Friday, 5 November 2010

T 979/06 – Back To Business As Usual

The present decision deals with the refusal of a patent application by the Examining Division (ED), based on the grounds of lack of clarity and lack of inventive step.

Claims 1 and 11 of the main request read as follows: 

1. A method of reducing luminance flicker in a video image sequence comprising a plurality of video images produced by a camera, comprising: digitally filtering on a per pixel basis, using a finite impulse response filter of maximum length N+1, temporally successive video images of the video image sequence; said digitally filtering comprising: adjusting a filter length, measured in terms of a number of pixel values, corresponding to a current image pixel value of the finite impulse response filter to increase the filter length if an absolute difference between the current image pixel value and a correspondingly spatially disposed previous pixel value of respective current and previous temporally spaced successive images of the video image sequence is less than a threshold value up to the maximum filter length of N+1, and otherwise setting the filter length to one, measured in terms of a number of pixel values.

11. A computer program comprising computer program code means adapted to perform all the steps of claims 1 to 4 when the program is run on a computer.

[4.1] The opinion of the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) in case G 3/08 [headnotes 6 and 7] found inter alia that there was no divergence between decisions T 424/03 and T 1173/97 which would make the referral to the EBA.

Furthermore the EBA in its analysis held that the definition of the “further technical effect” given in decision T 1173/97 stood as the established case law (see G 3/08 [10.3-4, in particular point 10.4, in fine]). In its opinion, the EBA came to the conclusion that the referral by the President of the EPO was inadmissible under A 112(1)(b).

[4.2] Hence the board follows the approach concerning computer programs which has become established case law. In particular the board has examined whether the subject-matter of claims 11 and 12 has a technical character because the claimed program, when run on a computer, causes a “further technical effect” (see T 1173/97 [9.4]).

The computer programs of claims 11 and 12 have the effect, when run on a computer, that luminance flicker in a video image sequence comprising a plurality of video images produced by a camera (and input into the computer) is reduced. The board finds that this effect is a “further technical effect”.

Hence the computer programs of claims 11 and 12 are not objectionable as being excluded from patentability under A 52(2)(c) and (3).

Should you wish to download the whole decision, just click here.


Anonymous said...

Interesting reduction in flicker is seen as technical but the same board 3.5.04 and two of the same members in T 509/07 stated that the aim of reducing flicker was non-technical. I haven't read this decision to see what the differences are, but at first review this does seem odd.

Anonymous said...

In this case it is a luminance flicker in the input from a camera. In T 509/07 the invention was to change images slowly into each other. More specific the problem of a screen full with continuously updated numbers (as on a traders desk), which are therefore flickering and distracting.

Myshkin said...

But is there a good reason to judge differently on the technicality of a reduction in flicker in the two cases?

In particular, is a reduction in luminance flicker not simply an aesthetic effect? Does it achieve anything else than a subjectively more pleasant image sequence? (I might be mistaken, but I think: no.)

Or is a reduction in luminance flicker technical for the reason that "luminance flicker" is to be regarded as a "technical" phenomenon?

Is "luminance flicker" indeed a technical phenomenon, and why? Maybe because it is a recognised concept in the art, on which (I suppose) many papers have been written? (Now bring in economics.)

Would the "flicker" in T 509/07 have been considered a technical phenomenon if it had been a recognised subject of study?

I can go on and on and on and also question the technicality of encryption, lossless compression, lossy compression, searching, etc., or the non-technicality of other concepts which at some level are completely comparable. These are really hard questions if the aim is to find objective criteria for determining technicality (rather than rubber stamping as technical certain more or less randomly selected concepts).