G 0003/08 (Programs for computers) of 12.5.2010

European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:2010:G000308.20100512
Date of decision: 12 May 2010
Case number: G 0003/08
Application number: -
IPC class: -
Language of proceedings: EN
Distribution: A
Download and more information:
Decision text in EN (PDF, 247.138K)
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Bibliographic information is available in: EN
Versions: Unpublished | Published
Title of application: -
Applicant name: -
Opponent name: -
Board: EBA
Headnote: 1. In exercising his or her right of referral a President of the EPO is entitled to make full use of the discretion granted by Article 112 (1) (b) EPC, even if his or her appreciation of the need for a referral has changed after a relatively short time.
2. Different decisions by a single Technical Board of Appeal in differing compositions may be the basis of an admissible referral by the President of the EPO of a point of law to the Enlarged Board of Appeal pursuant to Article 112 (1) (b) EPC.
3. As the wording of Article 112 (1) (b) EPC is not clear with respect to the meaning of “different/abweichende/ divergent” decisions the provision has to be interpreted in the light of its object and purpose according to Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT). The purpose of the referral right under 112 (1) (b) EPC is to establish uniformity of law within the European patent system. Having regard to this purpose of the presidential right to refer legal questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal the notion “different decisions” has to be understood restrictively in the sense of “conflicting decisions”.
4. The notion of legal development is an additional factor which must be carefully considered when interpreting the notion of “different decision” in Article 112 (1) (b) EPC. Development of the law is an essential aspect of its application, whatever method of interpretation is applied, and is therefore inherent in all judicial activity. Consequently, legal development as such cannot on its own form the basis for a referral, only because case law in new legal and/or technical fields does not always develop in linear fashion, and earlier approaches may be abandoned or modified.
5. Legal rulings are characterised not by their verdicts, but by their grounds. The Enlarged Board of Appeal may thus take obiter dicta into account in examining whether two decisions satisfy the requirements of Article 112 (1) (b) EPC.
6. T 424/03, Microsoft does deviate from a view expressed in T 1173/97, IBM, concerning whether a claim to a program on a computer-readable medium necessarily avoids exclusion from patentability under Article 52(2) EPC. However this is a legitimate development of the case law and there is no divergence which would make the referral of this point to the Enlarged Board of Appeal by the President admissible.
7. The Enlarged Board of Appeal cannot identify any other inconsistencies between the grounds of the decisions which the referral by the President alleges are divergent. The referral is therefore inadmissible under Article 112(1)(b) EPC.
Relevant legal provisions:
European Patent Convention Art 4(2)
European Patent Convention Art 4(3)
European Patent Convention Art 10
European Patent Convention Art 15
European Patent Convention Art 21
European Patent Convention Art 22
European Patent Convention Art 23
European Patent Convention Art 24(4)
European Patent Convention Art 31
European Patent Convention Art 52
European Patent Convention Art 56
European Patent Convention Art 112(1)
European Patent Convention Art 112a
European Patent Convention Art 123(3)
European Patent Convention Art 177(1)
European Patent Convention 1973 Art 52(1)
Rules of procedure of the Enlarged Board of Appeal Art 4(1)
Rules of procedure of the Enlarged Board of Appeal Art 10
Rules of procedure of the Boards of Appeal Art 20(1)
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) Art 31
EWCA [2006] Civ 1371 - Aerotel/Macrossan
Paris Tribunal de grande instance on case 2001/11641 dated 11 November 2007, PIBD No. 867 III p. 59 - Infomil
EWCA [2008] Civ 1066 - Symbian Limited
Tenth Civil Senate of Germany's Federal Court of Justice of 20 January 2009 in GRUR 2009, 479 - Steuerungseinrichtung für Untersuchungsmodalitäten
US Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit of 10 October 2008, 2007 - 1130 in re Bilski
Keywords: -
Catchwords:

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Cited decisions:
G 0005/83
G 0002/88
G 0003/93
G 0006/95
G 0003/98
G 0004/98
G 0002/02
G 0003/02
G 0001/07
G 0002/08
T 0208/84
T 0163/85
T 0026/86
T 0038/86
T 0833/91
T 0769/92
T 0204/93
T 0190/94
T 0377/95
T 0931/95
T 1173/97
T 1177/97
T 0641/00
T 0125/01
T 0914/02
T 1193/02
T 0172/03
T 0190/03
T 0258/03
T 0424/03
T 0154/04
T 0471/05
T 0116/06
Citing decisions:
G 0002/07
G 0001/08
J 0025/10
R 0001/10
R 0019/12
T 0784/06
T 0979/06
T 1326/06
T 1402/06
T 1658/06
T 1784/06
T 0384/07
T 1244/07
T 1806/07
T 1875/07
T 2048/07
T 2050/07
T 0102/08
T 0506/08
T 1421/08
T 1741/08
T 1962/08
T 0365/09
T 0571/09
T 1265/09
T 1358/09
T 1539/09
T 1782/09
T 2063/09
T 0313/10
T 0759/10
T 1211/10
T 1769/10
T 2270/10
T 0631/11
T 0779/11
T 1370/11
T 1379/11
T 1498/11
T 1965/11
T 1981/11
T 0414/12
T 1461/12
T 2101/12
T 0646/13
T 1073/13
T 1434/13
T 2330/13
T 0171/14
T 0543/14
T 0598/14
T 1384/15

119 references found.

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EPC Articles

EPO Guidelines - F The European Patent Application

EPO Guidelines - G Patentability

Offical Journal of the EPO

Case Law Book: I Patentability

Case Law Book: III Amendments

Case Law Book: IV Divisional Applications

Case Law Book: VI Rules Common to all Proceedings

Case Law Book: VII Proceedings before the EPO

Case Law of the Enlarged Board

General Case Law