T 1876/07 (Content licensing/YAMAHA) of 18.1.2012

European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:2012:T187607.20120118
Date of decision: 18 January 2012
Case number: T 1876/07
Application number: 04000644.7
IPC class: G06F 1/00
Language of proceedings: EN
Distribution: D
Download and more information:
Decision text in EN (PDF, 33.148K)
Documentation of the appeal procedure can be found in the Register
Bibliographic information is available in: EN
Versions: Unpublished
Title of application: Contents processing apparatus and contents processing program
Applicant name: YAMAHA CORPORATION
Opponent name: -
Board: 3.5.06
Headnote: -
Relevant legal provisions:
European Patent Convention Art 84
Keywords: Clarity - no
Catchwords:

-

Cited decisions:
-
Citing decisions:
-

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. The appeal is against the decision by the examining division dispatched on 4 June 2007 to refuse European patent application 04000644.7 on the basis that the subject-matter of claim 1 of the main and the auxiliary request was not inventive, Article 56 EPC 1973, in view of the following documents:

D1: WO 00/54128 A

D6: WO 02/073378 A

II. A notice of appeal was received on 13 August 2007, the appeal fee being paid on the same day. A statement of the grounds of the appeal was received on 15 October 2007.

III. The appellant requested "to set aside the impugned Decision and to remit the application to the first instance with the order to grant a European Patent based on the Main Request or the First Auxiliary Request that have been rejected by the Examination Division in the Oral Proceedings of May 10, 2007, or based on [the] further Auxiliary Request [filed] together with the grounds of appeal". The appellant made a conditional request for oral proceedings.

IV. The board issued a summons to oral proceedings. In an annex to the summons, the board set out its preliminary opinion on the appeal, viz. that none of the requests satisfied the requirements of the EPC. It also indicated that it envisaged not to admit the appellant's second auxiliary request, filed with the grounds of the appeal, since the appellant had failed to give any indication regarding the merits of that request.

V. The appellant's representative announced in a telefax on 11 January 2012 that he would not attend the oral proceedings. No substantive response was made to the board's arguments. The oral proceedings were held on 18 January 2012, in the appellant's absence.

VI. The board understands the appellant's main request to be as follows: that the decision under appeal be set aside and that a patent be granted on the basis of claims 1-6, entitled "First Auxiliary Request [sic]", filed by telefax on 23 April 2007; description pages 1 and 3-29 as originally filed and pages 2 and 2a received on 9 March 2007; drawings, sheets 1/6-6/6 as originally filed.

The board understands the appellant's first auxiliary request to be that a patent be granted on the basis of these same documents, except with an amended set of claims, entitled "Second [sic] Auxiliary Request", filed by telefax on 23 April 2007.

The board understands the appellant's second auxiliary request to be that a patent be granted on the basis of these same documents, except with an amended set of claims, also entitled "Second Auxiliary Request" but filed with the grounds of the appeal received on 15 October 2007.

VII. The independent claims of the main request read as follows:

Claim 1

"A contents processing apparatus (PC) comprising:

a contents information storage (4) that stores

- contents (PK1, PK2,...),

- a contents management file (CML) for managing licenses for the contents,

- plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...) for executing processing of the contents,

and

- a plug-in management file (PML) for defining executable operative functions of the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...);

a plug-in setting device (PP1) that installs plug-in modules corresponding to contents (PKa) to be processed;

an operation recognition device (PP2) that identifies permitted operations relating to execution of processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed from the contents management file (CML) corresponding to the contents (PKa) to be processed;

a plug-in function permission device (PP4-PP6) that permits use of functions corresponding to the permitted operations recognized by said operation recognition device (PP2) among functions of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting device (PP1), and permits use of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting device (PP1) according to contents of the plug-in management file (PML); and

a contents processing execution device (PP?) that executes processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed, according to the functions of the plug-in modules permitted by said plug-in function permission device (PP4-PP6);

characterized in that

the contents management file (CML) is provided for each of the contents (PK1, PK2,...) for managing operations according to the contents (PK1, PK2,...),

the plug-in management file (PML) is provided for each of the contents processing apparatus (PC) for managing operative functions according to the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...); and

said contents processing apparatus (PC) further comprises an update device (1) that updates the plug-in management file (PML)"

Claim 6

"A contents processing program executed by a contents processing apparatus (PC) including a contents information storage (4) that stores

- contents (PK1, PK2,...),

- a contents management file (CML) for managing licenses for the contents,

- plug-in modules (PL 1, PL2,...) for executing processing of the contents,

and

- a plug-in management file (PML) for defining executable operative functions of the plug-in modules (PL 1, PL2, ... );

comprising:

a plug-in setting module (PP1) for installing plug-in modules corresponding to contents (PKa) to be processed;

an operation recognition module (PP2) for identifying permitted operations regarding execution of processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed from the contents management file (CML) corresponding to the contents (PKa) to be processed;

a plug-in function permission module (PP4-PP6) for permitting use of functions corresponding to the permitted operations recognized by said operation recognition module (PP2) among functions of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting module (PP1), and permitting use of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting module (PP1) according to contents of the plug-in management file (PML); and

a contents processing execution module (PP7) for executing processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed, according to the functions of the plug-in modules permitted by said plug-in function permission module (PP4-PP6);

characterized in that

the contents management file (CML) is provided for each of the contents (PK1, PK2,...) for managing operations according to the contents (PK1, PK2,...),

the plug-in management file (PML) is provided for each of the contents processing apparatus (PC) for managing operative functions according to the plug-in modules (PL 1, PL2,...), and

said contents processing program further comprises an update module for updating the plug-in management file (PML)"

VIII. The independent claims of auxiliary request 1 read as follows:

Claim 1

"A contents processing apparatus (PC) comprising:

a contents information storage (4) that stores

- contents (PK1, PK2,...),

- a contents management file (CML) for managing licenses for the contents, and

- plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...) for executing processing of the contents,

a plug-in setting device (PP1) that installs plug-in modules corresponding to contents (PKa) to be processed;

an operation recognition device (PP2) that identifies permitted operations relating to execution of processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed from the contents management file (CML) corresponding to the contents (PKa) to be processed;

a plug-in function permission device (PP4-PP6) that permits use of functions corresponding to the permitted operations recognized by said operation recognition device (PP2) among functions of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting device (PP1), and permits use of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting device (PP1); and

a contents processing execution device (PP7) that executes processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed, according to the functions of the plug-in modules permitted by said plug-in function permission device (PP4 PP6);

characterized in that

said contents information storage (4) further stores a plug-in management file (PML) for defining executable operative functions of the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...),

the contents management file (CML) being provided for each of the contents (PK1, PK2,...) for managing operations according to the contents (PK1, PK2,...),

the plug-in management file (PML) being provided for the contents processing apparatus (PC) for managing operative functions according to the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...), the plug-in management file (PML) of the contents processing apparatus (PC) being encoded according to device-specific information on the contents processing apparatus (PC), the plug-in management file (PML) of the contents processing apparatus (PC) being decoded according to the device-specific information on the contents processing apparatus (PC) so as to make the functions of the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...) effective; andsaid [sic] contents processing apparatus (PC) further comprises an update device (1) that updates the plug-in management file (PML)"

Claim 6

"A contents processing program executed by a contents processing apparatus (PC) including a contents information storage (4) that stores

- contents (PK1, PK2,...),

- a contents management file (CML) for managing licenses for the contents, and

- plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...) for executing processing of the contents,

comprising:

a plug-in setting module (PP1) for installing plug-in modules corresponding to contents (PKa) to be processed;

an operation recognition module (PP2) for identifying permitted operations regarding execution of processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed from the contents management file (CML) corresponding to the contents (PKa) to be processed;

a plug-in function permission module (PP4-PP6) for permitting use of functions corresponding to the permitted operations recognized by said operation recognition module (PP2) among functions of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting module (PP1), and permitting use of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting module (PP1); and

a contents processing execution module (PP7) for executing processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed, according to the functions of the plug-in modules permitted by said plug-in function permission module (PP4-PP6);

characterized in that

said contents information storage (4) further stores a plug-in management file (PML) for defining executable operative functions of the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...),

the contents management file (CML) being provided for each of the contents (PK1, PK2,...) for managing operations according to the contents (PK1, PK2,...),

the plug-in management file (PML) being provided for each of the contents processing apparatus (PC) for managing operative functions according to the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...), the plug-in management file (PML) of the contents processing apparatus (PC) being encoded according to device-specific information on the contents processing apparatus (PC), the plug-in management file (PML) of the contents processing apparatus (PC) being decoded according to the device-specific information on the contents processing apparatus (PC) so as to make the functions of the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...) effective, and

said contents processing program further comprises an update module for updating the plug-in management file (PML)"

IX. The independent claims of auxiliary request 2 read as follows:

Claim 1

"A contents processing apparatus (PC) comprising:

a contents information storage (4) that stores

- contents (PK1, PK2,...),

- a contents management file (CML) for managing licenses for the contents,

and

- plug-in modules (PL 1, PL2,...) for executing processing of the contents,

a plug-in setting device (PP1 ) that installs plug-in modules corresponding to contents(PKa) to be processed;

an operation recognition device (PP2) that identifies permitted operations relating to execution of processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed from the contents management file (CML) corresponding to the contents (PKa) to be processed;

a plug-in function permission device (PP4-PP6) that permits use of functions corresponding to the permitted operations recognized by said operation recognition device (PP2) among functions of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting device (PP1), and permits use of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting device (PP1); and

a contents processing execution device (PP7) that executes processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed, according to the functions of the plug-in modules permitted by said plug-in function permission device (PP4-PP6);

characterized in that

said contents information storage (4) further stores a plug-in management file (PML) for defining executable operative functions of the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...);

the contents management file (CML) being provided for each of the contents (PK1, PK2,...) for managing operations for the respective contents (PK1, PK2,...);

the plug-in management file (PML) being provided for the contents processing apparatus (PC) for managing operative functions for the respective plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...);

said contents processing apparatus (PC) further comprises an update device (1) that updates the plug-in management file (PML); and

in case where the contents management file (CML) is a "licensed version", processing of contents is executed in the full mode, whereas in case where the contents management file (CML) is a "trial version", when the plug-ins are registered or when the elapsed period is within the trial time period, processing of the contents is executed in the preview mode with reference to the plug-in management file (PML)"

Claim 6

"A contents processing program executed by a contents processing apparatus (PC) including a contents information storage (4) that stores

- contents (PK1, PK2,...),

- a contents management file (CML) for managing licenses for the contents,

and

- plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...) for executing processing of the contents,

comprising:

a plug-in setting module (PP1) for installing plug-in modules corresponding to contents (PKa) to be processed;

an operation recognition module (PP2) for identifying permitted operations regarding execution of processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed from the contents management file (CML) corresponding to the contents (PKa) to be processed;

a plug-in function permission module (PP4-PP6) for permitting use of functions corresponding to the permitted operations recognized by said operation recognition module (PP2) among functions of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting module (PP1), and permitting use of the plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting module (PP1); and

a contents processing execution module (PP7) for executing processing of the contents (PKa) to be processed, according to the functions of the plug-in modules permitted by said plug-in function permission module (PP4-PP6);

characterized in that

said contents information storage (4) further stores a plug-in management file (PML) for defining executable operative functions of the plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...),

the contents management file (CML) being provided for each of the contents (PK1, PK2,...) for managing operations for the respective contents (PK1, PK2,...),

the plug-in management file (PML) being provided for each of the contents processing apparatus (PC) for managing operative functions for the respective plug-in modules (PL1, PL2,...);

said contents processing program further comprises an update module for updating the plug-in management file (PML); and

in case where the contents management file (CML) is a "licensed version", processing of contents is executed in the full mode, whereas in case where the contents management file (CML) is a "trial version", when the plug-ins are registered or when the elapsed period is within the trial time period, processing of the contents is executed in the preview mode with reference to the plug-in management file (PML)"

X. At the end of the oral proceedings, the chairman announced the board's decision.

Reasons for the Decision

1. Reference is made to the transitional provisions in Article 1 of the Decision of the Administrative Council of 28 June 2001 on the transitional provisions under Article 7 of the Act revising the European Patent Convention of 29 November 2000, for the amended and new provisions of the EPC, from which it may be derived which Articles of the EPC 1973 are still applicable to the present application and which Articles of the EPC 2000 shall apply.

2. The admissibility of the appeal

In view of the facts set out at points I and II above, the appeal is admissible, since it complies with the EPC formal admissibility requirements.

3. The appellant's non-attendance at the oral proceedings

3.1 As announced in advance, the duly summoned appellant did not attend the oral proceedings.

3.2 In accordance with Article 15(3) RPBA, the board, for its decision, relied only on the appellant's written submissions. The board was in a position to decide at the conclusion of the oral proceedings, since the case was ready for decision (Article 15(6) RPBA), and the voluntary absence of the appellant was not a reason for delaying a decision (Article 15(3) RPBA).

4. Main request

The independent claim 1 of the main request is not clear, for the following reasons:

4.1 The expression "plug-in modules set by said plug-in setting device" (used twice) is unclear. The examining division raised this objection originally, leading to the amendment "a plug-in setting device that installs plug-in modules" earlier in the claim. However, it is not clear from the claim whether "set" as it is still used in the claim is to be taken to mean "installed" or something else. For example, "set" might simply mean "select", e.g. the appropriate codec must be selected for execution of a sound or video file in a particular format. Another very plausible alternative interpretation would be that already installed plug-in modules are enabled at some stage.

4.2 The meaning of "managing operations according to the contents" is not clear. It could be that entirely different kinds of operations are carried out depending on the contents or it could be that there is only one kind of operation, e.g. a decryption of the contents, which uses different decryption keys for different contents. It is equally plausible that the expression is the result of a linguistic mistake, as a consequence of which even more interpretations would be possible.

4.3 The feature "the plug-in management file (PML) is provided for each of the contents processing apparatus[es]" makes no sense, or at least introduces no clear limitation, since the claim concerns only one contents processing apparatus.

4.4 The meaning of the expression "managing operative functions according to the plug-in modules" is not clear, for the same reasons as given in 4.2 above.

The skilled person will not be able to comprehend the scope of claim 1 looking only at the wording of that claim. The same is true for the independent claim 6, which relates to a program with features that correspond to those of the apparatus claim 1. The claims are, therefore, not clear (Article 84 EPC). As a consequence, the main request is not allowable.

5. Auxiliary request 1

The independent claims 1 and 6 of the auxiliary request 1 are not clear (Article 84 EPC), for at least the same reasons as given for the main request. As a consequence, the request is not allowable.

6. Auxiliary request 2

With regard to the auxiliary request 2, which was introduced with the appeal, the appellant has merely stated that the claims in that request "further define over the prior art by additional features at the end of each of claims 1 and 6, and should be allowable for at least the same reasons as the claims of the Main Request and First Auxiliary Request". The appellant has not provided any specific arguments regarding the merits of this second auxiliary request. Instead, it is left to the board itself to find out why the request should be allowable. However, it is prima facie apparent that the request contains the same deficiencies as the previous two requests. The request is, therefore, not admitted into the procedure (Rules 100(1) and 137(3) EPC).

7. Conclusion

7.1 The main request and the first auxiliary request are not allowable and the second auxiliary request is not admitted into the procedure. The board, therefore, concludes that the appeal should be dismissed.

7.2 With reference to the summons, the board further notes that it also gave its reasoned opinion that none of the requests satisfied either the requirements of Article 123(2) EPC or the requirements of Article 52(1) and 56 EPC 1973. The appellant has presented no counter-arguments.

ORDER

For this reason it is decided that:

The appeal is dismissed.

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