EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

09.11.16

New Paper Outlines Concerns That the EPO as a Patent Examination Office is Dying, Gradually Turning Into a Registration Office

Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What would that mean for existing EP (European patent) holders who pay renewal fees (the financial lifeline of the Office)? What would that mean for domain gurus who work as examiners?

French and US flag

Summary: The EPO appears to be going in the opposite direction of the USPTO (post-Alice/Mayo) and becoming more like the French patent system, which is notoriously deficient in terms of quality because there is no quality assessment (or prior art search) at all

THE EPO, as we shall show later this month, has turned into somewhat of a nut house under Battistelli’s notorious leadership. It’s not because examiners have mental issues (they are very stressed, understandably so, and it's growingly worse as time goes by) but because the Battistellites think like neoliberals whose goal is to just maximise everything monetary by deregulating everything. They are burning down almost half a century of reputation, essentially squeezing the goose as if there’s no tomorrow.

We have already mentioned the French model here. We did so several times in the past. The French patent model is widely regarded as poor, but the following new paper lays out an explanation of what happens at the EPO under the mostly French leadership from INPI (the French patent office which Battistelli pulled former colleagues from):

The French Model for the EPO

Summary
When the EPO was created in 1977, its founding fathers decided on a patent system that would provide for a high degree legal certainty for the inventor (investor), the competitors and the public, through high quality searches and examinations, the whole backed up by an opposition procedure and a second instance in the form of the Boards of Appeal. That decision has largely remained unquestioned by subsequent Presidents until Mr Battistelli took over. Indications are that Mr Battistelli is currently trying to remodel the EPO according to the example of the French patent system – without informing anybody. This should worry not only staff, but also the users of the patent system and the public.

The French patent system then
Until 1968, in France patent applications were not examined but merely registered. All what the French patent office did was stamp a date (and time of day) on whatever documents the
applicants brought to them. Patent granted before that time bear the mention “S.G.D.G.” meaning “Sans Garantie du Gouvernement” (i.e. without a warranty of validity by the government). Granted patents were only looked at when the patent proprietors sought to establish their claims. At that point the patents had left the patent office and national courts were responsible.

There are advantages to a registration system, first and foremost that it is cheaper for the patent office because it saves work. The obvious disadvantage is a lack of legal certainty until the patent is actually examined – by the courts. The French system nevertheless worked reasonably well. Without the presumption of validity, the risk of having a patent revoked was relatively high. French applicants reacted by drafting their applications in the safest way possible, thereby producing mostly clear claims of relatively narrow scope.

The French patent system now
Things changed when law n° 68-1 of January 1986 came into force. Article 6 of law 68-1 introduced the concepts of novelty and inventive step. This is mirrored Article L611-10 presently in force, the first paragraph of which reads:
“Sont brevetables, dans tous les domaines technologiques, les inventions nouvelles impliquant une activité inventive et susceptibles d’application industrielle.”

Also the other articles resemble those of the European Patent Convention, so that at a first reading the French patent system now looks very similar to that of the EPO.

There is, however, a major difference: Article L612-12, point 5, makes it clear that an application will be rejected only when the application obviously is non-patentable.

We cite the Guidelines of the French Intellectual Property Office (INPI)1,2:

“La non-conformité manifeste aux conditions de brevetabilité peut donner lieu au rejet de la demande de brevet dans les cas suivants :
Est rejetée, en tout ou partie, toute demande de brevet…
4° qui a pour objet une invention manifestement non brevetable en application de l’article L. 611-16 à L. 611-19
5° dont l’objet ne peut manifestement être considéré comme une invention au sens de l’article L. 611-10, deuxième paragraphe ;
7° qui n’a pas été modifiée après mise en demeure, alors que l’absence de nouveauté résultait manifestement du rapport de recherche.
Dans tous les autres cas, la non-conformité aux conditions de brevetabilité ne fait pas obstacle à la délivrance du brevet. Elle peut toutefois être sanctionnée par la nullité du brevet prononcée par les Tribunaux.”

Lack of novelty and inventive step is excluded as grounds for rejection, as it is defined by Article L611-10 first paragraph (see previous page) and point 5 above only cites the second paragraph of L611-10 (exclusions of patentability), that is word for word equivalent of Article 52(2) EPC and lists non-patentable matter such as discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical methods etc.

What happens in practice is that the INPI3:
- sends the incoming applications to the EPO for searching4,
- sends the search report produced by the EPO together with the search opinion5 to the applicant, to which the applicant must respond within 6 months (3+3 months) when X or Y documents are cited, otherwise the demand is administratively rejected for lack of answer,
- the applicants amend the claims or files arguments supporting of the claims,
- in case of remaining obvious defects not concerning novelty or inventive step (Art. 611-10, para.2) a communication is sent. Otherwise a patent is granted.

The French patent system does not foresee a post-grant opposition procedure by patent examiners (i.e. technical experts) or an appeal procedure at a second instance within the patent office. Appeals against rejection by the examiner, opposition by competitors and other forms of patent disputes are all treated by a civil court: the “tribunal de grande instance” in Paris 6 . The members of this court are all lawyers. There are no technical members.

The lack of substantive examination and the outsourcing of searches to the EPO explains why the INPI has relatively few examiners, why it seeks to recruit only relatively non-specialised engineers as examiners (“ingénieur généraliste”), and why examiner salaries are relatively low.

The EPO towards the French model
[x] has on previous occasions pointed out that the reasons given by Mr Batistelli to justify his reforms (e.g. “remaining competitive”) do not make sense and asked him what the real plan is7. We never received an answer. Any analysis of what is happening at the EPO is furthermore hindered by the fact that Mr Battistelli tends to use a form of Orwellian “newspeak8” where what he says can be exactly the opposite of what he means.

By now the outlines are nevertheless becoming clear: Mr Battistelli may be trying to reshape the European patent system after the French model9. This is most easily seen by the changes in the examination practice: Mr Battistelli’s continued insistence on “early certainty”, on efficiency (“getting there fast 10 ”) and the ever-increasing individual targets for examiners necessarily led to a strong reduction in the time available per file. The most recent “early certainty” initiative foresees that the majority of applications will see only a single response of the applicants and then a final action, presumably a grant. Under the guise of “areas of competence” senior experts have actually been moved out of their technical fields to other domains. The planned reduction of the backlog foresees further technical “flexibility” of examiners.

The EPO now also seeks to recruit “generalists” instead of highly qualified experts. In doing so it has lowered the initial salaries for examiners, in particular for those with previous experience, making the job unattractive for highly qualified experts. The expected result of the above changes will be a more superficial examination, focusing mainly on formalities – like in France.

Mr Battistelli has been hostile towards the Boards of Appeal from the very beginning of his presidency. Last year Mr Battistelli stopped recruiting Boards Members, up to the point that some 27 of the about 170 posts were unoccupied. This obviously led to massive delays in appeals. The next step is a removal to under-dimensioned offices at the outskirts of Munich. The likely impact will be another brain drain. It very much looks like Mr Battistelli considers the Boards of Appeal “unnecessary”, while absent in the French system. In his “French model” their role could be taken over by the Unitary Patent Court.

Conclusions
[x] supported and still supports and examination model of the EPO that aims at delivering patents with a high presumption of validity (the “German model”), because:
- it provides legal certainty for the applicant who will know at an early stage whether the invention is likely to survive challenges by the competition and hence whether it is worth investing in its development,
- it brings legal certainly for the competitors who will know at an early stage whether to count with a monopoly or not and hence whether to negotiate a license or work around the invention,
- it reduces the risk of unfair competition not only by patent trolls, but also by big companies “squashing” smaller competitors with large patent portfolios and the threat of costly litigation.

Apparently the “French model” works in France. This may be in part because foreign applicants will mostly avoid the French route because of the language difficulties, and the thorough
examination by the EPO thus far protected France from abusive applications coming in via the EPO route. But with the quality of the search and examination at the EPO going down this may no longer be the case. The “French model” thus risks the introduction of a patent system, in France11 and elsewhere in Europe, wherein predictability is not based through a high presumption of validity but on financial muscle: the patent proprietor who can best afford litigation will win12.[x] does not believe that such a model would really support innovation in Europe.

Should, however, the original EPO model no longer be considered to serve the best interest of the European economy, then a change of direction should be the result of a democratic process following a public debate and not the decision of a President with a cultural bias and possibly an axe to grind.
____
1 https://www.inpi.fr/sites/default/files/directives_brevet_completes_0.pdf, bold-face added
2 Translation: Evident non-conformity to the conditions of patentability may give rise to a rejection of the patent application in the following cases: Applications
4. of which the substance evidently cannot be considered as an invention according to Article L. 611-16 to L. 611-19,
5. of which the substance evidently cannot be considered as an invention according to Article L. 611-10, second paragraph;
7. that have not been modified although the lack of novelty was evident of the search report.
In all other cases non-conformity with the conditions for patentability is not an obstacle to the grant of a patent. The lack of conformity may, however, lead to the invalidity of the patent being found by the courts.

3 http://www.sedlex.fr/brevets-francais/delivrance/lexamen-de-la-demande-et-delivrance-dun-brevet/

http://www.cours-de-droit.net/la-procedure-de-delivrance-du-brevet-a121605180

4 Before the EPO existed French patent applications were searched by the IIB, the predecessor of the EPO.
5 Before the EPO issued searches opinions French applicants were requested to react to documents marked X and Y in the search report.
6 Code de la propriété intellectuelle, article D631-2.
7 “A brave new EPO?”
8 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak
9 There is still considerable diversity in European national practices. E.g. the grant procedure for national patent applications in Switzerland and Liechtenstein does not require a search and does not involve any substantial examination at all. The patent is granted provided that certain formal requirements are fulfilled. It is possible to obtain a search report during the procedure, but this is optional and has no effect on the decision to grant. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitary_patent_(Switzerland_and_Liechtenstein)#Grant_procedures
10 see “Getting there faster – Timely and efficient examination”.
11 We note that the lack of substantive examination in the French system has been criticised within France itself See the paper by Prof. Bertrand Warufsel for the University of Lille: http://www2.droit.parisdescartes.fr/warusfel/articles/warusfelexamenfondbrevetfr.pdf
12 Strikingly, the US seems to me moving in the opposite direction: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-490

That last footnote speaks of GOA — the relevance which it (to the EPO) we covered here not too long ago [1, 2]. If the above is an accurate assessment, there should be an uproar/revolt from existing EPO stakeholders, including patent holders.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. 'Reform' at the EPO Means Destroying the Staff Union, Crushing Patent Examiners, and Imposing on Europe a System It Does Not Want (UPC)

    The chaotic transition at the EPO -- a transition from something which has been workable to something intolerable -- and the role of the Unitary Patent (UPC), which lurks in the shadows and threatens to harm the whole of Europe



  2. Shakeup Against Patent Parasites in the US and More Rumours/Speculations About USPTO Director Michelle Lee After Trump's Inauguration

    The US patent system is becoming ever more hostile towards patent trolls, owing in part to reforms introduced under Michelle Lee's tenure, but people are still not certain that she will maintain her job and continue to fix the system



  3. EPO Abuses Now Make the Netherlands Look Like a Facilitator of Human/Labour Rights Abuses

    Rather than crack down on human rights abuses, the Dutch government now sends out the signal that it's an island for those wish to violate human rights whilst enjoying immunity (EPO)



  4. Links 20/1/2017: Docker 1.13, Linux 4.4.44 LTS

    Links for the day



  5. “Federal Circuit Had Affirmed on Every Issue in 77.4% of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Appeals it Had Seen” in 2016

    The Federal Circuit (CAFC) and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) continue to squash a lot of patents on software, in contrast to that fake news from patent maximalists



  6. Kudelski Group Not Only Acts Like a Patent Troll But Also Run by Intellectual Ventures Person; Mobile Market in Dire State of Patent Armageddon

    The patent thicket which pervades everything that is used by billions of people, mobile technology in particular, can be traced back to a lot of non-practicing parasites (or patent trolls)



  7. Watchtroll and His Swamp Still Blame Google (Where Michelle Lee Came From) for Improving and Gradually Fixing Aspects of the US Patent System

    Shooting the messengers (even wrongly associating yours truly with Google) in an effort to undermine patent reform when it is so desperately needed due to serious injustices



  8. In an Age of Necessary Patent Reform and Permanent Uncertainty for Software Patents the Patent Microcosm Looks for Workarounds and Spin

    Commentary on the status quo in the Michelle Lee era and some examples of bias from the patent microcosm, as well as news regarding the NFL getting sued by the Kudelski Group



  9. Michelle Lee, USPTO Director, Should Recognise That the Patent Microcosm is Her Enemy Which Hates Her

    The latest outburst from the patent microcosm, which has a temper issue and notorious disdain for judges it does not agree with, is more of what we have come to expect



  10. Battistelli is an Autocrat Above the Law and It's OK, Holland's High Council Says

    Battistelli's autocratic tendencies will not be challenged by Dutch authorities, in spite of sheer condemnation from many groups all across Europe and the entire world



  11. Beware Fake News About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    The UPC is dead, deadlocked, stuck, in a limbo and so on; those who claim otherwise are merely lobbying (in disguise of "analysis" or "news")



  12. Shame on MapR for Pursuing Software Patents While Pretending to Stand for Free/Open Source Software

    The patents gold rush sees another company joining the 'fun', albeit this company should campaign hard against software patents rather than pursue any



  13. Doomsday Scenario in the Back Mirror as Michelle Lee Keeps Her Job (and Much-Needed Patent Reform) at the USPTO

    The future of patent reform, i.e. tackling overpatenting and patent trolls, looks somewhat more promising with today's confirmation of Lee's 'extended tenure' at the Office



  14. Links 19/1/2017: PulseAudio 10.0, Linux 4.9 Longterm Kernel

    Links for the day



  15. Corporate (Wall Street) Media Agrees That Brexit Dooms the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    The nonstop lies or the fake news about the UPC starting "real soon now" don't quite pass a reality check or a basic assessment based on fundamental concepts, such as the UPC's facilitation of subordination (to Europe) in the United Kingdom



  16. Farce of an 'Independence' for the Boards of Appeal as Another Ally of Benoît Battistelli Enters as Parasite Inside the 'Overseer'/Host

    The latest cluster of lies from the President of the European Patent Office (EPO) and direct refutation of false claims of independence for the Boards of Appeal, where the former Vice-Presidents can flock, just like the Mini Minion (Minnoye) of Battistelli



  17. Links 18/1/2017: Red Hat's OpenShift 3.4, Mozilla's New Logo/Branding

    Links for the day



  18. Union-Busting Action by Team Battistelli Takes Heavy Toll, Techrights Will Continue to Expose EPO Injustices to the World

    The Staff Union of the European Patent Office, SUEPO, which faced unprecedented and probably illegal (based on local laws) attacks, is being weakened by the worst President ever, whose own management team seems to be collapsing along with the institution he is destroying in just a few years



  19. A Lot More Fake News About the UPC, Trying to Convince People That the UK is Ratifying (It's Not, It Cannot)

    Response to some of the latest misleading (self-serving) whispers about the fate of the Unified Patent Court (UPC), which is in a deadlock due to Brexit



  20. Rumours Suggest That EPO Management is Aware of Decline in Patent Quality and is Thus Actively Lying About it to the Media/Public

    Whenever Battistelli brags about patent quality he may be consciously and deliberately lying through his teeth if the latest rumours are correct



  21. Links 17/1/2017: GIMP Plans, New Raspberry Pi Product

    Links for the day



  22. Resumption of EPO Propaganda ('Meet the President') Officially Starts Tomorrow

    Yet another one of these foolish 'Meet the President' stunts, scheduled to take place tomorrow morning



  23. Caricature: Battistelli's New Year's Resolution (More EPO Lies)

    The latest cartoon being circulated within the European Patent Office (EPO)



  24. Donald Trump Gives New Hope to Patent Aggressors and Patent Trolls

    Pessimism about the prospects of patent progress or patent reform in an age of staunchly pro-business Conservatives and glorification of protectionism



  25. More Fake News About the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Based on Lobbying Tactics From Bristows UPC and the Preparatory Committee

    Unified Patent Court (UPC) lobbying has gotten so bad that it now infiltrates general media outlets, where people are asked to just blindly assume that the UPC is coming and is inevitable, even though it's clearly in a limbo and is unlikely to see the light of day



  26. EPO Totally Silent for a Month, But Deep Inside There Are Serious Cracks

    The situation at the EPO seems to be pretty grim, even at the top-level management, and the EPO has gone into permanent silence mode



  27. Links 16/1/2017: Linux 4.10 RC4, Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' KDE Edition Beta

    Links for the day



  28. 'Financial Director' Publishes Fake News About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

    Response to some of the latest UPC propaganda, which strives to misinform Financial Directors so as to enrich the author and his firm



  29. Independent and Untainted Web Sites About Patents Are Still Few and Rare

    Commentary about news sources that we rely on, as well as the known pitfalls or the vested interests deeply ingrained in them



  30. The 20% Rule: Patent Trolling Suffers Double-Digit Declines and Patent Troll Technicolor is Collapsing

    Significant demise or total catastrophe for the modus operandi (method) of going after companies with a pile of patents and threats of litigation


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts