Munich, 7 December 2007 — EPO rules for full revocation after a hearing in the opposition of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII e.V.) against Amazon.com’s infamous patent on the online purchase of gifts. The patent EP927945 is a descendant of the controversial One-Click Patent, which was granted to Amazon in the USA but was partially revoked there due to lack of novelty in October 2007.
The FFII believes this is a pure software patent and prohibited by article 52 of the European Patent Convention (EPC).
This reasoning is no longer foreign to the opposition division of EPO: when Amazon’s representative maintained that the method to be patented comprised a computer, and therefore represented patentable new technology, the patent examiner retorted: “Computers were always able to do that. You simply programmed them!”
Nevertheless, in today’s first instance ruling, EPO could not yet bring itself to a rejection due to unpatentable subject matter. This forced a mental balancing act. The rejection was based on the lack of an “inventive step”, which gave Amazon the right to formulate new patent claims. Since these were violating formal prescriptions of article 123 EPC the patent was then revoked in its entirety.
Hartmut Pilch, founder of the FFII says: “This is highly artificial and shows that the battle over software patents is still far from being over. However, a few years ago EPO would just have followed the USA – and therefore Amazon. Today, at least the fundamental problems are better recognized”. Georg Jakob, who also represented the FFII during the hearing, added: “This is a clear sign, that our arguments are increasingly heard even within EPO and the current practice cannot be maintained in the long run. It is only a question of time”.
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