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T 0862/10 (Notification system/MICROSOFT)


EP1639428, a member of 7 EP patent applications family, was refused by the EPO.


The invention relates to dynamically rendering information for users based upon their focus of attention (on a computer screen).


The invention distinguishes from prior art by the following features:


  1. the positioning of an information display object is dynamically moved closer to the user's focus of visual attention if a notification is determined to be urgent;


  1. The user's focus of visual attention is determined by e.g. determining the current cursor position, the place of an active cursor, using at least one head or gaze tracking component, or an attention model and determining the user's activity or other input about focus of visual attention including gaze and pose information,


  1. the information display object is configured to employ sound localization methods to localize an audio signal associated with the display object in a position at or near the location of the physical rendering of the display object


The fact that the invention enables "minimising information overload and distraction" is not considered technical in nature, being determined by psychological factors and typical to the question of how to present information in a particular context.


The board judged that determining a user's visual focus of attention as a point on a screen and displaying objects in positions relative to that point can be considered to have a technical effect, but that the particular choice of where to display an object dependent on a value assigned to that object (its "urgency") cannot be.


It means that displaying objects in positions relative to a reference point on a screen can be protected, but the way that reference point is determined is excluded from patentability when such determination is considered not technical.

In addition, it is worth noting that since the urgency concept is not technical, the remaining feature leads to an interpretation by which the only effect that could possibly be caused by a continuous movement of the display object is to attract the attention of the person looking at the display and present information to him or her that a certain message is urgent. But this is considered as presentation of information, and excluded form patentability for that very reason.


Therefore features A and B are rejected.


However, feature C solves the problem of making it easier for the user quickly to locate the position of the display object on the display screen.


Both the problem and the means to solve it are considered technical. They do not depend on psychological or other subjective factors but on technical parameters (based, inter alia, on human physiology) that can be precisely defined.


Accordingly, the appealed decision is set aside.