We're taking you on a journey through the history of software patents in Europe, through the lens of pop culture. By zooming out and looking at the big picture of what the EPO has taught us over the years, we'll be building up a clear vision on what you need to do to improve the success of your software patents at the EPO. At each step along the way through history, we're stopping to see a case where the EPO redefined the law in a way that is still applied today.
From Parts I to IX, we have started to benefit from looking at the big picture of the cases that define the EPO's approach to software patentability. We are now going to revisit Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), a topic explored in "Part VII: I'm Football Crazy, but Football's Mad" and "Part IX: Breaking Bad".
Part X: Let's get physical
New technology with exciting human – computer interaction was the order of 2013. Google Glass had been released showing what the future of human interactions with computers could look like. Even if we now know such a future doesn't look like Google Glass, it certainly showed us something new and exciting. You couldn't move that year without hearing the lush soft-electro-pop of Daft Punk with its vocoder heavy cyborg sounding vocals from their aptly named album, Random Access Memories. Even the music at the time sounded like a collaboration between human and computer.
Back over in Munich at the EPO, we were learning more about the patenting of human and computer interactions in the Microsoft case. Unfortunately for Microsoft they didn't get lucky with the result of this case. The invention related to the position of a notification on a screen based on a user's focal attention and the urgency of the message. But the EPO said:
"choosing the location of the display object in function of the urgency of the message is non-technical and hence does not contribute to the presence of an inventive step."
This case therefore taught us that presenting information in a way that is based on psychological aspects of a user is not technical at the EPO. However, in contrast, presenting information based on physiological aspects of a user – e.g. the position of a GUI element on a smartphone based on the user's grip on the phone – can be patentable.
Humans and computers working together in harmony was therefore the theme of 2013 and we certainly learnt about what can and can't be patentable at the EPO – physiological considerations – yes, psychological considerations – no. Now you've learnt this you can ensure that unlike Microsoft in this case, you're doin' it right when it comes to patenting GUIs in Europe.
If you're interested, you can read the decision here: Determining relative skills/Microsoft T0042/10
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