Entering a rather advanced propaganda mode
Summary: The grim vision of the EPO which is losing all its talent (over time), becomes more like a production line (quality does not matter), and produces propaganda for "media positioning" (or “placements”) — all under the guise of ‘studies’
“Who will be stupid enough to apply to be hired under these conditions?”
This was the question asked earlier today in relation to the EPO under Battistelli’s regime. The full comment says:
1: so they can fire you at will and prohibit you to work afterwards or they keep your pensions? Who will be stupid enough to apply to be hired under these conditions?
2: the EPO will decrease costs but not lower the fees? What will they do with the excess money?
Given the decline in patent quality under Battistelli, we expect fees to have to decline and the same goes for salaries. The EPO is becoming another USPTO and some people believe that eventually it will be another INPI (i.e. no patent examination at all, or only a truly superficial check before filing). Regarding the notion of “excess money”, some figures from the secretive Office actually suggest financial losses/deficit. There’s no likely rebound now or ever, until or unless pensions (long-term liabilities) get gradually cut, well-paid staff replaced by new and relatively unskilled/underpaid/overworked workers (there is lack of interest in EPO jobs either way), and patent applications flow in like water and granted in bulk while they last (to the point of exhaustion, whereupon examiners become redundant). Watch this new EPO job ad (from today). Pay attention to the skills required (just two languages and a Masters degree). The EPO is experiencing brain drain. Managers know it. They’re desperate for job applications now, but they’re failing to attract enough of them, or so we’re told by insiders. Standards have truly declined.
“Staff of the EPO isn’t even being told what’s going on; examiners are constantly being lied to by the management.”How can they possibly attract more interest from the public amid unprecedented scandals? How about puff pieces resulting from a so-called ‘study’ (stooping so low as to generate bogus, self-commissioned ‘studies’ is the latest trend), such as the one we mentioned last night?
The EPO-IPO (EPO+EUIPO) already finds some clueless (or docile, or without any critical skills) stenographers to parrot claims from this ‘study’ of theirs (which they paid for). To quote: “The study, published on 25 October, says this number equates to almost €5.7 trillion annually. It covers a broad range of IP rights, including patents, trademarks, designs, copyright, geographical indications and plant variety rights.”
Wow! “€5.7 trillion annually.” Big numbers there, but what does that allude to? Just a big number to occupy some headlines and add some prestige to institutions with a turnover/profit 5 orders of magnitude lower (i.e. about 100,000th of the above figure). Here is the laughably shallow part (among others):
António Campinos, executive director of the EUIPO, said: “The rapidly changing nature of business in the 21st century means that the EU and global economy relies strongly on intellectual property rights such as trademarks, designs, patents and other rights.”
Will you take over all the above, António? As some believe you would? There’s no telling, only speculations. Staff of the EPO isn’t even being told what’s going on; examiners are constantly being lied to by the management.
“Maybe the EPO will just fire a lot of examiners and hire some more “paper pushers” to cope with the increased throughput (or inflow) of crappy applications and crappy grants.”In other (more minor) news, the EPO is said to have changed requirements. “In the past,” says the article, “it was common for a patent holder to execute an assignment in favor of an assignee, without the assignee signing the document. Under the new Guidelines, the EPO will no longer accept an assignment document that uses the single-signature format.”
Maybe the EPO will just fire a lot of examiners and hire some more “paper pushers” to cope with the increased throughput (or inflow) of crappy applications and crappy grants. After all, it’s not as though detailed, thorough, comprehensive and even exhaustive search (potentially with several appeals to the boards) are what Battistelli wants. He just wants a Chinese production line, akin to what he sees in SIPO (for which he has profound affinity). Work conditions, correspondingly, degrade greatly. █
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Exile is to “independence” what prison is to “freedom”
Summary: Details of the relatively secret proceedings back in June (belatedly released only a short while ago), carefully abbreviated to demonstrate which delegations helped Battistelli crush the Boards of Appeal and which ones insisted on maintaining the status quo, as per the EPC
EARLIER TODAY we published one particular part of the Minutes referred to herein. The Minutes of the Administrative Council’s meeting at the EPO form the basis of the discussion and outcome, which is usually so abbreviated that it’s rendered quite useless (further sanitised when published in the public site rather than the Intranet).
Below is a very abbreviated version of the Minutes, which we have taken some time to analyse. This is just about the Reform on the Boards of Appeal, whereas the previous article was about the staff representatives. Reform of the Boards of Appeal, or rather the removal of those boards from the EPO’s building, is a subject we covered here many times before. In the EPO’s public site there was nothing but hogwash about it and AMBA’s Web site, understandably afraid, posted a polite protest, refuting that the EPO’s site had told stakeholders like applicants, attorneys, journalists and so on.
Here are the ‘gory’ details from the Minutes of day 1:
FROM THE MINUTES OF THE AC JUNE 2016 MEETING
On Day 1 of the meeting document CA/43/16 (Reform of the Boards of Appeal) was discussed. It has four parts: A (Structural Reform of the BOA), B (Career of Members and Chairmen of the BOA), C (Location of the Boards of Appeal), D (New Fee Policy for Appeals), and E (Conflict of Interest Rules).
The President started by explaining that transferring powers would mean revising the EPC, so “the only possible solution was a delegation of powers” to the new BOA President. He stated that there were two issues: the perception of independence and the boards’ efficiency. He added that “careers on the boards would be governed by special new rules reflecting the need to make board members aware that their career depended also on how they performed their duties”. Regarding the boards’ location he “remained convinced that a separation from the rest of the Office would increase the perception of the boards’ independence. But in view of the objections raised he was now proposing that although the boards would move to a separate building they would stay in Munich”. Also important was the boards’ rate of cost coverage, and he proposed that “the boards should aim at 20 to 25% cost coverage”.
SECTION A: STRUCTURAL REFORM OF THE BOA
The Croatian delegation was the only delegation that thought that a reform “should cover all aspects, not just independence”. It stated that “the President was always being attacked for various reasons, but to its knowledge he had never been accused of trying to interfere in any of the boards’ cases or decisions”. It added that “some people suspected the President of wanting to interfere in how the boards functioned and took their decisions, but this was completely unfounded and absurd.” The Bulgarian delegation thought that “the boards’ independence had been clearly shown by the disciplinary proceedings exercising the Council for over two years now, with the Enlarged Board so far refusing to take a substantial decision on the matter and give the disciplinary ruling requested by the Council”.
The Irish delegation “noted concerns expressed in some documents about the possibility of the President being able to withdraw his delegation of powers and that the consequence of the delegation being withdrawn is that the independence is withdrawn”. The French delegation agreed, stating that “revocation should not be possible without the Council’s consent”. The Swedish delegation said that “the EPO President should not be able to revoke his delegation of powers solely at his own initiative”. The Austrian, Swiss, German, Slovakian, Icelandic, Danish and UK delegations agreed.
SECTION B: CAREER OF MEMBERS AND CHAIRMAN OF THE BOA
The Irish delegation was “concerned about the proposals which introduce a performance-related system which appears contrary to the exercise of judicial functions”. The Italian delegation said that “(re) appointment of board members and chairman should be exclusively a matter for the boards’ President: the EPO President should have nothing to do with them”. The Netherlands delegation said that “the Office’s proposal that reappointment should in future depend on a board member’s performance could only be detrimental to independence”.
SECTION C: LOCATION OF THE BOARDS OF APPEAL
The Swiss delegation “suggests leaving them where they are”. The Irish delegation stated that “even a relocation within Munich would give rise to unnecessary expense”. The Swedish delegation considered that “the boards’ location had little to do with their independence, and the cost of any move also had to be taken into consideration”. The Austrian delegation said that “as far as relocating the boards was concerned, those most immediately affected, i.e. BOA members and users, would have to agree”. The Netherlands delegation stated that “there was no point relocating the boards”, because “this would merely waste money”. The Czech delegation said that “if the majority was in favour of a move, it would oppose it”.
SECTION D: NEW FEE POLICY FOR APPEALS
The Irish delegation was “strongly opposed to any increase in appeal fees at the present time and was appalled at the original proposal for a fivefold fee increase which would be tantamount to a barrier to justice”. The Italian delegation said that “cost coverage had no direct bearing on the boards’ independence”. The German delegation said that “the fees issue had nothing to do with the boards’ independence.” It thought that “the Office’s proposals here were completely unacceptable”.
SECTION E: CONFLICT OF INTEREST RULES
The French delegation said that “any former board member or other EPO employee temporarily refused permission to undertake paid work would have to receive appropriate financial compensation”. The German delegation said it would be necessary to “provide at least for financial compensation”. The Polish, Swedish and Austrian delegations agreed. The UK delegation said that the measures proposed “had caused surprise and even concern among UK user circles”. The Danish delegation “could not support at all” the proposal.
The President said that the proposed reform was “a package, to be approved or rejected as such. The post-service integrity measures were an integral part of that package”.
Here are the ‘gory’ details from the Minutes of day 2:
On Day 2 an amended document, CA/43/16 Rev. 1 was presented. Amended were in particular Parts A (more information about “delegation of powers”), D (“new fee policy” changed to “better cost coverage”) and E (now only limited to the BOA).
The Swedish delegation was “not 100% satisfied” but “was prepared to accept it if its effects were reviewed in three years’ time”. The French delegation and the epi representative agreed. The Austrian delegation said that “increasing the fees should be the very last resort”. The Irish delegation remained convinced that the proposals in Section D “had nothing at all to do with the boards’ independence”. The Slovakian delegation agreed that “the measures in Section D had no bearing on the boards’ independence”. The Netherlands delegation said that Section D had to be deleted, and its vote would depend on that.
The President said that he was not 100% happy either, but this was a compromise.
CA/43/16 Rev. 1 was approved, with the Netherlands voting against, and Hungary and Italy abstaining.
The Council also said the reform and its effects should be reviewed in a few years’ time.
One can see the role played by the Netherlands (opposition), the Croatian delegation (associated with Battistelli’s ‘bulldog’), and the Irish delegation (which might want to protect the persecuted Irish judge). We think the most important message is that the proposal was only agreed on because it should (or would) be looked at again in a few years, probably when it’s too late to salvage the EPO because applications have run out and many workers (examiners in particular) will have been laid off to be replaced by unskilled workers (if any, maybe just machines). █
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Summary: Pessimism becomes realism at the European Patent Office as units are being torn apart, patent quality discarded, “unified” patent courts dreamed of (more patent lawsuits, higher damages), and EUIPO (EU-associated, unlike Eponia) gets closer to the EPO
THOSE WHO have followed this Web site for the past decade know we’re no enemy of the EPO. We actually used to take pride in it, especially after software patents were rejected (2005), assuring the high quality of patents (emphasis on quality, not quantity). We also sent letters and constructive feedback to the Organisation. This is all in the public record.
“Battistelli has already decided — with the usual complicity of the Administrative Council — to eject/kick out the appeal boards out of the EPO’s main building.”We fear that the EPO’s days may be numbered. Maybe it’s intentional, as we shall explain in this post in light of this morning’s announcement from the EPO (as expected).
We will share some of our observations and leave it for readers to decide what on Earth goes on at the EPO. Frankly, it does not look too good and we (even I personally) worry about the fate of the bright minds of EPO examiners (who are scientists like myself), not politicians/managers like Battistelli.
“Remember that EPO judges are already under attack (in a perpetual limbo with a warning sign that’s judge P. C.) and early next year they will have moved out, even though the UPC (the unified court — a threat to their very existence) is definitely not happening (with or without “hard” Brexit).”Battistelli has already decided — with the usual complicity of the Administrative Council — to eject/kick out the appeal boards out of the EPO’s main building. The temporary/rented office space that was allocated to them is meager and there are no long-term assurances, based on articles from the German media (there were very few of those as the EPO’s spokesperson used sordidly evasive language). Remember that EPO judges are already under attack (in a perpetual limbo with a warning sign that’s judge P. C.) and early next year they will have moved out, even though the UPC (the unified court — a threat to their very existence) is definitely not happening (with or without “hard” Brexit).
What does Battistelli envision here? Certainly nothing like the vision of those who actually signed the EPC. Now there’s the EU in place (with the EC) and along with that comes EUIPO (a new name or a rebrand for something older). Here they go again, as expected, strutting together hand in hand this morning, boasting a so-called ‘study’ (link above, but it’s epo.org and it’s propaganda, so don’t bother clicking).
For a moment there, based on tweets like this one, the EPO ‘forgot’ that it’s not really supposed to be part of the EUIPO (trademarks and patents are inherently very different and entirely separable, even if one attempts to lump them together under the propaganda/umbrella term “Intellectual Property”, as in the EPO’s new headline). Here is what the EPO wrote: “Joint @EPOorg @EU_IPO study confirms the economic benefits of IP rights for Europe http://buzz.mw/b199m_f #IPvalue pic.twitter.com/REJQsJ5NKF”
Here is what EUIPO wrote: “How are #IPR-intensive industries contributing to the #EU economy? Find out in a soon-to-be-released study by #EUIPO and @EPOorg”
“How do existing grantees of EPs feel about the status quo?”For a moment there, again, one can easily be led to believe that those two bodies are conjoined, not just in the staff/management sense (there are overlaps which we covered here before). One might crudely ask, when does Battistelli flush the EPO down the toilet and let the EU-centric EUIPO take over? When all impending applications are over? Layoffs imminent? For a while now we have been hearing about end of proper examination and expectation of large-scale examiner layoffs. Insiders tell us it won't be long before EPO workload/backlog/queue runs dry. What happens then? Two key data points cannot be overlooked here; one is the EPO loosening/ending examination and the other is the massive EPO layoffs that are expected unless there’s a dramatic change of course. Yesterday I spoke in length with Mancunian research head (a large local university). We spoke about the EPO and he now compares erosion in patent (EP) quality to rigging of the degree-granting process (undergraduate or postgraduate). How do existing grantees of EPs feel about the status quo? Or about files flying off the shelves and patents getting granted in bulk irrespective of their quality (or only with shallow/superficial checks due to unrealistic deadlines/quotas)? They should be up in arms and demand some kind of refund or compensation from the EPO. They’re not even being consulted about this, even though they’re the primary stakeholders. Battistelli lowered the perceived value of EPs. He ought to know it. So-called intellectual “assets” of corporations took a massive hit because of him. “Production” he says? Tell that to someone with an actual science degree, not an honorary Ph.D. from a university connected to his buddy from Spain.
“Think of software patents, among other families of patents.”A lot of EPO workers rightly feel as though big plans are afoot (other than the UPC, which is a disaster) and nobody has informed them about long-term ‘reforms’. Right now they just see their staff representatives and even judges coming under unprecedented (in the entire history of the Office!) attacks.
“Correct me if I am wrong,” one person wrote yesterday, “but wasn’t the concept of “cheaper patents” (of lower quality) [...] via the UPC?”
Think of software patents, among other families of patents. Here is the entire comment with more complete context:
Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t the concept of “cheaper patents” (of lower quality) part of an integral package including the vital component of “cheaper litigation” (for the big players) via the UPC?
Now that the second part of the formula has apparently been “put on ice” for the foreseeable future it seems that we are going to be left with “cheaper patents” (of lower quality).
But “cheaper” for whom exactly ?
Roll up! Roll up! Get your cheap patents ‘ere!
One for everybody in the audience !
At the EPO, as another person put it, “to discuss or disclose a procedure is in itself a crime.” Here is the full comment:
Don’t know if he was/is a union member (DG3 tend not to be), but he was said to have had contact with a staff rep who has since been fired. Whether he did or didn’t and whether that was improper or not I don’t know – all such allegations are not allowed to be revealed by the parties hence any discussion between them could also have been a disciplinary matter in its own right. Such is the system in place – to discuss or disclose a procedure is in itself a crime.
Regarding the illegally-suspended judge, this one commenter says it should be “enough for him to be re-instated, probably with compensation, however in Eponia… ”
It is not actually known what he did as the merits on the case have never been heard. It has been thrown out by the EBoA on at least two occasions due to incompetence and interference by the senior management of the EPO. In any other legal system in the EU this would have been enough for him to be re-instated, probably with compensation, however in Eponia…
“The overpowering stench emanating from the manner in which the Office is being managed and overseen” is noted in the following comment:
When do we expect the decision of the Bundesverfassungsgericht in 2 BvR 2480/10 and 2 BvR 421/13?
Also, could the evident failure of the Office to carry out instructions of the Enlarged Board of Appeal undermine any argument that the Boards are independent of the Office?
The overpowering stench emanating from the manner in which the Office is being managed and overseen could well yet reach the noses of the judges in Karlsruhe.
Another person ponders aloud: “So union representatives were fired for reasons they cannot explain to the staff they represent?”
The full comment:
So union representatives were fired for reasons they cannot explain to the staff they represent? What precludes them to do so, if they are out anyway?
History tells us that the only reason union representatives are attacked by management is that management plans to degrade the staff working conditions considerably: reduce salaries, increase working hours or simply fire everyone and get cheaper staff. Probably present staff members should start looking for another job.
It is not necessarily a bad thing for the customers, by the way. Patents will be cheaper if the staff is replaced by cheaper employees.
Some people then brought up the subject of money, as the EPO reportedly has losses (it’s hard to verify this due to the secrecy the Office enjoys). To quote:
What precludes them?
A. Any appeal against dismissal would be before the ILO. It is an administrative tribunal I.e. It only checks that the rules were followed. To do something against the rules, no matter how lacking in justice they are, would be a negative point and endanger the appeal.
B. To do so would endanger the member of the Board of Appeal as it would provide ‘evidence’ to be used against him/her.
C. The EPO pays the sacked person’s pension. That can be reduced by the office so they are still under EPO control.
D. The office is also seeking to veto employment after leaving the office employment. Annoying them is a risky idea.
Does that answer your question?
PS Cheaper staff = cheaper patents? Really? Why? Do you think the saving will be passed on? Remember BB has studies that show the office has financial problems. Saving costs may save money but will that not be needed for his problems? I will leave the issue of whether cheaper staff means lower quality means more litigation means more cost – that needs another and deeper analysis.
Judging by his behaviour (e.g. cutting benefits, reducing illness days, short-term contracts to new staff), Battistelli has been acting more like an EPO liquidator (especially of the unions and appeal boards) than a manager. He threw the EPC down the trash and now he throws the EPO down the trash. If EPO workers genuinely want to save the EPO and secure their jobs, then they’ll need to overthrow Team Battistelli before it lays them off (which will probably happen given the present trajectory which extinguishes a backlog never to be replenished).
Here is a fiscal optimist (whose claims we’re unable to verify):
“We” are making more than 1.000.000 EUR per working day. We are self-financing, not more, not less.
Yet, we are making money on a scale that everyone could go on maximum pensions right now, and for the next ten years there will be absolutely no need for reforms.
And the last reforms (career) already means a saving of several hundred millions per year in 2035….
Nope, you will not see a single cent of any saved money. You can withdraw and get a full refund on exam fees.
That is as far as the AC will go, as that is not their money…
“We are self-financing, not more, not less,” says the above. Even if that was true, for how long? Applications are running out! The backlog will will have reached zero in a couple of year. The writings on the wall are pretty clear to some insiders, who believe EPO layoffs are coming. There is even the belief that examiners will be replaced by machines. Whatever goes on at the EPO these days is rather horrific; many things are happening (all of them bad), the future is growingly grim, and anyone who dares speak about it gets fired (or first “disciplined”, so as to induce depression if not bankruptcy too).
Will someone ever reprimand battistelli or even fire him? He should have been sacked quite a while back, but nobody seems bold enough to do it, certainly not his pet chinchilla. To close this off with a comment:
What did the guy do to justify all this nonsense?
See more on Wikipedia:
This link to Wikipedia yields the following image. Picture Battistelli’s face on the wall and it will be a perfect metaphor for the way EPO workers feel about Battistelli and how they get treated for their views about the ‘king’. █
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Trying to decapitate the unions of the European Patent Office (EPO) before he attacks the staff these unions represent
Reference: Reality Deficiency Syndrome
Summary: Minutes of the Administrative Council’s meeting reveal some truly bizarre rants from Battistelli, who simply refuses to accept that the European Patent Office is burning (without a future direction, only burnout and brain drain) under his poor and abusive leadership
THE EPO is secretive to most people, but it’s transparent to us because thousands of disgruntled employee keep us informed/abreast of whatever happens inside the EPO, in particular when the management is trying to hide things.
People who can you send us material often do (this can be done quite securely) and in 10 years we have never compromised a single source, not even accidentally.
“It’s the crushing of the only major staff union, probably intended to leave the staff totally unprotected amid horrible impending changes.”Our source, or the source of today’s leak, needed to do “a bit of digging” as it wasn’t so easy for one to come across, especially given the age of the material (we have a lot more from that time, though not enough time to prepare and publish). “It makes an interesting comparison with how the meeting was perceived at the time,” the source told us. “Turns out that the BoA reform only just got through. Some great quotes from Battistelli as well about SUEPO.”
In order to keep this punctual and compact, we have decided to just publish a summary of the June Administrative Council (AC) Minutes. We have split it into two themes — “The Social Situation” and “Reform of the BoA”. We shall deal with the social situation first. It should be duly stressed that these are very short summaries, not the complete thing.
Here it is:
FROM THE MINUTES OF THE AC JUNE 2016 MEETING
The President made an oral activities report, in which he mentioned that “sick leave rates were well down, to an average of 9.5 days per staff member. The number of staff suffering from psychological disorders had halved since 2011. Social dialogue had intensified”.
In response to this, the UK, Swedish, German, Polish, Netherlands and Italian delegations made comments such as “it was good to know that sick leave was falling, but that was the only crumb of comfort in a social climate that remained extremely worrying”, “the EPO social climate remained awful”, “in the long term, the work atmosphere could have very bad effects on quality and productivity”, and “the continued deterioration in the social situation remained an extremely serious matter”.
Replying to the various speakers, the President said that “EPO management was being subjected to a disgraceful campaign of defamation conducted by a handful of irresponsible union officials who, despite a dwindling following within the Office, managed their political connections in some member states effectively enough to give their outrageous attacks some plausibility in the eyes of the credulous and uninformed”.
Well, this is patently untrue. A lot of the criticisms of the EPO come from outside the Office and from ordinary people inside the office who are in no way affiliated with SUEPO (they are not even members of this union or any union). It is quite telling and it is ever more apparent that Battistelli tries to blame all of his own failings on “union officials” and is in complete denial (unless he maliciously lies) about the social climate inside the Office. It’s like the Democratic [sic] party blaming everything on “Russia!” these days, even if/when there is no evidence to prove/support it. SUEPO has become a boogeyman.
The following meme (taking into account the old bicycle tale) seems apt. Is it just an EPO “reform”? No. It’s the crushing of the only major staff union, probably intended to leave the staff totally unprotected amid horrible impending changes. Isolated, misinformed (by Battistelli's cronies) and helpless staff is what Battistelli wants. █
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Summary: The obnoxious company that is promoting Microsoft and software patents in a country that needs neither makes the headlines again (Financial Express)
THE SUBJECT of software patents in India has not been explored here in a while. It seems safe to say that the latest massive effort/push/lobbying by Microsoft, IBM et al failed and India will continue to reject/decline/refuse to patent software.
“Tata has spent years pushing for software patents and promoting Microsoft’s interests/lock-in.”The Microsoft partners from Tata (or TCS), however, are still lobbying for software patents in India, in essence painting themselves a foe of the country’s interests. Based on this new article (published earlier today): “In yet another instance of saying no to exclusivity for innovations in software development, the country’s patent office has rejected a patent application by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) seeking protection to its claimed invention relating to organisation and development of technical documents, with few defects, minimal effort and less cost.”
Good. Tata has spent years pushing for software patents (see e.g. [1, 2]) and promoting Microsoft's interests/lock-in. We hope that our readers in India (a large proportion of our readers is from there) will push back against the likes of Tata. The country is better off without such corporations. Tata is often peripheral/adjunct/extension of foreign multinationals and it’s not alone. This harms Indian startups. █
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