CASELAW-EPO - reviews of EPO Boards of Appeal decisions

T 1594/20 – An virtual simulation remains abstract even carried out on a computer

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The application EP 3 217 338 A1  relates to a method for dividing a picking order comprising a plurality of packages into a plurality of load carriers, which packages are transported from a source warehouse to a target warehouse by means of a transport vehicle and to target positions in the target warehouse.

Brief outline of the case

The application was rejected for lack of IS.

The board confirmed the lack of IS.

The applicant’s point of view

On the basis of decision T 1227/05 (Infineon), the applicant argued that the claimed subject-matter was a computer-aided simulation method.

The bord’s decision

For the board, the steps according to claim 1 merely represent an abstract procedure which can be carried out independently of a computer system by a businessman in the field of logistics.

The subject matter of claim 1 represents a “mixed invention” consisting of technical and non-technical features and having a technical character as a whole according to T 641/01 (COMVIK).

The board agreed with the contested decision that the method described in claim 1 merely relates to an administrative process for optimising transport in the field of logistics, taking into account mathematical methods for dividing up picking orders, which derives its technical character from an implementation on a conventional computer system with a computing unit, storage device and communication device.

Neither the computer system nor its mode of operation are further developed from a technical point of view. The board could not find in the claimed subject-matter or in the application documents as a whole implementation details for this concept which are determined by technical considerations relating to the internal functioning of a computer.

The technical features of the claimed subject-matter thus relate only to the computer-based implementation of the mathematical/business optimisation method.

A mathematical optimisation for the efficient allocation of a picking order does not necessarily also simulate the underlying physical process, in this case the transport of goods, but the subject matter of the claim here also includes purely deterministic mathematical optimisations.

An asserted energy saving is purely speculative and cannot readily lead to the assumption of a technical effect. This would require such an effect to be achieved by technical means.

In the case of the claimed subject-matter, however, an energy saving, if actually achieved, would be the result of a purely organisational or algorithmic optimisation, which is essentially based on a mental activity. No technical effect can be derived from this to take account of an inventive step.

Even if one assumes a simulation and refers to decision G 1/19 issued in the course of the appeal proceedings, it can be established with regard to the claimed subject-matter according to claim 1 that the formulation of an underlying model or of calculation rules constitutes a mental activity even if this is supported by a computer. The board referred to G 1/19, Reasons 106 and 112. They therefore do not contribute to the technical character of the subject-matter of the claim.

According to the COMVIK approach, numerical data cannot normally establish the technical character of an invention. However, calculated numerical data reflecting the physical behaviour of a system modelled in a computer can establish the technical character of an invention if the calculated behaviour adequately reflects the behaviour of the real system, here the physical transport of goods on which the simulation is based, cf. G 1/19, Reasons 128.


It is not because an applicant asserts that he is claiming a simulation that it is actually a simulation. A simulation must have a link with the real world as clarified in G 1/19.

For the rest, the COMVIK approach allows to deal with invention comprising technical and non-technical features.

It is thus no surprise that the application was refused.

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