In three decisions between 1999 and 2001, the German Supreme Court (BGH) redefined the meaning of technicality in the context of computer program inventions. Felix Rummler has summarised these decisions in an article posted on our website here
In the first two decisions (Logikverifikation GRUR 2000, 498 and Sprachanalyseeinrichtung GRUR 2000, 1007 the Supreme Court broadly strengthened the patentability of computer implemented inventions. The first decision brought a welcome departure from the long-standing notion that such inventions were only patentable if they involved the operation of controllable natural forces to achieve a causally predictable result without human intervention (a definition that has raised its ugly head again in the European Parliament). The second decision built upon the first by confirming that claims to computers do indeed have technical character. The focus was shifted to whether the contribution over the art is a technical contribution that involves an inventive step. This is the approach now favoured by the EPO.
The third decision (Suche fehlerhafter Zeichenketten/Tippfehler, GRUR 2002, 871) took one step forwards and two steps back. It confirmed the allowability of Beauregard claims to a computer program stored on a medium, but introduced some vague tests regarding "conventional" and "non-conventional" technical fields and the “peculiarity” outside conventional technical fields. In this edition of Patent Issues, we explore how the German Patent Court (Bundespatentgericht) is now struggling with these vague definitions.