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10.12.17

Under Christoph Ernst, the Council is Just a Megaphone of Battistelli’s EPO, Including on Patent Quality

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 10:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A strong watchdog would say, “look, we have an issue here with quality…”

Dr. Ernst of EPO

Summary: The Administrative Council of the EPO does not appear to be interested in a serious, adult, scientific debate about the quality of European Patents (EPs) and is instead relaying lies from Benoît Battistelli

IT’S sad to see the EPO failing to reform (or rather rehabilitate) itself even with some new leadership (Battistelli getting a new 'boss'). Earlier today the EPO published this. (epo.org link, which means clicks could, in theory, be tracked)

The statement is worrisome and Techrights will make a complete copy of it, just in case the EPO’s current site ceases to exist some time soon (as some insiders believe; when EPO people say that the EPO might cease to exist “soon” they mean in relative terms, like half a decade or a decade, perhaps following some sort of merger).

Here is the full text:

The Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation held its 153rd meeting in Munich on 10 and 11 October 2017 under the chairmanship of Christoph ERNST (DE).

A central issue was the election of the next President of the European Patent Office. A special Communiqué has been issued in this respect.

The Administrative Council noted the activities reports given respectively by its Chairman and by the President of the European Patent Office, Benoît BATTISTELLI. In the ensuing discussion on the latter, the Council praised again the Office and its staff for the excellent results achieved. It also took note of the first report of the President of the Boards of Appeal, following the reform adopted in 2016.

The Council further noted the oral reports from the chairpersons of its advisory bodies on their recent meetings: Boards of Appeal Committee, Supervisory Board of the Reserve Funds for Pensions and Social Security, Supervisory Board of the EPO Academy, and Select Committee.

The Council then proceeded with a series of elections and appointments to its advisory bodies. In particular it elected Mr Lex Kaufhold Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee for 3 years, starting on 10 October 2017. The Council also decided on appointments and re-appointments to the Enlarged Board of Appeal, the Boards of Appeal and the Disciplinary Board of Appeal.

The Council carried out an exchange of views on the first ever Annual Report on Quality. It expressed its satisfaction both on the methodology developed and on the measured achievements.

In respect of legal affairs the Council authorised the President of the Office to renew the EPO-WIPO Agreement in relation to the functioning of the EPO as an International Searching Authority and as an International Preliminary Examining Authority under the PCT.

Turning to matters concerning the Reserve Funds for Pensions and Social Security (RFPSS), the Council reviewed the composition and competence profile of the RFPSS Supervisory Board and unanimously endorsed a revised governance.

At last, the Council held a thorough exchange of views on the Office’s social report for 2016, which comprehensiveness and transparency were most appreciated.

Council Secretariat

They cite that insulting “social report” (we wrote a lot about it) and there’s a lot more to be said about the rest of it. It’s like it was written with (or by) Team Battistelli. There’s no notion of real scrutiny or oversight. It’s just congratulatory and supine.

The part about patent quality has been debunked by The Register (“Annual Report on Quality” and some comments there in El Reg). To quote from this two-page article:

A row has broken out at the European Patent Office over the quality of its work.

The international organization’s big annual meeting in Munich this week has been overshadowed by a war of words between staff and the EPO’s president, Benoit Battistelli. Staff are warning that quality is falling in response to an aggressive effort by management to increase output and Battistelli is publicly disparaging his own staff in response.

In response to pointed criticism, Battistelli highlighted his team’s first ever annual quality report that showed very high levels of satisfaction as evidence that all was well at the organization. But at least one government subsequently picked apart that report by noting that it relies entirely on internal evaluations.

The row kicked off when the EPO’s staff representative dropped its typically diplomatic update to the EPO’s Administrative Council – made up of 38 European government representatives – and provided a caustic criticism of reforms efforts at the EPO, arguing that a push for ever-faster and greater numbers of patent approvals was leading to a drop in quality.

[...]

Battistelli was, predictably, furious. He has waged a long reform battle at the EPO that has seen the organization repeatedly pulled in front of the International Labor Organization, the courts and even the European Court of Human Rights. He has, however, retained the support of the majority of the Administrative Council by arguing that he is modernizing the EPO and – critically – that the number of patents is increasing while quality has been maintained or even improved.

Any suggestion that the reforms efforts are reducing the quality of patents would risk undermining that entire organization since it raises the likelihood that approved patents are then challenged and even defeated in court: every business’ worst nightmare.

Patent offices live or die (or perish, as governments can typically cushion for losses) based on patent quality. The EPO is dying, at least judging by quality and decline in applications. EPs lost their value. Workers are not happy. Experienced examiners are leaving. In short, Battistelli killed what existed and more or less worked (even if far from perfectly).

The comments section did not immediately attract much abuse, except against the author of the article (pretending patent quality was always or for over a decade been pretty poor). Having written about this for over a decade, I reject that supposition. EPs used to be pretty strong. That’s why it took a long time to process applications. See this leaked E-mail from the EPO's Roberto Vacca. No wonder patent quality collapsed.

As one commenter put it:

The EPA did have (still does?) a quality audit department which were independent examiners who controlled the actual output for quality – should it really have been granted etc. The figures e’re only for internal use and were disputed and massaged. But they weren’t good. BB never talks about them.

Yes, exactly. The next comment said that the EPO’s “assessment of quality [...] can be misleading [...] or even dangerous if you consider the opposite.” Watch what they’re measuring:

The distinction is an important one. It seems that the EPO include timeliness of delivery in its assessment of quality which can be misleading….or even dangerous if you consider the opposite. If a product is of lesser quality because it took longer to arrive then the extreme case could be that a European Patent may not be worth waiting for!

Earlier today the EPO wrote: “Is it possible to object to a particular application, either before or after it has been granted?”

Well, there’s far less opportunity to do that due to Battistelli’s so-called ‘reforms’, which seemed aimed at lowering patent quality to fake ‘production’.

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