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02.24.17

Yes, There is Definitely Brain Drain (Experience Deficit) at the European Patent Office and Stakeholders Feel It

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SUEPO is vindicated, again

Els Hardon

Summary: The direction that the European Patent Office has taken under Battistelli undoes many decades (almost half a century) of reputation-building and progress and naturally this repels existing staff, not to mention hampers recruitment efforts

THE stories we have published about the EPO are approaching 2,000 in number and we spent thousands of hours on these. One reader told us the other day that these stories are having an impact. To quote:

Knowing that the management reads your blog, I suggest to disseminate some information that may accelerate the deliverance process. For instance, this information: I have recently observed in the Isar headquarters of the epo in Munich a remarkable change in the atmosphere, a kind of feeling you may have when the war is nearly at end, or at the end of a reign. The minions are preparing the departure of Sun king Bat (sounds pretty north-Korean!). Of course they are younger than the capo and may want to stay after his departure to further milk the cow. All they need is a “Persilschein” – denazification certificate- to show that they were on the proper side in spite of the situation. In our digital era this is no longer a problem: all “classified” /compromising documents circulating in the office (and there are many!!!!) are instantly photographed and sent to the “cloud”. Thank you google for your google disk and thank you to all companies producing these amazing smart-phones. I guess that after the departure of the capo, the rain coming from the cloud is likely to be a storm of …. Sun King Bat will then appreciate the difference between immunity and impunity.

Can anyone relate to the above? Either way, yes, we do have a lot of documents coming. They’re in the pipeline, just waiting for the right timing (and relevance) to come out. This assures accountability, even if belated accountability.

The other day we found ourselves criticised in an anonymous comment at IP Kat. Someone claimed that no brain drain was going on, refuting what many insiders have said anonymously (in public) and told us directly. Brain drain is not just about retirements but about many early retirements, not counting a lot of unjust dismissals of veteran (experienced and valuable) staff. Here is what the comment said:

@Rasputini @Techrights
I see my comment has attracted the attention of Dr Roy from Techrights.
The hundred examiners leaving is not a sign of brain drain nor has it anything to do with the current management.
It is simply a result of an aging population and the recruitment policies 30 years ago.
I’ll try to explain so that even Dr Roy can follow, should he have a mind willing to understand:
1) we have about 4200 examiners
2) examiners start on average when they are about 30 years old at the EPO
3) the average (pre-) retirement age is currently about 60 years old
4) on average examiners therefore work during 30 years at the EPO
5) on average, 4200/30=140 examiners will therefore retire per year
The 100 current retirements is lower than average since 30 years ago we recruited less. The number will even drop a bit in the next 5 years, then rise up to 200-250.
No magic, no brain drain, no terror management driving people away. Just demography.
And with 200-250 yearly retirements in the near future, no risk of overcapacity at all, quite the contrary I’m afraid.

It didn’t take long for people to refute the above, for example with the following comment:

30 years ago, the EPO had less than 2000 employees, some of them having been there since the time of the IIB. Normally 1 out of 30 or 40 would reach the retirement age which sums up to a natural turnover lower than 67 per year, all staff included. The actual number of staff leaving is more than twice this number. Statistically speaking, a brain drain at the EPO cannot be denied.

Dismantling an argument that suggested we were wrong about brain drain, “anxious attorney” wrote:

Moreover the EPO started with accepting only new examiners from national offices. So elder people. A few years after the start of the EPO also patent attorneys up to 40 years old could apply for a job at the EPO. Many of them older people. More years later also relatively young people finishing their studies at a university could apply. However preferred were people with some years of technical or research experience, so also older ones. Anonymus (1)here above made a very rough calculation, missing a lot of important factors. Anonymes(2) made a better analyses.

Denying that there is EPO brain drain seems rather strange to us as it is so obvious for insiders to see. It has gone on for more than a year and internal numbers (which were privately shared with us) confirm it as an undeniable fact. We did not publish names of people, mostly for privacy reasons (they’re not high-profile public figures).

The problem is now further exacerbated as Battistelli’s management receives a 0% approval rating not only from staff but also from stakeholders. The following comment is a remark about what it means for “national offices” (NPOs) and what this may, in turn, mean for EPO pensions:

A happy almost ex-examiner-to-be:
After much trouble and pain actually trying to do my work, I’ve at last seen the light. I am now able to see the convincing arguments of the applicant. All of them. Thank you Mr french. I can work 4 times faster now and everyone is happy. My cupboards are almost empty but I can start dealing with patents from other technical areas. “Flexibility is much appreciated”, I was told. They are right: I go even faster now that I search & examine medicaments, locks, reactors, filters, telephones, glassware, cosmetics, oled tv. I am such an expert in all these fields: I immediately spot the convincing arguments. I was given last week a larger container for my stamp ink. What I have problem to understand is why they keep asking for patents from us. Oops. They stopped? They now apply directly to national offices? Who could have guessed? What I am going to do now? Who is going to pay my pension? What pension? What EPO? Thank you Mr french. Thank you.

What happens at the EPO, due to the above “Mr french” (Battistelli), can only be described as a disaster, although that word might be an understatement. Board 28 already called it a "crisis" one year ago and has since then done absolutely nothing to correct it. It is therefore, in a sense, complicit. As one person put it yesterday in Twitter, “The complicity is of all member states who see, know and don’t act.”

“No interest by media in other nations,” the person wrote in relation to EU IPO too, “what a shame.” In our view, large media organisations too have been somewhat complicit, even if by intentional inaction (turning a blind eye).

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