10.16.15

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EPO’s Jeremy Philpott Confirms That Discriminatory (Software) Patent Processing Practices Started With Microsoft, Because of Microsoft

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

…While patent lawyers of European SMEs accuse Microsoft of swamping the EPO

Summary: Jeremy Philpott comes to Grant Philpott’s defence after it became evident that Microsoft, a notorious patent bully, is treated like a V.I.P. by the European Patent Office (EPO)

THE EPO’s non-technical managers (the source of so much abuse as of late) are in very poor form. It hasn’t been an easy week for the management, which saw around 1,300 of its own employees protesting in public, despite a terrible protest-crushing effort that caused protesters to risk their lives (more on that in our next post).

Jeremy PhilpottWe now know for sure that Grant Philpott pushed or pressed patent examiners to treat Microsoft like a V.I.P., ignoring a lot of European SMEs whose patent applications (far fewer) were overdue for much longer a time. One British patent lawyer told us that for SMEs it can take up to 9 or even 20 years (yes, the lifetime of a patent) just to be granted a patent, based on his worst experiences. “This is incredible stuff,” told us one person who is an expert in this field, “and proves what we knew–the EPO has a cosy relationship with Microsoft.” Grant Philpott (not to be confused with Jeremy, whom we last mentioned here 6 years ago and probably hasn’t a family relation with Grant) did not comment on this. Somebody else does. That’s Jeremy (shown to the left, photo from epo.org). All we know is that the EPO’s Web site claims he is “Deputy Spokesperson” in “Communication, Munich” (his bosses are named above him), so he may not have been careful enough. Maybe not so well prepared. He only revealed yet more internal information — information that we ourselves could not obtain, let alone verify. Nice own goal got scored there!

Jeremy Philpott inadvertently only revealed yet more information, without introducing any new defence of these practices (we saw the same spin in WIPR the other day). IAM spoke to the EPO for the other side of the story, pursuing a response that somehow salvages the EPO’s already-tarnished reputation. It resembles what we heard before, but it highlights the special role Microsoft played in all this. Here are some relevant bits from this long article:

The European Patent Office (EPO) has strongly denied claims that a recently leaked memo that refers to “a closer cooperation project with Microsoft” shows that the agency is favouring the interests of big corporate applicants over those of SMEs. In an exclusive interview with IAM, spokesman Jeremy Philpott stated that a pilot project entered into with Microsoft and a group of other large companies is actually designed to ensure that applications from large-scale filers do not swamp the accelerated examination request programme at the expense of submissions from smaller entities.

[...]

Speaking from the EPO press office in Munich, Jeremy Philpott explained that while many larger private practice patent attorney firms have traditionally had key account managers inside the agency who had been able to work with firms to identify issues and problems that clients might be having with their applications, this has not been the case for filings submitted directly by in-house teams. That has made it much harder to deal with any difficulties or to co-ordinate approaches to applicants across different technical areas.

The catalyst for developing the pilot scheme, Philpott continued, came from issues that Microsoft was a having with around 450 applications which it felt had stalled and concerns inside the office that this may lead to a request for accelerated examination for all of them. If this had happened, he stated, it would have led to a situation in which the process would have been jammed by files from just one company.

Instead, Philpott explained, it was suggested to Microsoft that in return for not submitting a blanket request, it would identify a smaller list of files to go through the process and that this would be updated on a regular basis. In that way, the ability to handle accelerated examination requests from other applicants would be safeguarded.

Having developed a communication and coordination strategy with Microsoft it was felt that something similar could also work with other big filers – hence the pilot programme. “By being selective with the big companies we can ensure that the process is not swamped by a small group of applicants and so have kept the capacity for handling accelerated exam requests open to everyone,” said Philpott.

It is the same official spin, which we responded to earlier this week (after WIPR had spoken to the EPO, also seeking comment). It makes little sense, still, even now that they try to refine their ‘damage control’ by making it a bit longer and revealing yet more stunning details of the special relationship between Microsoft and the EPO.

One doesn’t need to be a sceptic of software patents and Microsoft to see what’s wrong here. Not even patent lawyers are convinced by this. In an exchange of about 100 messages today, Tangible IP, a British law firm which claims to work for British/European SMEs, said about the above article the following [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]: “Not that reassuring for smaller corporate filers with in-house attorneys or small advisor firms. I think it’s time for serious analytics and transparency. At the USPTO I can check performance. It’s all very well making a formal complaint but many are recticent to do so for obvious reasons. The observations on competition are interesting. Quality is not the issue….it’s quantity. I doubt Microsoft was threatening to use KIPO on quality basis. They want speed just like SMEs.”

“One more point on this topic,” Tangible IP added, “Microsoft should be encouraged to use USPTO for PCT and not swamp EPO.”

Well, Microsoft is now stockpiling for its ongoing wars against Android, Tizen, Ubuntu, Mozilla/FirefoxOS, GNU, Linux, and so on. Microsoft announced billions of dollars in losses not too long ago (layoffs too), so patent aggression and racketeering may be all it has got left.

“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway”, —Marshall Phelps, IAM: Microsoft to have 50,000 patents within two years, Phelps reveals

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