Display of data and user preferences 

In T 756/06 the board noted that the indication of internal states of a technical system, in the form of visual feedback for human interaction with the system, has been acknowledged to be technical by the boards in the past (see e.g. T 115/85 (OJ 1990, 30; T 362/90). This finding has been confirmed by more recent cases, in particular in T 643/00, where the design of a GUI (Graphical user interface) was seen in the context of the technical process of fast and efficient image retrieval in an image processing apparatus. On the other hand, in cases where the GUI design aimed exclusively at the mental activities of a viewer, in particular at preparing the relevant data for a non-technical decision making process by the user as the final addressee, no technical contribution has been acknowledged beyond its mere implementation. For example, in T 125/04, the vectorial presentation of information on the screen informing the customer about the properties of a product was aimed exclusively at the non-technical mental activity of selecting a desired product and making a purchasing decision. In the case before it, the board considered that the layout of the schedule was for the user's mental use, i.e. according to the user's requirements and preferences, rather than for a technical purpose in a technical process. Although the appellant mentioned the possibility of user input of the first time span, the board considered that this only resulted in a subjective improvement of the appearance of the schedule and was not a part of any technical process.

In T 1841/06 the board stated that the aim and object of the invention was at best the result of balancing various mental preferences of the user but it was per se not a technical problem. Having the option of choosing between an original language and the preferred language might be felt as an inconvenience by one user but as an advantage by another. The invention brought about a mental simplification and subjective advantage for some users but it did not provide any objective advantage nor any technical advance in any field of technology. Such purely subjective preferences like any other non-technical aspects of an invention do not form a valid basis for a technical and inventive contribution over the prior art. Accordingly, the invention failed to meet the requirement of inventive step (see above T 1958/13).

In T 478/06 the claimed invention was a method of providing access to geographic information in a computer system. The board noted that, generally, any aspects that are based on the subjective interests, personal preferences and (business/commercial) activities or circumstances of the user are non-technical in nature. Thus the board agreed that managing, i.e. using depending on wishes, personal and geographical information was non-technical. Also, the choice of where to provide a control button was a matter of user preference, and/or the commercial circumstances such as which program was available to be modified. The same goes for the second aspect of prompting the user, when the map information was displayed, to indicate if directions were required. In the board´s view this was technically no different from the basic function of offering directions, differing at most by a presentation of information in the form of a question, and by the point in time that the directions were offered, which was a matter of user preference, neither being a technical consideration. Finally, the information content itself was, of course, also non-technical and could not play a role in assessing inventive step (see also T 1528/12). The board came to the conclusion that in the case before it, the choice of where to put the control button was a purely non-technical consideration, such as the user´s preferences, or the commercial circumstances of which program was available to be modified. It had no technical effect on the final outcome of displaying the map information, even if it did imply a particular technical implementation.

In T 115/85 (OJ 1990, 30) the board took the view that giving visual automatically about conditions prevailing in an apparatus or system was basically a technical problem.

In T 1000/09 the application addressed a need for a vehicle monitoring and reporting system that combined real-time vehicle performance data with specific user preferences for different types of data that could be captured by the system, such that a user could implement a maintenance plan that fitted their specific business plan for their vehicles. Data associated with the operation of a vehicle was gathered, processed to determine a probability of vehicle failure, and presented to the user. The board held that the failure probability information defined in claim 1 was only determined for presentation to the user, who could then decide to take technical action. The cognitive content of the presentation was not a technical feature, and it did not become technical even if it prompted the user to start a technical action (broken technical chain, T 1741/08, T 1670/07). The board also stated that setting user preferences for categories and ranges of data to be displayed in a convenient manner aims at a presentation of information, the latter being a priori non-technical (Art. 52(2)(d) EPC), even if it lowers a user's cognitive burden (T 1741/08). The cognitive meaning of the display data did not convey any technical character to the presentation. Effects resulting from a user-defined data presentation depended on the user's perception and/or constituted indirect technical effects and/or related to organisational and economic aspects. Regarding the technical, inputting side of the man-machine interface, the desire to provide it with inputting means for controlling the data output was driven by the obvious needs of users. The board judged that the system as defined in claim 1 did not involve any inventive step.

In T 862/10 the board referred to its case law (T 1143/06 and T 1741/08) and held that choosing the location of the display object in function of the urgency of the message was non-technical. In other words, the choice of where to put an object on a computer display depending on a value assigned to that object (its "urgency") could not be considered to have a further technical effect. Furthermore, the board also held that continuously moving the display object could serve no other objective purpose than that of presenting information as such. It therefore produced no further technical effect (i.e. no technical effect apart from the normal physical changes which inherently take place in a computer display) and did not contribute to the presence of an inventive step (see also T 1562/11). In contrast, feature (3) in claim 1 of the auxiliary request solved the objective problem of making it easier for the user to quickly locate the position of the display object on the display screen. In this context both the problem and the means to solve it were considered technical. They did not depend on psychological or other subjective factors but on technical parameters that can be precisely defined.

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