"It was the most obvious of ideas, it was the least obvious of ideas" (with apologies to Charles Dickens). When looking at inventions in the area of IT/mobile networking, the most important issue determining patentability is often whether the idea is obvious or not. The title of this post is not strictly referring to two patents, but rather two patent applications, both being considered by the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office.
The first case, T 1305/17, related to (in the words of the Board of Appeal): "the flexibility of generating and modifying user interfaces, for instance in order to enable customers to interact with several inhomogeneous applications via a single (combined) graphical user interface with a uniform "look and feel"". The solution proposed in the patent application adds "agent computer program code" (e.g. a DLL) on both sides of the user interface. However, the Board decided that this approach was known in a similar context, from a Microsoft Technical Report, and therefore obvious.
The second case, T 0505/13, concerned a "web browser with an "adaptive address field" and a plurality of virtual function keys which are modified in accordance with the service used". This is especially used for web pages that support a service application and allows the "virtual functions keys" to be tailored to the application. The Board here concluded that, although this may be similar to the functionality provided by well-known web browsers, the application to so-called "adaptive" web pages was not obvious.
As can be seen from these decisions, each case is judged on its own merits. When looking at these types of invention, professional advice based on both technical and legal considerations is vital.
As argued by the appellant at the oral proceedings, in that case the function provided by the virtual function key is the same, only the parameters taken into account by the function are changed, and those parameters do not directly depend on the data input into the address field by the user, but on the last network address stored in the browsing history of the web browser. In the Board's view, without inventive step the skilled person would not arrive at the distinguishing features from such a remote functionality.