T 0163/85 (Colour television signal) of 14.3.1989

European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:1989:T016385.19890314
Date of decision: 14 March 1989
Case number: T 0163/85
Application number: 82902076.7
IPC class: H04N 7/00
Language of proceedings: EN
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Documentation of the appeal procedure can be found in the Register
Bibliographic information is available in: DE | EN | FR
Versions: OJ | Published
Title of application: -
Applicant name: BBC
Opponent name: -
Board: 3.5.01


A colour television signal characterised by technical features of the system in which it occurs, i.e. in which it is being generated and/or received does not fall within the exclusions of Article 52(2)(d) and (3) EPC and is regarded as an invention within the meaning of Article 52(1) EPC.
Relevant legal provisions:
European Patent Convention 1973 Art 52(1)
European Patent Convention 1973 Art 52(2)(d)
European Patent Convention 1973 Art 52(3)
Keywords: Colour television signal patentable (yes)


Cited decisions:
Citing decisions:
T 0858/02
T 0273/02
G 0003/08
T 1361/05
T 0935/97
T 1194/97
T 0659/04
T 1173/97
T 1177/97
T 0121/06

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. European patent application No. 82 902 076.7, publication number 0 083 352, filed on 12 July 1982 and claiming a priority of 13 July 1981, based on GB 8 121 490, was refused by a decision of the Examining Division of the European Patent Office, dated 1 February 1985.

II. That decision was based on Claims 1-5 submitted by letter dated 31 October 1984. These claims were refused because of lack of inventive step (Articles 52, 56 EPC) of their subject-matter. The decision refers to the following documents:

(1) SMPTE Journal, Vol. 89, No. 9, September 1980, pages 663-669.

(2) US-A-2 820 091.

(3) FKTG, Tagungsband von der 7. Jahrestagung, der FKTG, 17 to 21 September 1979, pages 562-567 (Prof. Wendland).

(4) FKTG, Tagungsband von der 8. Jahrestagung der FKTG, 6 to 9 October 1980, pages 381-392 (J. Polonsky).

In fact, however, independent Claim 1 and dependent Claim 5 were rejected for lack of inventive step on the basis of common technical knowledge. The features of dependent Claims 2 to 4 were considered as known from document (2) and as not adding anything inventive to the non-inventive subject-matter of Claim 1.

III. Against this decision, the Applicant, now Appellant, filed a notice of appeal, on 11 March 1985. The fee was paid on 8 March 1985 and a Statement of Grounds was filed on 30 May 1985. With the Statement, two sets of claims were filed, set A comprising eight claims and set C comprising seven claims. The Appellant requested the grant of a patent based on set A of claims, and if these would not be allowed, on the basis of set C of claims. In the case that neither of these two sets would be allowed, he requested an oral hearing.

IV. Set A of claims reads as follows:

1. A colour television signal adapted to generate a picture with an aspect ratio of greater than 4:3, and in which the active-video portion of a line constitutes at least 85% and preferably 90% of the line period.

2. A colour television signal according to Claim 1, in which colour synchronising information is transmitted separately from the normal line period.

3. A colour television signal according to Claim 2, in which colour synchronising information is transmitted during the vertical blanking interval.

4. A colour television signal according to Claim 2, in which the colour synchronising information is transmitted in or with the sound signal or a data signal.

5. A colour television signal according to Claim 1, in which a d.c. clamping reference is transmitted in each line during the non-active-video portion thereof.

6. A colour television signal according to Claim 1, in which the line period is substantially equal to 64 microseconds.

7. A colour television receiver for receiving a signal according to Claim 1, including means responsive to at least 85% and preferably 90% of the line period to separate the active-video line portion, and means for displaying a picture in response thereto with an aspect ratio greater than 4:3.

8. A colour television receiver according to Claim 7, including means for increasing the line and/or field rate of the displayed picture above that of the received signal.

V. In the Statement of Grounds, the Appellant argues essentially as follows: The invention as claimed provides sufficient increase in the active-video portion of the line to allow increase of the aspect ratio without any increase in the overall bandwidth of the signal. Much work of recent years has taken place in this field in anticipation of improved high definition television standards and several proposals for 5:3 aspect ratios have been cited by the Examining Division, but none of these teaches or in any way suggests the very simple expedient proposed according to the invention. The practical importance of compatibility at different levels in the signal chain must be appreciated. Of course, there are several elements in this chain, the cameras and studio processing equipment, encoding systems, transmission links and receivers. The importance of compatibility at the transmission link level should not be underestimated. In order to be able to receive the much improved pictures according to the present invention, new equipment at the studio and for encoding and also new receivers are necessary, but no new transmission links are necessary, the cost of which would have been formidable. The situation was not that there was a clear problem to be solved, namely to provide an improved television system which gave a wider aspect ratio and which was at least partially compatible with the existing systems. High aspect ratio films have existed for years; it is not as if the problem of portraying them in television had just appeared. The invention resides essentially in the appreciation that such a problem exists and that it is capable of being solved. Only after it has been solved is it clear that the steps involved in its solution are simple ones. Enclosed with the Statement of Grounds was an affidavit from Mr A.J. Seeds, Lecturer at Queen Mary College, University of London, confirming the non-obviousness of the invention claimed.

VI. In a communication, the rapporteur objected to Claims 1-6 of set A and Claims 1-5 of set C in that a signal, be it a colour television signal, cannot constitute a patentable invention and that such a signal is excluded from patentability by the non-exhaustive list of exclusions summed up in Article 52(2) EPC with the proviso of Article 52(3) EPC. Claims 7 and 8 of set A and Claims 6 and 7 of set C, which all concern a colour television receiver, were considered to comprise subject-matter lacking inventive step. In particular, the features of the characterising parts of Claim 7 of set A and 6 of set C were considered to be known from document (2) and it was inferred that in a system as described in (2) the active portion of a line must already comprise a higher percentage of the line period than in a standard TV system.

VII. At oral proceedings, the Appellant maintained his main request based on set A of claims and as an auxiliary request, the grant of a patent based on set C of claims. ... So far as any objection based on Article 52(2), (3) EPC was concerned, the Appellant was prepared to revert to the original form of claims if necessary. ...

Reasons for the Decision

1. The appeal complies with Articles 106 to 108 and Rule 64 EPC and is, therefore, admissible.

2. The Board no longer maintains its view that a claim pertaining to a colour television signal would be excluded from patentability according to Article 52(2) and (3) EPC. As the Examining Division noted in its decision, there is no substantial difference between Claim 1 as originally filed, which was directed to a colour television system and the Claim 1 which they had to judge upon and which was directed to a colour television signal; the features of the system claim also in essence only defined a TV signal. This TV signal as now claimed is specific for the television system in which these signals occur. The description has been adapted accordingly. No objection arises under Article 123(2) since by the system as described in the application as originally filed, the signal as it is now claimed is also adequately described. The Board previously put forward, of its own motion, the objection that the TV signal as claimed could be considered as a presentation of information, which, as such, is excluded from patentability according to Article 52(2)(d) and (3) EPC. However, the TV signal as claimed seems to be more than a mere presentation of information "as such". In fact, the TV signal as claimed inherently comprises the technical features of the TV system in which it is being used and if it is considered to present information then it represents exactly that kind of information which exhibits the technical features of the system in which it occurs. The Board considers it to be appropriate to distinguish between two kinds of information, when discussing its presentation. According to this distinction, a TV system solely characterised by the information per se, e.g. moving pictures, modulated upon a standard TV signal, may fall under the exclusion of Article 52(2)(d) and (3) EPC but not a TV signal defined in terms which inherently comprise the technical features of the TV system in which it occurs. As the list of exclusions from patentability summed up in Article 52(2) EPC in connection with Article 52(3) EPC is not exhaustive in view of the phrase "in particular" in the first line of paragraph 2, the exclusion might be arguably generalised to subject-matter which is essentially abstract in character, which is non-physical and therefore is not characterised by technical features in the sense of Rule 29(1) EPC. The TV signal as claimed would also not fall under this more general interpretation of the exclusions of Article 52(2) and (3) EPC, because it is a physical reality which can directly be detected by technological means and, therefore, cannot be considered as an abstract entity, despite its transient character. So, in conclusion, the subject-matter of those claims of set A and set C which pertain to a colour television signal are not excluded from patentability on the basis of paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 52 EPC.

3. Novelty ...

4. Inventive step ...


For these reasons, it is decided that

1. The impugned decision is set aside.

2. The case is remitted to the first instance to grant a patent on the basis of the following documents: ....

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