The latest library decision

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Presentation by Lasse Ringhofer on public availability and prior art

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The latest library decision

  1. 1. The latest library decision - T834/09 4 March 2014 By Lasse Ringhofer 4 March 2014 1
  2. 2. Legal context – public availability • Art 54(2) EPC says: • “The state of the art shall be held to comprise everything made available to the public by means of a written or oral description, by use, or in any other way, before the date of filing of the European patent application.” 4 March 2014 2
  3. 3. The ”absolute state of the art” criterion • The EPC uses the ”absolute state of the art criterion” reflecting the fact that the EPC contains: - No restrictions as the the means of disclosure 4 March 2014 3
  4. 4. The ”absolute state of the art” criterion • The EPC uses the ”absolute state of the art criterion” reflecting the fact that the EPC contains: - No restrictions as the the means of disclosure - No restrictions as to the language 4 March 2014 4
  5. 5. The ”absolute state of the art” criterion • The EPC uses the ”absolute state of the art criterion” reflecting the fact that the EPC contains: - No restrictions as the the means of disclosure - No restrictions as to the language - ”No” restrictions in time (e.g. no time zones) 4 March 2014 5
  6. 6. The ”absolute state of the art” criterion • The EPC uses the ”absolute state of the art criterion” reflecting the fact that the EPC contains: - No restrictions as the the means of disclosure - No restrictions as to the language - ”No” restrictions in time (e.g. no time zones) - No geographical restrictions 4 March 2014 6
  7. 7. The ”absolute state of the art” criterion • The EPC uses the ”absolute state of the art criterion” reflecting the fact that the EPC contains: - No restrictions as the the means of disclosure - No restrictions as to the language - ”No” restrictions in time (e.g. no time zones) - No geographical restrictions - No restrictions as to ”the public” to whom the art has been made available (In the EPC, only two exceptions to the ”absolute state of the art criterion” namely European prior rights (Art 54(3) EPC) and nonprejudicial disclosures (Art 55 EPC)) 4 March 2014 7
  8. 8. ”..made available” (Art 54(2) EPC) Board of appeal case law has established that “made available” requires: • the theoretical possibility of having access to information renders it available to the public (see e.g. T 444/88) 4 March 2014 8
  9. 9. ”…the public” (Art 54(2) EPC) Case law of the EPO has stipulated that information is available to “the public” if: (i) only a single member of the public 4 March 2014 9
  10. 10. ”…the public” (Art 54(2) EPC) Case law of the EPO has stipulated that information is available to “the public” if: (i) only a single member of the public (ii) is in a position to gain access to it 4 March 2014 10
  11. 11. ”…the public” (Art 54(2) EPC) Case law of the EPO has stipulated that information is available to “the public” if: (i) only a single member of the public (ii) is in a position to gain access to it (iii) and understand it**, and (** oral disclosure at e.g. a lecture (e.g. T877/90) - if non-oral disclosure, no certain educational level of the public member required (e.g. T165/96)) 4 March 2014 11
  12. 12. ”…the public” (Art 54(2) EPC) Case law of the EPO has stipulated that information is available to “the public” if: (i) only a single member of the public (ii) is in a position to gain access to it (iii) and understand it**, and (iv) if there is no obligation to maintain secrecy (see e.g. T1081/01). (** oral disclosure at e.g. a lecture (e.g. T877/90) - if non-oral disclosure, no certain educational level of the public member required (e.g. T165/96)) 4 March 2014 12
  13. 13. The 1st library decision – T381/87 • In T381/87 it was considered that the physical act of shelving a document established the public availability of a document in a public library, regardless of whether any person looked at it or actually knew it was available. 4 March 2014 13
  14. 14. The 1st library decision – T381/87 • In T381/87 it was considered that the physical act of shelving a document established the public availability of a document in a public library, regardless of whether any person looked at it or actually knew it was available. • Additionally, documents (e.g. latest edition of a periodical) which has not yet entered in a library-catalogue but which may be requested is part of state of the art 4 March 2014 14
  15. 15. The 1st library decision – T381/87 • In T381/87 it was considered that the physical act of shelving a document established the public availability of a document in a public library, regardless of whether any person looked at it or actually knew it was available. • Additionally, documents (e.g. latest edition of a periodical) which has not yet entered in a library-catalogue but which may be requested is part of state of the art • Thus, early case law stipulated that the date of shelving a document (e.g. a scientific publication) in a public library and the fact that any person could request access to said document determined the date of public availability 4 March 2014 15
  16. 16. The 2nd library decision – T1137/97 • In T 1137/97 the board stated that the strength of the presumption in favour of the accuracy of a "Received" date marking appearing on the copy of a journal in a library as evidence of the actual date when the journal was made available to the public would depend on the library routine used (e.g. handwritten “Received” date not accepted by the EPO) 4 March 2014 16
  17. 17. The 2nd library decision – T1137/97 • In T 1137/97 the board stated that the strength of the presumption in favour of the accuracy of a "Received" date marking appearing on the copy of a journal in a library as evidence of the actual date when the journal was made available to the public would depend on the library routine used (e.g. handwritten “Received” date not accepted by the EPO) • Thus, whether ”Received” date qualifies as the date of public availability has to be established case-by-case. 4 March 2014 17
  18. 18. The 3rd library decision – T314/99 • In T 314/99 it was undisputed that the diploma thesis arrived in the archive of the Chemistry Department Library of the University of Hamburg before the priority date. 4 March 2014 18
  19. 19. The 3rd library decision – T314/99 • In T 314/99 it was undisputed that the diploma thesis arrived in the archive of the Chemistry Department Library of the University of Hamburg before the priority date. • However, in the Board's judgment, the diploma thesis did not by its mere arrival in the archive become publicly available, since that did not mean it was as of that point in time catalogued or otherwise prepared for the public to acquire knowledge of it, and because without such means of information the public would remain unaware of its existence. 4 March 2014 19
  20. 20. The 3rd library decision – T314/99 • In T 314/99 it was undisputed that the diploma thesis arrived in the archive of the Chemistry Department Library of the University of Hamburg before the priority date. • However, in the board's judgment, the diploma thesis did not by its mere arrival in the archive become publicly available, since that did not mean it was as of that point in time catalogued or otherwise prepared for the public to acquire knowledge of it, and because without such means of information the public would remain unaware of its existence. • Thus the mere ”date of arrival” does not qualify as date of public availability. Rather, the possibility that the public could acquire knowledge or awareness of the existence of a document – for instance by cataloguing - was seen as a precondition of its public availability in the library. 4 March 2014 20
  21. 21. The latest library decision - T834/09 Case summary: • Appel of opposition division’s revocation of EP904607B1 (OD revoked the patent on 9 December 2008) 4 March 2014 21
  22. 22. The latest library decision - T834/09 Case summary: • Appel of opposition division’s revocation of EP904607B1 (OD revoked the patent on 9 December 2008) • Priority date of revoked patent: 23 April 1996 4 March 2014 22
  23. 23. The latest library decision - T834/09 Case summary: • Appel of opposition division’s revocation of EP904607B1 (OD revoked the patent on 9 December 2008) • Priority date of revoked patent: 23 April 1996 • Disputed claim 1 said “A cathode material for a rechargeable electrochemical cell...”) 4 March 2014 23
  24. 24. The latest library decision - T834/09 Case summary: • Appel of opposition division’s revocation of EP904607B1 (OD revoked the patent on 9 December 2008) • Priority date of revoked patent: 23 April 1996 • Disputed claim 1 said “A cathode material for a rechargeable electrochemical cell...”) • In the opposition procedure, the parties agreed that the subjectmatter of above claim 1 was disclosed in its entirety in document D1 4 March 2014 24
  25. 25. The latest library decision - T834/09 • D1 was a scientific article with the following bibliographic data: ”A. K. Padhi et al: "LiFePO4: A Novel Cathode Material for Rechargeable Lithium Batteries", The Electrochemical Society, Inc. Meeting, Abstracts, Volume 96-1 (Spring Meeting, Los Angeles, Calif., May 5-10, 1996), page 73, Abstract No. 58.” (i.e. an example of premature publication of scientific data (K. Padhi was author of D1 as well as inventor of the disputed patent)) 4 March 2014 25
  26. 26. The latest library decision - T834/09 • The patent proprietor nevertheless contested that document D1 had been made available to the public before the priority date of the contested patent, i.e. before 23 April 1996, e.g. because: 4 March 2014 26
  27. 27. The latest library decision - T834/09 • The patent proprietor nevertheless contested that document D1 had been made available to the public before the priority date of the contested patent, i.e. before 23 April 1996, e.g. because: • ”…it has not been proven that D1 had been catalogued and shelved in public libraries before the priority date…” (i.e. the criteria applied in the former library decisions) 4 March 2014 27
  28. 28. The latest library decision - T834/09 • In the contested decision, the opposition division concluded that document D1 was made available to the public before this date because: 4 March 2014 28
  29. 29. The latest library decision - T834/09 • In the contested decision, the opposition division concluded that document D1 was made available to the public before this date because: (i) it was proven that it had been received by several libraries well before the above date and 4 March 2014 29
  30. 30. The latest library decision - T834/09 • In the contested decision, the opposition division concluded that document D1 was made available to the public before this date because: (i) it was proven that it had been received by several libraries well before the above date and (ii) electronically catalogued by one of these libraries on 9 April 1996. 4 March 2014 30
  31. 31. The latest library decision - T834/09 • In the contested decision, the opposition division concluded that document D1 was made available to the public before this date because: (i) it was proven that it had been received by several libraries well before the above date and (ii) electronically catalogued by one of these libraries on 9 April 1996. • The opposition division considered that “…once an electronic registration took place, the respective document was also retrievable for the public, even though it was not shelved". [emphasis added] 4 March 2014 31
  32. 32. The latest library decision - T834/09 • The decision of OD was appealed and in its decision of 2 February 2012 (i.e. T834/09) the Board emphasised e.g.: 4 March 2014 32
  33. 33. The latest library decision - T834/09 • The decision of OD was appealed and in its decision of 2 February 2012 (i.e. T834/09) the Board emphasised e.g.: (Reasons: 6.2) ”[general consideration]…in the case of a written disclosure it is irrelevant whether the staff member is a person skilled in the art or not, because the content of a written disclosure can be freely reproduced and distributed even without understanding it.” [emphasis added] 4 March 2014 33
  34. 34. The latest library decision - T834/09 …and: (Reasons: 6.3) “[in the present case]…at least one person - the member staff in charge of the reception and stamping (i.e. the librarian) - had free access to the document and could, at least theoretically, have passed the information contained therein on to anybody else.” [emphasis and comment added] 4 March 2014 34
  35. 35. The latest library decision - T834/09 …and: (Reasons: 6.3) “[in the present case]…at least one person - the member staff in charge of the reception and stamping (i.e. the librarian) - had free access to the document and could, at least theoretically, have passed the information contained therein on to anybody else.” [emphasis and comment added] …and: (Reasons: 6.2) “…date stamping an incoming document in a public library is the point of time at which the document is leaving the nonpublic domain and entering the public domain.” [emphasis added] 4 March 2014 35
  36. 36. The latest library decision - T834/09 …and: (Reasons: 7.0) “…the action of receiving and date stamping an incoming document in a public library suffices to make a written document available to the public” [emphasis added] 4 March 2014 36
  37. 37. T834/09 – conclusion • On this background the Board held that the novelty-destroying document D1 was indeed “made available to the public” before the priority date even if it had not been proven that D1 was “catalogued and shelved”. 4 March 2014 37
  38. 38. T834/09 – conclusion • This background the Board held that the novelty-destroying document D1 was indeed “made available to the public” before the priority date even if it had not been proven that D1 was “catalogued and shelved”. • Thus, even though the Board upheld the opposition division’s decision of revoking the patent (2 February 2012), it was not based in the OD’s “received and electronically catalogued” criteria but rather on a “received and date stamped” criteria. 4 March 2014 38
  39. 39. Take home message • After T834/09 the decisive criteria concerning public availability of a document in a library seems to have shifted from: ”catalogued and shelved” 4 March 2014 39
  40. 40. Take home message • After T834/09 the decisive criteria concerning public availability of a document in a library seems to have shifted from: ”catalogued and shelved” to ”received and catalogued” 4 March 2014 40
  41. 41. Take home message • After T834/09 the decisive criteria concerning public availability of a document in a library seems to have shifted from: ”catalogued and shelved” to ”received and catalogued” to ”received and date stamped*” (*regardless of the educational level of the responsible librarian who is considered as a ”single member of the public”) 4 March 2014 41

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