On 28 February 2019, in its decision T0489/14 (Title of the invention: Simulation of the movement of an autonomous entity through an environment, Applicant: Connor, James Douglas) the EPO's Technical Board of Appeal (TBA) 3.5.07 (Chairman: R. Moufang) referred three questions relating to computer simulations to the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA).
The case concerns a simulation run on a computer, and the questions relate to the extent to which such a simulation can be considered to be based on technical principles.
The following questions were referred to the Enlarged Board of Appeal for decision:
In the assessment of inventive step, can the computer-implemented simulation of a technical system or process solve a technical problem by producing a technical effect which goes beyond the simulation's implementation on a computer, if the computer-implemented simulation is claimed as such? If the answer to the first question is yes, what are the relevant criteria for assessing whether a computer-implemented simulation claimed as such solves a technical problem? In particular, is it a sufficient condition that the simulation is based, at least in part, on technical principles underlying the simulated system or process? What are the answers to the first and second questions if the computer-implemented simulation is claimed as part of a design process, in particular for verifying a design? The invention disclosed in European patent application No. 03793825.5 (IPC: G06F17/50) relates to a computer-implemented method, computer program and apparatus for simulating the movement of a pedestrian crowd through an environment.
The main purpose of the simulation is its use in a process for designing a venue such as a railway station or a stadium. The application is based on the insight that human interaction can be expressed and simulated in the same way as interactions of physical objects.
Claim 1 of the patent application according to the main request of the applicant reads as follows:
"A computer-implemented method of modelling pedestrian crowd movement in an environment, the method comprising:
simulating movement of a plurality of pedestrians through the environment, wherein simulating movement of each pedestrian comprises:
providing a provisional path (9) through a model of the environment from a current location (6) to an intended destination (7);
providing a profile for said pedestrian;
determining a preferred step (112′), to a preferred...