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05.26.16

Italian Report About EPO Now Available in English

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: An English translation of a TV program which earlier this month documented some of the glaring problems at the EPO

THE EPO‘s management is receiving unwanted attention again. Recent Italian TV coverage, which we last mentioned yesterday, focused on the value or lack of value of EPO patents. It also featured EPO staff representatives like Hardon and mentioned Techrights material like this.

Below is the English translation of the transcript of the program. It’s just the part related to patents, to paraphrase the translator, or more precisely the few parts related to the EPO. Our contributor translated only the excerpts about the EPO and UPC. This contributor also put the timings corresponding to the video as streamed in this original link.


Report 15-5-2015 “La guerra dei brevetti” (The war of patents)

By Paolo Mondani

Collaboration with Cataldo Ciccolella

Introduction on the web page with the video

(http://www.report.rai.it/dl/Report/puntata/ContentItem-52eb23d7-fcb8-4fe0-af49-50cdf7a9d8ac.html):

A world war is on, but with no bombs and no tanks: it’s the war to grab and protect trademarks and patents. In the field are multinational corporations and small inventors, investment funds, universities and above all, legions of lawyers. Even the movement of two fingers to zoom in a picture on the smartphone: Apple and Samsung have been heavily beating on each other in Tribunals to establish who invented it first. Behind a certificate, which says, “I invented this”, there are years of research, mazes of bureaucracy, money. We are going to see how EPO works, its central seat in Munich, the European institution which grants patents: the president Benoit Battistelli is at the centre of polemics for his relations with the employees, and what’s more – in spite of being an excellence – EPO is not subject to external controls, with all the risks that this brings along.

Report will also relate about the difficulties of some Italian enterprises, as for the inventor of the “Tutor” (a speed limit control system) in a legal battle against “Autostrade” (enterprise for Italian motorways) for establishing who really has the rights for the idea.

Also the Renzi administration has realized the importance of patents and trademark and for this reason has started a “patent box”, a fiscal discount to make inventors desist from going abroad. Who knows if Ferrari, the most important Italian brand in the world, will decide to export its rights in the Netherlands, where it already has taken a seat for its holding, or if it will remain in Italy. Finally, this enquiry will show what is the impact of patents on the national health system and in the pockets of patients, starting from the battle for the pricings for a pharmaceutical anti-hepatitis C.

- Translation of the audio transcript for five excerpts concerning the European Patent Office.

Excerpt 1: 00:00 – 01:17

Introduction:

Milena Gabanelli in the studio:

Good evening! Mafias are changing skin, and how are we fighting them? We’ll see about this, after the enquiry of today, which will lead us into the world of patents. You got a brand you register it, you got an idea you protect it. But that is not all said, because an industry of counterfeits, as for instance in the world of pharmaceuticals, is operating without a face. And around paper documents extremely violent legal battles arise, often fought over a comma or the slightest pretext. For example, this thing (she shows it on the screen) is called “Pinch to Zoom” and it has been fought over by Apple and Samsung for billions. One invents it, the other copies it, and if you can commercialize it anyway, you might still have to pay one million back, but if you made a 5 millions gain, it was still convenient. Who makes more profits from royalties of their inventions in the world, compared to what they pay for inventions from others, are: USA, Japan, Germany. And how about us, people of inventors? And who rules patents in Europe instead? It’s this mister (she shows Battistelli’s picture on the screen), who is the president of an institution that has almost the independence of a State. Now to our Paolo Mondani.

Excerpt 2: 16:56 – 19:04

Paolo Mondani – voiceover

While we are putting at stake the patents of Italian chemical industry, those who decide are in Munich. Single inventors and small and larger enterprises file here their patent applications for 38 European countries. The EPO, the office where 7000 engineers are employed, examines them and finally grants or refuses the patent. It takes 4 to 5 years. The problem is the cost of it.

Patent Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

Well if we add up all the costs including translations, the legal representations and our procedure, we’re about, let’s say, 50thousand €. Then you have to pay some thousands of euro for keeping the patent alive each year.

PAOLO MONDANI

And do you have a favourable attitude towards larger enterprises who send their applications here?

Patent Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

Not from our side, as examiners. But I cannot hide that we were rather astonished when recently the management has decided to establish some resources dedicated as an interface with larger enterprises.

Roberta Romano-Goetsch – Principal Director at EPO

But that is an offer that is available to any applicant and any representative.

PAOLO MONDANI

So I should not be malicious and think that you prepared a preferential lane for corporations…

Roberta Romano-Goetsch – Principal Director at EPO
No. No.

PAOLO MONDANI

Well, because actually I read an internal document, of 2015, where it reads that Canon, Philips, Microsoft, Qualcomm, BASF, Bayer, Samsung, Huawei, Siemens, Ericsson and Fujitsu will enjoy a preferential lane on patenting. What does that mean?

Patent Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

On the paper it is just a kind of “dedicated assistance”, but in substance it is not like that. It’s them who bring us real money, and for that reason they will get more attention.

Paolo Mondani – voiceover

Small inventors do not seem enthusiasts of the European patenting system. Sergio D’Offizzi is an engineer that has been working for (Italian enterprises) Enel and Sogin in the safety of nuclear power plants.

……………

Excerpt 3: 20:05 – 20:38

Paolo Mondani – voiceover

Please, where did you file your patent application?

SERGIO D’OFFIZZI – former manager at Sogin.

I filed it in the USA and China, from where I could get a notification in 2014. Being European, I also filed it at the EPO, and it’s nine years that I am still waiting, I’m not saying for an answer, but at least for a notification about where my invention will ever get.

……………………

Excerpt 4: 21:56 – 22:29

PAOLO MONDANI

When did you patent the “reflexometer”?

GIORGIO MARCON – Technical legal consultant for Tribunals

In 2013 I started submitting the documentation, having started 3 years before all the procedures to develop all the rest.

PAOLO MONDANI

And did you finally get a patent?

GIORGIO MARCON – – Technical legal consultant for Tribunals

End of 2015

PAOLO MONDANI

And why did you not file it also at the EPO in Munich?

GIORGIO MARCON – Technical legal consultant for Tribunals

Exactly because I knew that there are some deceptions behind the patenting, and not a protection of the patent.

PAOLO MONDANI

Which deception? What are you suspicious about?

GIORGIO MARCON – – Technical legal consultant for Tribunals

In essence, the information is leaked, it goes to industries who then can speculate.

……………………

Excerpt 5: 23:40 – 31:31

PAOLO MONDANI

Where did you get it patented? At the EPO in Munich? (Asking an entrepreneur about his patented compass system)

SERGIO SULAS – Enterpreneur

Yes, then in ten European countries, then in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. In my experience I could see that in the USA it is more difficult to patent, but smaller enterprises have it easier. And there are some advantages that the European system does not offer.

PAOLO MONDANI

For instance?

SERGIO SULAS – IMPRENDITORE

It is 15 to 20 times less expensive.

Milena Gabanelli in the studio

We also have a Patent Office in Italy. You go there only if you want to patent only in Italy. The highest waiting time is 2,5 to 3 years – depending from complexity – the costs are about 5000 €, plus a yearly fee for each year of patent life. For those who go to Munich (EPO), time can be longer. But between filing and obtaining the patent, the costs can reach 50.000€. Is it too much? Is it too little? It depends from the success of the invention. But that does not mean that once you have the patent you’re safe, because often a larger enterprise comes up and says “You stole part of that idea from me!”. And even if that is not true, they can just arrange a whole legal battle, most expensive and that takes forever, so if you are big enough, you line up all your own lawyers, but if you are small you can only handle on royalties for a possible future development, or you simply sell the patent to them, usually at the price that they decide and goodbye.

Some commercials now, then we’ll be back to Munich, to the Patent Office there, where, according to those who work there, they have the same freedom of opinion that you get in North Korea.

(After the commercials break)

We’re back again. We’re talking about patents and we are going to see: a battle between a man who says he invented the “Tutor” (Speed Limit Control) and the “Autostrade” (enterprise for Motorways in Italy) who says the invention was actually anticipated by Galileo; Universities are incubators of ideas, the Sapienza University (Rome) will have its ones managed by Mr Carrai, the consultant of the Italian Prime Minister, then we’ll see the most complex problem, which is about pharmaceuticals. What is the border between the need of saving human lives and the need of refund the expenses for research first and then of making profits? Well, but first let’s got back to the office in Munich (EPO) where patenting is too expensive, as everybody says, but truth is that in this office made of glass, you really cannot see anything.

PAOLO MONDANI

EPO is not controlled by the European Union, up to the point that you are an extraterritorial institution, with particular guarantees of immunity. But who is controlling you then?

Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

In theory member states should do it, through their representatives in the Administrative Council, but it happens more than often that these make agreements with Battistelli on specific points: you give something to me, I give something to you. You know, a bit like what was happening at FIFA with Blatter.

PAOLO MONDANI – voiceover

In front of the building in Munich, also the employees say that the president, Benoit Battistelli, administrates EPO in an obscure way.

ELIZABETH HARDON – Unionist at EPO

A month ago we have been dismissed, Jon and I, and Malika has been downgraded. We were asking for more transparency and a control on finances of EPO. This is the reason why the president has zeroed on us.

PAOLO MONDANI

Corruption cases here at EPO?

Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

Not if you mean like getting ten thousand euros in an envelope. But you know, at times the exchange of favours may mean a jump in career steps, the obtainment of a position of power or prestige. To a manager this can be granted in change of making a patent application fly.

PAOLO MONDANI

EPO makes 2 billions € a year. What do you do with all this money?

Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

There is no transparency on how it is being used. We don’t even know how much the president gets.

ELIZABETH HARDON – Unionist at EPO

Today we oppose the reforms of the President, which are infringing freedom of association, freedom of speech and our privacy. And we’ll keep protesting until the office won’t return to its function of servicing European citizens rather than the careers of some megalomaniac manager.

Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

Please consider that we have to make a request to strike or for having discussions among us. And if the President says no, well, we can’t do it.

PAOLO MONDANI – voiceover

Mauro Masi is member of the Administrative Council of EPO since 2006. What do you think of Battistelli’s methods?

MAURO MASI – Italian delegate at the Administrative Council of EPO

Battistelli behaves in a way, (that) he respects all formal rules of EPO. The issue is whether such rules are still valid or should be changed. In my opinion they should be changed.

Examiner at the European Patent Office – Munich

They had newspapers writing articles in which we’ve been described as a bunch of spoiled engineers, earning 8000€ a month who dare asking freedom to strike.

PAOLO MONDANI

Well, 8000 a month seems an huge sum to me.

ESAMINATORE UFFICIO EUROPEO BREVETTI – MONACO

Yes, but it is a work of highest quality and we are paid also for not being corruptible.

PAOLO MONDANI

EPO does not depend from Europe, it’s not part of European Union. It is a private institution, you even enjoy immunity. But who’s controlling you?

ROBERTA ROMANO-GOETSCH –Principal Director at EPO

Representatives of the member states compose our administrative council, which is also our legislator, so to say. Therefore it’s them, our administrative council. Then we have also a commissioner from the European community, who is an observer inside the administrative council.

PAOLO MONDANI

But, let’s say, don’t you have a supranational body, or any authority independent from the administrative council, that could perform a control on your activity?

ROBERTA ROMANO-GOETSCH – Principal Director at EPO

No.

PAOLO MONDANI – voiceover

The patent office in Munich is an anomaly, yet as such it will be responsible for the unitary European patent, where English German and French will be allowed as languages.

RENATA RIGHETTI – President of “BUGNION” – Industrial Property Consultants

The unitary patent is an intellectual property document covering all 28 countries of the European Union. This is its intention, seen in terms of homogeneity of the Country Europe. Various states have joined little by little. Initially Italy and Spain remained outside of it, but now only Spain is out of it. The unitary patent cannot enter into force until the Unified Patent Court won’t enter into force. The UPC will have jurisdiction on all appeals, on infringement, on counterfeits or related issues, concerning the unitary patent and the European patent in general.

PAOLO MONDANI

Unitary European Patent, five seats: Munich, Berlin, The Hague, Brussels and Vienna. Three languages: German, French and English. Three seats for the Unified Court: Paris, London and Munich and a Court of Appeals in Luxemburg. Italy will be good just for the holidays.

MAURO MASI – Italian delegate at the Administrative Council of EPO

These choices are ratified by single parliaments, therefore at a higher level, Politics with a capital P. So about that, you have to ask at that political level.

PAOLO MONDANI – voiceover

The parties of the coalition of the Renzi government have approved the unitary patent with a majority. With the new patent, the small and medium enterprises will have fewer expenses, but won’t be the larger enterprises, those who’ll get most advantages?

RENATA RIGHETTI – President of “BUGNION” – Industrial Property Consultants
Oh well…. Yes, I believe this is a legitimate doubt. It is legitimate because a legal lawsuit to protect one’s own rights for a patent before the Unified Court will be much more expensive than what it is today, one can easily imagine.

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