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08.19.16

The Cost/Toll of the ‘New’ EPO and Where All That Money Goes or Comes From

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 10:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Staff of the European Patent Office (EPO) has essentially become ‘collateral’

A clawback
Reference: Clawback

Summary: The European Patent Office has become a servant of the rich and powerful (including large foreign corporations) and even its own employees now pay the price associated with misguided new policies (or ‘reforms’ as Battistelli habitually refers to these)

THE race to the bottom at the USPTO famously resulted in a rather defunct system — a problem officially (if not belatedly) recognised by GAO. It is now famous for patent trolls and the systematic crushing of startups (euphemistically associated with innovation). The status quo may be reasonably OK and generally acceptable for large corporations with a dedicated legal department. It’s also perfectly fine for patent law firms because when more patents get granted and there is more litigation, more money will inevitably flow their way. They are, in essence, the tax in the system or those who pocket the majority of the damages (or collateral damage).

“The status quo may be reasonably OK and generally acceptable for large corporations with a dedicated legal department.”The EPO under Battistelli is marching down the same path. It wants us to believe that the more patents, the merrier (or the more innovation). In practice, rich countries like Switzerland can better pursue (or afford to pursue) more patent applications. The system is more accessible to them because its costs are less prohibitive compared to east Europe (where the per-person salary/capital is vastly lower). Sweden is another example of this and The Local plays along in this marketing plot/ploy. What are the writers thinking and why are they doing this? The EPO did it with them a few months back, repeatedly even (when the so-called ‘results’ came out). Now they are claiming that Swedish people are “stronger [for] score in patent families [and] drives its upward movement.”

“patents != innovation,” told us a Scandinavian reader. It’s the person who sent this to us. Why are we still seeing these myths spread so widely? And why are we supposed to totally ignore intentionally hidden correlations like cause and effect (in reverse), which suggest perpetuation of monopolies and domination by means of services that are priced out of reach (to most)? That’s a rather broad discussion we covered here many times in the past.

“In return for this ‘service’, much compensation/pension money is promised (not offered) and guess who foots the bill.”In reality, the EPO currently discriminates against smaller member states and increasingly favours large corporations from other nations/continents. In return for this ‘service’, much compensation/pension money is promised (not offered) and guess who foots the bill. As the comment below put it: “The member states have agreed to foot the bill for the pensions. But this is on paper, and for pensioners the only addressee is the EPO. If the EPO unilaterally lowers the pensions, what is the recourse: at the end the ILO AT. In other words a dead end. If the EPO claims it has no money, it cannot be condemned to print it.”

As we stated before, there is apparent clawback already. Here is the comment in its entirety — a comment which was posted in relation to a long discussion about the promise of benefits to EPO staff (past, present and future):

One should not become paranoiac and think that money could go some political party in France. This is going too far.

It is however not the first time that the shear value of the RFPSS has given some appetite to the AC. In drawing out money out of the fund, the procedural fees could be kept constant for quite a while, if not lowered drastically. Then, with more crap patents granted as suggested in Berlin, more annual fees would come in. Who would be the beneficiaries? The member states, especially those with a lot of patents validated. The only unknown, but not one to be neglected is that the attitude of the users. I doubt they need a European patent, unitary or not, which is of the same level of the US one.

On the other hand, if the fund is constantly under performing, then it might not be worth keeping it. And we are back on the thoughts above here, why not simply use it to compensate procedural fees. This could be the ball starting rolling.

The member states have agreed to foot the bill for the pensions. But this is on paper, and for pensioners the only addressee is the EPO. If the EPO unilaterally lowers the pensions, what is the recourse: at the end the ILO AT. In other words a dead end. If the EPO claims it has no money, it cannot be condemned to print it. Nobody would ever lift a finger for a cast of privileged employees of an international organisation. That is exactly the position taken by one of the President’s minions, the PD Personal, Mrs Bergot to name her. They profited for a long time of lots of niceties and it is time for them to bleed…

It might sound far fetched as well, but such a hidden agenda would not surprise me from the President and its advisers.

Battistelli’s history as a public [sic] servant [sic] suggests that as a Republican with no empathy he’ll promise anything to get his way and even lie for some “greater good” (in his own mind). As one recent example of Battistelli’s “greater good”, consider his lobbying for the UPC, crackdown on quality control (of patents), and sending away of the boards — a move which is now being confirmed by the local media in Munich. To quote this new translation from SUEPO [PDF] with highlights in yellow (particularly where we are cited):

Munich’s European Patent Office may be planning a move to Haar

The European Patent Office in heart of Munich simply won’t settle down.

(Photo: dpa)
Advert

- According to SZ sources, the European Patent Office may be planning to transfer a department from Munich’s Inner City to Haar.

- The move to new premises, with a floor area of 11,000 square metres, would affect 200 personnel.

- A power struggle has long been raging within the Office, at the heart of which is the President Benoît Battistelli. Critics are concerned about his stringent reforms.

By Bernhard Lohr, Munich/Haar

Plans are clearly afoot at the European Patent Office in Munich to relocate the legal departments. The whole situation needs to be viewed in the context of a major reform of the legal structure, which the Member States of the European Patent Office Organization only decided on in June.

According to ZS sources, the Boards of Appeal, to which appeals can be lodged against decisions taken by the European Patent Court, are to be relocated to Haar. This will involve more than 200 employees, and an office surface area of 11,000 square metres.

Storm in the Glass House

The European Patent Office still will not settle down: New internal investigations aimed against staff representatives are causing concern – and upset. Because the Office’s own investigation department is overstretched, word has it that crisis specialists from London have been brought in to look into allegations of bullying. Katja Riedel has more …

No-one will officially confirm what is going on. Staff at the Real Estate Department of the Bavarian Insurance Chamber, which owns the office complex known as “8inOne” in Haar-Eglfing, standing empty now for a good two years, are keeping the name of the incoming tenants very much to themselves. The European Patent Office speaks of decisions which are
still pending. The local authorities will only refer to a well-known “non-profit organization” which will be coming to Haar. According to an internal E-mail, which is in the possession of the SZ, this is the European Patent Office.

In the Internet blog Techrights, contributors who are manifestly very well-informed about the inner life of the European Patent Office in Munich, are already engaged in intensive discussion about the move to the edge of the Bavarian capital.

Advert

Stringent reforms, suspensions, defamation: A power struggle is raging in the Patent Office

A power struggle has been raging for a long time within the Patent Office, with its 4000 employees in Munich alone, at the centre of which is the President, Benoît Battistelli. His opponents are opposing the stringent reforms he is seeking to introduce so as to streamline the Office. Battistelli recently suspended a patent judge, who according to the distribution of power should not have been subordinate to him, which in turn caused further upset in the Office. According to an internal investigation, the man is supposed to have used aliases in order to wage a defamation campaign against the President. The accused disputes the accusations.

A possible move to Haar is also being seen by staff members in this light. The word on Techrights is that this is a way of sending disgruntled personnel from the legal departments into “exile”; talk is of money being spent like water, and that personnel without much space should be taking priority.

According to insiders, the move is a done deal

Word has it, too, that staff in the departments affected, which are still sitting in the main building near the Isartor, have already been informed of the forthcoming move to Haar-Eglfing. The search for a suitable location for the Boards of Appeal is said to have involved eleven buildings in the general Munich area.

The closeness to the City and the airport, the actual fixtures and fittings of the building, and the easy access by public transport, are also supposed to have given the address at Richard-Reitzner-Allee 8 in Haar the edge in the search – “in the South-East of Munich”, as they say. According to the information on Techrights, the tenancy agreement is supposed to have already been signed as soon as the Finance Committee of the Patent Office approved the plan in October. The move is supposed to take place in July 2017.

Uprising against the Sun King

Staff at the European Patent Office in Munich are taking to the streets against their boss, Benoît Battistelli: He regards his people as of little consequence, and could even prevent
strikes. And that could mean that he is contravening European human rights. More from Katja Riedel and Christopher Schrader … Report

This matches up with what a spokesman from the Patent Office has been saying, who of course is not going to let anything slip about the move to Haar. Rainer Osterwalder says that the organization is “currently looking into possibilities for a new service building for its Boards of Appeal in Munich and the surroundings”. Once the “technical preparations” have been concluded, more formation will be forthcoming. The separate building is supposed to highlight the independence of the Boards of Appeal in the Patent Office Organization.

This issue is also said to have been discussed in the early part of the year with Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback. He is said to have been convinced that by having a separate building of their own for the Boards, the significance of Munich and Bavaria as focal points in Europe for patent legal procedures can be strengthened still further. On the other hand, it looks as if this positive view is not entirely shared by all the staff at headquarters.

Rainer Osterwalder refuses to just admit the obvious, but he begrudgingly acknowledges what the journalists were able to independently corroborate/confirm based on documents they saw. Where does that leave quality control, appeals, and oppositions? Well, far away from Battistelli, ‘sheltered’ in tighter offices with fewer members of staff and an uncertain future. A new article by Matthew Pinney from software patents proponents and lobbyists at Marks and Clerk (part of the patent microcosm that preys on EPO policies under Battistelli, including the UPC) was published in some of their media circles this week [1, 2]. It speaks of opposition procedures as follows:

The European Patent Office (EPO) opposition procedure allows any person to challenge the validity of a European patent within nine months of its grant. Oppositions are a commercially astute method for revoking others’ patents as an alternative or addition to court proceedings. However, the opposition procedure has historically taken up to three years after grant to reach a decision – even for ‘straightforward’ cases. Whilst a decision is pending, there is legal uncertainty for all parties.

On 1 July 2016, the EPO introduced a streamlined opposition procedure that simplifies the procedure so that opposition proceedings can be brought to a faster conclusion. The aim is that the Opposition Division will reach a decision within two years from grant. This is achieved by imposing reduced time limits on both the patent proprietor and the EPO.

Once an admissible opposition has been filed, the EPO invites the patent proprietor to respond with observations and any amendments to the patent. The streamlined procedure reduces the response time limit from six months to four months except in exceptional circumstances.

They are basically rushing things, which guarantees that quality will be further exacerbated/eroded/reduced and the service will prioritise profit over merit.

It’s sad to see the EPO repeating all those famous mistakes of the USPTO — mistakes that I spent over a decade writing about. Battistelli is certainly aware of the consequences of reduction in patent quality, but as we shall show in a later article, he denies it using his de facto think tanks.

“No amount of gloss can cover institutional rot and when the public discovers the rot, everyone suffers, including ordinary members of staff in the rotting institution.”Not only EPO staff is under attack from merciless and misguided management. Staff of WIPO too has been complaining and severely punished for that. Watch one who has just moved from human rights to WIPO, a serial violator of human rights. To quote IP Watch, “years ago Kwakwa also moved from UNHCR to WIPO, according to his bio. In the role of WIPO legal counsel, Kwakwa took a role once held by now-Director General Francis Gurry, and became known by some for his equanimity, knowledge, and an almost uncanny knack for navigating difficult situations that others could not.” With some very gross violations of human rights in there (under Gurry), one might wonder what Bontekoe is thinking here. It’s like the time the EPO hired Jana Mittermaier from Transparency International. No amount of gloss can cover institutional rot and when the public discovers the rot, everyone suffers, including ordinary members of staff in the rotting institution. Unless Battistelli is stopped, everyone at the EPO will suffer. This is why staff representatives are so sceptical of him. They too are eager to save the Office.

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