Tuesday, 23 August 2011

T 1686/07 – On Things You Would Not Do

The applicant filed an appeal against the decision of the Examining Division (ED) to refuse its application. The reason given for the refusal was that the requests on file did not comply with A 56 and A 123, respectively.

Claim 1 of the main request before the Board read (in English translation):
System for stock exchange trading having a central processor (2,11) for handling a commercial transaction, the central processor being connectable, via an interface (3,12), with at least one intermediary calculator (4,13) for transmitting commercial orders to the central processor (2,11), and, via another interface (5,14), with a price calculator (6,15,16,36) for fixing a commercial price, wherein
the central processor (2,11) transmits a price request (B) to the price calculator (6,15,16,36) after having received a stock price request from the intermediary calculator (4,13),
the price calculator (6,15,16,36) fixes a commercial price and sends a corresponding price response (C) back to the central processor (2,11),
the central processor (2,11) generates an stock price response (D) having an unambiguous transaction identifier and sends it to the intermediary calculator (4,13),
the intermediary calculator (4,13) directs a commercial request (H) and the transaction identifier to the central processor (2,11) and
the central processor (2,11) transmits a commercial confirmation (I,K) to the price calculator (6,15,16,36) and/or the intermediary calculator (4,13) if the transaction identifiers coincide,
characterised in that
the price calculator (6,15,16,36) transmits the current price (E) to the central processor (2,11) whenever the price is modified or in regular time intervals for a presettable time period,
the central processor (2,11) generates a stock price update (F) with an unambiguous transaction identifier at each price modification and sends it to the intermediary calculator (4,13), wherein a stock price update channel is provided for the stock price update (F) in the interface (3,12) between the central processor (2,11) and the intermediary calculator (4,13), there being no other communication on this channel,
the intermediary calculator (4,13) directs the commercial request (H) together with the last transmitted transaction identifier to the central processor, and
the central processor compares the transaction identifier transmitted with the commercial request (H) with the current transaction identifier.
The Board found this claim to be novel over the closest prior art, document D4. It then pursued with the inventive step analysis.

*** Translation of the German original ***

Objective technical problem

[6] From a technical point of view, the distinguishing features, when taken together, solve the objective problem of continuously updating the data that are transmitted from a processor to a calculator (e.g. in real-time […]) and of identifying in the processor what the update level of the calculator is whenever the calculator generates feedback based on the data for the processor.

This problem is not based on a cognitive (e.g. commercial) content (Bedeutungsinhalt) of the data. Therefore, the Board considers the problem to be technical.

A 56 – Inventive step

[7.1] A 56 requires a non-obvious technical contribution, see T 641/00 (Comvik) [headnote 1]. Therefore, obvious contributions and non-technical (e.g. commercial) contributions cannot fulfil the requirements of this article.

[7.2] The problem of possible overlaps between stock price updates and commercial requirements necessarily occurs in the operation of a commercial system and is also mentioned in the prior art, see, for example, D4 […]

Therefore, the underlying technical problem of ensuring great up-to-dateness (Aktualität) of data that are exchanged between two communication partners and of allowing to check this up-to-dateness is obvious.

Therefore, an inventive contribution could only reside in the features if the solution, which are assessed in what follows.

[7.3] According to D4, a great up-to-dateness of the stock exchange data in the commercial system is obtained by [ensuring] that the price calculator (rate server 8) receives a continuous flux of price data (“price feeds, such as Reuters price feeds”).

It is technically obvious to use the received updated (stock price) data in other places of the computer system where the updated data can be useful from a commercial point of view (in particular in the central processor and in the intermediary calculator): the price calculator, which receives the updated data from outside (price feeds) only needs to transmit them within the computer system – if this is desired at all […].

Therefore, an inventive contribution could only reside in the way in which the data are transferred.

[7.4] If a great data transmission speed is required [for the data transmission] between the central processor and the customer’s intermediary calculator, then it would be obvious to modify the technical infrastructure by providing a channel for the desired stock price transmission and, in extreme cases, to use this channel exclusively for transmitting those data, i.e. not to use it for transmitting other data as well. This corresponds to the known concept of a dedicated line which is allocated exclusively to one user so that this user can transmit his data without delay, without having to wait for the establishment or the clearance of a connection. Providing a particular dedicated line should be obvious at least for the known “Reuters price feeds” (D4) and would lend itself more generally for any data transmission where, for whatever reasons, speed is the highest priority.

The economic drawback of a line that is used exclusively, i.e. the higher costs generated by this implementation, is both predictable and known, and the skilled person has to weigh it against its technical usefulness. However, the economic decision to accept the greater costs does not correspond to a technical contribution and, therefore, cannot support the assumption of inventive step.

As already mentioned (also by the appellant) a fast transmission of stock price data can even be technically detrimental […]. It is true that the mere acceptance of a drawback is not something that the skilled person would envisage, but it nevertheless does not correspond to a technical contribution and, therefore, cannot support the assumption of an inventive step. (see T 157/97 [4.2.4]) […]

[7.5.3] Therefore, the technical contribution made by the computerized commercial system of claim 1 with respect to D4 is obvious. As a consequence, the claim does not involve an inventive step.

Should you wish to download the whole decision (in German), please click here.

The file wrapper can be found here.