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EPO Enlarged Board: computer simulations can be patented

Case G1/19, before the Enlarged Board of Appeal, attracted a flurry of interest from patent owners and industry associations

The EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal has handed down an eagerly awaited decision that the established case law on computer-implemented inventions also applies to simulations.

In a decision published today, March 10, the EBoA found that just like any other computer-implemented invention, numerical simulations may be patentable.

According to the EBoA, patentability requires an inventive step based on features contributing to the technical character of the claimed simulation method.

In advance of today’s decision, in-house counsel told Managing IP that a decision to make simulation non-patentable could have had broader repercussions on patenting computer-implemented inventions.

It would have also damaged European industries that either create simulations or increasingly rely on software to test physical processes and methods before they are implemented, counsel added.

The case concerns a patent application (03793825.5) by an individual called James Douglas Connor.

The invention concerns simulation of pedestrian movement that can then be used to help design or modify venues such as a railway station or a stadium. The patent claims to provide a realistic simulation, in real-world situations, which cannot be modelled by conventional simulators.

In February 2019, the EPO rejected the application. After the refusal, the applicant appealed to the EPO’s Technical Board of Appeal, which referred questions to the EBoA.

More than 20 amicus curiae were filed with the EBoA from companies including IBM, Siemens and Philips, as well as from industry associations including AIPPI, the IP Federation and the European Patent Institute.

Managing IP will provide a full analysis of the decision in due course.

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