Application of the steps of the problem-solution approach according to G‑VII, 5.4:
Step (i): The features contributing to the technical character are at first glance identified as a distributed system comprising a mobile device connected to a server computer which has a cache memory and is connected to a database.
Step (ii): Document D1, which discloses a method for facilitating shopping on a mobile device wherein the user selects a single product and the server determines from a database the vendor selling the selected product nearest to the user and transmits this information to the mobile device, is selected as the closest prior art.
Step (iii): The differences between the subject-matter of claim 1 and D1 are:
Differences (1) and (2) represent modifications of the underlying business concept, since they define producing an ordered list of shops to visit which sell these products. No technical purpose is served, and no technical effects can be identified from these differences. Hence, these features make no technical contribution over D1. On the other hand, difference (3) makes a technical contribution as it relates to the technical implementation of differences (1) and (2) and has the technical effect of enabling rapid determination of the optimal shopping tour by accessing previous requests which are stored in a cache memory.
Step (iii)(c): The objective technical problem is to be formulated from the perspective of the person skilled in the art as an expert in a technical field (G‑VII, 3). Such a person is not deemed to have any expertise in business-related matters. In the present case, the skilled person can be defined as an expert in information technology who gains knowledge of the business-related features (1) and (2) as part of the formulation of the technical problem to be solved, as would be the case in a realistic situation in the form of a requirement specification. The objective technical problem is thus formulated as how to modify the method of D1 to implement in a technically efficient manner the non-technical business concept defined by the differences (1) and (2), which is given as a constraint to be met.
Obviousness: Following requirement (1), it would have been a matter of routine for the skilled person to adapt the mobile device used in D1 so as to enable the user to select two or more products instead of a single one. It would also have been obvious to assign the task of determining the optimal shopping tour (arising from requirement (2)) to the server, by analogy with the server likewise determining the nearest vendor in D1. Since the objective technical problem further requires a technically efficient implementation, the skilled person would have looked for efficient technical implementations of the determination of a tour. A second document D2 discloses a travel planning system for determining travel trips, listing a set of places to visit, and addresses this technical problem: the system of D2 accesses for this purpose a cache memory storing results of previous queries. The skilled person would thus have considered the teaching of D2 and adapted the server in D1 to access and use a cache memory as suggested in D2 so as to provide a technically efficient implementation of the determination of the optimal shopping tour, i.e. difference (3). Hence, no inventive step is involved within the meaning of Art. 52(1) and Art. 56.
Remarks: The example shows a typical application of the approach developed in T 641/00 (COMVIK). The analysis of technical effects is performed in detail at step (iii) to see if the differences from the closest prior art comprise features making a technical contribution. This analysis refines the initial finding of step (i) by identifying the feature of accessing the cache memory for results of previous requests in the step of determining the tour as a technical feature. Note that in this case step (i) would not need to be indicated explicitly in the reasoning. In step (iii)(c), the non-technical modifications to the business concept are given to the skilled person as a constraint to be met. Whether or not the new business concept is innovative is here irrelevant for the assessment of inventive step, which has to be based on the features of its technical implementation.