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Guidelines for Examination

 
 
7.
Combination vs. juxtaposition or aggregation 

The invention claimed must normally be considered as a whole. When a claim consists of a "combination of features", it is not correct to argue that the separate features of the combination taken by themselves are known or obvious and that "therefore" the whole subject-matter claimed is obvious. However, where the claim is merely an "aggregation or juxtaposition of features" and not a true combination, it is enough to show that the individual features are obvious to prove that the aggregation of features does not involve an inventive step (see G-VII, 5.2, last paragraph). A set of technical features is regarded as a combination of features if the functional interaction between the features achieves a combined technical effect which is different from, e.g. greater than, the sum of the technical effects of the individual features. In other words, the interactions of the individual features must produce a synergistic effect. If no such synergistic effect exists, there is no more than a mere aggregation of features (see T 389/86, and T 204/06).

For example, the technical effect of an individual transistor is essentially that of an electronic switch. However, transistors interconnected to form a microprocessor synergically interact to achieve technical effects, such as data processing, which are over and above the sum of their respective individual technical effects (see also G-VII, Annex, 2).