|European Case Law Identifier:||ECLI:EP:BA:2021:T160718.20211221|
|Date of decision:||21 December 2021|
|Case number:||T 1607/18|
|IPC class:||G07G 1/12
|Language of proceedings:||EN|
|Download and more information:||
|Title of application:||PROCESS OF AND SYSTEM FOR ADVANCING CREDIT FOR CASH COLLECTIONS|
|Applicant name:||Brink's Network, Inc.|
|Relevant legal provisions:||
|Keywords:||Patentable invention - technical and non-technical features
Patentable invention - technical character of the invention
Patentable invention - method for doing business
Inventive step - (no)
Summary of Facts and Submissions
I. The appeal is against the decision of the Examining Division to refuse European patent application No. 08 796 563. The refusal was based on the grounds of lack of novelty and inventive step (Articles 52(1), 54(1), (2) and 56 EPC).
II. Reference is made to the following documents:
D1 = US 2006/253349 A1
D2 = US 6 067 530 A
III. The Appellant (Applicant) requests that the decision under appeal be set aside and a patent be granted on the basis of claims 1-7 of the sole request, filed with letter dated 2 December 2013, underlying the impugned decision.
IV. Highlighting and deletions in the claim wording and feature labelling is added by the Board.
V. Claim 1 according to the single request reads as follows:
(A) An electronic system for providing bank credit to a retailer (10) for cash collections, comprising:
(B) an electronic safe disposed at a retailer location containing cash collected by a retailer over a period of time at the retailer location that has been deposited into the safe, the electronic safe being adapted:
(C) to calculate, at a designated time, a total amount of cash deposited into the safe over the period of time, and
(D) to create and to electronically transmit, to a facility (30), a data file identifying the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe over said period of time; and
(E) said facility, the facility being adapted:
to arrange for the crediting of the retailer by a bank (40) with the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe as identified in the data file,
(F) and to verify, using the electronically transmitted data file, the amount of cash deposited in the safe, after the cash has been transferred to the facility, to produce a verified amount,
(G) and to adjust the credit previously provided based on differences, if any, between the verified amount and the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe as identified in the data file.
VI. The Appellant argued essentially as follows:
The claimed subject-matter was new and involved an inventive step over document D1. In particular, part of step (B) and steps (C), (D) and (G) constituted the difference of the claimed subject-matter over D1. The problem to be solved was the reduction of the amount of data sent between the safe and the central units. The invention generally simplified the data handling and thereby error handling. The invention also required less bandwidth.
Reasons for the Decision
1. The invention as claimed
1.1 The present application is about an electronic safe for use in retail environments, where the safe counts the money being deposited and electronically transmits a report containing the amount of money counted to a central processing location.
1.2 Upon receipt of this report, the retailer can be credited the deposited money amount even before it is picked up by an armored car service and deposited at a bank or similar institution. Retailers can therefore benefit from cash collections almost immediately.
2. Inventive step (Article 56 EPC)
2.1 Closest Prior Art
D1 is chosen as closest prior art because it discloses most of the technical features and relates to a very similar purpose. D2 discloses details about a bill validator and electronic safe. However, D2 fails to disclose crediting a cash amount in the electronic safe before the cash arrives in the bank.
2.2 Disclosure of D1
2.2.1 D1 discloses an electronic safe assembly:
2.2.2 The host safe assembly 23 comprises local safe 5a and control unit 25. The central control unit 25 stores each deposit report as a data file. D1 discloses () that the central control unit transmits the deposit report to the cash information server 31. A bill validator () verifies the banknotes such that the safe controller "knows" how much cash was deposited into the electronic safe. It can therefore be assumed that the bill validator counts the banknotes and calculates a total amount. The total amount collected in the store and transferred from a retailer location to a bank can be credited to the retailer before the cash is deposited in the bank (). The bank and/or armored car service can be considered as the "facility" according to features (D) to (E) of claim 1. The facility furthermore comprises an agent () who verifies, using the necessary technical means, the amount of cash being transferred and who reconciles the cash amount with the records of the data file to produce a verified amount (Feature (F)). If for one business day only one deposit takes place (, , cf. entry for "3/6" shown below), the total amount of the banknotes - aggregated, calculated and deposited at the end of the business day in the electronic safe - corresponds to the "total amount" of feature (C) - accumulated and aggregated for this business day.
2.2.3 In the data file multiple records appear, e.g. for 6 to 8 March ("3/6", "3/7" and "3/8"). In this assessment of the wording of claim 1 only one business day ("3/6") with a single deposit is considered. Pick-up takes place on "3/7", verification and reconciliation on 3/9 (claim 4 of D1: reconciling the deposit information to the collected cash based on information transmitted to the off-site location).
2.3.1 D1 therefore discloses (references with respect to D1, wording of present claim 1)
(A) an electronic system for providing bank credit to a retailer (business establishment owning host safe assembly 23) for cash collections, comprising:
(B) an electronic safe (5a, controller 25) disposed at a retailer location containing cash collected by a retailer over a period of time (a business day) at the retailer location that has been deposited into the safe, the electronic safe being adapted:
(C) to calculate (aggregation of the banknotes being deposited and checked by the bill validator, ), at a designated time (time of validation in the bill validator at the end of the business day), a total amount of cash (, deposit report at the end of a business day comprising the calculated sum of the banknotes deposited in the single deposit action) deposited into the safe over the period of time (business day, ), and
(D) to create and to electronically transmit, to a facility (bank and/or armored car service center) a data file identifying the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe over said period of time (, , ); and
(E) the facility being adapted: to arrange for the crediting of the retailer by a bank with the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe as identified in the data file (),
(F) and to verify (by the agent in the "facility" with the necessary technical means, ), using the electronically transmitted data file, the amount of cash deposited in the safe, after the cash has been transferred to the facility, to produce a verified amount (each single position in  is verified),
(G) and to adjust (paragraph , claim 4 of D1: "reconciliation") the credit previously provided [deleted: based on differences, if any, between the verified amount and the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe as identified in the data file.]
2.3.2 D1 therefore does not explicitly disclose that the credit is adjusted based on differences, if any, between the verified amount and the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe as identified in the data file (second part of feature (G)).
2.3.3 "Reconciliation" in D1 most likely includes detecting any difference between the amount listed in the data file and the actual amount being transferred to the bank. D1 however explicitly discloses only verification whether the amount in the data file corresponds to the amount picked up by the armored car service.
2.3.4 The Appellant has argued that D1 did not explicitly disclose that a data file with a single record is transmitted. In  /  only data files with multiple records were transmitted. D1 therefore failed to disclose that an aggregation of multiple records was performed.
2.3.5 Furthermore, the principal difference between D1 and the claim wording was that in D1 huge data files with numerous records were transmitted. An aggregation of all deposit positions and the calculation of a total amount was performed in the "facility", whereas in the present invention the total amount was calculated in the electronic safe at the retailer location.
2.3.6 The electronic safe of the invention was therefore not fully comparable to the system of D1. The description of D1 consistently taught that collected data were sent to the central control unit, where all the data was stored, and bulky data reports were generated. The breakdown of the total daily cash was transmitted, but not the total itself. There was also no disclosure what to do if the manual checking of the cash showed a difference over the calculated value, in particular there was no disclosure of the adjusting of the credit. This meant that part of step (B) and steps (C), (D) and (G) constituted the differences over D1.
2.3.7 However, the Board concluded that the claim wording can be read on one single record, e.g. from "3/6" and disregarding the other records ("3/7" and "3/8"), because calculating the total amount takes place for one business day for the date "3/6" when the accumulated cash is deposited by means of the bill validator.
2.3.8 Moreover, considering only a day with a single deposit, the calculation of the total amount being deposited in the bill validator takes place in the electronic safe as defined in claim 1. Therefore, the location according to D1, where the total amount is calculated, is not the "facility", but the electronic safe. Consequently, features (A) to (F) are disclosed in D1 as indicated above.
2.4 Effect, objective technical problem
2.4.1 The Appellant has argued that the effect of the distinguishing features was that only small data files comprising the aggregated sum (in D1 e.g. the sum of the deposit of "3/6" and the first deposit of "3/7") had to be transmitted thus reducing the load on the communication network.
2.4.2 The problem to be solved was the reduction of the amount of data sent between the safe and the central units. The invention generally simplified data handling and thereby error handling. The invention also required less bandwidth. The invention therefore achieved a technical effect by reducing the load on the network.
2.4.3 The Board however came to the conclusion that the effect of reducing the network load is not an effect of the difference between D1 and claim 1 (i.e. the second part of feature (G)). Indeed, feature (G) relates to a method of doing business, i.e. adjusting any difference between an accounted total amount and the amount of cash picked up by an armored car. This "adjusting" according to feature (G) is merely a non-technical business aim and does not achieve any technical effect or solve a technical problem by technical features. When regarded on its own, feature (G) would constitute subject-matter excluded from patentability under Article 52(2) and (3) EPC.
2.4.4 Technical features that do not contribute to the technical character can be included into the formulation of the technical problem as a mandatory requirement (see, inter alia, G 1/19 [reasons 31], T 0641/00 headnote 2, G 3/08, Case Law of the Boards of Appeal, 9**(th) Edition, Sections I.D.9.1.2-9.1.4). Consequently, feature (G) can be included into the formulation of the problem to be solved.
2.4.5 The problem to be solved can therefore be formulated as adjusting in the system of D1 the step of "reconciliation" (claim 4 of D1) by "adjusting the credit previously provided based on differences, if any, between the verified amount and the calculated total amount of cash deposited into the safe as identified in the data file" (cf. task of the agent, , , feature (G)).
2.5.1 The solution to this problem results in a straightforward manner from the problem to be solved. It is obvious that the agent in D1 would adjust the credit, if the amount of cash arriving in the bank/ armored car service facility differs from the amount in the data file, e.g. if the retailer or anyone else has taken out cash from the electronic safe without any record.
2.5.2 Neither the claim nor the application as a whole describe any technical interaction between feature (G) constituting a non-technical process feature and the technical features (electronic safe), which would go beyond the mere implementation of the administrative act related to this feature. The step constituting the non-technical administrative process cannot be seen to provide any contribution, either independently or in combination with other features, to the solution of a technical problem.
2.5.3 Consequently, the subject-matter of claim 1 does not involve an inventive step within the meaning of Article 56 EPC.
Since the subject-matter of claim 1 of the sole request does not involve an inventive step, the examining division's decision refusing the application is confirmed. Consequently the appeal has to be dismissed (Articles 97(2) and 111(1) EPC).
For these reasons it is decided that:
The appeal is dismissed.