User interfaces, in particular graphical user interfaces (GUIs), comprise features of presenting information and receiving input in response as part of human-computer interaction. Features defining user input are more likely to have a technical character than those solely concerning data output and display, because input requires compatibility with the predetermined protocol of a machine, whereas output may be largely dictated by the subjective preferences of a user. Features concerning the graphic design of a menu (such as its look and feel) which are determined by aesthetic considerations, subjective user preferences or administrative rules do not contribute to the technical character of a menu-based user interface. Evaluation of features related to output of data is addressed in G‑II, 3.7 G‑II, 3.6.3. The present section focuses on evaluating features relating to how a user can provide input.
Features which specify a mechanism enabling user input, such as entering text, making a selection or submitting a command, are normally considered to make a technical contribution. For example, providing in a GUI an alternative graphical shortcut allowing the user to directly set different processing conditions, such as initiating a printing process and setting the number of copies to be printed by dragging and reciprocated movement of a document icon onto a printer icon, makes a technical contribution. On the other hand, supporting user input by providing information facilitating only the user's mental decision-making process during this task (e.g. helping the user in deciding what he wants to input) is not considered as making a technical contribution (T 1741/08).
While assisting a user in entering text in a computer system by providing a predictive input mechanism is per se a technical function, rules used to generate such suggestions which reflect purely linguistic considerations do not make a technical contribution.
Where the actual achievement of effects like simplifying the user's actions or providing more user-convenient input functions depends exclusively on subjective user abilities or preferences, such effects may not form the basis of an objective technical problem to be solved. For example, a reduction of the number of interactions required to perform the same input is not credibly achieved if it materialises only for some usage patterns that occur depending on the user's level of expertise or subjective preferences.
Manners of providing input, such as gestures or keystrokes, that merely reflect subjective user preferences, conventions or game rules and from which a physical ergonomic advantage cannot be objectively established, do not make a technical contribution. However, performance-oriented improvements to the detection of input, such as allowing faster or more accurate gesture recognition or reducing the processing load of the device when performing recognition, do make a technical contribution.
A computer-implemented data structure (see T 1194/97) or a computer-implemented data format embodied on a medium or as an electromagnetic carrier wave has technical character (because the storage medium is a technical artefact) and thus is an invention in the sense of Art. 52(1). Such data structures or formats may comprise a mixture of cognitive content and functional data.
Technical effects associated with data structures or formats when using said data structure or format during the operation of a computer system could give rise to, for example: efficient data processing, efficient data storage, enhanced security. On the other hand, features merely describing data collections on a logical level do not provide a technical effect, even if such a description might involve a particular modelling of the described data.
A data structure in itself is merely a static memory configuration. Therefore, when a data structure is claimed by itself, a technical effect cannot be directly identified since there is no method being carried out. Furthermore, a claimed data structure can potentially be used in combination with different algorithms or methods for completely different purposes.
For these reasons the examiner should check whether the data structure as claimed inherently comprises the technical features of the system or the steps of a corresponding method which forms the basis of the technical effect.