2.3. Aesthetic creations

An aesthetic creation relates by definition to an article (e.g. a painting or sculpture) having aspects which are other than technical and the appreciation of which is essentially subjective. The aesthetic effect itself is not patentable, neither in a product nor a process claim. Nevertheless, if an aesthetic effect is obtained by a technical structure or other technical means, although the aesthetic effect itself is not patentable, the means of obtaining it may be (Guidelines G-II, 3.4 - 2012 version).

In T 686/90 the board was called upon to decide whether the feature "work of art in the style of stained glass" meant that it was excluded from patentability under Art. 52(2)(b) EPC 1973. The board held that functional information referring to general aesthetic creations did not define an aesthetic creation as such, at least provided that and insofar as such information adequately identified technical features of the subject-matter of the claim. Since an aesthetic creation (not formally specified) as the stated purpose, together with the other features, adequately defined a technical subject-matter in the claim, there was no aesthetic creation as such. For this reason there could be no objection to the claim under Art. 52(2)(b) EPC 1973 on the basis of Art. 52(3) EPC 1973.

In decision T 119/88 (OJ 1990, 395) the subject-matter of the application in question related to a flexible disk jacket made of a plastic sheet presenting to the outside world a surface colour of a certain minimum light intensity. The board first of all stated that the feature of having a specific colour as such did not constitute a technical feature indicating that an object or device was entirely or partly covered by that colour; however, the board did not rule out the possibility that this did not hold in all circumstances. The feature taken by itself might not seem to reveal any technical aspect, but its technical or non-technical character could be decided by the effect it brought about after being added to an object which did not comprise the feature before. In the case in point, the board concluded that the alleged resistance to fingerprints was a purely aesthetic effect which contributed nothing technical to the invention concerned (Art. 52(2)(b) EPC 1973) and the advantage of easy classification by colour represented a non-technical effect in the form of a presentation of information. As such it was excluded from patentability under Art. 52(2)(d) and (3) EPC 1973.

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