T 0050/07 () of 1.12.2009

European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:2009:T005007.20091201
Date of decision: 01 December 2009
Case number: T 0050/07
Application number: 00986288.9
IPC class: G09G 5/14
Language of proceedings: EN
Download and more information:
Decision text in EN (PDF, 28.414K)
Documentation of the appeal procedure can be found in the Register
Bibliographic information is available in: EN
Versions: Unpublished
Title of application: Method of transition between window states
Applicant name: Apple Inc.
Opponent name: -
Board: 3.4.03

Headnote

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Relevant legal provisions:
European Patent Convention Art 52(2)
European Patent Convention Art 52(3)
European Patent Convention 1973 Art 56
Keywords: Inventive step (no)
Difference over state of the art merely producing aesthetic effect
Catchwords:

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Cited decisions:
T 0641/00
T 0115/85
Citing decisions:
-

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. This is an appeal against the refusal of application 00 986 288 for lack of inventive step, Article 56 EPC 1973, over

D2: US 6 002 402 A.

II. At oral proceedings before the board, the appellant applicant requested that the decision under appeal be set aside and that a patent be granted - on the basis of claims 1 to 14 filed as a main request with letter dated 2 November 2009, or - on the basis of claims 1 to 17 filed as first auxiliary request during the oral proceedings, or - on the basis of claims 1 to 14 filed under the title of fifth auxiliary request with letter dated 2 November 2009, promoted to second auxiliary request.

III. Claim 1 of the main request reads as follows:

"A method of transitioning a window (200; 300; 400; 500) on a computer screen between an open state and a minimized state, comprising the steps of:

obtaining location information associated with a first window position (210) in the open state;

obtaining location information associated with a second window position (220) in the minimized state;

defining a set of curves (230, 240; 330, 340; 415,420), wherein said curves (230, 240; 330, 340; 415, 420) connect two selected points that relate to a dimension of said window in its first position (210) to corresponding points of said window in its second position (220); and

displaying said window (200; 300; 400; 500) at successive positions within said curves (230, 240; 330, 340; 415, 420) from said first position to said second position while scaling said dimension of the window to fit within said curves (230, 240; 330, 340; 415, 420) in a manner so as to give the appearance of sliding".

IV. Claim 1 of the first auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the main request with the addition of the expression "continuously" as follows:

"...while continuously scaling said dimension of the window to fit within said curves...".

V. Claim 1 of the second auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the first auxiliary request with the following addition at the end of the claim:

"the scaling comprising:

determining the scaled length of each scan line as defined by a corresponding distance between said curves (230, 240; 330, 340) as the scan lines are shifted (625; 710) along a path in the direction from said first window position (210) to said second window position (220), and to scale (625; 710) the scan lines to fit between the corresponding distance between the curves

(230, 240; 330, 340) in transitioning from said first window position (210) to said second window position (220)".

VI. The appellant in substance provided the following arguments:

Although the overall aim of the invention clearly had aesthetical aspects, the teaching of the invention as defined in the claims was directed to the technical implementation of this overall aim. The invention improved the operability of the computer for the user by visualizing the internal operation in its temporal sequence. Displaying the internal operation of a technical system had been accepted by the case law for long as a teaching with technical character. The additional fact that aesthetic elements were also addressed could not detract from the technical character of the implementation and the contribution of the implementation elements to the inventive step. Therefore, the mere aim to provide an aesthetic appearance could not render obvious the specific implementation of the transition control. In document D2 the original window was shrunk at its original position and then moved to the task bar. There was no visualization of the transition process in D2. Accordingly, the invention as defined in the claims was novel and based on inventive step by virtue of the detailed implementation.

Reasons for the Decision

1. The appeal is admissible.

2. Main request

2.1 Novelty

2.1.1 Document D2 discloses a method of manipulating a window on a computer display. According to D2, "Clicking on the window minimizing button 641 causes window 614 to shrink in size until its internal contents are no longer visible and it further causes the shrunken window to move to a button position inside of task bar 630. This new position can be task button 632 for example. The shrinking of window 614 and its movement into the form of task button 632 is represented by dashed lines 634" (column 15, line 62 to column 16, line 5; figure 6).

2.1.2 The appellant argued that document D2 disclosed a conventional minimizing operation of a window in which the window collapsed at the first position and then appeared in the task bar, in other words "jumped" to the task bar. Accordingly, there was no moving in D2 of the window from the first position to second position in a manner so as to give the appearance of sliding, as per claim 1. The dashed lines 634 in figure 6 merely indicated a logical link between the window and the task button but did not indicate any path along which the window was moved.

In the board's opinion, however, document D2 leaves no doubt that the shrunken window is moved to the task bar and thus displayed in successive steps along a path, This path indeed needs not correspond to the rather schematic dashed lines of figure 6 extending from the initial window position to the task bar.

2.1.3 Hence, document D2 discloses, using the terminology of claim 1, a method of "transitioning" a window on a computer screen between an open state and a minimized state, comprising the steps of:

obtaining location information associated with a first window position in the open state,

obtaining location information associated with a second window position in the minimized state,

scaling said dimension of the window and

displaying the window at successive positions from said first position to said second position in a manner so as to give the appearance of sliding.

2.1.4 The subject-matter of claim 1 differs from D2 in that there is no mention in D2 of defining a set of curves, wherein the curves connect two selected points that relate to a dimension of said window in its first position to corresponding points of said window in its second position, and scaling the dimension of the window to fit within the curves. Furthermore, in D2 there is no displaying of the window at successive positions "while" scaling the dimension of the window.

Accordingly, the subject-matter of claim 1 of the main request is new over document D2 (Article 54(1), (2) EPC 1973).

2.2 Inventive step

2.2.1 The effect of the above differences is the provision of an aesthetically pleasing visual effect for the transition between the window states (cf application, page 2, lines 21 to 28).

As far as the appellant's argument is concerned that the claimed transition directs the user's attention to the ultimate destination of the minimized or maximized window, it is noted that this effect is already provided in document D2, where the movement of the shrunken window to the task bar is considered to achieve this very effect. The appellant's contention that the invention would more clearly point to the final destination than would be the case in D2, could not convince as many factors which are not defined in the claim play a role in the visibility of the transition, such as the time duration of the transition, the vertical and horizontal extension of the window while moving etc.

Moreover, the alleged ergonomic improvement achieved by directing the user's attention to the final destination of the minimized window, so that the user will remember its location and, thus, find it again more rapidly, is not convincing either. As far as the precise location of the minimized window on the task bar is remembered at all by the user, this will only be ergonomically valuable to the user for a short amount of time, after which it will normally be forgotten. Furthermore, as minimized windows are at any rate typically arranged according to some predefined scheme (typically added at the end of the task bar or returned to the corresponding application button on the task bar) the user would already know where to find the minimized window. Therefore, the board is not convinced that there would be any added ergonomic value in drawing the user's attention to the final destination of the minimized window in the claimed manner.

The appellant furthermore argued that the invention improved the operability of the computer for the user by visualizing the internal operation in its temporal sequence. Displaying the internal operation of a technical system had been accepted by the case law for long as a teaching with technical character, cf. e. g. T 115/85. The additional fact that aesthetic elements were also addressed could not detract from the technical character of the implementation and the contribution of the implementation elements to the inventive step.

In the decision cited above, giving visual indications about conditions prevailing in a system was considered basically a technical problem. The present application is, however, concerned with the aesthetics associated with the operations of manipulating windows (eg opening, closing, sizing, repositioning) (cf page 2, lines 12 to 18). As the claimed method includes features relating to the technical implementation for obtaining the desired aesthetic effect, it is not barred from protection by Articles 52(2) and (3) EPC. Nonetheless, the features relating to the aesthetic effect as such lack technical character and, therefore, cannot contribute to inventive step (cf T 641/00 OJ 2003, 352).

Accordingly, the above differences between the subject-matter of claim 1 and document D2 are considered to merely produce an aesthetic effect.

2.2.2 As the aesthetic effect per se has no technical character, it cannot contribute to inventive step. Accordingly, in formulating the objective problem-to-be-solved relative to document D2, it is appropriate to take the aesthetic effect as such as an aim to be achieved (see also T 641/00 referred to above, Reasons 7).

Consequently, for the purposes of assessing the presence of an inventive step in the subject-matter of claim 1, the aesthetic effect obtained by the claimed subject-matter, be it the "funnel-like" effect in which the window is laterally deformed and then slid between curves to its final destination as depicted in figures 2A to 2F or any of the other embodiments of the application, is to be taken as an input requirement from the artist responsible for designing the aesthetic effect.

Accordingly, the objective problem to be solved is how to achieve the specific aesthetic effect, ie its technical implementation.

The aesthetic effect as detailed in the artist's specification, comprises displaying the window at successive positions within curves connecting two selected points that relate to a dimension of the window in its first position to corresponding points of said window in its second position while scaling the dimension of the window to fit within these curves in a manner so as to give the appearance of sliding.

The steps in claim 1 of defining the set of curves and displaying the window as successive positions within the curves while scaling it to fit within the curves imply some not further specified data processing as well as driving the computer screen.

Hence, the technical implementation as claimed is merely limited to such implied data processing and driving, which is considered to be a straightforward, if not the only solution for obtaining this specified aesthetic effect on the computer screen, and would be obvious to a skilled person in the field of computer graphics and in particular of graphical user interfaces.

Accordingly, the subject-matter of claim 1 of the main request lacks an inventive step (Article 56 EPC 1973).

3. First auxiliary request

Claim 1 of the first auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the main request with the addition that the window is displayed at successive positions within said curves from said first position to said second position while continuously scaling said dimension of the window to fit within said curves in a manner so as to give the appearance of sliding.

Continuously scaling the dimension of the window is also part of the desired aesthetic effect and thus included in the artist's specification of the aesthetic effect to be technically implemented.

The technical implementation as claimed is straightforward in order to obtain the required sliding appearance and, thus, would be obvious to the person skilled in the art.

Accordingly, the subject-matter of claim 1 of the first auxiliary request also lacks an inventive step (Article 56 EPC 1973).

4. Second auxiliary request

Claim 1 of the second auxiliary, having regard to claim 1 of the first auxiliary request, further defines that the scaling comprises determining the scaled length of each scan line as defined by a corresponding distance between said curves as the scan lines are shifted along a path in the direction from said first window position to said second window position, and to scale the scan lines to fit between the corresponding distance between the curves in transitioning from said first window position to said second window position.

In a conventional display (eg a CRT) built up by (horizontal) scan lines, it would be obvious to the person skilled in the art, in order to obtain the specified aesthetic effect, to scale each scan line of the window to fit between the curves as the scan lines are shifted along the path in the direction from the first to the second window position, thereby arriving at the claimed subject-matter.

Accordingly, the subject-matter of claim 1 of the second auxiliary request also lacks an inventive step (Article 56 EPC 1973).

ORDER

For these reasons it is decided that:

The appeal is dismissed.

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