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10.20.17

The Darker Past of the Next President of the EPO – Part III: More Details About Caixa Geral de Depósitos, Former Employer of Campinos

Posted in Europe, Finance, Patents at 3:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Logo Caixa

Summary: The side of Campinos which he prefers to conceal, or rather his association with a rather notorious Portuguese bank

In part 1 and in part 2 we spoke about the next President of the EPO and his past as a banker (something which he does not advertise). Today we go deeper.


Further research into the recent economic events in Portugal and problems surrounding the state-owned bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos has uncovered a lot of interesting information which may help to explain why Mr. Campinos might not be too keen to publicise his earlier professional connections with this financial institution which has fallen into disrepute.

Portugal has not been as badly afflicted as Greece by the Eurozone financial crisis. Nevertheless it is known as one of the economically weaker members of the EU’s unitary currency system which led to it contributing the “P” to the derogatory “PIGS” acronym.

In 2011 Portugal joined the casualty list of Europe’s sovereign debtors after its prime minister, José Sócrates, requested a European Union bailout. See “Portugal’s PM calls on EU for bailout” (among similar article).

Although there were major problems festering below the surface in Portugal’s banks, these did not become publicly visible until some time later.

The first serious signs of a crisis in the financial sector came in May 2014 with a scathing audit issued by the Portuguese central bank which questioned the financial stability and transparency of the Banco Espirito Santo (BES) which at that time was the second largest private financial institution in Portugal in terms of net assets.

Soon afterwards BES collapsed under the weight of bad debts to companies held by the family-controlled Espirito Santo Group and had to be rescued by the Portuguese central bank’s Resolution Fund in a 4.9 billion-euro bailout on 3 August 2014.

CGD-I

From 4 August 2014: “Portugal in 4.9 billion euro rescue of Banco Espirito Santo”

The problems at BES were exacerbated by its involvement in shady dealings in Angola.

From 9 August 2014: “Banco Espírito Santo: The Angolan Story”

Following the collapse of BES, serious problems became apparent in 2016 in the case of Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) which holds nearly a third of all deposits in Portugal’s banking system.

CGD’s troubles were initially reported in May 2016 with fears that the deteriorating situation could lead to financial collapse in Portugal.

From 29 May 2016: “Caixa Geral’s €4 billion refinancing demand may trigger Portugal’s financial collapse”

By June 2016 CGD’s liabilities were estimated at €5 billion or higher.

From 23 June 2016: “CGD’s liabilities now pegged at €5 billion and rising”

In August 2016, a 5 billion euro recapitalization package for CGD was agreed between Portugal and the EU.

From 24 August 2016: “EU, Portugal agree on 5 billion euro recapitalization for ailing bank CGD”

From 25 August 2016: “Portugal to bail out its biggest bank”

CGD II

The situation at CGD was referred to a parliamentary commission of inquiry and management practices at the bank also came under scrutiny from the public prosecutor with the opening of an investigation into what national tabloid Correio da Manhã called “suspicions of the crime of ruinous management”.

From 23 September 2016: “CGD’s “ruinous management” now officially under DCIAP investigation”

In July 2017 it was confirmed that the public prosecutor suspected that management practices at CGD had involved breaches of criminal law.

From 11 July 2017: “Prosecutor suspects harmful management crimes in CGD”

Operation Marques

Meanwhile investigations into allegations of corruption surrounding the former Socialist prime minister, José Sócrates, which were conducted under the code-name of “Operation Marquês”, have led to findings which suggest that CGD played a key role in some of the financial irregularities in which Sócrates has been implicated.

Recently, on 11 October 2017, the public prosecutor finally released its accusations in the “Operation Marquês” case according to which Sócrates was accused of 31 separate crimes of corruption, involving the accumulation of €24 million in bank accounts in Switzerland.

From 11 October 2017: “Operation Marquês charges announced – Sócrates controlled €24 million in Swiss bank accounts”

Also from 11 October 2017: “Operação Marquês: Former PM Sócrates, Salgado and Bava charged with corruption”

Another one: “Sócrates accused of 31 crimes, “accumulating” €24 million in Switzerland”

According to the public prosecutor’s charge sheet, the role of Sócrates’ chief corruptor is the former Banco Espirito Santo patriarch Ricardo Salgado, accused of 21 crimes – one of active corruption of a holder of political office, two of active corruption, nine crimes of money-laundering, three of abuse of confidence, three of document falsification and a further three of qualified fiscal fraud.

A further key figure is Armando Vara (below), a Portuguese politician and member of the Portuguese Socialist Party, who was previously a senior executive at the Caixa Geral de Depósitos. Vara was already sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges in 2014 in connection with the co-called “Face Oculta” case. This was a nationwide political corruption, money-laundering and corporate tax evasion scandal which originally came to light in October 2009 and resulted in charges being brought against 36 defendants: 34 people and two companies. 11 prison terms were handed out in September 2014.

armando-vara

From 5 September 2014: “Face Oculta sentences handed out – Godinho gets 17 years in prison”

According to the pending charges brought against Sócrates under “Operation Marquês”, he is alleged to have favored the company which controls the Algarve tourist resort Vale de Lobo by means of a government plan in collusion with Vara who at the time was a Director of CGD which was the bank responsible for financing the enterprise.

In all, CGD conceded loans to Vale do Lobo amounting to more than €200 million as well as buying a 25% share in Vale do Lobo’s capital. Sócrates and Vara are accused of having received “kickbacks” for their part in the deal. In the meantime, Vale de Lobo’s outstanding debt to CGD has been estimated at around €300 million including default penalties and interest.

From 23 March 2017: “Vara pulls ‘senior moment’ when grilled over “how many times he discussed CGD with Sócrates””

From 18 June 2015: “Vale do Lobo now a “key link” in Operation Marquês corruption investigation”

Article in Portuguese dated 9 February 2017: “Comissões de 200 mil recebidas por gestores envolvidos no caso Sócrates”

CGD III

In the next part we shall look at links between CGD and the INPI.

UPC Looks Like More of a Distant Dream (or Nightmare) as Germany Adds Another Two Months’ Delay

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bristows EPO

Summary: The likelihood that the UPC will be altogether scuttled is growing as delays keep piling up and more complaints are being filed by public interest groups (as opposed to Team UPC, which hoped to shove the UPCA down everyone's throats behind closed doors)

THE EPO has said nothing about the UPC for at least a week. Nothing!

Silence too means something.

“The delays keep piling up and the UPC is dead. It’s at least dying. Nothing is advancing.”One UPC booster has just cited a tweet about this short post from Bristows’ Richard Pinckney. He said: “The latest news in the challenge in the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) to the constitutionality of the German legislation enabling the ratification of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) is that the BVerfG has extended the deadline for comments from 31 October to 31 December 2017.”

The remark from the UPC booster was inane: “BVerfG has extended the deadline for comments on German UPC constitutional complaint to New Year’s Eve. Getting ready for the fireworks?!”

The deadline isn’t a deadline for a decision but only a deadline for comment. So it’s just in forever limbo. Another 2 months’ pushback. The delays keep piling up and the UPC is dead. It’s at least dying. Nothing is advancing.

There are no fireworks any time soon for Team UPC. They didn’t even envision this process taking so long — almost half a year just for comments.

Patent Trolls Roundup: BlackBerry, Dominion Harbor, IPNav, IP Bridge

Posted in America, Asia, Patents at 12:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A quick review of recent news regarding patent trolls or entities which resemble (and sometimes feed) these

THE plague of patent trolls may be going away. We shall say more about it in the weekend.

BlackBerry is, quite unfortunately, becoming little more than a patent troll these days. That strategy isn’t even going too well anymore. The person behind it has left (maybe got fired). Having filed some lawsuits in Texas, BlackBerry may be affected by TC Heartland and this new report says it’s “At Risk Of Losing Its Recurring BLU Royalty” (covered here recently).

“It was not clear if that payment was included in that quarter’s earnings,” it says, “which beat analysts’ forecast on a jump in licensing fees that includes patent payouts and royalties on BlackBerry-branded devices and software sold by others.”

As we have been showing lately, BlackBerry’s income nosedived. It cannot survive by just suing and threatening to sue companies. Eventually, perhaps inevitably, BlackBerry will go bankrupt and its patents be sold to classic patent trolls like Dominion Harbor, which is connected to the world’s largest troll, having bought Kodak’s patents from it. What we did not know until yesterday is that Dominion Harbor, which publicly defames me, is also connected to IPNav in the following way. To quote IAM:

Korean sovereign patent fund Intellectual Discovery (ID) has continued its recent trend of selling assets to US licensing entities, with the disposal of a package of 15 US patents to a company called Compact Lens Technologies LLC. The transaction was recorded on the USPTO assignment database earlier this month.

The buyer appears to be controlled by IP Valuation Partners, a Texas-based IP advisory business led by a group of former IPNav and Dominion Harbor executives. Jonathan Szarzynski, whose name is listed on the assignment document is, according to this site, the manager of Compact Lens Technologies. The portfolio of assets relates to camera lens technology.

[...]

That has led to the emergence of companies like Dominion Harbor, which was formed in 2013 by a group of former IPNav execs and in February was involved in one of the biggest deals of the year so far when it acquired a portfolio of around 4000 former Kodak assets from Intellectual Ventures. With several large patent owners like ID and IV looking to dispose of assets the new breed of private NPEs are certainly not struggling for buying opportunities.

So basically, Koreans have collected a lot of patents in vain and now they just give these to patent trolls in the US. These patents will go to a very nasty blackmail and extortion firm.

Japan is meanwhile learning to recognise this profound issue with trolls (already a growing problem in China, as we shall explain in the weekend) and is tackling the SEP trap, which is basically a patent thicket that’s anticompetitive by design. IAM’s puff piece isn’t too happy about it (law firms in Japan), but it’s clear that such a move would benefit the economy and the interests of Japanese people.

IAM’s blog is meanwhile celebrating a patent bully from Japan which targets S.E.A. and notably Malaysia. They are pursuing a patent tax on "IoT" and other such things (software patents in disguise). To quote:

Japanese patent fund IP Bridge today announced plans to launch a $50 million “Intellectual property and innovation” fund with Malaysian partners. The new entity will invest in national and regional enterprises in Malaysia that are “IP rich or to-be-rich”, with a particular focus on technology areas including IoT. The fund’s goals echo those of another major investment vehicle founded in Singapore earlier this year, suggesting that we may yet see more money poured into the region’s IP ecosystem.

[...]

On the patent side of its business, IP Bridge recently announced a new assignment to its IP fund by an unnamed Japanese corporate. Recent USPTO assignment records show that the source of the patents – which are related to the H.264/AVC and H.265/HEVC standards – was Seiko Epson, which transferred at least six granted US assets to IP Bridge in late August. Another recent recordal indicates that the fund received 10 US patents from Avago (now known as Broadcom), possibly as part of the two parties’ recent settlement after US and China assertions by the NPE.

“NPE” is just a euphemism for troll. The US is full of patent trolls and many are moving to or emerging in China these days. Japan is hopefully wise enough to combat this issue before it even surfaces.

Battistelli’s Destruction of the EPO is Bad for Everyone, Even Patent Attorneys

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Destruction

Summary: The collapse of the European patent system, owing primarily to Battistelli’s totalitarian style and deemphasis on patent quality, means that “the war is lost,” as one professional puts it

THE FOLLOWING new comment (from earlier this morning) is worth quoting. It comes from someone who saw that now-infamous lecture from Christoph Ernst, the new boss of the EPO (supposed to be on top of Battistelli).

“Gentlemen,” it says, “I think it is time to realize that the war is lost” at the EPO. Here is the explanation (with highlights for those who want to read more quickly):

I was at the lecture given by Christoph Ernst at the Max Plank Institute. In effect, he explained to the assembled representative of German applicants and attorneys that he did not care about their concerns and that he will do nothing.

Mr. Campinos track record at EUIPO makes it crystal clear that he is in the same boat as Battistelli. Don’t expect any change in policy. Actually, expect the situation to become much worse.

In the administrative council, the following delegations have tried to oppose Battistelli’s system: France (voted against policies and tried to pressure Battistelli), Switzerland (initiated the open letter from the Council), Denmark (removed Kongstadt), Italy (presented another candidate), Netherlands (court cases and questions in the Hague). and a few I forgot (mainly in northern Europe, I think). Basically, all major Patent countries opposed Battistelli at some point, with the notable exception of the UK (Brexit did not help) and of course Germany. Correct me if I am wrong.

This achieved exactly nothing. The newly elected people are the same policy under a different name. The war is lost, there is no battle left to be fought.

What does this mean for the applicants? It means that for the same price as usual, you get a shoddy search and a language check. You get a piece of paper that is probably trivial to invalidate in court. And your only choice, is either this kind of patent or no patent at all. It may take a few years, but SMEs will start to realize that it is not worth the effort, so expect patent attorneys to feel a dearth of customers at that point. Unless they work for large applicants, maybe.

What this also means is that now, right at the center of Europe, we have a place where nobody needs to respect employment laws. People, including elected representatives and managers, can be harassed and fired at will without any consequences. Salaries can be halved, benefits can be cut and public holidays need not be granted. Independence of the judicial sends one next to a mad house, literally. Permanent contracts are revoked. Maybe demonstrating that this kind of “modernisation” of employment laws is possible right in the center of Europe was also part of the plan, I do not know.

The UPC, as we explained before, would make things even worse, especially for SMEs.

The UPC would be good for nobody except patent trolls, patent law firms, and maybe some massive multinational pharmaceutical companies. We mentioned this before, in yesterday's article about Bristows UPC brainwash and the European Commission’s stance on SPCs. Bristows is, as expected, trying to solicit lobbying for UPC again in light of these developments. These people just won’t give up as long as lying brings them business. This was covered by IP Watch and then in this blog post from Bristows. They wants the so-called ‘unitary SPC’:

On 12 October 2017, the European Commission launched a public consultation on supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) and patent research exemptions in the pharmaceutical sector (and other sectors with regulatory market authorisations). This consultation is within the framework of the Single Market Strategy (adopted in 2015), one aim of which is to improve the patent system in Europe for such sectors. Proposals include the creation of a European SPC title (a ‘unitary SPC’), an update of the EU patent research exemptions (e.g. the EU ‘Bolar’ exemption, whose implementation in national law is not consistent), and the introduction of an SPC ‘manufacturing waiver’ (to allow manufacture during SPC term for export to countries with no SPC protection).

We often wonder if, had it not been for Battistelli’s mad desire for the UPC, judges would not be abused in defiance of the EPC and patent examination would not be rushed to the point where European Patents (EPs) are so bad. If Battistelli and his French successor do nothing to correct this, there will be neither UPC nor a EPO.

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