Monday, 30 May 2011

T 823/07 – Logorrhoea

The present decision deals with an appeal filed by the applicant after the Examining Division (ED) had refused its application.

Claim 1 of the main request before the Board read:
1. Searching apparatus configured to identify commercial suppliers (111, 112, 113) in response to a specified keyword, the apparatus comprising:
  • input means arranged to receive an input keyword;
  • searching means (401) configured to search a database (402) indexed with respect to specified keywords to identify displayable text items related to said input keyword, each item regarding one of said commercial suppliers (111, 112, 113);
  • image storage means (405) arranged to store graphical images, each graphical image identifying or being associated with a commercial supplier (111, 112, 113);
  • linking means configured to link each stored graphical image with a respective one of the displayable text items to form a respective stored results entry, the stored results entry in use being arranged to present the text item and graphical image for simultaneous display; and
  • output means (403) configured to supply data defining a displayable list of said stored results entries assembled by said linking means, thereby enabling a user to identify a desired commercial supplier from the list of stored results entries when the list is displayed, based upon the graphical image of each stored results entry.
In what follows the Board discusses the presence of an inventive step with respect to document D1.

[4] It is uncontroversial that the invention claimed is distinguished from the search engine of document D1 in that

(A) the images stored by the image storage means identify or are associated with commercial suppliers;

(B) the linking means links such images, i.e. images which identify or which are associated with commercial suppliers, with the corresponding text item to form listings (stored results entries) to display each text item and corresponding graphical image simultaneously;

(C) so that when the listings are displayed the user is enabled to readily identify a desired commercial supplier from the graphical image.

[5] These features, however, derive in a straightforward manner from an underlying concept which lacks technical character and does thus not provide a technical contribution to the prior art.

In fact, displaying logos of commercial suppliers in combination with information concerning products, services etc provided by such suppliers is a presentation of information which exclusively addresses the mental and cognitive activities of users. There is no direct causal relationship to the technical solution of a technical problem. Even if it is true that presenting information according to this concept enables the user to identify the desired supplier and the associated listings more easily and quickly than with the prior art system, this result would be entirely subjective depending on the mental furniture of the user.

[6] As follows from decision T 1143/06 [5.4], the manner how cognitive content is presented to the user may only contribute to the technical solution of a technical problem if the manner of presentation (exceptionally) shows a credible technical effect. Non-technical features and aspects of an invention should not be given any weight in assessing inventive step. If they belong to the general framework in which the invention evolves, they may be used in formulating the relevant technical problem (see decision T 641/00).

[7] There has been no proof of any such technical effect of the present concept of presenting information, beyond the alleged advantages which concern the mental and cognitive activities of the user. The only credible technical effects result from the computer implementation of this concept.

This circumstance distinguishes the case from the decisions cited by the appellant in support of its arguments […]. In all these decisions, the board concluded on the existence of a technical contribution over the prior art. The technical contribution resulted from overcoming physical limitations of the size and resolution of computer screens (T 643/00, T 928/03) and from the functions of a “new input device” conferring technical character (T 333/95). Neither one of the decisions derives the technical character of a feature or activity from the mental effort required or any similar effect; these are only secondary considerations. Moreover, in the context of inventive step, caution is required in applying old decisions concerning non-technical subject-matter like decision T 333/95 since the relevant case law has experienced some important development as explained in decision T 154/04 […].

In the present case, the only relevant technical aspects of the invention are standard programming features for implementing the idea of displaying search results in connection with supplier logos on a computer system. The programming and implementation of this idea is obvious in the light of the prior art.

[8] In fact, document D1 already indicates that “[if] some other graphic is to be displayed, then the name of that graphics image format file is entered into this field” […].

Striving to solve the technical problem of providing the search engine of document D1 with the additional functionality of combining individual logos of commercial suppliers with the associated search results, a skilled person would immediately recognise from document D1, figure 17 that merely the name in field 1750 had to be changed from pointing to a more or less fixed graphic (bullet) to a logo associated with the commercial supplier identified in name field 1705.

There are no technical difficulties to overcome in providing an image database of commercial supplier logos and establishing an appropriate cross reference to the said name fields 1705 and 1750 of the data stored in the yellow pages database 245 of the prior art system.

[9] For these reasons, the invention according to claim 1 of the main request does not meet the requirement of inventive step.

To read the whole decision, click here. The file wrapper can be found here.