Friday, 2 March 2018

Paper A 2018 Some explanation of our solution

A brief explanation of our choices
I will focus on the method claim shown below

The invention
The client’s prime interest is already expressed in [02] “our new method to create protrusions on the surface of glass panes. These glass panes can be used in VIG glazing”.

[06] Our new method allows manufacturing the spacers directly on the glass panes. No separate spacers needed; spacers are manufactured from the glass pane itself: simple, less costly, improved quality. No reduction of transparency.

That seems great. How is that then done:

[07] Spacers are made by irradiating the glass panes with lasers. This gives convex protrusions at the surface of the glass pane. Should be done at several locations to obtain a glass pane with several protrusions distributed over the glass pane.

The client summarizes this ‘new’ method in [13]:
  • irradiating a glass pane with a laser beam to create a protrusion at a first location on the surface of the glass pane facing the laser, 
  • solidifying the protrusion by terminating the irradiation, and 
  • repeating the irradiation and solidification at at least one location, different from the first location, on the surface of the glass pane facing the laser. 
Now we first have to check whether this method is indeed new and inventive.

It turns out that, in particular, D1 discloses all of this.

So we need to find additional features which have an effect in order to narrow down.

[13] In order to achieve good optical properties, it is essential that the protrusions have a convex shape (hemisphere, may be flattened at its upper part). Convex shape improves transparency by 20-40%. Other shapes only 10%. 10% can also be achieved by gluing a glass hemisphere to the glass pane.

It turns out that indeed D2 shows this 10% improvement.
D2 also shows convex spacers but not monolithic, formed from a same type glass. D2 is used for VIG glass.
D1 shows monolithic but not convex: irregular shape [04].

Thus, a claim on producing a glass pane for VIG glass with monolithic, convex protrusions seems to be new and inventive.

How do we need to change the method of [13] to produce such convex protrusions?

[18] As mentioned above, the protrusions must have a convex shape in order to achieve good transparency of the glass pane. It is necessary that the solidification occurs while a stream of cooling air is provided over the surface of the glass pane. A convex form can only be achieved with such cooling.

Thus it seems necessary to include the cooling in our method. We are then new and inventive and have already one key essential feature.

Other essential features?

Lasers

[08] Our method employs photo-induced absorption of the glass, see D1.

So far, we have the use of a laser in the claim. Is that enough for photo-induced absorption?

D1 [01], [03] make clear that such absorption can be raised sufficiently by a UV- or IR-laser. Just laser beam seems to be too broad: UV and/or IR is needed. Both continuous wave and pulsed lasers can do the trick [03].

Client states in [09]: contrary to the explanation given in D1, we did not succeed in our first attempts to heat glass to the working temperature locally with a UV range continuous wave laser. We have also had a corresponding negative result with a conventional IR range continuous wave laser. We think sufficient heat can only be achieved through a long irradiation time. Such a method would however not be economical.

It is difficult to decide on this. Yes, a safe choice is to immediately go down to a pulsed laser. It seems that at least a continuous IR laser technically works. A competitor may choose that option in order not to infringe. The client only did a first attempt. It is not clear that the UV continuous laser cannot work. So we decided not to put the pulsing in as a limitation. To avoid covering non-working embodiments we added, based on [09]: “heat glass to the working temperature”. We think that the skilled person can easily figure out what laser to use and for how long, since D1 describes the options.

Perpendicular laser

[12] If the glass pane is oriented perpendicular to the plane of the laser, the result is a protrusion which forms a monolithic structure with the glass pane with a circular base.
Should that be in the claim? We decided not to based on the last sentence of [12]: Such arrangements for irradiating surfaces with lasers are furthermore known to persons skilled in the art. So, he seems to be able to figure that out.

Height

Then we also see in [18]: It is known from conventional spacers in insulating glazing that the protrusions should have a height H of 100 micrometers or more for satisfactory insulation.
Should this height be in the claim? Not so clear. If the claim makes clear that it is for VIG glazing it seems not needed; it is known what height you need. If you do not have a link to VIG glazing it seems wise to add it.

29 comments:

  1. Why is convex essential? It is important for transparency, yes, but if you define the subjective problem as “improving the manufacturing process” the essential things are: a claim on manufacturing a glass pane for VIG glass with monolithic protrusions acting as spacers for keeping the VIG panes spaced apart (at a distance, e.g. 100 micron).

    D1 shows panes with monolithic protrusions but not employed as spacers. These panes can be used in VIG glazing.

    D2 shows separate spacers in VIG glazing.

    D2 is the closest prior art, same technical field, and has the same goal: manufacturing of glazing.

    The distinguishing feature is “spacers formed by monolithic protrusions on the glass panes”.

    The effect of the distinguishing feature is “more simple and cost effective manufacturing as no separate spacers are needed anymore”, see [06].

    The objective technical problem is: how to obtain a more efficient manufacturing process for VIG glazing.

    The skilled person is aware of D1, since it is in a same technical field, but there is no hint at solving this problem in D1. There is no incentive to employ the panes of D1 and use the protrusions as spacers.

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    1. The SP already knows from D2 that they want to use the protrusions as spacers because D2 explicitly refers to VIG glass and describes a pane with protrusions stuck on to function as spacers. Without the convex limitation, the SP is then simply looking for an alternative way to form protrusions for VIG glass panes with improved optical properties. D1 teaches to use a laser to form protrusions, leading to improved optical properties and refers (I think, perhaps memory fails me...) to transparent glass, so the SP would try this method. There is nothing in D1 which would suggest that the method of D1 could NOT be used on window glass or some other teaching away

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    2. D2 uses separate spacers which have to be attached to the pane. This makes the process of manufacturing VIG glazing more difficult, since an additional step of attaching the separate spacers is required. This problem formulation has no relation with transparency.

      The skilled person wants to simplify this manufacturing process, making it more efficient.

      This is achieved by spacers formed by monolithic protrusions on the glass panes.

      I don’t see the incentive of the SP to replace the separate spacers of D2 with protrusions of D1 in order to improve the process of D2. There seems to be no hint in D1 that the protrusions can be used as spacers for keeping panes apart from each other. The transparency relates to a different problem. The spacers are arranged for providing isolation (cf. vacuum isolated glazing). I could even imagine some windows where transparency is not essential (e.g. darkened windows).

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    3. I also considered the "convex" feature as non-essential.
      I would like to add that the general problem in the description [006] only concerns more simple and cost effective manufacturing and not improving the transparency. Paragraph [006] about the general problem only mentions "no reduction of the transparency". As mentioned in paragraph [013], "other forms than the convex shape still allow transparencies that are 10% better than said known glazing" and therefore a non-convex shape could have the same improved transparency than glass hemispheres glued to the pane (10%). Using other shapes than convex would therefore still achieve a more simple and cost effective manufacturing without reduction in transparency.
      Regarding D1, neither any mention is made about any spacer, nor that it would make a simple and cost effective manufacturing. D1 further says that the protrusions are irregular, therefore it is not clear for the skilled person if he can control the shape of the protrusions to make them suitable to be used as spacers, especially as his protrusions are currently convex.
      Claiming the convex shape would imply that a competitor would be free to produce VIG-glazing with monolithic non-convex protrusions and therefore obtain a simpler process while still achieving a good transparency.

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    4. Jelle, could you please shed some light on the above-mentioned comments?

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    5. I don't think that the problem is "simplify this manufacturing process, making it more efficient". Is using lasers really simpler than gluing spacers to a window pane substrate? He wants to make a better product, which is achieved by modifying the process

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  3. Jelle, thanks a lot for the explanations. I considered the improvement in the transparency to be achieved by A monolithic protrusion having convex shape, thus i did not include the height (which is essential only if the protrusions are used as spacers) and the step of repeating the procedure in a second location. in your opinion, how deadly is that?

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    1. I do not know what the committee wants to see.
      In general, if your claim is new and inventive in the intended way and covers the applicable embodiments, you should be safe.

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    2. Thanks a lot for the prompt reply, I am afraid that, if they do not consider that the effect of improving transparency is achieved by a single monolithic convex protrusion, may claim is new but not inventive over both D1 and D2. I hope that, if many candidates have done the same choice i did, the committee may be more lenient on these 'omitted features'....

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    3. Jelle, I agree with your new argumentation.
      in addition, the client want to licence the technology so with your new claim it is the less limited option.
      about the photo-induced absorption, i think it is not a mandatory feature the client want to have photo-induced absorption glass, but for licensing purpose it is not indispensable.
      Therefor laser UV and IR are not essential but needed in a dependent claim

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  4. Hello Jelle,

    tank you for your explanations.

    From

    "Thus, a claim on producing a glass pane for VIG glass with monolithic, convex protrusions seems to be new and inventive.
    ...
    [18] As mentioned above, the protrusions must have a convex shape in order to achieve good transparency of the glass pane"

    I derive that monolithic, convex protrusions in your opinion is the feature which makes the method claim novel and inventive over D1 and/or D2 with the technical effect of achieving a good transparency of the glass pane.

    But I'm wondering why the skilled person should not combine D1 with D2 for obtaining monolithic, convex protrusions based on the following:

    The skilled person is a person working for serveral years in the field of glass, in particular in the field of VIG glazing.

    Starting from D1 in the technical field of glass that can be used in VIG glazing D1[005]. D1 discloses:

    A method to create monolithic protrusions on a surface of a glass pane comprising:
    - providing a glass pane,
    - irradiating the glass pane to create a monolithic protrusion at a first location on the surface of the glass pane facing the laser,
    - solidifying the monolithic protrusion by terminating the irradiation

    By the skilled person the technical task arises to improve the transparency of VIG glazing comprising the glas pane of D1.

    D2 in the technical field of glas discloses convex glas elements with the technical effect of improving the transparancy by 10%

    That's why the skilled person would provide the protrusions of D1 with the convex form of D2.

    -->monolithic, convex protrusions seem not inventive?!

    Furthermore I'm wondering if the process step

    - solidifying the protrusion by ... providing a stream of cooling air over the surface of the glass pane

    is inventive.

    The only way to achive convex protrusions is to provide a stream of cooling air over the surface of the glass pane [018]. (one-way street situation (GL G VII 3. (v)))

    That's why the skilled person would implement the latter process step in the method claim.

    I'm looking forward to your comments.

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    1. I think this is mainly a matter of words. Monolithic, convex protrusions could not be made based on D1 and D2 (not enabled, the only way to do it by cooling with air was not known). The method claim should thus have this feature and the method claim enables the product claim. Since it is now enabled, the product claim is new and inventive and no longer a wish. It does not need to be limited to how it is made.

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    2. Thank you for your statements.

      Do you think the method-claim for producing a glassplate will give more points, than the product-claim for VIG-Glazing?

      To my opinion the product-claim for VIG-Glazing has the broadest possible protection. Even if a new method is found to manufacture the protrusions on a glassplate, the product-claim covers this. Since the companies of interest are manufacturers of VIG-Glazings, there is no way to bypass such a productclaim.

      I also have a method claim for producing the VIG-Glazings, which does not contain the ex-act method for producing the protrusions on the glassplate but has the feature "provide at least one glassplate which has monolithic, convex protrusions on at least one side" fol-lowed by the assembly steps.
      To my opinion this method is the broadest possible, because the glassplate itself does not need to be produced inhouse in a competitors firm, but can also be produced in some other country. Although the products derictly derived from a product claim (the glassplates with the monolithic, convex protrusions) are also covered by the product claim for producing the glassplate, you still have the obstacle to prove that the product was produced by using the method claim.

      Due to the above mentioned and due to the fact, that the client sees the VIG-Glazing manu-facturers as companies of interest, to my opinion the product claim for VIG-Glazing and method claim for producing the VIG-Glazing should give the most points.

      I am looking forward to reading your opinion on my statements

      Regards
      Thomas

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    3. I don't know why we should assume that monolithic convex protrusions could not be made based on D1 and D2.

      Indeed, the Client even states on par. {6] that: "Compared to conventional methods...".

      So, the most straightforward way to understand this statement is that such types of protrusions COULD be made... Even though they may have some disavantages.

      On the other hand, D1+D2 would render such convexity alone not inventive. SO it IS the process itself which confers unexpected properties to the glass (apart from the convexity itself).

      In my (humble) view, the only way to adress this is to claim a process form making such protrusions (pulsed laser + cool air) and the product-by-process.

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  5. I did not find any motivation to limit claim 1 by "repeating the irradiation and solidification at at least one location,...". This is not bringing neither novelty nor inventive step and having at least two separators is not essential to separate glass panel on a frame. Only one may be sufficient. Am I wrong? [Bob]

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  6. Dear Jelle,
    thank you very much for all your support!
    Could you possibly comment, based on your experience with past papers, how many points could possibly be deducted for leaving out / taking in features, for example:
    - leaving out "UV/IR" Laser and just specifying laser
    - taking in the "perpendicular" Laser arrangement for the method
    - leaving out the height of 100 um
    - leaving out the repetition step for several protrusions

    Thank you and best wishes!

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    1. No, this very much depends on how the committee looks at these things. I do not know what should be in the claim. We gave our solution. The committee no doubt has a (slightly) different one.

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  7. It is a pity to limit the protection to the convex case.
    Paragraph 13 states that other forms are also advantageous, even though less advantageous.
    Is'nt using a pulsed laser enough for the novelty?
    The advantage for inventive step being on the manufacturing costs of the protruding plates.
    Besides, why not just create a protrusion for claim 1?
    Why are several protrusions necessary for novelty?
    If delta is given reason, then this exam is difficult just because it is pure lottery.

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  8. I have a nagging question. In addition to the independent claims in line with your solution I also included an additional claim to a method of assembly of the glazing. This seemed new and inventive. Do you think this will be punished? In some years I have seen that only the worst independent claim is marked. Could this happen here?

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    1. There are normally no subtractions if you try to covers an additional product or method not intended by the committee. There is a risk of loss of marks if you try to cover one product or one method with several independent claims - looks like you did not know how to claim it and just tried something.

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    2. Thank you very much for the response. Hopefully I am safe and wont be back next year ...

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  9. Hi Jelle,
    Will i get any mark from an independent product claim drafted about "VIG Glazing" rather than "Glass Pane"? I really do not know why i didn't draft an independent claim related to glass pane during the examination. Consequently i drafted the independent product claim like that:
    "A VIG-Glazing comprising at least two glass panes that are mounted spaced apart in a frame such that the space between the glass panes is under pressure characterized in that;
    at least one of the glass pane has at least one monolithic protrusion on at least one of its surfaces and the each monolithic protrusion has a regular convex-shape."
    What do you think about this situation?
    Eddy

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  10. I have shown our ideas. My feeling was that you needed an independent product claim on a glass pane and one on the VIG glazing. In our set, the pane claim is broadest and would naturally attract most marks. But the claims on VIG glazing were also not trivial so should also attract a reasonable amount of marks.
    Obviously the claims should also be how the committee wants it.
    It looks like that we have at least three independent claims here all with a reasonable amount of marks. But we will have to wait and see to be sure.

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    1. Thank you very much for your quick response Jelle.

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  11. Hi Jelle, in addition to claiming the method, I have also claimed the glass pane in a product by process claim format. Do you think there is any chance I will get some marks for it? I am really annoyed with myself about doing this actually, its not something I would ever do in real life.

    I also put in a use claim to the use of a glass pane in VIG glazing. I hoping that this will attract a mark or two.
    Many thanks
    MK

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    1. It is my feeling that quite some candidates will have gone for a product-by-process claim. The committee may take that into consideration. In this exam a product-by-process claim seemed not needed. If so, no full marks will be awarded. If the committee finds the product-by-process claim totally inappropriate (e.g. not at all the desired scope) then no marks are available.

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    2. i claimed VIG as a product and the methode for producing glass panel but i did not write an independent claim for glass panel because the product (glass panel) falls in the range of the method claim (Art. 64(2)epc); further i claimed use of glass panel for VIG and futher use of VIG for windows. is there a 50 points chance??

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  12. A revised Examiner's report for this paper can be found here: http://documents.epo.org/projects/babylon/eponot.nsf/0/7E526765D01D35E5C12582C1004A222E/$File/ExRep_A_2018_EN_revised.pdf
    The only amendment w.r.t. the previously published report is a first paragraph explaining that no negative marks were awarded nor marks deducted from other claims.

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