Patentability of Computer Implemented Simulations

A recent decision from the Enlarged Board related to European patent application 03793825.5, published as international application WO 2004/023347, entitled “Simulation of the movement of an autonomous entity through an environment”. The invention relates in particular to the modelling and the simulation of movements of a pedestrian in an environment. The simulation of an individual pedestrian’s movement may form part of the simulation of a pedestrian crowd’s movement in a building. Modelling a building and simulating the movement of a crowd within the building may be useful for verifying whether the design of the building fulfils certain requirements, for example in the case of an evacuation of a stadium or a railway station.

In short “A computer-implemented simulation of a technical system or process that is claimed as such can, for the purpose of assessing inventive step, solve a technical problem by producing a technical effect going beyond the simulation’s implementation on a computer.” i.e. the simulation may have a technical effect beyond the computer. In this case the design of a building was effected by the simulation of human behaviour.

The relevant claim is:

“1. A computer-implemented method of modelling pedestrian crowd movement in an environment, the method comprising: -8 – G 0001/19 simulating movement of a plurality of pedestrians through the environment, wherein simulating movement of each pedestrian comprises: providing a provisional path through a model of the environment from a current location to an intended destination; providing a profile for said pedestrian; determining a preferred step, to a preferred position, towards said intended destination based upon said profile and said provisional path, wherein determining said preferred step comprises determining a dissatisfaction function expressing a cost of taking a step comprising a sum of an inconvenience function expressing a cost of deviating from a given direction and a frustration function expressing a cost of deviating from a given speed; defining a neighbourhood around said preferred position; identifying obstructions in said neighbourhood, said obstructions including other pedestrians and fixed obstacles; determining a personal space around said pedestrian; determining whether said preferred step is feasible by considering whether obstructions infringe said personal space over the course of the preferred step.”

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