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09.12.16

Brain Drain at the EPO Under Battistelli is Becoming a Critical Problem

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Albert Einstein, incidentally, had worked for the patent office before he found fame


Reference (Wikipedia): Human capital flight

Summary: The knowledge of EPO staff (or the brainpower) is being lost a lot more quickly than it can be recovered, rendering the EPO incapable of doing its job properly

FOR A number of years we have been hearing that experienced patent examiners were leaving the EPO (the USPTO, by contrast, has no such problem). For the past few months this kind of brain drain, based on our extensive readings, has reached dangerous levels. It’s unprecedented in the history of the Office. There might not be enough talent left to even train new workers (if any are found who are proficient enough) — an issue that was first pointed out to us in the summer. It’s an multi-year overhead and death spiral or a cycle of knowledge erosion/loss.

“For the past few months this kind of brain drain, based on our readings, has reached dangerous levels.”The following new comment (posted this weekend) shows that the EPO, rather than picking elite scientists to become examiners like they used to, is almost begging now. Brain drain has taken its toll and people with a clue know the EPO’s antics (it’s all over the media even in Germany and the Netherlands, in spite of expensive efforts to gag it), so they’re unlikely to even apply for a job there. That’s common sense. Battistelli has nuked any remnant of the EPO’s reputation — great reputation which took almost half a century to earn/gain. Based on the industry surveys, the EPO is no longer a desirable/sought-after employer (it's barely even listed in the ladders anymore, but EPO management lies about it, quite frankly as usual).

Regarding “EPO recruitment” wrote Fragender: “In the past (4 years ago) I had applied to the EPO as an examiner – back then the only communication by the EPO was a one line e-mail declining my application. Now I got a personal (possibly) LinkedIn message from an EPO HR Recruiter how great working at the EPO is, inviting me to apply and providing a hyperlink to their job-offers. It would be interesting to know how many applications they still get…”

This actually kick-started a string of short reactions.

“There might not be enough talent left to even train new workers (if any are found who are proficient enough) — an issue that was first pointed out to us in the summer.”“Trust me, I am your President,” a followup said: “We just hired for the IU two ex Judges specialised in Anti fraud, white collar crimes, war crimes and corruption!.. what other items are on the social agenda this year?”

Yes, this is actually true (the former part, not the sarcasm) and we shall write about it separately along with more information, probably later this week. Joking about Battistelli, another person wrote: “Paranoid? Moi?? It never ends well. The only question is for whom?”

As we noted last night, the union-busting efforts of Battistelli continue to expand ahead of his Social Conference propaganda. He’s a loose cannon without tact whatsoever. Unless he gets fired this autumn, it’s likely that more staff representatives will be put in his firing line, motivating yet more staff to leave (some in protest, others in despair).

Using the name “BB’s Early Certainty” (joking about Battistelli’s endeavor to lower the patent bar using the early certainty from search nonsense), another person wrote: “Nothing is more irritating for a President when his or her message is sent into a black hole when addressing the EPO staff. The whole problem with the EPO is that intelligent people are so full of doubts and for that reason we have to hire recently fools and fanatics that are always certain of themselves. As a President BB felt that he is still groping in the dark; he has chosen his path but keeps looking back, wondering whether he has misread the signs, whether he should not have taken the other way!”

“As we noted last night, the union-busting efforts of Battistelli continue to expand ahead of his Social Conference propaganda.”The above comments help shed light on the work atmosphere and social climate. No well-informed and sincere journalist should ever believe that things have improved; they have only gotten a lot worse. According to this new tweet from the EPO, a 3-day downtime is expected at the EPO, so we guess that their IT department too has brain drain issues. No maintenance window should be planned (in advance) for a duration of 72 hours or more. Not even a datacentre migration should take this long (I know this because I do it for a living). “Temporary unavailability of new online filing (CMS) from 30 September until 2 October 2016,” the EPO’s Web site calls it (warning: potential spying), but any system administrator (or programmer) with a clue can sort such stuff out with minimal downtime of just minuter, at most hours. We increasingly have no choice but to view the EPO as incompetent. A lot of staff left. That’s a fact. It used to be a highly regarded (an wanted) European employer, but now it’s just a spammer, a liar, a serial abuser and worse. Battistelli took the EPO down to gutter level so fast and somehow he still keeps his job! It’s incredible! History books will surely remember how Battistelli took down the EPO while the Administrative Council was foolish enough to keep him on board (even while members of the Council were admitting that he had caused a "crisis").

“The writing on the wall is clear,” said some insiders, “we are facing a conscious policy to create a situation of overcapacity. The staff of the EPO believes that this kind of policy is the wrong way to solve the IP challenges of the 21st century: it will only feed further the increasingly critical perception amongst the public and the media that the patent system at large and the European Patent Organisation in particular are dysfunctioning. It should be the responsibility of the Administrative Council to intervene before the engine of the European patent system is beyond repair.”

“It sure looks as though the EPO as an examination office is ending.”Regarding the issue of overcapacity, the cited source for that is C. De Neef, PD DG1, in “Examiners recruitment” (May of this year). To quote directly: “We will have to get used to working with smaller stock levels and continue to recruit sufficient colleagues now so that overcapacity will decrease stock levels and improve timeliness.“

The subject of EPO examination workload will be explored here another day. It sure looks as though the EPO as an examination office is ending. If it does not move towards a post-examination era (i.e. filing or registration alone), then it sure moves towards an era of very low patent bar, unskilled or inexperienced examiners, and virtually no staff protections/rights. This would damage Europe’s economy and potentially make Eponia nothing but a financial liability (more frivolous litigation and other externalities for Europeans).

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