In the case G1/19, oral proceedings before the Enlarged Board of Appeal were held on 15 July 2020. Notably, for the first time oral proceedings before the Enlarged Board of Appeal were live-streamed to the public. According to the Chairman of the Enlarged Board, around 1600 people registered to the stream. The high attendance of online viewers reflects the general interest in the case.
This is not surprising, since G1/19 deals with fundamental questions related to the patentability of computer-implemented simulations, which gain increasing importance in a variety of technical fields, where simulations can be used to supplement or even replace physical experiments.
The case G1/19 was triggered by decision T0489/14 issued on 22 February 2019. In T0489/14, the concerned Board of Appeal questioned the approach and reasoning developed in decision T1227/05, in which all features relevant to a circuit simulation, including the steps expressed by formulae, were found to contribute to the technical character of a simulation method.
The Board of Appeal therefore referred the following questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal in the case G1/19:
- In the assessment of inventive step, can the computer-implemented simulation of a technical system or process solve a technical problem by producing a technical effect which goes beyond the simulation’s implementation on a computer, if the computer-implemented simulation is claimed as such?
- If the answer to the first question is yes, what are the relevant criteria for assessing whether a computer-implemented simulation claimed as such solves a technical problem? In particular, is it a sufficient condition that the simulation is based, at least in part, on technical principles underlying the simulated system or process?
- What are the answers to the first and second questions if the computer-implemented simulation is claimed as part of a design process, in particular for verifying a design?
In the oral proceedings, the Enlarged Board of Appeal indicated as a preliminary opinion that the questions were admissible except for the first part of the second question. Further, the Enlarged Board indicated as a preliminary opinion that the first question should be answered with “yes” and the second part of the second question should be answered with “no”.
However, the preliminary opinions of the Enlarged Board of Appeal can still change and it is not yet clear how the Enlarged Board will eventually decide.
A decision can likely be expected in the upcoming months. The decision and reasoning of the Enlarged Board might strongly impact the possibilities of patenting computer-implemented simulations and are therefore highly anticipated.