In November last year, the EPO updated the Guidelines for Examination in relation to presentations of information, which includes Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) (see sections G-II, 3.7 and 3.7.1). This provides a useful consolidation of their current approach to such inventions.
As will be familiar to users of the EPO, when assessing patentability of patent applications in this area, the claimed subject-matter is considered as a whole to determine if it has technical character and is thus not excluded from patentability. Only once this test is passed is the application examined in respect of the other requirements of patentability, in particular novelty and inventive step. However, only those features which, in the context of the invention, contribute to producing a technical effect serving a technical purpose can be used to support inventive step.
The new Guidelines confirm that a presentation of information that credibly (i.e. objectively, reliably and causally) assists the user in performing a technical task by means of a continued and/or guided human-machine interaction process may be seen as having a technical effect.
The type of information presented may also have a technical effect if it relates to an internal state prevailing in a technical system and enables the user (for example, by prompts) to properly operate this system.
The manner of presentation may, in exceptional cases, give rise to a technical effect if it facilitates a continued human-machine interaction or enables the user to perform a technical task. A technical effect may also arise if information is presented in a proactive and timely manner to enable performance of a technical task in a more efficient or precise manner. In another example, a manner of presentation based in human physiology (for example, presenting information in a location based on the current focus of a user) may result in a technical effect. This may be contrasted with effects based on psychology (for example, reducing the number of notifications such that only urgent notifications are seen).
When preparing or prosecuting applications relating to presentations of information, consider which of the effects of displaying the information are objectively present (rather than specific to a particular user’s preference, experience, or the like). Emphasise any effect which benefits a technical system (rather than, for example, enhances a business method). Consider if the method of presenting the information relies on, or is intended to result in, a physiological response (rather than human psychology).