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09.25.16

What Insiders Are Saying About the Sad State of the European Patent Office (EPO)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

At the EPO, from anonymity comes transparency and honesty because in some countries, including Eponia, journalism strictly requires anonymity (fear of retribution)

A venetian mask

Summary: Anonymous claims made by people who are intimately familiar with the European Patent Office (from the inside) shed light on how bad things have become

OUR previous post spoke about growing concerns about EPO layoffs that would eliminate much of the brainpower and set the stage for rubberstamping (or very superficial examination, maybe by machines rather than professionals). We sometimes hear from insiders who let us know just how terrible things are looking from the inside. Airing some concerns seems imperative if the goal is to better inform not only staff but also applicants, politicians, and the general public.

Patent Quality and End of Stock (Potentially Staff Layoffs)

Regarding patent quality, an EPO examiner told us that he or she “got a list with EP grants that are not new where the search work was soooo appalling you can hardly believe it [...] because that is the latest development, Munich-style searches become standard…”

This examiner further explained that “for us quite easy to find in the overall workload system… our guess is, within 2 to 3 years we are out of stock (also for examination) and than the big question is what next with us examiners…”

This relates to a topic we covered earlier this month as well as in our previous post.

Software Patents

When asked about software patents, which the EPO typically calls “computer-implemented” in order to dodge the negative connotation and explicit exclusion, this examiner told us that the Office would “sometimes grant controllers, but it is always linked to an apparatus (a control for …)” (that’s the loophole set up in the Brimelow days, now exploited also in India and New Zealand).

So, in simple terms, both patent quality and patent scope are being compromised. What gives? The examiner confesses that “there are plenty of bad grants, but it is now getting an epidemia” (maybe epidemic).

Some examiners begin to wonder what the EPO is trying to accomplish under Battistelli. This examiner said, “the question is, are patents a goal or just a means?”

“Minnoye is the Real King Slayer”

Asked about Battistelli’s role, this examiner clarified that “in our opinion he is not the worst but that is Minnoye … he is the real king slayer, the one who makes the big damage to the EPO.”

“CPC [the classification project with the US] is killing us,” this examiner added, “basically, a lot of the “production increases” got paid by putting less man hours in the classification activities … we say; He who controls the classification in fact controls the patent quality … this year 2016 will see an enormous rise in grants … [we] now (as in today) grant a lot of stuff that was 10 – 15 years ready on the shelves … meanwhile we neglect collectively the classification system, no maintenance, no new development, no one feels responsible anymore … meanwhile a lot of window dressing is going on, it is incredible the production goes up sky high and the quality also… [examiners] had to wipe some dust from the yellowed file folders… IAM is in our opinion not important at all, that is only our own specialist peer group (per technical field)…”

This serves to confirm some of what we said about so-called ‘production’ increases. They’re just clearing the shelves (old applications) without paying much attention to quality of patents. It cannot go on for much longer and when it’s all done and finished there’s expectation of massive layoffs, never mind the collateral damage of tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of poor patents in Europe, serving to ensure a climate of frivolous litigation and patent threats.

“Only the “Recognised” [Yellow] Union, i.e. FFPE, is Invited”

Remarking on the so-called ‘social study’ (which was released late on Friday; there are 3 reports on the intranet), the examiner told us that “the next funny event to come is 14 Oct. a social conference one day before AC meeting … it will go from top to root … it will be sold as a success” (to influence delegates with a pile of lies).

Adding insult to injury, and ensuring no dissent, “only the “recognised” union, i.e. FFPE, is invited (SUEPO of course not),” the examiner noted. So it’s truly a Kool-Aid event. The whole thing “is in a way a media war … for most EPO issue money is not really a problem , but just a means … for us, it is the whole setup with this weak AC on top of the water head that is the problem … plus that seriously not a single politician is interested…”

Those who say SUEPO tries to undermine the Office are clearly not paying attention; the aim is to actually save the EPO. “I do not want to harm,” the examiner told us, “but what we need is a transparent system without secret working contracts, without paid coverage, and without badly searched applications…”

The examiner explained that “money is no 1″ to these people, “but in our opinion it should be simply that we do our duties, not more and not less.” To the management, says the examiner, “money money money that’s what it is all about,” but “renewal fees for the Office will sink dramatically (in the report called NRF),” so the gains are short term and will be extremely costly once the stock runs out and many bad patents have been granted. “Theoretically,” the examiner added, “the Office will collect 50% of the state renewal fees (which can be zero)…”

“More Useless Stuff”

According to what we learned, not only did the EPO get scanners to treat the staff as though they’re boarding the plane; They got some “more useless stuff” (for bags).

Regarding “20 million [Euros] for the reward package,” the examiner called it “a shitty deal for us” as “we are being separated in the Have’s and Have-nots” and in “2015 all directors and principal directors got heavily rewarded… but the examiners not [as part of] 9 million for pensionable awards like salary step increases, and the rest for 2 types of bonuses and one-off rewards [...] they did nothing, it was the examiners and the administrative staff, you should have seen the huge piles with grants, it was incredible …] I mean piles to the ceiling, earlier this year … we are now basically emptying our stock (examination) and it is going pretty fast … and the good news is, we are even rewarded in case of oppositions! The bulk that is granted now still has pretty good search reports, but that is going to change quickly … in case of an opposition, we get time like 2 or 3 days [and] that is good for our productivity … some directorates got 3 times more oppositions as their counterpart (which should be kind of identical) … the new mantra is: Timeliness. But not a single applicant is interested in this, they want quality … believe me, if you put so much money in your patent portfolio you want a certain quality I have been in at least 20 huge companies and they all conveyed this message (think of: Philips, Daikin, Mitsubishi, Honeywell etc etc) … there are still capable courts active in Europe who decide on the validity of a patent … EpiPen in the US is another perfect example, complete bogus of course … they got a patent on the safety cap, and now charge like 150 dollar for something costing 10 bucks before (thanks USPTO)…”

“UPC is a Lame Duck”

When asked about the UPC, the examiner told us that the “UPC is a lame duck, but the duck does not want to know this.”

We were kindly asked to “realise that a UPC judge is going to earn less than an experienced EPO examiner, so they can forget about attracting skilled people except from Eastern Europe.”

Speaking of judges, there will soon be a verdict (at the end of the week) from the Dutch High Court. SUEPO will probably be writing something about it, but examiners expect nothing out of it. Either way, the EPO plans to disregard the court’s decision anyway (thanks, Mr. Minnoye, for an epic confession on Dutch television).

“By laughing the misery away we survive,” the examiner told us, “like being in the trenches … not all is true in the end, but where smoke [there] is a fire.”

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