This revised version of the Guidelines for Examination will apply as from 1 November 2015. Until then, the September 2014 edition of the Guidelines remains valid.

3.7.2 Data retrieval, formats and structures

A computer-implemented data structure (see T 1194/97) or a computer-implemented data format embodied on a medium or as an electromagnetic carrier wave has technical character (because the storage medium is a technical artefact) and thus is an invention in the sense of Art. 52(1). Such data structures or formats may comprise a mixture of cognitive content and functional data.

Technical effects associated with data structures or formats when using said data structure or format during the operation of a computer system could give rise to, for example: efficient data processing, efficient data storage, enhanced security. On the other hand, features merely describing data collections on a logical level do not provide a technical effect, even if such a description might involve a particular modelling of the described data.

A data structure in itself is merely a static memory configuration. Therefore, when a data structure is claimed by itself, a technical effect cannot be directly identified since there is no method being carried out. Furthermore, a claimed data structure can potentially be used in combination with different algorithms or methods for completely different purposes.

For these reasons the examiner should check whether the data structure as claimed inherently comprises the technical features of the system or the steps of a corresponding method which forms the basis of the technical effect.

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