EPO decision to extend patentability of computer programs

G1/19: Decision of the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office in favour of broader patent protection of computer-implemented inventions – in particular computer simulations.

Decision G1/19 finally became available on 10 March 2021. The Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO has ruled that the EPO’s commonly used approach to assessing the inventive step of computer-implemented inventions should also be applied to inventions relating to computer-implemented simulation methods.

It is noteworthy that it has now been confirmed that a claim to a computer-implemented simulation of a technical system or process can meet the European criteria for inventive step even if the claim does not describe features that directly interact with a physical entity.

This means that it is not essential that measurements or control signals of a physical parameter or process be claimed in a computer simulation invention; the simulation itself may have the technical character required for European patent protection.

In particular, the Enlarged Board of Appeal recognised that a claimed computer-implemented simulation can solve a technical problem by producing a technical effect, even if the claim lacks a direct link to physical reality.

The patent application that led to this decision of the Enlarged Board of Appeal is European patent application 03793825.5, which relates to modelling and simulating the movement of a pedestrian through an environment, such as a building.