The patent application relates to creating an initial aircraft design in the form of an initial requirements catalogue. Claim 1 of the main request recites (translated from German):
1. A method (10) for designing aircrafts, comprising the steps of:
a. Defining an initial requirements catalogue for at least one aircraft design (step 11), the requirements catalogue containing technical requirements in terms of minimum payload mass, minimum range, take-off and landing requirements, minimum cruising altitude, minimum cruising speed and/or maximum values for wingspan, fuselage length and/or surface pressure per wheel of landing gear for at least one aircraft design;
b. Carrying out an optimization of the at least one aircraft design on the basis of the requirements catalogue with regard to the expected operating costs (step 13), the operating costs being calculated as a function of the technical configuration of the aircraft design;
c. Simulation of a given overall flight network with the at least one aircraft design and determination of the overall flight network efficiency (step 18), the overall flight network efficiency being formed by summing up the respective flight route efficiency of each flight route of the overall flight network, the flight route efficiency being derived from the expected revenues of the at least one aircraft design on a specific flight route minus the operating costs for deploying the aircraft design on this flight route, and the operating costs are calculated as a function of the technical configuration of the aircraft design;
d. Checking whether the determined overall flight network efficiency represents an optimum (step 19); if not:
e. Adaptation of the requirements catalogue (steps 19 and 12) and iteration from step (b).
Claim 1 of the auxiliary request comprises the additional step “if there is an optimum: design and construction of aircrafts based on the requirements catalogue”.
According to the Appellant, the development of an airliner starts from an initial aircraft design in the form of a requirements catalogue. For the development of airliners, an arbitrary iterative procedure involving changes of the initial aircraft design would be de facto impossible. The initial aircraft design would be “practically immovable” once it is chosen. Accordingly, the goal of the invention would not be the iterative optimization of an aircraft satisfying a given initial aircraft design, but rather the optimization of the initial aircraft design itself with respect to an overall flight network.
According to the inventor’s experience, especially airplanes with “generally improved technical properties" (such as the A 380 with high technical efficiency with regard to fuel consumption per passenger) would lead to technical disadvantages (lower technical efficiency with regard to fuel consumption per passenger) when the airplane is not matched to the conditions of the overall flight network. Such airplanes would have unnecessarily high emissivity while one should strive to reduce negative impacts on the global climate by reducing emissions.
One could reduce emissions by having airplanes which either generally consume less fuel or which are optimally matched to the requirements of the overall system. The latter would be the solution of the patent application. The technical task of the invention would be to increase efficiency of an overall system of flight routes and airplanes, by using airplanes which are optimized with respect to efficiency and which are a better fit to the technical requirements of the overall system, and not by using airplanes with “generally improved technical properties”.
The aircraft as such would not be simulated, but rather its behavior within an overall flight network.
The Board considered the claimed invention to be an economic optimization based on optimization methods which---as acknowledged by the Appellant---should be considered well-known. In particular, the Board agreed with the ED that an adaptation of an aircraft construction to changed market-or customer requests, based on the flight routes to be served, cannot be considered technical.
Claim 1 would miss technical features in relation to the design of an aircraft. The claim would merely refer in an abstract manner to the expected “operating costs as a function of the technical configuration of the aircraft design”. The requirements catalogue according to the patent application would determine what the aircraft shall be able to do. However, even though technical parameters would be considered, no special technical knowledge would be required for their determination.
According to the Board, the cost calculation involving the overall flight network is a business calculation whose goal is not to strive for a particularly innovative aircraft, but for an economic profit maximization. For that purpose, an iteration is performed, but it is not given how the requirements catalogue shall be adapted.
The Board was not convinced by the Appellant’s argument that “operating costs are an economic parameter but their determination is based solely on technical considerations of the possible construction”. According to the Board:
All these observations would contradict the assumption of a technical innovation leading to technically improved aircraft designs. The claimed method would rather correspond to searching for an optimal configuration of an aircraft so as to minimize expected operating costs. Thereby, the expected profit is optimized around well-known aircraft technology, instead of creating an own technical innovation in the form of a technically improved aircraft.
Contrary to the Appellant’s argument referring to G1/19, the present application would not relate to a simulation of a technical process or object, but to computation of costs for different scenarios of flight routes. The Board did not question the technical character of the claimed teaching, but agreed with the ED that it would not be apparent which specific technical effect the claimed method has on the construction or technical behaviour of an aircraft.
The Board considered the expression “simulation” not to fit in the context of the discussed patent application. A simulation as such would not be claimed, but rather a mathematical calculation method with an underlying business objective incorporating technical parameters, which would not lead to a simulation of a technical object or process. There would be no indication about which technical parameter of the aircraft design shall be concretely varied and how. The Board would not foresee how steps (d) and (e) define this iteration more precisely. On the contrary, these steps would merely specify that an iteration is taking place, but not how, also further technical details are lacking.
The Board did also not agree on who should be regarded as the skilled person. While the Appellant considered the skilled person to be an aircraft designer, the Board considered a computer expert instead. That is because details of the aircraft design would not be claimed, but rather a computer-aided optimization process. Such a process could be used for optimization of an arbitrary design process and would not be limited to an actual aircraft construction. Furthermore, the actual construction of the aircraft would not be claimed. Also claim 1 of the auxiliary request would not achieve a further technical effect, as the claimed subject-matter would only deliver evaluation results based on which aircrafts are constructed using well-known methods. In the end, aircrafts with technically improved properties are not reached, but merely an economically optimized sizing.
The technical features of claim 1 would be those of a well-known computer system. The claimed method would be an abstract, economically motivated optimization process using well-known synthesis methods. The claimed method would not make a technical contribution, but should be assigned to the sphere of a business person. The task formulated in the third-party observation (finding optimal technical parameters for an initial aircraft design) would not be solved by the invention.
Using the COMVIK approach, the Board considered the task for the skilled person to be implementing the optimization method and was of the opinion that no technical hurdles could be foreseen for fulfilling that task.
The Board agreed with the ED that the claims lack inventive step and decided to refuse the appeal.