Simulations are patentable inventions
March 17, 2021
The highest court at the European Patent Office decides that simulations are patentable, just like any other computer-implemented invention.
Not all inventions are patentable inventions. For example, the law excludes ‘abstract’ inventions from protection such as ‘discoveries’, ‘mathematical methods’, ‘mental acts’ etc. The European Patent Office has until now considered ‘computer-implemented simulation inventions’ to be ‘mathematical methods’ and has previously refused to protect them unless they are claimed explicitly in combination with a particular down-stream technical use or as simulating a specific technical process.
The Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office, in decision G 1/19 (Simulations), has held that the established case law on computer-implemented inventions also applies to computer-implemented simulations. That is the claimed invention is patentable if it provides a technical solution to a technical problem taking into account the simulation.
This means that a non-technical simulation model can contribute to inventive step if it contributes to the technical character of the claimed invention. The contribution could be manifest in adaptation to the computer (or how it operates), or in the (implied) technical effect of the results of the simulation.
This should mean that a new class of invention is protectable in Europe and the UK.
This demonstrates that the European Patent Office is generally broadening the scope of what is technical and therefore protectable by patents. While business methods remain firmly outside what is technical, inventions relating to applied mathematical methods, including machine learning and artificial intelligence innovations, are becoming easier to protect.
We will be attending the EPO symposium on patenting artificial intelligence inventions, in April, to discuss the impact of this case directly with the EPO.