Patent decision

BL number
Concerning rights in
Hearing Officer
Dr J E Porter
Decision date
17 July 2017
Person(s) or Company(s) involved
Ensign Advanced Systems Limited
Provisions discussed
Patents Act 1977 section 1(2)
Excluded fields (allowed)
Related Decisions


The invention concerns support systems for building services such as hot and cold water, gas, electricity, drainage and ventilation (“service paths”). It provides a computer-implemented process of designing support systems for such services.

A layout of the services is inputted into the computer, and a design for the locations of supports along the service paths is created, according to predetermined rules for each type of service and support. A tolerance region around the location of each support is then determined according to predetermined rules for each type of service and support. A region of overlap between the tolerance regions is identified, and then the design is optimised by removing supports that give rise to the overlapping tolerance regions and adding a shared support that intersects the region of overlap. The examiner objected that the invention is no more than a computer program.

The Hearing Officer followed Aerotel and assessed the contribution made by the invention as being a computer-implemented method of designing support systems for building services, involving the steps set out above. He noted that the process takes into account the required properties of the supports and the nature of the services, and that the tolerance regions themselves depend on physical characteristics of the supports, and the physical characteristics and requirements of the services. In the light of case-law, particularly Halliburton, he concluded that the method has a technical effect on the design of physical entities of a technical nature which are external to the computer. He rejected an approach taken by the examiner which focussed on whether the present invention was less technically complex than that in Halliburton, and disagreed with the objection that the contribution was merely an intellectual or administrative process. The application was remitted to the examiner.

Full decision O/334/17 PDF document101Kb