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Hint: You can search for patent applications yourself at esp@cenet.
Filed Today, Patented Tomorrow?
Today's patent applications should be tomorrow's patents – that at least is what the applicant wishes. Here we have compiled a series of patent applications from the years 1998 to 2000. All of them were filed by a German electronics corporation that has been pushing for very far-reaching software patentability. Based on these example patents one may fairly conclude what this corporation wants to be patentable in the coming years.
Business methods and mathematical methods?
- EP 1 193 624 A1 – Quality Management Method (German, PDF, 984 KB)
The European Patent Office (EPO) comments this application on p. 18 (translation): "The searching department believes that the present patent application does not conform to the requirements of the EPC ... The object of the submitted patent claims 1-9 falls under the provisions of article 52 (2) and (3) EPC (methods of doing business as such, methods for mental activity as such)."
- WO 02/01429 A2 – Method for Consigning Ordered Commodities (German, PDF, 598 KB)
On p. 15 the EPO writes (translation): "Considering that the claimed object contains only such non-technical subject matter or publicly known implementation features, the search examiner is unable to find a technical problem whose solution could possibly comprise an inventive step."
- WO 01/69417 A2 – Plant Maintenance Technology Architecture (English, PDF, 1681 KB)
Abstract (p. 1): "An overall plan for providing maintanance and technical services for businesses and plants, as broadly defined, includes generic procedures for the service written as a manual of standard practices. A knowledge base or experience database of data and people is utilized, and both hardware and software tools are selected and used in providing the services."
- WO 00/04470 A1 – Low-cost Instruction Processing for Financial Transactions (German, PDF, 469 KB)
The document names two patent claims (p. 5, translated): "1. Method for processing customers' instructions to banking societies in a home banking context through a communication network. According to this method, an instruction is memorised at the customer's and at the banking society, a modification of this instruction is memorised at the customer's, a communication link is established with the banking society and the present instruction is compared both at the customer's and at the society. When the comparison is positive, the instruction is modified at the customer's and at the banking society, whereas a message is generated at the customer's when said comparison is negative. 2. Method of claim 1 where the comparison and the modification take place every time a communication link is established."
- WO 00/34850 A2 – Method and Arrangement for Designing a Technical System (German, PDF, 740 KB)
Summary (DEPATISnet): "The invention relates to the design of a technical system which comprises several target functions. A searching direction is determined for the target functions. The values of the target function are improved along said searching function. An iterative determination of the search direction leads to an efficient working point which is useful for the design of the technical system." Claims 1-12 describe, according to our analysis, purely mathematical methods. Claim 13 apparently describes an "arrangement" of elements of a computer which is presented in fig. 3 and described on p. 13 f.
- EP 1 211 619 A2 – Verfahren und Vorrichtung zur mobilen Überwachung eines Interaktions-Dienstleistungszentrums (German, PDF, 254 KB)
Patent claim 1 (p. 4): "A method for mobile monitoring of an interactive service center where, under manangement of a central installation, at least one agent [a person] processes inquiries, the method comprising the steps of:
- Recording data relating to at least one of the processing of the inquiries and the management of the processing
- displaying the recorded data, including displaying the data to a supervisor by a mobile communication unit
- monitoring the displayed data by the supervisor"
- EP 1 211 470 A2 – Refrigeration Apparatus with a Management Unit (German, PDF, 574 KB)
A refrigerator that can order extra supplies. The application is based on an earlier application of the same company: EP 0 974 798 A2 (German, PDF, 249 KB), research report EP 0 974 798 A3 (German, PDF, 52 KB).
Software patent applications in the areas of fieldbus, intranet, and internet
- EP 1 199 846 A1 – Method for Automatically Configuring a Device in a Fieldbus System (German, PDF, 369 KB)
In a field bus system (e.g. Profibus DP), the master scans all slave adresses in order to determine which slaves are present. It transmits parameter data records and activates these slaves. The first two patent claims (p. 4) describe this procedure in the following way:
- EP 1 187 011 A2 – Method for Programming a Control Device (German, PDF, 216 KB)
Programming of a device e. g. via the CAN bus (fig. 2); if the device receives a special message shortly after it is switched on, it then switches into a mode in which it can be completely or partially reprogrammed.
- US 2001/0056484 A1 – System, Method and Control Unit for Generating a Message as E-Mail via Internet and/or Intranet (English, PDF, 325 KB)
Sending and receiving of e-mail by a controller (PLC, NC, RC). The US patent application US 2001/0056484 A1 is supplied as a translation help for WO 00/11552 A2 which is available in German language only.
- US 2002/0006790 A1 – System and Method for Remote Maintenance and/or Remote Diagnosis of an Automation System by Means of Electronic Mail (English, PDF, 263 KB)
Remote service and diagnostics of an automation system by the means of sending e-mail back and forth over a firewall. The US patent application US 2002/0006790 A1 is supplied as a translation help for DE 198 48 618 A1 which is available in German language only.
Software patent applications for small software modules, elements and concepts
WO 01/09725 A2 – Method for Constructing an Image for the Visualisation of a Process (German, PDF, 298 KB)
Statements and Demands
After a detailed analysis of the current patenting practise, of the EU Directive Proposal, of related literature and of numerous example patents and patent applications as well as extensive discussions with proponents and opponents of software patentability, we have worked out a position paper on software patents, which includes a series of demands.
Plea for a Clear Concept of Technical Inventions (PDF, 236 KB)
Transparencies (translated) for a lecture given at a meeting of the working group "Communication in Industrial Automation" of the German electrical and electronic manufacturers' association ZVEI on 2002-06-05.
Please note: The software and hardware names, company names, and brand names used in this text may be subject to trademark, registered trademark, or patent protection.
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