Patent decision

BL number
Concerning rights in
Patent application GB 0906015.3
Hearing Officer
Dr J E Porter
Decision date
21 December 2011
Person(s) or Company(s) involved
Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P.
Provisions discussed
Patents Act 1977 section 1(2)(c)
Excluded fields (allowed)
Related Decisions


The invention lies in the field of image management and is concerned with creating a searchable image database by automatically identifying various characteristics of an image to enable descriptive words to be assigned to that image.

The examiner had objected that the invention was no more than a program for a computer. The hearing officer found that the contribution of the invention was defined by the claimed steps of processing image data, which resulted in the generation of a particular type of representation of an image which allowed automatic allocation of words representing the colour, size and location of regions of the image. These steps were not processing the image data to get out, at the end, a better quality image, but were processing the image data to achieve a different outcome - namely, a representation of the image suitable for the assignment of words. However, he went on to find that the reasoning of the EPO Technical Board of Appeal in Vicom nonetheless applied, and so these were technical image processing steps. Thus the contribution related to a “technical process” within the meaning of Vicom. It followed that the claims were directed to more than a computer program as such. The application was remitted to the examiner.

Full decision O/466/11 PDF document56Kb