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06.07.16

Streisand Effect Award Won by EPO: It Has Just Blocked IP Kat Blog (Updatedx7)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A leaky faucet

Summary: The European Patent Office has just blocked access to a leading IP blog, where professionals cover things of legal and technical nature about the EPO and far beyond (with over 10,000 articles in the archive)

THE EPO has just shot itself in the foot (again!), only a few days before the hugely expensive publicity stunt which includes bribed media. The Kool-Aid must flow uninterrupted.

What happens when one accesses the IP Kat blog this morning from within the EPO?

Your request was denied because of its content categorization: “Malicious Sources/Malnets”

“Not too long after the EPO banned Techrights it also sent threatening legal letters (repeatedly).”Yes, that’s right. That leading IP blog is a “Malnet”. Blogspot is “Malicious Sources”. Boys and girls, please let Google know about this “Malnet” inside its network. IP Kat must be severely published!

Humour aside, this is a badge of honour for IP Kat and it demonstrates what kind of foolish people run the EPO. Do they not foresee the backlash? Have they still no grasp of what the Streisand Effect is?

“Would EPO management be boorish enough to attempt this? Or to try to unmask commenters, as some people did before (taking Google to court)?”As far as we can tell, IP Kat is only the second to be blocked in this way. Techrights was first, so we must have done something right and so does Merpel.

Not too long after the EPO banned Techrights it also sent threatening legal letters (repeatedly). Let’s hope that IP Kat and Merpel aren’t next in the pipeline. Would EPO management be boorish enough to attempt this? Or to try to unmask commenters, as some people did before (taking Google to court)?

Update: There are now further confirmations of this, e.g. from IP Kat comments. This comment from half an hour ago states:

Since this morning, access to the IPKat is blocked from within the European Patent Office.

Users get the following message:

“Your request was denied because of its content categorization: “Malicious Sources/Malnets”.

I am sorry Merpel, I doubt you can continue to publicize your blog as “Recommended by the European Patent Office as reading material for candidates for the European Qualifying Examinations 2013″ …

The EPO’s management is so intolerant of criticism that it even turns its back on partners and forces all staff to turn their backs too. Florian Müller says: “The EPO leadership urgently needs professional help… blocking the IP Kat blog is just insane.”

The EPO has all the elements in it right now of an organisation in a state of irreversible collapse trying to pay/buy its way out, just like FIFA did last year. Paying the media and buying bogus ‘studies’ isn’t the way out. It’s the engineering of yet more scandals. This is cyclical.

Update #2: A lot of comments about this are starting to surface at the target of censorship.

After blocking IP Kat it’s clear that neither tone is the issue (Techrights is more strongly-worded and less droll than Merpel) nor malware is the issue. To quote one new comment, EPO now “makes it an offense to post on a public forum or to “damage the reputation of the Office”.” Here is the full comment:

Recent developments at the EPO are surrealistic. We have a project called “early certainty” to hire 800 examiners to tackle our backlog till 2020. We have CA56/16, which basically lets the President decide on your partner work, on any elected post one may seek, any other activity aside your work, etc… and makes it an offense to post on a public forum or to “damage the reputation of the Office”. Also: the “investigation unit” is strengthened and there is a new difference betweenn dismissals for disciplinary reasons and for incompetence I do not understand. And ipkat is censored from our Intranet as “malicious source” this morning.

What next?

As another person put it:

Desperate needs lead to desperate deeds.

And then:

I think if you read the early certainty site you’ll find that you’re not allowed to discuss it with “third parties”.

EPO has incompetent censors; they didn’t even block IP Kat correctly, as the following comment reveals:

@HelloKitty: “And ipkat is censored from our Intranet as “malicious source” this morning.”

No, it isn’t, at least not fully.
.de is, yes, even from The Hague. But I can access .nl and .co.uk from Rijswijk main.

Therefore I cannot believe the “reason” being “malware/malnet”… The .nl and .co.uk sites are identical to the .de site, besides the url used.

Here is more on that:

WOW.

Had I known before that Ipkat was a malicious source I would have never dared even having a look at it.

Luckily we have our wise president for protecting us. Than you so much!

To be on the safe side I will also destroy my laptop and smartphones at home to prevent any further malicious attack from malnets.

Adieu, naughy Merpel. Adieu Techrights. Adieu FossPatents. Ah, no. Mr Mueller is now accessible again from the EPO: he must then be a nice guy after all. I will read only his posts, but he does not publish since last May. Is it maybe time for a new post on the EPO from a nice guy?

“Maybe the EPO just isn’t blocking my blog at the moment because I haven’t blogged about their stuff in a while,” FossPatents told me in response to the above.

One person wasn’t sure if malware could be the issue, asking politely:

Any official announcement of the ban? Could it be that the ipkat site does have some form of embedded malware which the epo security is picking up? I don’t know – I’m just asking (hoping?).

Sarcastic response:

Yes, it could be, and it’s probably the same malware that also affected Techrights – it’s called “Criticising the EPO management” …

Here is a more serious response:

Weirdly enough, I cannot access ipkitten.blogspot.de for the reason mentioned above (malicious/Malnet).
ipkitten.blogspot.nl works find.
.co.uk too.
If one knows how Google (and thus blogspot) work, it become obvious that there is no malware automagically detected by the firewall software, but the reason is very fabricated. Well, it works for Munich. DG0 cannot access this site anymore. Nor the AC-members coming to Munich.

This is why this kind of censorship is very serious an issue:

Interestingly, in the recent survey conducted by SUEPO, IP blogs are considered as a relevant source of information for 45% of the respondents – far higher than the 9% for Top management and 17% for Internal communications …

https://suepo.org/documents/43311/54958.pdf

See page 19.

But I’m sure it has nothing to do with the banning of the site within the EPO …

We will update this post as more information becomes available. The press should probably cover this.

Update #3: Kieren McCarthy has just publish an article about this (it has 7 comments at the time of writing, mostly with tips on bypassing the censors). To quote McCarthy’s article:

The European Patent Office (EPO) has reacted to criticism of its latest proposals – by blocking access to a blog that raised concerns.

The thin-skinned organization has placed a block on the popular IP Kat blog, seemingly in response to critical comments about proposed reform to its independent Boards of Appeal.

In a posting last week, IP Kat described as “completely outrageous” plans to make the boards in large part self-financing, and explained why it would further undermine their independence while giving yet more power to wildly unpopular EPO president Benoit Battistelli.

As of this morning, EPO staff who try to access the site from work have been met with the message: “Your request was denied because of its content categorization: ‘Malicious Sources/Malnets’.”

Usually “malicious source” would be used to refer to a website containing malware, but in this case, the EPO management appears to view anything critical of its plans as inherently malicious.

[...]

The EPO has history with censoring critical websites: last year it both blocked and sent threatening legal letters to blog Techrights after it posted embarrassing internet documents that showed the organization was giving preferential treatment to Microsoft in its patent reviews.

Some people use Google Cache to bypass these filters, but the comments on this article suggest Google Translate. Either way, people can use mobile phones and home networks to access the same sites anyway, without any fear of being ‘caught’ by BlueCoat (potentially flagged by Battistelli’s goons), whose contract with the EPO is secret but confirmed.

Update #4: Somebody now suggests that the ban has been undone, but we cannot tell for sure and either way — irrespective of the final outcome — this is scaring staff and scaring authors at IP Kat, as the ban still has some holes in it (they might be plugged pretty soon or the whole ban revoked). One person wrote this:

The Will of the President reigns supreme.
He has blocked the IPKat from his fiefdom.
Do you think he is scared by such a bunch of pussies ?

Another bemoaned the loss of “freedom of expression at the EPO.”

As of today, it is no longer possible to access the Ipkat blog from within the EPO. So much for freedom of expression at the EPO.

Then the holes in the ban were pointed out as follows:

@Ketzeneke and others:
No, ipkitten is not fully banned.
Only the ipkitten.blogspot.de is banned.
All other country codes still work. .nl; .co.uk; .mx did still work this afternoon.
The difficulty is avoiding the automagic forwarding to “your” country code…

IPkitten could adjust their template to prevent this behaviour info on how to.
Otherwise you would ned to change your browser settings (preferred language).

As user you can add /ncr to the adress to prevent redirecting.

ipkitten.blogspot.ie/ncr should therefore show you the irish site, no mattr from where you’re accesing ipkitten.

One person suggests that the EPO’s management may have changed its mind:

Late afternoon IPKat was accessible from inside the EPO again…

Depends on which TLD… or maybe the backlash convinced EPO management to retreat and undo the ban?

“Pointless,” said this one new comment from The Register about the ban, “unless the Streisand Effect is actually what they want. All the employees have smartphones, so they can just access the site through their carrier, using the three fingers they are not using to send a message to their employers, of course.”

In relation to the subject of this post, which was sort of lost in the discussion about censorship, one person wrote:

Mr. Freyberg,
It may also be worth remembering that the EPO has supported (and still does support) examiners to sit the EQE. Indeed for some posts internally it is at least advantageous for a candidate to have passed it. Now, the President wishes to have the right to block that possible transfer from the EPO to the other side. Joined-up thinking? Or what?
While focussing on those post-EPO activities, readers may also wish to consider the effect these rules will have on internal discipline. Who will dare to not follow the party line with the knowledge that BB has an ace up his sleeve to punish dissent? A principled stand now will carry extra risk. Better to resign quietly and not rock the boat rather than stand up and be counted. Who needs a gagging order?

Another response on topic said:

Nearly 25 years ago there was a drought of applications and a program was instituted at the EPO for sending out examiners to assist industry and attorneys. Some still talk glowingly about their experience.

The times, they are a-changin’…

The EPO truly loses sight of what the patent system should be about. It also breaks laws in the process.

Update #5: As it turns out, over at The Register (not too shockingly as it’s British), people exploit this whole situation to call for Brexit, but as one person pointed out in the comments: “EPO appears to be nothing to do with the EU.” Moreover, it’s not as though the British authorities — especially the Monarchy — respect free speech any more than the EU does. In terms of privacy we’re a lot worse here. Brexit can stop the UPC, but how much will it do to change things at the EPO? Not much.

Here is a comment from someone who appears to be from the EPO:

Pathetic, but not really surprising. I’m actually amazed that we’ve been able to access IPKAT from work for as long as we have…

It just shows how petty those in charge are, and it demonstrates a remarkable level of ignorance as to how such stupid and pathetic measures are seen, by both the staff and the outside world; not that BB and his stooges care though.

A sad, sad day for those of us who work for the EPO.

As for claims that the ban might have been undone (lifted), here is a response to it:

“Late afternoon IPKat was accessible from inside the EPO again… ”

Well at least for members of the Investigative Unit who are carefully monitoring every posting.

Is The Register still accessible within the EPO ?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/06/07/epo_blocks_industry_blog_after_critical_post/

Not all TLDs are blocked, so that may help explain why some people cannot ‘reproduce’ the error message, so to speak.

Update #6: Streisand Effect took its toll. “In the meantime,” SUEPO says, “access to the IPKAT has been restored within the EPO.” Hopefully Merpel et al won’t self-censor after this incident.

Update #7: Kieren McCarthy of The Register has just published an article about the reversal and also mentioned the protest, which will take place tomorrow:

The organization’s problems are far from over, however. Staff intends to hold another demonstration against their management’s action this week. This time, the demonstration is in response to revised documents covering staff rights and obligations.

The revised documents, seen by The Register, provide – yet again – greater powers to EPO president Benoit Battistelli and fewer rights to everyone else. Permanent employees would effectively be gagged from making any public criticism of the organization or Battistelli (“shall abstain from any act and, in particular, any public expression of opinion which may reflect on the dignity of his office”).

We can’t help wondering if the person or group responsible for generating all this negative publicity by banning IP Kat (apparently for less than a day) will face consequences for inability to grasp concepts such as free speech, truth-telling, and the Streisand Effect. What a failure. Like we said at the very start, the EPO “shot itself in the foot (again!),” but it continues to block Techrights so McCarthy’s headline, “EPO ends news censorship,” is not entirely accurate. There’s still McCarthyism at the EPO.

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2 Comments

  1. One of those... said,

    June 7, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, I could,still access ipkitten from inside the EPO, using a different tld than “.de”.

    According to https://support.google.com/blogger/answer/2402711?hl=en you can simply change the tld to one that is not blocked, and add /ncr to prevent redircting.

    If the EPO did not expand their “malicious source/malnet” block for ipkitten to all tld’s, http://ipkitten.blogspot.mx/ncr should work even from inside the EPO.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I guess that any such discussions provide the censors with pointers.

    Historically, I criticised Google a lot for these TLD hops that sometimes give away people’s location/s, potentially compromising them in all sorts of ways.

    However, I worried more that the EPO would attempt to subpoena Google for commenters’ identities (totally outside IP Kat‘s control). It happened before to others and nothing is unthinkable in today’s out-of-touch EPO management.

    For the record, the EPO never attempted DMCA takedowns, subpoenas etc. against Techrights (only takedowns with SLAPP). I would ensure there’s a canary in case it was to happen again.

    I still maintain an ‘insurance’ (sensitive material to publish) in case the EPO chooses to get nasty again.

    The clueless people who orbit Battistelli are playing with fire when they ban IP Kat. It has already earned some media attention, stealing some thunder from the Thursday extravaganza.

    I have a lot more to publish about the EPO in the coming days, probably until the next Administrative Council’s meeting.

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