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12.27.16

Bad Service at the European Patent Office (EPO) Escalated in the Form of Complaints to European Authorities/Politicians

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Toxic work environment has destroyed the quality of the EPO’s work and nobody can even be held accountable?

Juncker
By Factio popularis Europaea, CC BY 2.0

Summary: A look at actions taken at a political level against the EPO in spite of the EPO’s truly awkward exemption from lawfulness or even minimal accountability

EARLIER TODAY we leaked a letter which had been sent to Quality Support (DQS) at the European Patent Office (EPO), demonstrating just how terrible things have become. Things were so terrible on so many levels (see the 7 points in the letter) and apparently it’s not so exceptional, either.

“I just read your article on Techrights about the leaked letter to the DQS at EPO,” one reader told us, “complaining about that mess made by examiners on Art 94 etc.”

“It is a general harassment climate made of mean and cheap feuds that examiners do perpetrate among themselves when induced by pressure from above, fed by malevolent lies and spread further by people with low social competence, highly and chronically frustrated, both in their work and in their life (I must assume).”
      –Anonymous
This reader told us this “can be a good example of how bad the “malevolent climate” (to use the words chosen by the Technologia survey) can influence the work of examiners, up to the point that the substantial quality of the job is compromised. It is a general harassment climate made of mean and cheap feuds that examiners do perpetrate among themselves when induced by pressure from above, fed by malevolent lies and spread further by people with low social competence, highly and chronically frustrated, both in their work and in their life (I must assume).”

There is an interesting followup on the said case, which we decided to also publish in redacted form (but separately from the letter so as to keep things tidier). We kindly asked, repeatedly in fact, for updates regarding interactions with MEPs and EPO ‘support’ folks. We won’t be revealing any names here, probably because some of those involved (even at the EPO) are not directly culpable and we definitely don’t want to interfere with ongoing political processes (wheels in motion, so to speak). Other people say to us that they’re having the same experience as in the said letter and it helps them to see evidence of that pattern. We need to aspire for power in numbers (number of complainants), as only this way we can demonstrate that there is a widespread, systemic failure, as some attorneys are already noticing and writing about.

The E-mails below show some input from European politicians. “This shows that matters are being progressed on a number of fronts,” as our source put it to us. Our source added that s/he “wonder[s] when they’ll [politicians] realise the EPO appears to be unaccountable to anyone.”

“The E-mails below show some input from European politicians.”Well, this is a known problem. “State within a state” some called it (there were press articles about that on numerous occasions* prior to the EPO's FTI Consulting Web-gagging/media manipulation deal). Our article about the unaccountability of the EPO go back to 2014 and nothing has improved since then. To make matters worse, the German media effectively gagged itself (maybe in connection to FTI Consulting and SLAPP actions from the EPO's lawyers).

We have been gathering this input for quite a while as confidentiality was needed and now is probably a suitable time to publicise it. Publishing at this late stage would probably not compromise the political process as much as before and as long as names are left out, retribution and witch-hunts from Team Battistelli — as notorious as this modus operandi has become — are not possible.

An early message about this actually relied a great deal on reporting by Techrights:

From: ███████
Sent: █████████
To: [Conservative in the European Parliament]
Subject: EPO – Techrights Blog

Dear █████,

Please note that the following site http://techrights.org/wiki/index.php/EPO has now published on its blog the generic problems I referred to: ██████.

Regards

█████

The European Ombudsman and the European Commission got brought up/involved as follows:

From: [Conservative in the European Parliament]
To: ███████
Sent: ███████
Subject: RE: EPO – Techrights Blog

Dear ███████,

Thank you for your emails & ███████ to you too- I have only returned to the office today and have been reading through your correspondence.

I did manage to discuss this quickly with ███████ before ███████ and he wanted me to contact both the European Ombudsman and the European Commission to try and establish if there is a role they could play here. I would like to see if they come back to me before sending off the letter.

The next meeting I have with ███████ is on Tuesday, if we have not had a response by then we will send the letter regardless. This should mean that it reaches Munich well before the end of ███████. I will also ask him then about the techrights campaign.

I have also thought about the prospect of contacting the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills- as they are responsible for the UK Intellectual Property Office. Have you had any contact with them? A letter from them to the EPO might be useful too.

Please let me know your thoughts

Best

███████

Now the British Department of Business, Innovation and Skills gets brought up:

From: ███████
To: [Conservative in the European Parliament]
Sent: ███████
Subject: Re: EPO – Techrights Blog

Dear ███████,

Sorry that I have landed you with so much on your ███████.

I think contacting the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills a great idea. I haven’t contacted them at all. I was keen to get a further push from the UK so earlier today I had written to ███████ my MP asking if she could put her ore in too. I have told her that ███████ is already on the case. Clearly the more angles we explore the better provided we don’t trip over each other. With this in mind I will aim to share the actions with you and her so we are all on the same page at the same time. If you would like it handled differently please do let me know.

I also know a former judge who usually has an interest in people’s rights. I have asked her if she might be interested in helping but since I only asked today I at present don’t know if she will be willing to help. I will keep you posted.

Many thanks

███████

One week later the UK Intellectual Property Office got mentioned along with Lucy (who is no longer in that job):

From: [Conservative in the European Parliament]
To: ███████
Sent: ███████
Subject: RE: EPO – Techrights Blog

Dear ███████,

Thank you for your patience whilst I get back to you

I’ve now heard back from the European Ombudsmen, they have confirmed that the EPO is outside of their mandate (Unfortunately the European Patents Office is not one of the bodies, offices or agencies of the EU. It was established under the European Patent Convention 1973 and finally set up in 1977. It contains the all the Member States of the EU and other countries which are not part of the EU. Further, the EU is also not a member of the Convention. As such it is a separate intergovernmental organisation and so not part of the Ombudsman’s mandate.) They have recommended the UK Intellectual Property Office as a further point of contact, in line with what I suggested last week.

As we have yet to receive a response to our Parliamentary Question, I have taken a look at some of the others submitted to the European Commission on this topic. Like the Ombudsmen, the Commission is also insistent that the EPO is outside of their mandate, therefore I do not think that it will be very useful for us to wait for their response.

So moving forward,

I have now spoken to ███████ and we have sent off a letter to Baroness Neville Roche, the head of the UK Intellectual Property Office. I have passed her along a copy of the original letter you sent to ███████, outlining your case, as well as a cover letter with an update on your case. ███████ has asked her to review your case and offer assistance.

Furthermore, we have now send [sic] off the response to the EPO in line with the drafting you sent through.

I will let you know when we have a response. Please keep us informed of any updates your end.

Best wishes,

███████

“I believe the action of the EPO has effectively stripped me of all economic value of my invention already,” our source told us. “I think the only thing that will get them to sit up and pay attention/change is if they are sued. I am not sure if this is possible and what the risks and costs to myself might be. have you ever heard of them being sued?”

Well, my lawyers once explored that option and various people sent input about that. It seems as though the EPO is almost immune to lawsuits too — not just to the law itself — and as Minnoye serves to remind us, the EPO is happy to just ignore even a ruling from the highest Dutch court, so why bother? The European Patent Convention inadvertently created quite a monstrous institution. Monsters don’t die in peace; they fight whoever is eager to challenge them.
______
* In the EPO Wiki at Techrights, look under entries that fall (by colour coding) under “state within a state”. This links to (and translates into English) quite a few articles from German and Dutch media, published at a time when they still bothered covering the issue.

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