06.10.15

More European Politicians Pressure and Sometimes Slam the European Patent Office (EPO) Amid New Scandals

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Elżbieta Bieńkowska
Elżbieta Bieńkowska – Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz, CC BY-SA 3.0

Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) cannot catch a breath these days, as its management comes under yet more fire from more directions and more nations

EARLIER this year we wrote about French politicians' complaints about Benoît Battistelli, taking note of French Senator Jean-Yves Leconte’s letters [1, 2] and Philip Cordery’s letters.

“EPO criticism is acceptable and popular now.”Mr. Cordery has some new letters [PDF], whose French originals were posted in his site. As SUEPO put it: “Earlier in February, Philip Cordery, member of the French Parliament, had published an article criticising the “antisocial policy of the EPO” and sent a letter to European Commisionner [sic] Elzbieta Bienkowska calling upon her to intervene. Philip Cordery has now published the letter of reply (printable version) from Elzbieta Bienkowska.”

Here is Bienkowska‘s (of Poland) response in English:

Brussels, 28.05.2015

Dear Sir,

I wish to thank you for your letter of 20 February last, informing me of your concerns with regard to the social climate which is presently prevailing at the European Patent Office (EPO).

The European Patent Organization (the “Organization”), of which the EPO is the executive body, is an independent international institution, which has no organic links with the European Union. Apart from the EPO, it is composed of a legislative body, the Administrative Council, on which sit the representatives of the States which constitute the Organization (38 States, of which 28 are Member States of the European Union), whose task is, in particular, to monitor the activity of the EPO, for which the President assumes responsibility. The Commission has only the role of an observer within this assembly. I have been informed of the social tensions which have transpired between the management of the EPO and the staff representatives, and which have been widely reported in the press.

As you point out in your letter, the EPO will be in charge of the issue and management of the Unitary European Patent. With this in mind, I have issued instructions to my staff who represent the European Commission as observers on the Administrative Council to monitor the developments of the situation closely.

I have also requested the President of the EPO to make every effort to return to a constructive social dialogue.

In this respect, I have welcomed with interest the initiatives which have been recently announced, and the determination of the Administrative Council of the EPO to address this matter as an issue of priority.

I hope that this will be the harbinger of a process of sustained return to a social dialogue of appropriate quality within the EPO.

Yours faithfully

Elżbieta Bieńkowska

Considering the previous cowardly approach of the European Commission (or that of the European Parliament), this can be considered another small escalation. They are at least intervening this time. It puts pressure on the EPO.

Today, as already noted in our previous post, we increasingly see European politicians taking more shots at the EPO’s legitimacy, partly motivated by media coverage that has made them aware of the issues and much better informed. In our humble assessment, EPO management is very much concerned about the European media. We’ve always been getting the vibe that it’s the media which they fear more than disgruntled staff. It’s the media that’s being attacked. EPO criticism is acceptable and popular now. It’s not the subject of taboo anymore and journalists are not so afraid of retribution, for which the EPO had become infamous (or notorious).

Incidentally, the recent events pertaining to patents in Europe have gotten the attention of corporate media in the United States. Hosuk Lee-Makiyama writes: “Europe continues to compete with the United States and Asia in the high-tech global economy, both through business and government. Intellectual property in particular is a contentious issue that has continued to divide Europe ever since its grassroots derailed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in 2012. But with patent reform a major political priority in the United States, and countries like China modernizing their intellectual property systems, Europe’s IP regime risks falling behind. This decline has lessons for the United States, as Congressional leaders embark on the latest round of U.S. patent reform.”

At the moment, the US patent system really needs a reform because it is more out of control than the EU system. But if we do nothing to stop Benoît Battistelli and his ilk, things in Europe are about to get worse very rapidly. Things are already getting worse; UPC is just the beginning of that.

“They [EPO examiners] claim that the organisation is decentralising and focusing on granting as many patents as possible to gain financially from fees generated.” —Expatica, European Patent Office staff on strike

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