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11.08.17

Expect an Avalanche of Bad Patents (Including Software Patents) From the EPO to Become Invalid, Shaving Off a Lot of Imaginary Value

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Avalanche training

Summary: The crisis of patent quality in Europe is causing uncertainty and invalidation in bulk — a problem which would likely exacerbate in years to come

ONE THING that the EPO and USPTO have in common is that both have a large number of granted patents deemed invalid. These should never have been granted. It was a massive error.

Clarke Modet & Co’s Yolanda Echeverría notes that many EPs (European Patents from the EPO) are now null and void. Yesterday Echeverría wrote: “The amendment of the Regulation on the European Patent Convention (Rules 27 and 28) enters into force, in which plants and animals exclusively obtained by essentially biological processes (such as crossing and selection) are excluded from patentability.”

We previously wrote about controversial EPO patents (EPs) on cancer treatments [1, 2] and yesterday a company published this press release:

HAMLET Pharma AB is pleased to announce that we have received a notification from the European Patent Office (EPO) regarding a patent application with claims to the use of HAMLET or HAMLET-like complexes to treat or prevent gastrointestinal cancer.

The patent application is in order for grant and thus fulfills the criteria to be accepted by the EPO examiners.

The patent application, EP13762204.9, includes claims where complexes including HAMLET are used for the treatment of colon cancer.

If the treatment of colon cancer becomes a monopoly, is this something for the public to rejoice? We can’t help but wonder if these patents too will one day be rendered invalid.

We have just written about EPOPIC, but we did not take note of these tweets [1, 2, 3] in which the EPO is dropping buzzwords for software patents. “What do you think,” one says. “How is the patent searcher profession changing as a result of #industry40 & #artificialintelligence? Tell us!”

These are just surrogate names if not synonyms for some patents on software (CII), for reasons we covered here before.

As it turns out, some legal firms in the UK already openly state that it’s easier to get software patents from the EPO than it is from the USPTO.

Yesterday, Alastair Lowe from Haseltine Lake LLP wrote that “for computer-related inventions [CII], it might be wise to consider protection in the UK via the EPO rather than via the UKIPO.”

Here’s the whole relevant part:

In view of this, for computer-related inventions, it might be wise to consider protection in the UK via the EPO rather than via the UKIPO.

So can we expect to see a softening in policy by the UKIPO?

Looking further back, from 2010 to 2013, at least 88% of UKIPO hearings related to excluded matter were unsuccessful. The rate in 2014 was 73%, though there were a lower than usual number of applications in that year. Overall, though, the success rate has been very low for a number of years.

Looking at 2017 in more detail, even though two recent cases have been found in favour of the applicant, this is still in the context of 27 hearings related to excluded subject-matter being refused in 2017 so far – a rejection rate of over 93%. Therefore, whilst two successful cases this year is encouraging, being twice the number of successes from the previous two years, it is unlikely that this marks a change in the likely outcome for such cases. Therefore, the EPO remains the most promising route for obtaining protection for computer-related inventions.

The EPO is building up a bubble of patents which, according to European law, are not allowed. How long before these patents too are bust (bubble implodes). As somebody told me yesterday: “I’m suddenly brought to wonder if bigcorps see software patents as a form of private fiat currency — difficult to forge because of all the work required to create them, but legally recognized as a form of property (regardless of any intrinsic value). This would have implications.”

Considering the fact that software patents are banned in Europe we expect some major avalanche some time in the coming years. It has already happened in the US (and this avalanche is rapidly accelerating since 2014).

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