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Sustainability, strategy and actions of the European Patent Office

Innovation is crucial in finding a path towards a more sustainable planet, but turning research findings into inventions and bringing them to market remains a challenge. EPO's cutting-edge patent data have an important role to play in this respect, by offering policymakers and investors key insights into potentially game-changing technologies. This panel will discuss the way in which such insights can be generated using the knowledge of EPO experts, and how far patent information on sustainable technologies can be leveraged to guide policy and investments. 

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Adaptation of the description: operational view

The workshop will focus on the operational aspects of the subject of "adaptation of the description". It aims to elaborate on the requirements laid down in Article 84 EPC (support by description), Rule 42 (1) EPC and Guidelines F-IV, 4.3 and 4.4. In addition, some examples will be given of what is necessary to satisfy the respective requirements.  

Christian Schmelz, senior expert, EPO Munich. Examiner in the field of electronics and information/communication technology, G01S (radar/lidar/ultrasonic sensors) since 1999. Member of EQE Commission (part D) 2006-2021. Degree in physics. PhD in high frequency engineering.  

Jean-Luc Gal, lawyer, Patent Law and Procedures, EPO Munich. Holds degrees in law and in particular in European and intellectual property law. Started working as a barrister specialised in economic affairs in 1996. Joined the international department of the French Patent Office as a policy officer in 1997. From 2006 to 2013, headed the EU Liaison Office. Seconded to the European Commission (DG GROW, Intellectual Property Enforcement Unit) in 2013. Joined the Directorate Patent Law and Procedures in 2019. Also acts as a legal member notably in the context of Opposition Divisions. Involved in the annual drafting of the EPO Guidelines. 

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Parameters in the field of batteries and fuel cells

In the field of batteries and fuel cells, the characteristics of components, such as electrodes, membranes or materials (e.g. polymers, inorganic compounds), are often specified by parameters. Unclear or insufficiently disclosed parameters may lead to a refusal of the application or a significant limitation of the scope of the independent claims if the patent application as originally filed does not provide a suitable basis to overcome the objections raised by the examiner.

In this workshop, we will first give a short overview of the requirements of parametric definitions with respect to Articles 84 and 83 EPC and of the assessment of novelty of claims including parameters.

Then, we will present typical examples of our daily work and discuss possible ways for the applicant to overcome objections with respect to clarity, sufficiency of disclosure and novelty of claims including parameters.

We will also touch on pitfalls to be avoided when drafting the claims and the description and suitable fallback positions to be included.

Note: The interplay of parameter claims and product-by-process claims will be dealt with in the workshop "Defining materials using product-by-process features".

Heide Götz, senior expert, EPO Munich. Batteries and fuel cells. Member of the Opposition Directorate. Joined the EPO in 2003. PhD in physical chemistry, Max-Planck Institute for Polymer Research, 1999. Diploma in chemistry, University of Kaiserslautern, 1995. Degree in organic/macromolecular chemistry, Lille University of Science and Technology, 1995. EQE part D tutor 2012 to 2018. 

Frank Hintermaier, senior expert, EPO Munich. Batteries and fuel cells. Member of the Opposition Directorate. Worked for 7 years in the semiconductor industry before joining the EPO in 2011. PhD in organometallic chemistry (Munich). Coach for those entering the profession and colleagues changing their technical field. Currently member of the Guidelines Drafting Group for Inventive Step. Passed the EQE in 2006.

Eric Wiedemann, team manager, EPO Munich. Healthcare, Biotechnology and Chemistry. Studied chemistry at Tübingen and Heidelberg Universities and wrote a PhD thesis on redox flow batteries. Worked in technical support and development for customer applications at Rhodia Silicones S.A. (Germany). Joined the EPO in 2000 as an examiner in batteries and fuel cells. Worked for five years in the Quality Management Directorate.

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Defining materials using product-by-process features

Often, new materials cannot be adequately defined relying exclusively on product features. In some cases, their complex nature can only be characterised by their process of manufacture.  

This workshop aims to elaborate on the requirements for allowability of product-by-process claims under the EPC, both alone and in combination with parameter definitions, and to exemplify the issues encountered based on pertinent case law. In addition, light is shed on how examining divisions approach such claims and which arguments and evidence are necessary to satisfy these requirements.

Examples will include product-by-process claims in additive manufacturing, reflecting on the extent to which the process confers physical and identifiable properties on the resulting product. Based on these examples, common pitfalls and possible solutions will be discussed.

Note: The workshop "Parameters in the field of batteries and fuel cells" outlines useful considerations for definitions by means of parameters.

Pascal Neibecker, examiner, EPO The Hague. Additive manufacturing and metal industry. Joined the EPO in 2017. PhD in physics, TU Munich. MSc in materials science, TU Munich, University of Munich, University of Augsburg. BSc in materials science, Saarland University. BSc in mechanical engineering, Oregon State University.  

Inga Helgadóttir, examiner, EPO The Hague. Additive manufacturing and metal industry. Joined the EPO in 2013. PhD in nanotechnology, Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University. MSc in materials science, TU Munich, University of Munich, University of Augsburg. BSc in chemistry, Jacobs University Bremen. Passed the EQE in 2018. 

Ben Brigou, Dutch and European patent attorney, Chemist. At the patent law firm NLO, leading a multidisciplinary team combining chemistry, electrical engineering and AI experts to provide services in traditional fields as well as "smart" products. Active litigation and advisory practice. Co-author of the “SPC Handbook” (Stief, 2021).

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Inventions based on data processing: meeting the requirements of Articles 56 and 83 EPC

Patent protection is normally delimited by a claim that generalises the scope of the inventive solution to a broader than exemplified class of products. The applicant must show that the generalisation of the solution is allowable in that it is implementable for the class of products claimed ("support"). Unlike standard inventions, a data-processing method is different by design: it can be implemented for any input data and will always produce an output. The specific computations involved can be generalised – at least linguistically – at many different levels. Sometimes these computations are viewed as black boxes, as has recently been the case for many applications involving neural networks. 

These particularities raise questions of sufficient disclosure and achieved technical effects. Indeed, what restricts the subject-matter that can be claimed is rather the question of whether and when a technical effect is still present for the scope of generalisation claimed.

The aim of this presentation is to explore, on the basis of general technical principles and specific technical examples, the boundaries of subject-matter for which the requirements of Articles 83/84 EPC and Article 56 EPC are considered met. 

Cristina Darolti, examiner, EPO The Hague. Pattern recognition. Joined the EPO in 2010. Coach for new colleagues, member of the Examination Matters organising committee. Former member of the Guidelines Drafting Group for CII. Holds a PhD in computer science from the University of Lübeck and was a Postdoc at McGill University, Montreal. Passed EQE Papers B, C, D. 

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Novelty revisited in the light of recent decisions of the boards of appeal

Novelty is one of the primary requirements for patentability and is assessed under the EPC on the basis of Article 54 EPC. Even though for the novelty assessment an absolute criterion is applied, reality proves trickier in some cases.

With the aid of several practical examples, specific situations are discussed to illustrate recent developments in the case law developed by the boards of appeal of the EPO with respect to method claims and second non-medical use claims, among others.  

Roberto Menchaca, examiner, EPO The Hague. Team Chemistry 2 and C07C/F Compounds. Studied chemistry at Complutense University of Madrid. PhD in organic chemistry from the same university. Worked for five years in R&D for two pharmaceutical companies. Joined the EPO in 2005. CEIPI tutor for the EQE since 2011. Experience as a chairman in opposition proceedings. Passed the EQE in 2010.  

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Examining AI-based inventions in additive manufacturing using an interdisciplinary approach

The number of patent applications filed at the EPO in the field of additive manufacturing (AM) in which the invention is based on artificial intelligence (AI), has steadily increased over recent years.

In many of these patent applications, AI is at the core of the invention for accomplishing very diverse tasks, such as optimising the design of the workpiece, supervising its manufacturing, or validating the quality of the manufactured workpiece.

In this workshop we would like to give you an insight into how such AI-intense AM patent applications are examined at the EPO in an interdisciplinary, collaborative manner involving experts from both AM and AI. Throughout the workshop we will make use of model examples to explain our approach. 

Nicolas Traon, examiner, EPO The Hague. Powder metallurgy (B22F) with focus on additive manufacturing of metal parts. Joined the EPO in 2016. Gérant in B22F since 2022. PhD in refractory ceramic materials from RWTH Aachen University.

Simon Theissing, examiner, EPO The Hague. Core AI and quantum computing (G06N). Joined the EPO in 2016. Coach and tutor for examiners and trainees. PhD in computer science received from the University of Paris-Saclay (prepared at ENS Paris-Saclay). 

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Art. 123(2) EPC: The "gold standard" in the case law of the (E)BoA

With the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of the Guidelines, we will look at several popular decisions of the boards of appeals (BoA), as well as the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA), which will give us a 360° view of the "gold standard" principle for assessing amendments under Article 123(2) EPC. Starting from the definition of the "gold standard" given in G2/10, the presentation will zoom out to provide an overall perspective of how this "gold standard" fits within the jurisprudence of the EBoA. We will also cover the definition given in T 0823/96 of "implicit disclosures", which is key for applying the "gold standard" principle. Finally, the workshop will address how the BoA applies the "gold standard" in two recurrent types of amendments, namely intermediate generalisations and removal of a feature. 

Rafael Villar Fernández, examiner, EPO The Hague. Team "Collecting and Generating Heat" since 2013. Holds a Master's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Seville and a second Master's degree in thermal energy systems. Involved in Praktika Extern (2019), instructor for national patent offices (2019), member of the Case Law Monitoring Group (2021-onwards), and tutor in the Pan-European Seal Programme (2022). Passed the EQE in 2021. 

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Article 14 EPC – the unlikely hero of the examination procedure 

The proportion of PCT applications entering the European phase with a translation under Article 153(4) EPC is steadily increasing. Despite all due care, mistranslations can occur. Such an incorrect translation of a feature can often be the main source of a disagreement between the division and the applicant who might not even understand the objection simply because in their mother tongue, the issue is not present.

In this workshop we will look at some practical cases and boards of appeal decisions where the application was heading towards a refusal, but a straightforward grant was possible thanks to detection of a mistranslation and filing of a new translation under Article 14(2) EPC.

From these example cases, we will try to generalise and identify certain generic pointers which can be useful for attorneys and examiners in identifying that an issue with an incorrect translation might be present..

Vít Sípal, team manager, EPO The Hague. Antennas and microwave devices. Joined the EPO in 2014. Member of the EQE committee for paper C since 2021. Before joining the EPO, studied electrical engineering with a focus on antennas and microwaves in Prague (BSc), Aachen (Dipl.-Ing.) and Oxford (DPhil) and worked as an IRC Research Fellow at the Antenna and High Frequency Research Centre in Dublin. Passed the EQE in 2019. 

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