 1 heure : c’est plus que pendant tout le reste de cette longue journée.

Entre temps, le camion des Tam fait un aller-retour à la Mairie du 5e, avant d’embarquer le reste de nos cartons à 21 heures. Extinction des feux à 22 heures.

Bilan : 313 cartons, 11 palettes, 4 tonnes de nourriture, quelques dizaines de milliers de repas. C’est moins qu’en 2008, mais plus qu’en 2009.

Une bonne raison de croire à la générosité, souvent sollicitée, des Parisiens.

Remi Perrin
Adjoint à la directrice de la section du 13e arrondissement
Centre d'action sociale de la Ville de Paris

Libellés : , ,

mercredi, novembre 24, 2010

La prière que j'aime

Ô mon Seigneur

Et mon Dieu,

Arrache de moi

Tout ce qui

M’éloigne de toi.

 

Mon Seigneur

Et mon Dieu,

Accorde-moi

Tout ce qui

Me rapproche de toi.

 

Mon Seigneur

Et mon Dieu,

Délivre-moi

De moi-même

Et prends moi

Tout entier pour toi.

 

[Saint-Nicolas de Flüe, 1417-1487]

 

mardi, novembre 23, 2010

Kenya: Towards Community IP rights protection: the East African Common Market Protocol

Towards Community IP rights protection: the East African Common Market Protocol

Contributed by Njoroge Regeru & Company

 

Introduction
Article 43 and cooperation in IP matters
Common market principles
Implications


Introduction

The Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Common Market was established pursuant to Articles 76 and 104 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. The common market became operational on July 1 2010.

The protocol establishes the East African Common Market among the member states of the East African Community (EAC) (Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda) to form an integral part of the community. It is hoped that by establishing the common market, EAC member states will enjoy accelerated economic growth and development. Further, it is expected that the common market will widen and deepen economic and social cooperation among the member states.

Articles 5(3)(k) and 43 of the protocol require member states to cooperate in the area of IP rights.

Article 43 and cooperation in IP matters

Article 43 calls for member states to cooperate in the field of intellectual property by promoting and protecting creativity and innovation for economic social and cultural development in the community. The areas for cooperation include:

·                          copyrights and related rights;

·                          patents;

·                          layout designs of integrated circuits;

·                          industrial designs;

·                          new plant varieties;

·                          geographical indications;

·                          trade and service marks;

·                          trade secrets;

·                          utility models;

·                          traditional knowledge;

·                          genetic resources;

·                          traditional cultural expressions and folklore; and

·                          other areas to be determined by the member states.

It is expected that member states will establish measures to prevent infringement, misuse and abuse of intellectual property and set up mechanisms to fight piracy and counterfeiting activities at EAC level. Member states are also enjoined to promote public awareness of IP matters.

The East African Community aims to establish mechanisms to protect traditional cultural expression, traditional knowledge and national heritage. This is an important aim, given the problems recently experienced by members of the community in protecting certain aspects of their traditional and cultural intellectual property. For example, in recent years Kenya has lost the trademark rights to its traditional kiondo basket designs and is at risk of losing the rights to its traditional kikoi fabric designs. It remains for the EAC Council to issue directives on the administration, management and enforcement of IP rights in the spirit of the protocol.

Common market principles

The standardisation of the treatment of IP matters is fundamental to a common market in which goods and services can move freely. Article 43 is therefore a milestone towards achieving uniform IP rights protection across the EAC.

Under the existing regime, individuals and organisations in member states seeking to protect their IP rights across the community are forced to apply for protection with the relevant IP offices in all member states, or else use the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) or Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) systems, which often prove inconvenient and costly, or entail logistical problems.

It is hoped that the new directives will create an IP protection system that allows trademarks, copyrights and patents to have effect throughout the community and to be obtained through a central EAC IP office (or an office as designated by the council or through member states IP offices). This is important, as it will ensure the smooth running of the common market and encourage the free movement of goods and free competition.

Implications

IP rights in Kenya are mainly governed by the Trademarks Act (Cap 506 Laws of Kenya), the Industrial Property Act 2001 and the Copyright Act 2001. These laws also make provision for the protection of intellectual property under the Madrid and ARIPO systems. The issue of EAC directives on IP rights would therefore lead to an amendment of these major statutes.

Many commentators are concerned about the fact that the introduction of a new system of IP protection will lead to the coexistence of a number of protection systems in Kenya (ie, protection at national level, through the PCT and ARIPO systems, as well as the proposed EAC IP rights protection system). However, this could be seen as an advantage, as rights owners will be in a position to opt for the most cost-effective mode of registration.

Furthermore, as the EAC-wide system is put into place, issues such as priority dates will require addressing. Once the directives are in force, will rights holders be able to claim priority for their IP rights from the date of registration in Kenya or registration in the community as a whole? Issues of conversion from national to EAC-level protection will also have to be dealt with.

Confusion may also arise with regard to trademarks, especially where similar marks have been registered in different member states by different entities. The result may be that an entity wishing to register certain IP rights will have to perform both a nationwide and an EAC-wide search to ensure that no similar marks have already been registered.

Once the directives have been issued, Kenya will also have to consider how to deal with infringements of the new law. In this regard, the relevant legislation will need to be amended so that infringement actions and subsequent appeals can be brought both in Kenya or in other member states in courts specifically designated to hear EAC IP matters.

EAC-wide cooperation in the area of IP rights will afford Kenyan entities a cost-effective means of attaining protection for their goods and services across the East African Community and afford IP rights holders uniform rights which will apply in all EAC member states.

For further information on this topic please contact
Anthony Gakuru at Njoroge Regeru & Company by telephone (+254 20 271 8482), fax (+254 20 271 8485) or email (info@njorogeregeru.com).

 

France: Generic domain name bears fruit

Generic domain name bears fruit

Contributed by Hogan Lovells

 

Background
Domain name rights
Trademark infringement
Decision
Comment


La Cerise Bleue, a French company, recently won a complaint filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) under the alternative dispute resolution procedure for '.fr' domain names, known as the Procédure Alternative de Résolution des Litiges (PARL), concerning the domain name 'lacerise.fr'.

Background

The domain name was registered in 2008 and used in connection with an online promotional programme to which internet users could subscribe free of charge. The complainant held the French trademarks CERISECLUB and LA CERISE BLEUE, registered in 2006 and 2007 respectively. It also registered the domain name 'ceriseclub.com' in 2006 and had since been using the site to provide price comparison services and a guidebook for online consumers.

When it discovered that French company W SAS had registered the domain name 'lacerise.fr', the complainant contacted the respondent in an attempt to settle the matter amicably. The respondent replied by offering to transfer the domain name to the complainant for €10,000. The complainant refused the offer and filed a complaint before WIPO under the PARL.

The PARL is an alternative dispute resolution procedure under which the complainant must prove that the domain name in question either infringes its rights or violates French or EU competition rules. An infringement of the complainant's rights occurs when a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a name in which French and/or EU trademark rights exist, unless the respondent can prove that it has a right or legitimate interest in the domain name and acted in good faith.

Domain name rights

The complainant claimed that it had rights over the domain name because it had registered and was using the trademark CERISECLUB as part of its website, www.ceriseclub.com.

Countering this first submission, the respondent argued that the complainant had no rights over the term 'cerise', as it had not set up any company named La Cerise Bleue. In addition, the respondent argued that the term 'cerise' made reference not to the complainant's trademark, but to a generic term. Indeed, the word 'cerise' in French means 'cherry'. Finally, according to the respondent, the complainant displayed a blue cherry on its website, while the website at the domain name did not.

The panel highlighted that:

·                          the term 'cerise' was the common element between the trademarks CERISECLUB and LA CERISE BLEUE and the domain name;

·                          this term could be considered as the distinctive element of the trademarks; and

·                          the trademark CERISECLUB was used in relation to the complainant's website.

The complainant had therefore established that it had rights over the domain name.

Trademark infringement

Turning to the question of whether the domain name infringed the complainant's rights or violated French or EU competition rules, the complainant pointed out that the respondent had created confusion between its own website and the complainant's website, thereby interfering with the complainant's rights.

The respondent argued that registration and use of the domain name did not constitute infringement of third-party rights or competition rules. The respondent said that it had registered and used the domain name in order to assist its clients in better managing the commercial information they wished to receive. According to the respondent, the domain name and the associated website were created in order to avoid any interference with the website www.dromadaire.com, run by the respondent and described by the respondent as being the worldwide leader in the market of online greeting cards. The respondent further contended that the domain name was of no strategic importance to its business, and that its activities in relation to the website www.lacerise.fr were marginal and residual. According to the respondent, this was why it had agreed to transfer the domain name to the complainant for €10,000, as this sum would have covered its expenses relating to the redefinition of the website.

The panel noted that the respondent had registered the domain name after the domain name 'ceriseclub.com' and the trademarks CERISECLUB and LA CERISE BLEUE had been registered, and further that the domain name partially reproduced these trademarks. The panel explained that under French law, the partial reproduction of a trademark to designate products or services that are identical or similar to those designated by the trademark registration certificate is not permitted if there is a risk of confusion in consumers' minds. The panel thus analysed the activity conducted on the website to which the domain name pointed and compared it with the products and services designated by the prior trademarks of the complainant, including renting advertising space and displaying classified advertisements.

The panel declared that it was convinced that the promotional programme provided by the respondent via its website was similar to the activities of the complainant under the trademark CERISECLUB – namely, the display of classified advertisements. The panel noted that under French law, the risk of confusion must be considered from the point of view of the average consumer. The panel also considered that, in accordance with French case law, trademark infringement occurs as soon as the essential element of a trademark - which can be considered as the distinctive element of the trademark - is reproduced. It concluded that the term 'cerise' could be considered as the distinctive element of the trademark CERISECLUB, and that the use of the term 'cerise' by the respondent to designate a service providing promotional offers could create confusion in the minds of consumers.

Decision

The panel decided that the registration and use of the domain name infringed the trademark rights of the complainant. The panel also considered that the respondent had not proved that it had any rights or legitimate interests in the domain name and could not be considered as having acted in good faith, since it had offered to transfer the domain name for €10,000 – especially given that it itself had admitted that the domain name was not strategic to its activity. As a result, the panel decided to transfer the domain name.

Comment

Panels deciding PARL cases have established a comprehensive framework around the use of domain names in recent years and this decision underlines the important differences between the PARL and the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), even though the PARL is classified by WIPO as a variation of the UDRP.

For further information on this topic please contact David Taylor or Sarah Taïeb at Hogan Lovells by telephone (+33 1 53 67 47 47), fax (+33 1 53 67 47 48) or email (david.taylor@hoganlovells.com or sarah.taieb@hoganlovells.com).

 

European Union: EPO board considers patentability of computer-implemented inventions

EPO board considers patentability of computer-implemented inventions

Contributed by CMS Derks Star Busmann

 

Introduction
Admissibility of referral
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Comment


Introduction

The European Patent Convention (EPC) excludes computer-implemented inventions "as such" from patentability under Articles 52(2) and (3). The European Patent Office (EPO) Technical Boards of Appeal have generally taken the position that claimed subject matter is patentable if it has a technical character. This has resulted in the exclusion from patentability being increasingly limited in the case of computer-implemented inventions. In a series of landmark decisions the boards of appeal appear to have become increasingly lenient in respect of the patentability of computer-implemented inventions, although the exclusion still continues to have a restrictive effect. In light of the case law of the boards, there has been broad debate about the legitimacy and scope of the exclusion.

During the EPC Contracting States Diplomatic Conference in November 2000, a proposal to delete the exclusion for computer-implemented inventions in Article 52(2) was rejected. Some years later, the European Parliament and Council made an unsuccessful attempt to harmonise the law on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions within the European Union by way of a directive.

Across the EU member states, there is still no uniform approach to computer-implemented inventions. In view of this, in Aerotel v Macrossan (Court of Appeal of England and Wales, October 27 2006) Lord Justice Jacob suggested referring the issue of patentability to the EPO Enlarged Board of Appeal. At that time, then EPO President Alain Pompidou dismissed this suggestion as unnecessary.

However, on October 22 2008 his successor, Alison Brimelow, took the opportunity to refer a set of questions concerning the patentability of computer-implemented inventions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal, because in her opinion, the boards of appeal had given different decisions.

On May 12 2010 the Enlarged Board of Appeal decided that the referral by the president was inadmissible. However, the reasons and grounds for this decision are relevant to the substantive law.

Admissibility of referral

Before addressing the question of the referral, the enlarged board emphasised that a referral by the EPO president under Article 112(1)(b) of the EPC is admissible only if at least two boards of appeal gave different decisions. 'Different' must be interpreted as 'divergent'. As a result, the scope for admissibility of a referral under Article 112(1) of the EPC now seems to be very limited, as the enlarged board must consider whether the divergent decisions merely reflect continued development in patent law, which may be ongoing. Where such development of the law means that older decisions lose their significance and can no longer be considered in the light of more recent decisions, such differences between older and newer decisions do not justify a referral by the president.

Taking this as the starting point, the enlarged board assessed the four questions raised in the referral.

Question 1

The first question read as follows: "Can a computer program only be excluded as a computer program as such if it is explicitly claimed as a computer program?" In other words, if a claim directed to a computer program is excluded from patentability by Article 52(2), does this mean that other claims describing the computer-implemented invention in a different way are also automatically excluded?

The referral cites a divergence between board of appeal Decisions T1173/97 (July 1 1998) and T424/03 (February 23 2006). In T424/03 the board ruled that only a claim of the form 'computer program for method X' could possibly be excluded from patentability as a computer program as such, while claims of the form 'computer implemented method X' or 'computer program storing executable codes for method X' would not be excluded. On the other hand, T1173/97 placed the emphasis on the function of the computer program, rather than the manner in which it is claimed (eg, as a computer program or a computer-implemented method).

In general, claim formulations for computer-implemented inventions along the following lines are common:

·                          methods;

·                          systems (ie, computer systems);

·                          computer-implemented methods;

·                          computer programs; and

·                          computer program products and storing a computer program.

In T1173/97 the applicant sought not only to claim a computer-implemented invention as a method of operating a computer and for a computer adapted to carry out the method, but also as a program defined by the following two formulations:

"A computer program product directly loadable into the internal memory of a digital computer, comprising software code portions for performing the steps of (independent method) claim 1 when said product is run on a computer."

"A computer program product stored on a computer usable medium, comprising: computer readable program means for causing a computer to (carry out the various steps of method claim 1)."

The board in T1173/97 took the standpoint that such a claim could be allowable:

"In the view of the Board, a computer program claimed by itself is not excluded from patentability if the program, when running on a computer or loaded into a computer, brings about, or is capable of bringing about, a technical effect which goes beyond the "normal" physical interactions between the program (software) and the computer (hardware)."

The T1173/97 decision teaches that a claim to a computer program has a "technical character" if, and only if, the computer causes a "further technical effect" when run.

The Enlarged Board of Appeal also recognised as established case law that the board in T1173/97 abandoned the so-called 'contribution approach', according to which the contribution to the state of the art given by the invention must comprise a technical effect to avoid exclusion under Article 52(2) of the EPC.

In view of T1173/97, a technical contribution to the prior art is no longer a determinant of whether the computer-implemented invention has a technical character. Determining the technical contribution of an invention with respect to the prior art is more appropriate for the purpose of examining novelty and inventive step than for deciding on possible exclusion under Articles 52(2) and (3).

Although T1173/97 can be regarded as a leading decision with regard to its definition of 'further technical effect' and its abandonment of the contribution approach as a test for exclusion, other opinions expressed by the board in its decision are not supported by the enlarged board – for example, that with regard to the exclusion, it makes no difference whether a computer program is claimed by itself or as a record on a carrier. In T1173/97 the board considered that a claim to a computer program product could not escape the exclusions of Article 52(2) merely by comprising a computer-readable medium.

However, in a later decision, T424/03, the board stated that the subject matter of a claim has technical character if it relates to a computer-readable medium (ie, a technical product involving a carrier). The latter decision is in line with the earlier T258/03 decision (April 21 2004), in which the board decided that any claim involving technical means was not excluded from patentability and, since a claim directed to a method of operating a computer involved a computer, it could not be excluded from patentability under Article 52(2) of the EPC.

Although the enlarged board acknowledged a difference between the positions taken in T1173/97 and T424/03 on this point, the enlarged board also held that a difference did not automatically constitute a divergence that would allow a question to be referred by the president. The enlarged board explained that the difference should be treated as a development of the case law and that, on the issue of the form of a claim, the board's position in T1173/97 was overruled by the later T424/03 decision.

In other words, when the subject matter of a claim relates to a computer-readable medium (ie, a technical product involving a carrier), this subject matter has technical character, even if the program would cause no "further technical effect when run".

The enlarged board summarised the present position of the case law by indicating that a claim in the area of computer programs can avoid exclusion under Articles 52(2)(c) and (3) merely by explicitly mentioning the use of a computer or a computer-readable storage medium.

However, the enlarged board noted that it was also clear from the case law since T1173/97 that if a claim to program X falls under the exclusion of Articles 52(2) and (3), a claim which specifies no more than 'program X on a computer-readable storage medium' or 'a method of operating a computer according to program X' will always be unpatentable for lack of inventive step under Articles 52(1) and 56 of the EPC. The EPC article applied is merely a different one.

The enlarged board seemed to be surprised that the referral did not address any of its questions as to the validity of this method of judging an inventive step. Although the enlarged board was unaware of any divergence in the case law, it noted that in assessing whether an invention is inventive, several decisions cite T641/00 and T258/03. The enlarged board seemed to suggest that the EPO president missed an opportunity in this respect.

Question 2

The second question read as follows:

"A - Can a claim in the area of computer programs avoid exclusion under art. 52(2)(c) and (3) merely by explicitly mentioning the use of a computer or a computer-readable storage medium?

B - If question 2 (A) is answered in the negative, is a further technical effect necessary to avoid exclusion, said effect going beyond those effects inherent in the use of a computer or data storage medium to respectively execute or store a computer program?"

The enlarged board held that the answer it gave in respect of the first question was also applicable to the second question. However, it explained in its answer to the second question that "claims for a computer program and a computer implemented method cannot be seen as having an exact identical scope". In the same line of reasoning, the enlarged board stated that the scope of a method claim would not automatically encompass a computer program for carrying out that method.

As formulations such as 'a program loaded on a computer' and 'a disk storing a computer program' are quite common in the art, the enlarged board considered that a skilled person would understand the word 'program' to refer to the sequence of instructions specifying a method, rather than to the method itself. The enlarged board examined whether divergence could be found in the case law of the boards of appeal, but concluded that this was not the case.

Question 3

The third question read as follows:

"A - Must a claimed feature cause a technical effect on a physical entity in the real world in order to contribute to the technical character of the claim?

B - If question 3(A) is answered in the positive, is it sufficient that the physical entity be an unspecified computer?

C - If question 3(A) is answered in the negative, can features contribute to the technical character of the claim if the only effects to which they contribute are independent of any particular hardware that may be used?"

The enlarged board identified two problems in relation to this question. First, the referred question related to individual features, rather than the claimed subject matter as a whole. The enlarged board held that the case law was consistent in considering all the features claimed; the boards have avoided approaches which involve the weighting of features or a decision as to which features define the 'essence' of the invention.

The enlarged board added that it is a well-established principle that features which, when taken in isolation, would belong to excluded subject matter as meant in Article 52(2) of the EPC may nonetheless contribute to the technical character of a claimed invention, and therefore cannot be discarded in consideration of the inventive step.

Question 4

The fourth question read as follows:

"A - Does the activity of programming a computer necessarily involve technical considerations?

B - If question 4(A) is answered in the positive, do all features resulting from programming contribute to the technical character of a claim?

C - If question 4(A) is answered in the negative, can features resulting from programming contribute to the technical character of a claim only when they contribute to a further technical effect when the program is executed?"

Decisions T1177/97 (July 9 2002) and T172/03 (November 17 2003) were considered. In these decisions the board of appeal stated that programming always involves technical considerations, and that the skilled person involved is a technical expert or a software project team consisting of programmers. In contrast, the board in T833/91 (April 16 1993), T204/93 (October 29 1993) and T769/92 (May 31 1994) considered the programmers' activity to be a mental act and thus excluded under Article 51(2) of the EPC.

However, the Enlarged Board of Appeal saw no contradiction between these positions, citing the example of designing a bicycle, which clearly involves technical considerations. Such a process, at least initially, takes place in the designer's mind (ie, it can be a mental act) and, to the extent that it is a mental act, it will be excluded from patentability.

Although the enlarged board did not recognise this as a divergence in the case law, it did see the potential for confusion: while T769/93 (May 31 1994) indicates that any technical considerations are sufficient to confer technical character on claimed subject matter, T1173/97 teaches that all computer programming involves technical considerations, since it is concerned with defining a method which can be carried out by a machine. However, the enlarged board concluded that such technical considerations occur in almost every computer program (ie, the construction of a procedure by the programmer to be carried out by a machine), and will not be enough to give that computer program technical character. Such technical character is guaranteed only if writing the program requires "further technical considerations" (ie, the programmer must have technical considerations beyond merely finding a computer algorithm to carry out a procedure).

Comment

Decision G03/08 of the Enlarged Board of Appeals confirms the patent-granting practice of the EPO and introduces no substantial changes, although clarifications on some legal aspects with regard to computer-implemented inventions have been provided.

Computer-implemented inventions must have technical character, but the threshold to satisfy this criterion is easy to meet – any claim to a computer-implemented invention comprising a computer-readable storage medium or technical means (eg, a computer) avoids exclusion under Article 52(2) of the EPC, even if the program itself causes no further technical effect.

The enlarged board confirmed that the contribution approach has been abandoned as an instrument to assess technical character – that is, all features of a claim to a computer-implemented invention, including features known from the state of the art, must be considered when assessing technical character.

If the computer program is claimed by itself (ie, not as a record on a carrier or involving technical means), it is not excluded from patentability if the program, when running on or loaded onto a computer, brings about a technical effect which goes beyond the normal physical interactions between the program and the computer on which it runs.

Moreover, technical considerations by a programmer in respect of computer-implemented inventions to be carried out by a machine bring about a technical effect if such technical considerations go beyond merely finding a computer algorithm to carry out some procedure.

Although the enlarged board admitted that a claim in the area of computer-implemented inventions can avoid exclusion under Articles 52(2) and (3) of the EPC merely by explicitly mentioning the use of a computer or a computer-readable storage medium, the technical contribution approach still plays an important role in assessing inventive step under Articles 52(1) and 56. If a claim to computer program X falls under the exclusion of Articles 52(2) and (3) (ie, it brings about no further technical effect), the enlarged board stated that claims specifying no more than 'program X on a computer-readable storage medium' or a 'method of operating a computer according to program X' will always be unpatentable for lack of inventive step.

G03/08 explicitly leaves the question of general interest open in regard to how those elements of a claim that relate to excluded subject matter should be treated when assessing whether an invention is novel and inventive under Articles 54 and 56 of the EPC. Unfortunately, the EPO president did not address these questions in her referral, although Lord Justice Jacob suggested doing so in his decision. The enlarged board emphasised that two decisions, T641/00 and T258/03, were cited extensively by the boards of appeal in a large number of decisions, both being directed to different approaches regarding the assessment of inventive step of computer-implemented inventions.

G03/08 is unlikely to be the enlarged board's final word on computer-implemented inventions.

For further information on this topic please contact Willem Hoorneman at CMS Derks Star Busmann by telephone (+31 30 212 1111), fax (+31 30 212 1333) or email (willem.hoorneman@cms-dsb.com).