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04.09.17

The Latest on the Collapse of the European Patent Office (EPO)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Taking the Office on a cruise to nowhere

EPO ship

Summary: Eclectic news and views about the European Patent Office, which neither workers nor stakeholders (like clients) are happy about

AS noticed by this comment and several of our readers (who had told us about it), there is already this new report on the Bavarian Parliament discussing the EPO situation, as was planned. We don’t want to attempt to conclude anything based on automated or faulty translations and someone has already volunteered to translate it for us. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, with controversial plans to send appeal boards to ‘exile’ (in Haar) already materialised, the final part — this one about BoA — comes out of Thorsten Bausch as part of his 4-installment series. Some people at IP Kat have already taken note, as did SUEPO. Bausch says that “TBA 3.3.02 now seems to be completely dysfunctional, with only one technical member left.” So if the person is ill, there is not even anyone to acknowledge communications. Here are some of the relevant passages from Bausch:

TBA 3.3.02 now seems to be completely dysfunctional, with only one technical member left.

[...]

To be fair to the EPO management, the number of legal BoA members slightly increased in 2016, but this does little, if anything, to solve the problem since usually the technical members act as juges rapporteurs in opposition appeal cases and draft the decisions.

One should expect a competent Office President to take decisive action against the BoAs’ serious understaffing, yet in lieu of that the President seems to be obsessed by the idea that the problem can be tackled by “measures to increase efficiency” (whatever this may mean), including the appointment of a new President of the Boards of Appeal and (again) amended Rules of Procedure…

See what Battistelli has done?

One reader recently told us: “I’ve heard the words “lame duck” being used about Battistelli (should he not decide to prolong his reign). Considering what’s going on at the EPO right now and which plans are in store that’s a naive assumption. If there was no method to the EPO madness engulfing the office now it appears there’s some method, and this is to run it down at full power.

  1. Treating the staff like assembly line workers. In August there will be introduced ID access cards able to register the time of entry in and exit from the office in order to control the effective time spent at work. It’s only that each examiner has a yearly production to achieve so checking whether he’s done this in less or more of the 8 hour 45 min time seems to be useless. Could a patent attorney imagine his working day being [like this]?
  2. The issue of mega-directorates. Battistelli and his HR brains have thought that one could cut down on the directors by merging directorates and having 60 people under one director. Thus a saving of more than 1/3 or the directors could be achieved (leaving roughly 70 out of over 100). The work of a director will then be delegated to team leaders who will do a director’s job for merely some hundreds of EUR a month, non-pensionable.
  3. 3-year contracts for newcomers starting next year. Undoubtedly there will be candidates for any job in the world but will the EPO still recruit the best candidates when they know that their job doesn’t involve any certainty? Anybody leaving the office after a cycle of three years, be it three or a multiple of three, will certainly consider the lack of a wide range of jobs, like in any other position on the market. It’s going to [be tough as] patent attorney and starting from the bottom, or nothing.
  4. Early certainty for the examination. Was commented before by a patent attorney so we have the voice of a user who’s far from pleased with the idea. What it means for the examiners is that more and more fields are suffering from lack of applications so the examiners are doing only examination and rarely any searches, just waiting for files that so far don’t arrive. If things continue like this, in spite of the huge success [trumpeted by Battistelli], many examiners will remain without enough work. What is the conclusion? Mass firings and replacement by novices under 3-year contracts seem to be the logical step. That this should also entail a lower quality does not seem to bother Battistelli and his henchmen. They already got through their bonus…

SUEPO has already mentioned these bonuses.

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A Single Comment

  1. john said,

    April 10, 2017 at 4:22 am

    Gravatar

    It gets more and more difficult for the EPO to hire workers, because more and more people realise that the EPO is a bad career move. The biggest problem is that, in case one wants to leave, there is nowhere else to go. Once an engineer has worked in patents for a few years, it is very difficult to be hired to do a normal engineering job any more, so it will be patents for the rest of your professional life. And there aren’t that many patent offices hiring, so the only choice would be to be patent attorney, but it’s already a bit full.
    Strangely enough, the UPC is not hiring examiners. I don’t know who is supposed to do the litigation work (if the UPS happens, which is unlikely of course).
    Maybe the plan is to simply accept the search an examination of other major offices? That would indeed cut the number of examiners and attorneys needed worldwide by a factor of 4-5.
    As to bad career move: there was also the regulation that examiners cannot work in a 2 years grace period after they left (or have been fired). This was not accepted by the council, but it seems that Battistelli cannot accept no for an answer. I have been told by 3 different people now that it was extremely difficult to get a certificate that they worked for the EPO after they left. Without the certificate, no EQE and job interviews are a bit awkward.

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