In decision T 373/12 of 2 April 2014 the Enlarged Board has been asked to decide on the extent to which the clarity of claims amended during opposition proceedings and opposition appeal proceedings can be challenged when the amendments are based on dependent claims as granted.
The board held that a document of speculative nature could not objectively be considered as a realistic starting point or the most promising springboard towards the claimed invention: the document was no more than a speculative review of what might be potentially feasible in the future and no concrete realization of the claimed type of product was described therein.
The EPO Board of Appeal 3.2.06 decided on 20 February 2014 to refer the following question to the Enlarged Board of Appeal:
“Is an appeal inadmissible or not deemed to have been filed, if both the notice of appeal had been filed and the fee for appeal had been paid after the expiry of the appeal term pursuant to Art. 108, 1st sentence EPC?”
Article 123 (2) EPC and corresponding national provisions prohibit an applicant or patentee from amending a patent application or patent such that its subject-matter extends beyond the content of the application as originally filed. The statute is the same throughout Europe, but the practice is not always so. An issue where the Case Law of the EPO and the national courts seems to increasingly diverge is the admissibility of intermediate generalisations.
What are intermediate generalisations? Imagine the following exemplary situation: An EP application has a broad claim 1 consisting of features A, B and C. The application further contains several working examples which are directed to various [...]
The Board of Appeal used its discretionary power to declare inadmissible an appeal based on the claims as granted after the proprietor had only defended amended claims before the opposition division. Even if this should not be construed as abandonment of the claims as granted, the request should not be admitted for reasons of procedural economy, because it would require the board to take a first instance decision. The proprietor had lost its right to a decision on the claims as granted by amending the claims to circumvent an objection by the opposition division.
Different views from the EPO and Germany on the same case
Functional features in patent claims may provide protection not only for specific embodiments disclosed in the patent specification, but also for undisclosed (future) embodiments. A classic example is a claim of the format “An inhibitor of protein P for the treatment of a disease X” or variants thereof in the second medical use claim format. Patentees naturally love such claims, competitors usually reject them as excessively broad and examiners commonly approach them at least with skepticism. Do such claims “reach through” to the use of compounds that have yet to be discovered or invented by others, or do they [...]