8.4. Everyday items from a different technical field

In T 1043/98 the patent concerned an inflatable gas-bag for a vehicle restraint system, one part being club-shaped and the other generally butterfly-shaped. According to the appellant, the skilled person would immediately arrive at the claimed gas-bag from his knowledge of tennis-ball or baseball construction. This raised the issue of the application of features or solutions drawn from another technical field but which could be considered "everyday items".

In T 397/87 the board had already pointed out that there was no obvious reason why a skilled person trying to solve a non-trivial problem should have been led to the claimed process by simple examples from everyday life which were unrelated to the problem in question. In T 349/96, too, the board was unable to see why the fact that different transport containers were used for beer bottles in an everyday context should prompt a skilled person to invent a spinning/winding machine combination with an integrated transport system even if the many citations from the relevant technical field were unable to do this (see also T 234/91).

In T 234/96, however, the board concurred with the examining division's view that the skilled person dealing with the practicalities of motorising a dispenser drawer for washing powder had in mind as a model the disc tray of a CD player with push-button electromotor operation, which, at the time of filing the application, was familiar to anyone and which therefore suggested the subject-matter of claim 1. In the board's view, the fact that washing machines and CD players were intrinsically different items serving different purposes did not suffice to prevent the skilled person concerned with the construction of washing machines from taking into consideration the basic principle of automatic tray operation in CD players when designing a dispenser drawer for washing powder.

From a comparison of the above-mentioned decisions, the board in T 1043/98 concluded that the relevance of such items for inventive step depended very much on the circumstances of the individual case. It agreed that persons skilled in developing the gas-bags in question would include tennis or baseball players. It could not, however, share the appellant's view that to solve the problem addressed by the invention the skilled person would draw on what he might know about tennis-ball or baseball construction. The main reason was that the gas-bag was not intended to be spherical in shape. It was therefore unlikely that the skilled person would take as his starting point an object which was the epitome of a sphere (see T 477/96, where the board also concluded that everyday experience was not relevant to the technical field of the invention).

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