04.26.17

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Patent Quality Crisis and Unprecedented Trouble at the European Patent Office (EPO) Negatively Affect Legitimate Companies in the US As Well

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 5:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Patent monopolies are believed to drive innovation but they actually impede the pace of science and innovation, Stiglitz said. The current “patent thicket,” in which anyone who writes a successful software programme is sued for alleged patent infringement, highlights the current IP system’s failure to encourage innovation, he said.”

IP Watch on Professor Joseph Stiglitz

Summary: The granting en masse of questionable patents by the EPO (patent maximalism) is becoming a liability and growing risk to companies which operate not only in Europe but also elsewhere

THE USPTO isn’t perfect, but at least it’s improving. We have repeatedly commended its Director for steering the Office in a positive direction which is widely supported by most of the industry, just not the patent microcosm (which is eager to oust her and undo all the progress).

At IP Watch, Steven Seidenberg has just published behind paywall this piece about a SCOTUS decision which he says “will benefit patent trolls and other unscrupulous patent owners, at the expense of companies,” citing “few observers” of the SCA Hygiene Prods. Aktiebolag v First Quality Baby Prods case. We wrote about this before.

“…the EPO’s inability to operate in a capacity other than rubber-stamping has wide-ranging and long-ranging (beyond Europe) ramifications.”“On the positive side,” he added, “the ruling brings US patent law more in line with Europe’s patent law.”

So what? That in itself is not necessarily a positive thing. Watch what the EPO has become and how flagrantly it disregards European patent law, including its founding document, the EPC. The dysfunctions of the EPO are in fact becoming a headache and a liability even well outside the continent of Europe. This new article, titled “Planning to Request Discovery for a European Patent Office Proceeding? Not So Fast, Rules the District of Massachusetts”, says the following:

The Hon. F. Dennis Saylor, IV of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts recently denied a petitioner’s request under 28 USC § 1782 to take discovery related to patent inventorship in connection with an Opposition proceeding pending before the European Patent Office (EPO). The court, in exercising its discretion under the U.S. Supreme Court’s so-called Intel factors set forth in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 US 241, 264 (2004), denied the petitioner’s request for discovery because the EPO generally does not allow the type of discovery requested by the petitioner in an Opposition proceeding, thus the petitioner’s requested discovery would have no place in an EPO Opposition.

Put in simple terms, based on a x86 case from 13 years ago, it is not possible for US entities to look into the reckless actions (widely known by now) of the EPO, where patents are granted in error.

The author, Alison C. Casey from Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, says this “illustrates the need for inventors to be familiar with patent laws, procedures, and proceedings in foreign jurisdictions.” That’s like saying, “come to me! Give me business, I’ll advise you.”

But between the lines we see that the person affected in his capacity as an attorney is actually European. To quote:

The petitioner, George Schlich, is a European patent attorney who brought this action as an agent of Intellia Therapeutics, Inc., a genome editing company based in the United States. Schlich petitioned the district court to order discovery under 28 USC § 1782 in connection with a proceeding before the European Patent Office related to an EPO-issued patent for an invention known as the CRISPR/Cas9 system, which provides scientists with an inexpensive and precise method of editing DNA for biological and medical research. The underlying dispute in the EPO is whether The Broad Institute, Inc., a biomedical and genomic research institute affiliated with MIT and Harvard, can rely on its U.S. provisional applications filing date for priority in its European patents.

We wrote a great deal about this CRISPR fiasco in the US and in the EPO. The above is a reminder that the EPO’s inability to operate in a capacity other than rubber-stamping has wide-ranging and long-ranging (beyond Europe) ramifications.

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