T 1209/20 (Automatic installation method for video wall / ATEN) of 29.11.2021

European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EP:BA:2021:T120920.20211129
Date of decision: 29 November 2021
Case number: T 1209/20
Application number: 15152978.1
IPC class: G06F 3/14
G09G 3/20
Language of proceedings: EN
Distribution: D
Download and more information:
Decision text in EN (PDF, 358 KB)
Documentation of the appeal procedure can be found in the Register
Bibliographic information is available in: EN
Versions: Unpublished
Title of application: Automatic installation method for video wall and related system
Applicant name: ATEN International Co., Ltd.
Opponent name: -
Board: 3.5.05
Headnote: -
Relevant legal provisions:
European Patent Convention Art 84
European Patent Convention Art 54
European Patent Convention Art 83
European Patent Convention Art 123(2)
Rules of procedure of the Boards of Appeal 2020 Art 012(6)
Keywords: Claims - clarity (no)
Sufficiency of disclosure - (no)
Amendments - added subject-matter (yes)
Catchwords:

-

Cited decisions:
-
Citing decisions:
-

Summary of Facts and Submissions

I. The appellant appealed against the examining division's decision refusing European patent application No. 15152978.1, which was filed on 29 January 2015.

II. The examining division decided that the subject-matter of the independent claims of the main request and of the first and second auxiliary requests did not meet the requirements of Articles 54 and 84 EPC. Furthermore, it decided that the third auxiliary request did not satisfy the requirements of Articles 83 and 84 EPC. The fourth auxiliary request was not admitted pursuant to Rule 137(3) EPC.

III. The examining division made reference to the following documents:

D1 US 2008/100805

D2 US 2010/328447

D3 FERNANDO TEUBL ET AL: "FastFusion: A Scalable Multi-projector System", VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY (SVR), 2012 14TH SYMPOSIUM ON, IEEE, 28 May 2012, pages 26-35, DOI: 10.1109/SVR.2012.1, ISBN: 978-1-4673-1929-4.

D4 US 2012/013523

D5 US 2014/193037

IV. With the statement setting out the grounds of appeal the appellant maintained the main request and the first to fourth auxiliary requests underlying the contested decision. It submitted additionally fifth to eight auxiliary requests.

V. The board summoned the appellant to oral proceedings.

In a communication pursuant to Article 15(1) RPBA 2020, the board set out its provisional view of the case.

VI. With letter dated 26 November 2021 the appellant informed the board that it would not attend the oral proceedings.

VII. The appellant requested in writing that the decision under appeal be set aside and that a patent be granted on the basis of one of the following requests:

- the main request as filed on 16 October 2017;

- the first and second auxiliary requests as filed on 14 August 2019;

- the third and fourth auxiliary requests as filed during oral proceedings before the examining division on 15 October 2019;

- the fifth to eighth auxiliary requests as filed with the statement setting out the grounds of appeal filed on 20 March 2020.

VIII. Claim 1 of the main request reads as follows:

"A method for automatically installing a video wall (10) including a plurality of video devices, the method characterized by steps of:

(a) randomly connecting a plurality of output ports of a control system (200) to the plurality of video devices;

(b) the control system (200) outputting each of a plurality of different identifiable images to a corresponding one of the plurality of video devices through the plurality of output ports;

(c) an imaging module (102) of an image capturing device (100) capturing the plurality of different identifiable images displayed on the video wall (10);

(d) a video wall automatic-installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) processing and calculating the plurality of different identifiable images so as to obtain a position data of an arrangement order for the plurality of video devices, wherein the arrangement order refers to a connecting relation between each of the plurality of output ports and each of the plurality of video devices; and

(e) based on the position data of the arrangement order for the video devices, the control system (200) automatically setting up image display of the video wall (10)."

IX. Claim 1 of the first auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the main request. The wording "wherein the identifiable image displayed in each video device is different from the others" has been added to feature (b) of claim 1.

X. Claim 1 of the second auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the first auxiliary request. The wording "without a predetermined correspondence of which output port being coupled to which video device" has been added to feature (a) and the wording "so that the output port that corresponds to each video device of the video wall (10) can be identified" has been added to feature (d) of claim 1.

XI. Claim 1 of the third auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the first auxiliary request. The wording "according to the position information" has been added to feature (e) and feature (f) has been added to claim 1:

"(f) based on the plurality of different identifiable images, the video wall automatic installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) determining spacings between adjacent video devices and frame data of the video devices, wherein the image capturing device (100) obtains a length or width of an image of the video wall (10), calculates a ratio between the length or width and an actual length or width of the video wall (10), recognizes image frames of the video devices and distances between the image frames using image recognition, and calculate [sic] physical distances, including horizontal spacing and vertical spacing, between the video devices based on the ratio and the recognized distances between the image frames."

XII. The wording of the claims of the fourth auxiliary request is of no relevance for this decision.

XIII. Claim 1 of the fifth auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the third auxiliary request. Feature (f) was amended and reads as follows:

"(f) based on the plurality of different identifiable images, the video wall automatic-installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) determining spacings between adjacent video devices, wherein the image capturing device (100) obtains a length or width of an image of the video wall (10), calculates a ratio between the length or width and an actual length or width of the video wall (10), recognizes image frames of the video devices by using image recognition so as to obtain distances between the image frames, and calculate [sic] physical distances, including horizontal spacing and vertical spacing, between the video devices based on the ratio and the recognized distances between the image frames."

XIV. Claim 1 of the sixth auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the fifth auxiliary request. The wordings set out in section X. above have been added to claim 1 and feature (f) reads as follows:

"(f) based on the plurality of different identifiable images, the video wall automatic installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) determining spacings between adjacent video devices, wherein the image capturing device (100) obtains a length or width of an image of the video wall (10), calculates a ratio between the length or width and an actual length or width of the video wall (10), recognizes image frames of the video devices and distances between the image frames using image recognition, and calculate [sic] physical distances, including horizontal spacing and vertical spacing, between the video devices based on the ratio and the recognized distances between the image frames."

XV. Claim 1 of the seventh auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the third auxiliary request. Inter alia, feature (f) has been amended and reads:

"(f) based on the image of the video wall (10), the video wall automatic installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) determining spacings between adjacent video devices and actual physical frame size of the each video device, wherein the image capturing device (100) obtains a length or width of the image of the video wall (10), calculates a ratio between the length or width and an actual length or width of the video wall (10), recognizes image frame representing an actual physical frame of the each video device and distances between the image frame representing the actual physical frame of the each video device by using image recognition, and calculate [sic] physical distances, including horizontal spacing and vertical spacing, between the video devices based on the ratio and the recognized distances between the image frame representing the actual physical frame of the each video device."

XVI. Claim 1 of the eight auxiliary request corresponds to claim 1 of the third auxiliary request. Inter alia, feature (f) has been amended and reads:

"(f) based on the image of the video wall (10), the video wall automatic-installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) determining spacings between adjacent video devices and actual physical frame size of the each video device, wherein the image capturing device (100) obtains a length or width of the image of the video wall (10), calculates a ratio between the length or width and an actual length or width of the video wall (10), recognizes image frame representing the actual physical frame size of the each video device and distances between the image frame representing the actual physical frame size of the each video device by using image recognition, and calculate [sic] physical distances, including horizontal spacing and vertical spacing, between the video devices based on the ratio and the recognized distances between the image frame representing the actual physical frame size of the each video device."

Reasons for the Decision

1. The present application pertains to a method and system for automatically installing a video wall comprising a plurality of video devices. The video devices are connected to ports of a control system in a random, or unspecified, manner. Different images are displayed on the video devices and captured by an imaging module. Based thereon, it is established which port is connected to which video device. Further, distances between the images are determined.

2. Document D4 discloses a system which senses, using a camera, the geometric layout of a multi-display arrangement and automatically configures a graphics adaptor to drive the proper port to each display.

Main request

3. Article 84 EPC

3.1 Feature (d) in claim 1 refers to "a video wall automatic-installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) processing and calculating the plurality of different identifiable images". I.e. the video wall automatic-installation module processes the images output by the control system (feature (b)). At the same time, according to feature (c), images displayed on the video wall are captured, but the video wall automatic-installation module does not process the captured images. This inconsistency introduces lack of clarity.

3.2 Independent claim 7 pertains to an "image capture device". The video devices and the control system do not form part of the claimed device. It is not clear if and to what extent they have any limiting effect on the claimed device.

Additionally, the capturing, by the imaging module, of the images displayed on the video wall is an essential feature, but is missing in claim 7.

3.3 For these reasons independent claims 1 and 7 do not meet the requirements of Article 84 EPC.

4. Article 54 EPC

4.1 The examining division came to the conclusion the subject-matter of claim 1 was anticipated by the teaching of document D4.

4.2 The appellant argued that D4 did not disclose feature (a)

"randomly connecting a plurality of output ports of a control system to the plurality of video devices".

4.3 The board holds that document D4 discloses feature (a).

4.4 The crucial aspect of feature (a) is the technical meaning of "randomly connecting".

The appellant submitted (first full paragraph on page 3 of the statement of grounds) that due to the possibility for randomly connecting ports to video devices "the user does not have to bother about which output port is to be connected to which monitor when installing a video wall consisting of a plurality of monitors".

In other words, in the board's understanding, the claimed method does not impose any specific rules on the user like "connect the upper left video device to port 1". Overall, "randomly" does not refer to any random numbers or random events (like rolling a dice) but rather to "in an unspecified manner".

Page 7, lines 20, 21, 16 and 17 of the description of the application in suit confirm this understanding:

"with no predetermined correspondence of which output port being coupled to which TV"

"First, in step 501, the control system is connected to the TVs, in an unspecified or random manner, to form a TV wall".

4.5 According to paragraph 5, D4 addresses a similar problem "The present method automates the mapping of output ports on a graphics adaptor in a host PC to an image displayed by a corresponding set of display devices".

4.6 With regard to feature (a), D4 clearly discloses that a plurality of output ports of a control system are connected to the plurality of video devices, see e.g. Figures 1 and 3. It remains to be analysed if D4 discloses the limitation "randomly" in the sense of "in an unspecified manner".

4.7 D4 teaches that, based on images taken by a camera, a display configuration is automatically derived, which includes "the correspondence between graphics adaptor output ports 107(B)/107(A) and each physical display 105" (paragraph 22). Hence, there is no need to specify certain manner of connecting ports to display devices, because this correspondence is derived automatically by the described method. Furthermore, if the manner of connecting ports to display devices was pre-specified, then the automatic deriving would not make any sense.

From these observations follows that the manner of connecting ports to display devices is not pre-specified in D4. Thus, the ports are connected to the display devices in an unspecified manner.

4.8 As an aside, the board notes that claim 1 pertains to a "method for automatically installing a video wall". Feature (a) is an instruction to the user to carry out certain actions (along the lines of "connect ports to video devices using a bunch of cables"). Such action to be performed by the user does not have any limiting effect on the claimed method for automatically installing a video wall.

4.9 For these reasons, the board holds that the subject-matter of claim 1 is anticipated by the disclosure of document D4.

5. The main request is thus not allowable.

First auxiliary request

6. Article 84 EPC

The objections set out in sections 3.1 to 3.3 above apply similarly to the claims of the first auxiliary request.

7. Article 54 EPC

7.1 The wording

"wherein the identifiable image displayed in each video device is different from the others"

has been added to feature (b) of claim 1.

7.2 According to the decision under appeal (section 2 on page 11), this additional limitation is disclosed in document D4. The board agrees. The appellant did not provide any specific arguments on this issue.

7.3 For these reasons, the board holds that the subject-matter of claim 1 of the first auxiliary request is anticipated by the disclosure of document D4.

8. Consequently, the first auxiliary request is not allowable.

Second auxiliary request

9. Article 84 EPC

The objections set out in sections 3.1 to 3.3 above apply similarly to the claims of the second auxiliary request.

10. Article 54 EPC

10.1 The wording

"without a predetermined correspondence of which output port being coupled to which video device" and

"so that the output port that corresponds to each video device of the video wall can be identified"

has been added to claim 1 of the first auxiliary request.

10.2 This wording merely confirms the understanding of the term "randomly connecting" as set out in section 4. above. Furthermore, D4 discloses that the correspondence between the video devices and the output ports is identified.

10.3 For these reasons, the board holds that the subject-matter of claim 1 of the second auxiliary request is anticipated by the disclosure of document D4.

11. Hence, the second auxiliary request is not allowable.

Third auxiliary request

12. Amendments

This auxiliary request was submitted in the course of the first-instance oral proceedings.

Claim 1 is based on claim 1 of the first auxiliary request. The features of dependent claims 2 and 3 have been added to claim 1 as feature (f) which reads:

"based on the plurality of different identifiable images, the video wall automatic installation module (103) of the image capturing device (100) determining spacings between adjacent video devices and frame data of the video devices,

wherein the image capturing device (100) obtains a length or width of an image of the video wall (10), calculates a ratio between the length or width and an actual length or width of the video wall (10), recognizes image frames of the video devices and distances between the image frames using image recognition, and calculate physical distances, including horizontal spacing and vertical spacing, between the video devices based on the ratio and the recognized distances between the image frames".

13. Article 84 EPC

13.1 The objections set out in section 3. above apply analogously to the independent claims of the third auxiliary request.

13.2 The examining division decided that claim 1 did not meet the requirements of Article 84 EPC. It was argued that the terms "frame data of video device" and "distances between image frames" did not have any meaning in the art.

The board agrees with the decision under appeal that the meaning of "frame data of video device" in claim 1 is not clear. Moreover, the description does not provide any support for a "frame data". The claims and the description of the application refer to the different notions of e.g. "frame distance", "distances between the image frames", "frame size", "frame dimension", "image frames" and "frame information of each TV". The appellant did not provide any specific arguments regarding "frame data".

13.3 Differently, the term "distances between image frames" is clear. "Image frame" is considered to be the area on a video device which depicts the identifiable image.

13.4 According to the decision under appeal, the term of "calculate physical distances" amounted to a result to be achieved.

The board deems it expedient to address this objection in the section on Article 83 EPC below.

14. Article 83 EPC

14.1 The examining division held that the feature of determining spacing, or physical distances, between the video devices was not sufficiently disclosed.

14.2 The appellant, referring to feature (f), argued that first "length or width of an image of the video wall" is obtained, then "a ratio between the image length or width and the actual length or width of the TV wall is determined", then the image frames and the distances between them are recognised and, using the ratio and these distances, the physical distances between the video devices are calculated.

14.3 The board observes that obtaining the length of the image of the video wall (e.g. in pixels) appears in general to be within the reach of a skilled person who is aware of image recognition techniques. The determination of the ratio seems to be only possible when the actual length of the video wall (e.g. in meters) is provided by a user of the method. The claim will be interpreted accordingly.

14.4 The recognition of the image frames and the distances between them (in pixels) appears to be within the competence of the skilled person.

14.5 However, the last step, i.e. the calculation of the physical distances between the video devices is not sufficiently disclosed. The board notes that in general a video device has a front surface which is bigger than the image frame. In other words, the front surface of a video device is between a few millimeters and a few centimeters wider than the image frame. Additionally, the optical properties of the surface surrounding the image frame might widely vary. At the same time, it is not disclosed nor is it apparent how this difference in width could be determined. Figure 3 of the application in suit illustrates the distances between the image frames, while Figure 1, as adapted in the statement of grounds (page 6), depicts the different distances between the video devices. The figure on page 9 of the statement of grounds illustrates precisely the difference between "frame spacing" and "video device spacing".

14.6 Consequently, the invention according to claim 1 is not sufficiently disclosed.

15. Thus, the third auxiliary request is not allowable.

Fourth auxiliary request

16. Admission

This request was not admitted by the examining division (Rule 137(3) EPC). On appeal, the appellant merely submitted on page 10 of the statement of grounds that it "should be admitted".

The board takes the view that the examining division exercised its discretion in a proper way and does not admit the fourth auxiliary request (Article 12(6) RPBA 2020).

Fifth and sixth auxiliary requests

17. Article 83 EPC

The amendments to the claims do not address the objections in section 14. above. Therefore, these auxiliary requests are not allowable.

Seventh and eight auxiliary requests

18. Amendments

18.1 Claim 1 of both requests refers in feature (f) to "actual physical frame size of the each video device". Furthermore, feature (f) states that the image frame is "representing an actual physical frame of the each video device". The appellant submitted that these amendments were based on page 9, lines 7 to 13 of the description.

18.2 It appears that the appellant referred to a passage in the description as amended on 2 May 2016, while Article 123(2) EPC requires a basis in the application as filed. It seems that the appellant might have intended to refer to page 8, line 27 to page 9, line 2 of the description as originally filed.

18.3 The board considers that there is no basis in the original application documents for any "actual physical frame" or for its size.

18.4 Additionally, there is no basis for "distances between the image frame", "frame" being amended to a singular form.

18.5 Hence, these auxiliary requests are not allowable.

19. Conclusion

There being no allowable request on file the appeal must be dismissed.

Order

For these reasons it is decided that:

The appeal is dismissed.

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