04.02.16

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EUIPO and the Shady Relation to the EPO

Posted in Europe, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 7:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Too much secrecy for a supposedly democratic society

Men's shade

Summary: A lot of back room activity (limited access conferences, secret contracts, shady deals) muddies the water when it comes to EUIPO (formerly OHIM), EPO, and WIPO

FOR quite some time now we have been hearing about the EPO‘s relation to EUIPO, which is more or less a new name for an existing entity. It is always important to ensure that such European entities adhere to and comply with European interests, or more generally the interests of ordinary people all around the world rather than massive corporations (usually foreign). Recall the time patents were used to monopolise cancer treatments in Europe, harming cancer patients. As it turns out, based on new reports (e.g. [1, 2]), GSK considers not keeping a monopoly (using patents) on certain cancer treatments, at least in poorer nations. This is the kind of news people want to hear.

“It is always important to ensure that such European entities adhere to and comply with European interests, or more generally the interests of ordinary people all around the world rather than massive corporations (usually foreign).”IP Kat, which recently celebrated its 10,000th blog post, takes a look at this new book about law design and patents in Europe — an interesting and dangerous cocktail or mix (to reuse Battistelli’s words). It’s not always clear whether design ripoffs can be prevented using trademarks, copyrights, patents, or some weird combination thereof. That’s where EUIPO comes into play. Responding to this new article about Fordham 2016 (an event we mentioned critically in English last night and in Spanish this morning), one person wrote: “The most important outcome of such a get-together is what is the consensus on how we should be pronouncing EUIPO” (as if the name is what matters and as if it’s to be determined in some closed echo chamber in New York, not even in Europe).

To quote IP Kat:

Dimitris Botis (Deputy Director of Legal Affairs at the newly named EUIPO) was next to discus the future of the EU trade mark system in particular the recent trade marks reform package consisting of Directive 2015/2436 and Regulation 2015/2424. The biggest change in substantive trade mark law is the deletion of the graphic representation requirement which means that it will be easier to register non-traditional marks. The exact impact of this change on filing practice and types of marks that can be accepted will not be seen until the implementing rules are issued on 1 October 2017. The second biggest change is to the functionality prohibition to “other characteristics”. There is now also an express requirement for clarity and precision in specifying the goods and services that are specified for the mark. It will be based on the “natural and usual meaning” of terms (i.e .interpreted literally). The new fee structure and levels with a new “one-fee-per-class” system is also a big change. There has been a moderate reduction of the application fee and substantial reduction of renewal fees. Dimitris also pointed out that there is also new EU Certification mark which can be registered to ensure the certification of the quality, material, mode of manufacture etc, but cannot be used in relation to geographical origin. Institutionally, there will be changes in terminology – hello EUIPO! But its not just changes in terminology, there is a change in management structure. The changes will be taking on a more political taste (the EU Commission has two seats now). The new Regulation also requires more cooperation between the Member States. Trevor Cook from Wilmer Hale said the change are really only technical in nature and do not generate a huge impact on substantive trade mark law. Dimitris agreed but the technical changes will ensure more efficient operation.

Here is what Michael Loney wrote for MIP in New York:

Two firsts for Fordham: Dimitris Botis’s debut and the first talk by someone from EUIPO (as OHIM was renamed on March 23). He summarises the changes in the EU trade mark package, on which there is a detailed session tomorrow afternoon.

He says the changes were “targeted amendments” to improve predictability and accessibility, and the most important is the abolition of the graphic representation requirement (effective October 1 2017).

Next up is Antony Taubman of WTO, who describes his logjam as “well-entrenched” with no work on the GI project for five years (for example). He’s here in New York to “harvest ideas” he adds.

Interesting to know, as noted above, that OHIM was officially renamed on March 23rd as it was barely advertised. Judging by the name alone, the IPO might one day become an umbrella organisation for the Patent Office/Organisation, assuming that “IP” is really what it is (just an umbrella term for copyrights, trademarks, patents, and maybe also trade secrets).

“Interesting to know, as noted above, that OHIM was officially renamed on March 23rd as it was barely advertised.”Some people inside the EPO are comparing Battistelli to Gurry (now best known for the WIPO scandals) and Campinos, who is rumoured to be a replacement for Battistelli and currently heads OHIM, aka EUIPO.

As one person chose to put it, “WIPO, OHIM, EPO: three of a kind?”

OHIM is probably an old name now, but here’s how the analogy goes:

On 24 February, a US congressional hearing took place on the accountability of WIPO. The Head of WIPO, Francis Gurry, stands accused of serious misconduct and of retaliation against
whistle-blowers, among whom is the chairman of the WIPO’s Staff Union, who was summarily dismissed a year and a half ago 1. The head of the third international property office, Mr Campinos, has thus far managed to stay out of the public eye. This may, however, be only a matter of time. We hear from staff at OHIM that he has a management style and disrespect for the rule of law that are very similar to those of Mr Battistelli. The three international IP offices have very different structures: the EPO is fully independent, WIPO is a UN agency and OHIM is an EU agency. They nevertheless seem to suffer from the same problems. How come? Maybe because the underlying causes are the same: a governing body that is almost entirely dependent on the head of the office for its information, lots of money and a lack of transparency that enables the head of the organisation to use that money to increase his personal influence, the whole topped up with immunity. Since the same causes tend to lead to the same effect, removing the responsible managers would not solve the problems. What is needed is a reform of the governance of these organisations, starting with more transparency and accountability – to the governing body and to the public.

Proper “transparency and accountability” — as the above put it — would at least inform the public about what the heck is going on at OHIM. There’s just way too much secrecy. In the EPO, for example, contracts of top management are a closely-guarded secret, as are contracts with private companies such as Microsoft and Gemalto. These aren’t public bodies. They act like private bodies [1, 2] which enjoy immunity from the law.

Expanding on the European Union IP Office (EUIPO), which makes it sound like part of the EU (unlike the EPO, which the EPC brought into existence):

Soon after Mr Battistelli took over, staff and the public were informed that bilateral agreements had been signed between the EPO and WIPO, and between the EPO and OHIM. It seems that the content of these agreements has never been made public. Glimpses can be found in other documents, e.g. CA/24/14 (points 51-57), for example, explains that the EPO will continue to
participate as an observer in OHIM bodies and working group meetings. As far as we know, OHIM also has an observer in the meetings of the Administrative Council of the EPO.

On a more permanent basis, Mr Telmo Vilela, a former co-worker of Mr Campinos in the Portuguese patent office, was hired by the EPO in DG5 but was transferred to the President’s office as soon as the opportunity arose. Furthermore according to CA/24/14 (point 57) IT co-operation between the EPO and OHIM is foreseen with the aim of “paving the way for the implementation of projects and activities based on harmonization and interoperability”. Mr Campinos is also Mr Battistelli’s favorite candidate for his succession as President of the EPO. A final bit of information: OHIM will change its name to European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) later this month.

It is worth noting that Battistelli had attempted to be head of WIPO before he became ruler of EPO. There is certainly a great degree of overlap here, some potentially implicating Željko Topić, VP4 at EPO. One thing that Topić’s SIPO has in common with the EPO and WIPO is staff suicides (usually dissenting voices).

There remains so much secrecy around these institutions (and extreme abuse against critics or people who ‘dare’ to explore the truth) that one must dig deeper and deeper. There’s certainly a lot of material these people are eager to hide (because they’re already hiding it, even when there's a deepening crisis).

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