Warning: this post is quite technical, and some less well informed readers might therefore find it difficult to understand.
While he was pondering this, a “Communication pursuant to the Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 12 July 2007 on the filing of priority documents (Special edition No. 3, OJ EPO 2007, 22)” landed on his desk.
(Right: the IPKat gets into techno music for the occasion; click the picture to see more)
The communication effectively tells the applicant that they don’t technically need to go to the bother of getting certified copies of priority documents (as long as they come by technical means from certain selected patent offices) because the EPO have been technically able to get copies themselves electronically, at technically no charge to the applicant. Which is very nice of them, and of course is just the sort of thing that is technically possible in this modern technological age.
What made the IPKat’s technical whiskers spring to attention, however, was the following sentence:
“It should be noted that, for technical reasons, this communication may be issued not only if the priority document has been included in the file ectronically [sic] in accordance with the abovementioned Decision but also if it was filed by the applicant.”
Now what ‘technical reasons’ could there be? Interpreting this according to the EPO technical boards of appeal, the technical reasons may well possess ‘technical character’, and couldn’t therefore technically relate solely to computer programs, business methods or any of the other ‘exclusions’ under Article 52(2) EPC.
Given that the communication technically relates to computer programs retrieving copies of priority documents, as part of the business method (‘administrative task’, if you will) of processing patent applications by technical means, how could there be any ‘technical character’ regarding the reasons why the communication might have issued if the priority documents were instead technically filed by the applicant? Could there be a special cleverly-designed piece of technical machinery somewhere at the EPO where all priority documents have to be technically processed? Or does computerised technical processing of priority documents inherently possess technical character?
Another thought, however, occurred to the IPKat. The word ‘technical’ could instead mean what he always thought it to mean, which is to say: “this is too complicated to explain in a few words, and too difficult for mere mortals to understand, so we would rather you didn’t worry about it until you are sufficiently well-informed”. That seems to make much more sense, particularly as the EPC is full of the word being used in this sense*. The definition of ‘technical character’ consequently also becomes much more easy to understand, which goes something like: “having a character that is quite complicated and cannot therefore be expressed in words that a normal person can understand, but which I, as a well-informed clever person, can”. Now, all we have to do is find a representative clever person...
Such as: “technically qualified” (A18-22), "technical opinion" (A23), "technical information" (A85), "technical means of communication" & "technical requirements" (Rule 2), "technical or legal difficulties" (Rule 11), "technical process" (Rules 27&29), "technical preparations for publication" (Rules 31&32), "technical designation of the invention" (Rule 41), "technical field" & "technical problem" (Rule 42), "technical features" (Rule 43), "technical relationship" (Rule 44), "technical means" (Rule 124) etc. etc.