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Case Law of the Boards of Appeal

1.4.5 Methods used in a technical process carried out on a physical entity

In accordance with the established case law if a method which is not per se "technical" e.g. a mathematical method, is used in a technical process, and this process is carried out on a physical entity by some technical means implementing the method and provides as its result a change in that entity, it contributes to the technical character of the invention as a whole (T 1814/07).

Any claimed subject-matter defining or using technical means is an invention within the meaning of Art. 52(1) EPC (see T 424/03 and T 258/03, and confirmed in G 3/08). Therefore the mere inclusion of a computer, a computer network, a readable medium carrying a program, etc. in a claim lends technical character to the claimed subject-matter (Guidelines G-II, 5 - June 2012 version).

According to T 208/84 (OJ 1987, 14), one indication of technical character was that the method has an overall technical effect, such as controlling some physical process (see also T 313/10). In this decision the board held that, even if the idea underlying an invention may be considered to reside in a mathematical method a claim directed to a technical process in which the method is used does not seek protection for the mathematical method as such. This decision introduced the notion "physical entity" in connection with Art. 52(2) EPC. It was held that the method according to the invention was not excluded from patentability, because it constituted a technical process which was carried out on a physical entity. This entity might be a material object but equally an image stored as an electric signal. Thus said method was neither a mathematical method as such nor a computer program as such.

Features of the computer program itself (see T 1173/97) as well as the presence of a device defined in the claim may potentially lend technical character to the claimed subject-matter (see T 424/03 and T 258/03) (Guidelines G-II, 4 - June 2012 version, T 769/92, OJ 1995, 525).