T 258/03, also known as Auction Method/Hitachi, is a decision of a Technical Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO), issued on April 21, 2004. It is a landmark decision for interpreting Article 52(1) and (2) of the European Patent Convention (EPC) which built on the principles suggested by the same Board in T 641/00 (Comvik, Two identities). This decision, amongst others, but notably this one and T 641/00, significantly affected the assessment of an invention’s technical character and inventive step.
It mainly stated that "a method involving technical means an invention within the meaning of Article 52(1) EPC" and in stating so contrasts with T 931/95 (Pension Benefit Systems Partnership), which held that "the mere fact that data processing and computing means, i.e. technical means, recited in a method claim not necessarily confer a technical character to the claimed method". T 258/03 put apparatus and method claims on an equal footing for the patentability examination of Article 52(2) EPC.
In other words, the Board of Appeal in this decision "pointed the way to the new test and argued that the term ‘invention’ in the definition of patentable inventions set out in Article 52(1) of the EPC was merely to be construed as ‘subject matter having technical character’. Thus, the presence of computer hardware in a claim to a business method, providing a technical character, would now be sufficient to overcome the business method objection, regardless of technical contribution."