computer system for monitoring financial records for a plurality of users and for giving a plurality of mutually independent financial service providers selective accessto the financial records, the system comprising

  • database partitioned into areas each of which is allocated to a respective user,
  • processor for writing data to and reading data from the database,
  • computer network connections coupling the processor to each user and each financial service provider
  • user access control system which is arranged to give a user access via the processor only to the respective data storage area such that each user can only update and read financial data stored in the respective data storage area, and
  • a financial service provider access control system which is arranged to give a financial service provider at least read access via the processor to a data storage area only if that financial service provider is authorised by the user to which that data storage areahas been allocated.

You will note that this claim comprises features that indicate a non-technical application of the invention (e.g. monitoring financal records, financial service provider). It is however an accepted fact that the technicality of an invention cannot be denied for reasons that the result of an invention completely falls into a non-technical area, as long as this result solves a technical problem by technical means, For the examination of a patent it therfore must not make a difference if a computer system controlls the access to financial data or to status data for controlling an apparatus.

No search report was established. Without performing an additional search the examination devision of the EPO concluded that the partioned database and the selective access to a storage system are part of a business method implemented in a general purpose computer system. The closest prior art, a general purpose networked computer system with a database was regarded as so well known, as no [written] proof was required. The technical problem was reduced by the examining division to "how to automate the business method described in the claim". It was solved accoding to the examing division by "conventional programming techniques".

The board of appeal agreed with the examinating division that the "networked computer system with a database" is such a notorious system that it did not require documentary evidence. In contrast hereto it was incorrect of the examination division to include all other technical features, such as s database, a processor, network connections and access via the processor to storage areas, in the business method. The examinating division misunderstood the principals of the Comvik approach. In the acutal case the features of partioning a data base connected to a processor and designing control systems providing read/write access via a processor are not aims in a non technical fields but very much technical features. They can hardly be regarded notorious (nor did the examinig division allege the were). Therefore, in the absence of documents providing the contrary they must be assumed to be new as such. The Board therfore considered that as long as no search has been performed an examining division should normally not refuse an application for lack of inventive step if the invention as claimed contains at least one technical feature that is not notorious. The term "notorious" should be interpreted narrowly.