T 0973/07 () of 8.7.2010

European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:2010:T097307.20100708
Date of decision: 08 July 2010
Case number: T 0973/07
Application number: 02254285.6
IPC class: G07F 7/08
Language of proceedings: EN
Distribution: D
Download and more information:
Decision text in EN (PDF, 31.682K)
Documentation of the appeal procedure can be found in the Register
Bibliographic information is available in: EN
Versions: Unpublished
Title of application: Transaction terminal apparatus
Applicant name: FUJITSU LIMITED
Opponent name: -
Board: 3.4.03
Headnote: -
Relevant legal provisions:
European Patent Convention 1973 Art 56
Keywords: Inventive step (yes)
Catchwords:

-

Cited decisions:
-
Citing decisions:
-

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. This is an appeal from the refusal of application 02 254 285 for the reason that the subject-matter of claim 1 did not involve an inventive step (Article 56 EPC 1973).

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 the request filed during oral proceedings.

III. The independent claim of this request reads as follows (the difference with respect to the version of the claim refused by the examining division was highlighted by the board):

"1. A portable transaction terminal apparatus for executing transaction processing relating to a customer, comprising:

a main body (1); and

a module (2) mounted removably on the main body (1) and constituted so as to be tamperproof;

wherein the module (2) comprises an acquiring unit (14, 15) for acquiring secret information relating to the customer necessary for the transaction processing, an encrypting unit (18) for encrypting the secret information, and an interface (21) via which the module can connect to the main body so that the encrypting unit (18) can send the encrypted data to the main body; and

the main body contains a control unit (13) for receiving the secret information encrypted by the said encrypting unit and executing the transaction processing using this secret information."

IV. The following prior art document is cited in this decision:

D1: US 6 065 679 A

V. The examining division argued essentially as follows:

- Document Dl did not disclose whether the non-tamperproof main body contained the control unit executing the transaction processing. Although Dl was silent about the specific location of the transaction processing, it was reasonable to assume that this function was performed by the main processor of the core printed circuit board. The transaction terminal of Dl differed therefore from the terminal of claim 1 in that the control unit controlling the transaction processing was located in the tamperproof module and not in the non-tamperproof main body as specified in claim 1. This difference allowed, in the device of the invention, to update the functionality of the control unit executing the transaction processing without having to update the entire tamperproof module.

- The objective problem could therefore be formulated as: How to allow an update of the functionality of the control unit controlling the transaction processing without having to upgrade the whole tamperproof module.

- When faced with the above problem the skilled person would have considered moving any entity which required frequent updates, but did not require a tamperproof environment, away from the tamperproof environment. Consequently, when adapting the terminal of Dl to solve the above objective problem, the skilled person would have considered locating the entities controlling the transaction processing outside of the tamperproof environment of the core unit.

VI. The appellant applicant argued essentially as follows:

- The examining division's conclusion that the device of the present application did not involve an inventive step was based on hindsight. Already the statement of the problem identified by the examining division was in itself a big leap. The problem addressed by the invention should instead be formulated as: How to simplify updating the processor's software while maintaining the security of the device.

- Document Dl was a very long document whose main purpose was to provide a modular transaction terminal. Nevertheless, nowhere was any alternative location for any of its components mentioned. The main processor was the heart of the operation of the device controlling not only the transaction process, but also the complete functionality of the device (display, card reader, keypad, etc) and it was not obvious to remove it (together with the ASIC?) from the tamperproof area, as argued by the examining division.

- The present invention had the remarkable technical effect that when an upgrade was needed it was not necessary to change the whole module having the tamperproof function; it was possible to upgrade only the control unit. This made it easy to extend the function of the control unit, taking advantage of its position in the main body.

Reasons for the Decision

1. The appeal is admissible.

2. Document D1

Document D1 discloses a modular, portable transaction terminal comprising a tamperproof core unit 30 and a non-tamperproof communication unit 100. The core unit 30 comprises inter alia a display 60, a keypad 42, a swipe style magnetic stripe reader 68, a smart card reader assembly 80, a core printed circuit board (PCB) 46 and an interface connector 48, for allowing the core unit to interface with an exterior modular component. The core PCB 46 in turn hosts the main processor, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) 304 and, optionally, a high security second processor which together control the whole operation of the core unit 30 (ie all applications running on the transaction terminal including the encrypting of the data) and, when attached, also the modular communication or printing unit in a master/slave mode (column 1, lines 39 to 43; column 4, lines 20 to 31 and 50 to 59; column 5, lines 56 to 62; column 11, lines 30 to 39 and 50 to 53; column 12, lines 13 to 19; column 14, lines 5 to 43; column 22, lines 18 to 23; column 29, line 67 to column 30, line 15; column 31, line 63 to column 32, line 6; column 52, lines 25 to 37; column 61, lines 42 to 55; Figures 1, 4, 7, 8 and 13 to 15).

Although not specifically disclosed in D1, it is reasonable to assume that also the transaction processing is performed at the core PCB 46, since no other processing unit capable of this function is disclosed.

3. The tamperproof core unit 30 and the non-tamperproof communication unit 100 of D1 correspond, respectively, to the tamperproof module 2 and to the non-tamperproof main body 1 of the present application.

4. It is common ground that the transaction terminal device of claim 1 differs from the device of D1 in that the main body (ie the communication unit of D1) contains a control unit for receiving the secret information encrypted by the encrypting unit and executing the transaction processing using this secret information, since the transaction processing is performed in D1 by the core unit (ie the tamperproof module of the application).

5. The examining division defined the objective problem addressed by this feature as "How to allow an update of the functionality of the control unit controlling the transaction processing without having to upgrade the whole tamperproof module".

The board, however, agrees with the appellant applicant that this formulation of the objective problem is done with hindsight and contains elements of the solution, since in D1 there is no reference to a control unit controlling the transaction processing. Therefore, the objective problem addressed by the invention may be formulated in more general terms as "How to simplify updating the processor's software while maintaining the security of the device", as suggested by the appellant applicant.

6. The solution to this problem is the recognition of the inventors that not all the processing had to be performed on a central processor, as in D1, where the core processor controls not only the transaction, but also the input/output devices, the encryption and all other applications running on the transaction terminal device. The recognition that not all control processes require a secure, tamperproof environment allows separating the tasks of the control unit into ones which require such an environment and others which do not.

According to the invention the transaction processing does not require such a secure environment, since it handles only encrypted data that are secured by the encryption unit in the tamperproof module.

This separation of tasks simplifies in turn the updating of the applications running on the control unit located in the non-tamperproof unit.

7. The board considers that recognizing that not all processes had to be performed by a central, secured control unit is not suggested by the disclosure of D1. According to the so called "could-would" approach, the skilled person could have separated the processes running on the central control unit of D1, but the board finds no incentive in the prior art that would have induced the skilled person to do it. In particular, since D1 discloses the optional use of a second secure processor (the Dallas 5002 chip) that handles all security functions (column 52, lines 25 - 37). However, even in such case the main processor and the ASIC are kept together with the second processor on the core PCB 46 within the tamperproof environment of the core unit 30.

8. Consequently, the board finds that the portable transaction terminal device of claim 1 involves an inventive step within the meaning of Article 56 EPC 1973.

ORDER

For these reasons it is decided that:

1. The decision under appeal is set aside.

2. The case is remitted to the first instance with the order to grant a patent with the following documents:

Claims:

1 to 8 filed at the oral proceedings.

Description:

pages 1, 2, 6 to 10 as originally filed,

pages 3 and 12 filed at the oral proceedings,

pages 4, 5 and 11 filed with letter dated 2 July 2010.

Figures 1 to 7 as originally filed.

Quick Navigation