Georgia Tech Research Corporation

How to patent mathematics — overcoming patentability exclusions with industry-leading expertise

Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC) is a contractor that supports R&D and acts as the assignee of all intellectual property created at the Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the top research universities in the USA. We used our industry-leading experience in prosecuting mathematics-focused patent applications to help GTRC overcome patentability exclusions at the European Patent Office (EPO).

Case Study

Case Type

Mathematical patent application

Action

Navigating patentability exclusions

Outcome

Allowance of European patent

Dr Terence Broderick

By Dr Terence Broderick

Senior Patent Attorney

Issue:

The patent application in question related to the reduction of multipliers when Schnorr-Euchner expansion algorithms are applied to digital signal processing. This reduces the computational impact of the calculations involved in determining received signals in Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) systems — a key technology in the implementation of 5G technology.

European patent law has a tricky relationship with abstract subject matter. The grant of a patent requires a technical solution to a technical problem — inventions that apply abstract subject matter to a technology need careful treatment and advocacy if a patent is to be awarded at the EPO.

In this case, the key part of the invention used the principles of complex numbers to reduce the computational impact (or the calculations that are required) when processing received signals in MIMO systems. ‘Complex numbers’ refers to a field of mathematics that is typically seen as abstract, but the techniques developed through the study of complex numbers enable engineering problems to be treated successfully (problems that can’t be solved using real numbers alone).

Action:

The EPO needed to be convinced that this feature solved a technical problem.

Our European Patent Attorney Terence Broderick has a rare and valuable skillset which has enabled him to develop considerable experience in prosecuting patent applications for telecommunications- and mathematics-focused inventions. His deep knowledge of the nuances of law before the EPO has led to him becoming respected as a ‘fixer’ in matters where prosecution has dragged on or taken a turn for the worst.

Terence represented GTRC before the EPO, using his expertise with the techniques of complex numbers and telecommunications to provide arguments in support of the invention. This proved successful, as we managed to navigate the typical problems associated with abstract subject matter signals by showing that it was the underlying mathematical principles associated with complex numbers which provided a technical benefit in the processing of MIMO.

Outcome:

A European patent was quickly granted, covering a product of interest to GTRC. This has enabled GTRC to secure protection for its invention in several important European territories to complement a similarly focused patent in the US.

5G technology has a wide application across many industries, including automotive and healthcare, and there are expected to be many licensing opportunities for those with patents covering important 5G technologies.

Given the importance of MIMO to 5G technology, this family of patents will give GTRC an important foothold in the wide patent landscape that covers 5G technology and enable it to secure income from implementers that wish to exploit the patented invention.

Need help protecting mathematics-related innovations?

Get in touch with Terence at tsb@udl.co.uk.

029 2064 2150

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