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06.23.16

As Decision on the UK’s EU Status Looms, EPO Deep in a Crisis of Patent Quality

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Not Battistelli Exit, not until next week at least

British police

Summary: Chaotic situation at the EPO and potential changes in the UK cause a great deal of debate about the UPC, which threatens to put the whole or Europe at the mercy of patent trolls from abroad

JUSTICE is long dead at the EPO and our concerns about software patents in the EPO grow bigger. The EPC is simply being ignored by Benoît Battistelli whenever it suits his personal objectives. It should be noted that the UK’s role and membership in the EPO (through the EPC) is disconnected from the EU (a subject of great confusion and debate in The Register comments nowadays), but either way, today’s referendum plays an important role not just in the future of the UPC but also the EPO itself. Many British workers have already left the EPO and given Battistelli’s mistreatment of an Irish judge, one might wonder if the same is true for Ireland. We published/highlighted some statistics about this yesterday.

“Many British workers have already left the EPO and given Battistelli’s mistreatment of an Irish judge, one might wonder if the same is true for Ireland.”Having examined this week’s news we found not so much coverage in English-speaking media, unlike German media for instance (translations welcome), probably as it is closer to ‘the action’ (the same applies to Dutch media).

Where would the EPO be if the UPC failed? Probably a vastly superior position than if UPC ever becomes a reality and we shall explain why. In short, the UPC isn’t about improving the EPO but about optimising it for billionaires who aren’t even necessarily European. These are the sorts of billionaires whom ENA graduates (such as Battistelli) traditionally serve. “I already fought against this thing called EPLA at the time,” wrote to us one reader, alluding to a previous incarnation of the UPC. “10 years ago I hoped it would be stopped,” this reader added (slightly modified quote).

EPLA is not to be confused with EPLAW, but it sure seems like EPLAW is now one of the big ‘engines’ behind it. They’re becoming rather worried about Battistelli as a flag bearer because as his popularity sinks (to 0% approval rate) it looks like the UPC (or EPLA) will sink with him. EPLA is the European Patent Litigation Agreement, whereas EPLAW is a patent lawyers’ body which we mentioned here before as it had grown tired of Battistelli's behaviour and even cited Techrights (which Battistelli’s EPO basically banned, probably out of fear). Speaking of the UPC (previously known as EU Patent, Community Patent and so on), watch what the EPO’s own mouthpieces say about the UPC in light of what Battistelli and his minions recently admitted to the media, as we last noted yesterday. With Brexit, they openly admit, “Unified Patent Court project is likely to be put on hold for a few years…” (or just die altogether, if not get renamed/rebranded yet again). Also watch a longtime UPC booster from Bristows (part of the conspiracy to create and pass the UPC) worrying about Brexit. To patent lawyers, being self-serving as they tend to be, Brexit is all about their own profession [1, 2, 3] and nothing else. Witness some of the very latest UPC lobbying and opportunism from patent law firms [1, 2, 3]. At whose expense are they promoting it? Follow the money.

“Yesterday we said more on the subject and also yesterday a Senior Director with FTI Consulting (the EPO’s PR firm) and Karel De Gucht’s spokesperson suddenly started following me in Twitter (those who are familiar with Karel De Gucht’s ugly political legacy would probably have a good laugh over the connection to the EPO and UPC).”Last year we showed the connection between UPC lobbying and EPO budget (the connection was FTI Consulting). Yesterday we said more on the subject and also yesterday a Senior Director with FTI Consulting (the EPO’s PR firm) and Karel De Gucht’s spokesperson suddenly started following me in Twitter (those who are familiar with Karel De Gucht’s ugly political legacy would probably have a good laugh over the connection to the EPO and UPC). I must have made it into their list of “enemies” or something…

Many things are happening right now in the media, which FTI Consulting was hired to help 'manage' (see the original contract which was later expanded to be worth over a million Euros!). It must not be pleasant for Battistelli, who has just earned the derogatory title “King Battistelli” from Kieren McCarthy of The Register (UK). McCarthy’s latest article gives coverage to the EPO-FLIER Team and speaks about patent quality — one of those things that UPC would demolish (give way to software patents and invite patent trolls over to European member states). To quote the bits about patent quality:

It also makes the serious claim that the EPO’s quality checking system has been designed to always return positive results, regardless of actual quality.

“The EPO’s own quality measuring system ‘CASE’ suffers from a built-in conflict of interest. The way it has been designed, it will always indicate excellent quality, no matter what the actual quality is,” the letter states.

It goes on to highlight several specific proposals for reform put forward by the Administration that undermine the rights of staff, including the ability to fire examiners if they don’t get through what the administration feels is a sufficient number of patent applications.

Changes at the EPO, including the dismissal of staff that have resisted reform efforts, are causing knock-on impacts, the letter claims, and potential recruits are staying away. “The Office no longer attracts the same caliber of staff and therefore has had to resort to recruiting what it gets,” the letter claims. It says that the EPO has dropped language and geographical requirements due to the inability to attract sufficient applicants.

For those who think this is just some EPO-FLIER Team ‘propaganda’, look no further than pro-EPO publications. They too admit there’s a profound problem. A few days ago Thorsten Bausch wrote in a patent lawyers’ blog that “Scary Figures Call for Action by the EPO,” to quote just the headline. Here is the ‘meat’ of the article:

Yet the really scary figure in the Annual report 2015 is the number of vacant positions of Board of Appeal members. The report shows that the number of BoA chairpersons went down from 27 to 22 and the number of technical and legal BoA members from 132 to 120. At the same time, the number of appeal cases remained more or less the same. What does this mean? It means that the duration of EPO appeal proceedings, which even now is excessively long (in the order of three years on the average, and in the chemical and biotech fields even more, according to this author’s experience) will continue to rise in the not too distant future. This author has already been put on notice by one board of appeal that in view of its current backlog of cases, a decision can only be expected in about six years.

This is a dramatic development against which swift action must be taken. Stakeholders in the patent field need nothing more urgently than legal certainty, which includes quick decisions within 1-2 years at most. This is not the time and place to play the blame game and to investigate why we are where we are. Yet it is the time and place to really call the EPO President and the Administrative Council to their duty to fill up the gaps in the Boards of Appeal as soon as possible. If the objective to have a BoA decision within 1-2 years is to be achieved in a few years’ time and if the quality of the decisions is not to suffer, then it is in my view inevitable to set up significantly more Boards of Appeal and to appoint additional capable members standing up to this challenge. Whether or not Brexit will come and whether or not the UPCA will eventually be ratified, the Boards of Appeal will continue to be one of the most important cornerstones of a functioning patent system in Europe. This should not be put at risk.

Basically, appeals (i.e. boards of appeals) are being systematically crushed by Battistelli so that he can make bogus claims about patent quality having been maintained. The EPO too more or less admits doing this. But how? Well, it’s a little more subtle. Watch Battistelli’s EPO trying to crush the appeal boards (again) for that UPC ‘conspiracy’ under the guise of “go-faster”, as explained yesterday by Jonathan Radcliffe of Reed Smith [1, 2, 3] and today by another author. When is it effective from? Just a couple of days after the Administrative Council’s meeting. Incredible timing!

“Battistelli won’t be man enough to take responsibility when the value of European Patents (EPs) suffers a sharp fall or a freefall.”Articles by people like Mark Ness use words like “streamlined”, but anyone with an IQ of elementary school level can see what’s really going on here. Under Battistelli, who has systematically 'cheapened' patents for his own glory, oppositions to patent grants don’t matter. They simply interfere with ‘production’ as measured using ENA-esque yardsticks. Worth or value of EPO patents is now a ticking time bomb; not just for newly-granted patents but also retroactively, i.e. for patents granted decades back. Everyone with stakes at the EPO, more so than just European citizens, should be up in arms. Battistelli is killing our patent office.

As a side note, we’re amused to see this morning’s piece from EPO mouthpieces (funded also by patent lawyers and patent trolls). They are justifying anti-whistleblower laws and design patents as if patent scope and quality matter not at all. As for the EPO itself (not its indirect mouthpieces), it is still milking a lobbying event from a fortnight ago. Well, they wasted millions of Euros on this distraction, so what better way to distract the public? Based on this morning’s tweet from the EPO, the Battistelli loyalists are going to the US in an apparent effort to prop up software patents (“ICT” is one tricky phrase which is growingly being used). They certainly don’t care about patent quality anymore and they are not doing a good job hiding it, either.

Battistelli won’t be man enough to take responsibility when the value of European Patents (EPs) suffers a sharp fall or a freefall. He won’t even be at the Office anymore.

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