03.07.18

EPO Annual Results/Report: Revenue From Patent Applications is Apparently Down Yet Again and Work is Running Out

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 4:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The inevitable effect of bad management, bad (low-quality) patents, and bad reputation

The clockwork

Summary: The latest EPO ‘results’ (cherry-picked numbers intended to make the management look good) reinforce expectation of Office-wide layoffs, devaluation of European Patents, decrease in patent quality, and failure to entice applicants in spite of discounts

THE EPO‘s annual report for 2017 is out (warning: epo.org link) and it’s pretty much what we expected it to be when we wrote about it yesterday.

We are seeing many of the same themes/patterns we saw in previous EPO ‘results’. Readers are encouraged to read/revisit:

The EPO habitually lies and misleads. Its claims need to be double-checked; not that it’ll interest the EPO’s paid “media partners”. They just relay whatever claims the EPO asks them to, along with external PR agents. Expect a lot of nonsense in the media this week and next week.

One thing we have repeatedly said is that Team Battistelli gave sudden ‘discounts’ in order to help create an illusion, then not mention the effect of these ‘discounts’ on revenue at all (they even made a chart dedicated purely to distracting from that). A nearby store is having a closing down sale at the moment (starting this Monday); so obviously sales have surged (just not at the full price).

As for the supposed ‘growth’ in patents, remember that wrongly-granted patents would help patent trolls (SUEPO published a link to a new report about it yesterday). There are significant declines in quality (an article was published about it in Kluwer Patent Blog earlier this week) and, as expected, there’s thus an increase in the number of grants (not productivity but shoddy management leading to low-quality examination).

What we can note, based on the EPO’s shrewdly-constructed spin, is that in spite of big discounts the number of applications has barely grown. Revenue may be done again. If you offer a discount of 10%, for example, and ‘sales’ go up by only 5%, then overall it’s a losing strategy. “In response to the increased workload,” the EPO wrote, “the EPO further boosted its productivity and production benefiting also from internal reforms put in place in recent years to improve quality and efficiency.”

What “reforms”? Like the layoffs to follow? And what “quality”? They mean timeliness, not quality.

There’s a bunch of comments agreeing with Thorsten Bausch's latest complaint about quality declines. The following comment says that “timeliness has become the only quality measure at the EPO.” Here’s the full comment:

In my daily practice, I can only confirm the views of this blog post. For me it appears that timeliness has become the only quality measure at the EPO. And the EPO is becoming really good in providing timely examination reports. It also becomes increasingly “good” in issuing premature summons to attend O.P.. In my day-to-day work I also experience that the quality, in terms of “how accurate is the analysis and how well founded are the objections” is declining (sometimes to a ridiculous extent). I do not dare speaking of 71(3) problems and IMHO this is a minor issue (it “only” requires more caution on the attorney’s end and much of the problems really seem to have a rather technical background, which I believe can be solved).

The loss in quality occurs on a deeper level and is much more detrimental.

I can assure that this is no fuzzy belly feeling of mine, because I have observed that the same Examiners that used to provide me with a sound analysis and reasonable objections more and more tend to raise superficial objections, or object to claim sets as a whole where they previously assessed claims in groups or individually. I see more faulty objections, more alleged clarity problems, no willingness to apply a problem-and-solution approach, more ex post facto argumentation and more clearly premature invitations to O.P. that put pressure on the applicant before a reasonable exchange of arguments has been finished. My own metrics is the length of the reporting letters that I have to write to the applicants and the number of times that I am forced to complement for an insufficient analysis to provide a proper advice to the applicant. It is, to me, very apparent that Examiners do no longer get the time needed to judge each case on its true merits.

As regards the term “production” as used and implemented in the EPO’s metrics, I feel that this term is entirely unsuitable in the context of patent applications. Some applications are complex, some are not, some yield many prior art hits, some may not, but all these different applications have the product count of one (1). And the time scale to handle all these different products is all the same at the EPO.

Imposing ever increasing production targets on the Examiners will only further erode the quality of examination, will result in patents that are either unjustifiably broad or unjustifiably narrow and in the end represents a disservice for the public and applicants alike. We will experience the degradation of “deep quality” in a couple of years from now.

This is further reaffirmed by an article from 2 days ago. Hugh Dunlop and Andrew Van Den Bent-Kelly (Maucher Jenkins) said that “European Patent Office Attacks Its Examination Backlog”, but at what cost? In reality, the EPO attacks its staff by draining up all the work, by rushing examiners to not do their job properly.

Last night the CCIA’s Josh Landau published something to that effect too, noting that patents are “Granted In 19 Hours”. A patent grant a day keeps patent quality away. How did things become this bad so quickly? The damage caused by erroneous/wrong grants can last years. It can cost millions in legal fees.

As Landau put it, “if we go all the way back to our 40 hour work week, we can figure out how many hours an examiner spends on examining each application.”

It’s a lot worse at the EPO, based on leaks. Here’s what Landau said:

Patent examiners have an extremely hard job. They’re given a patent application—which could be anywhere from a page long up to hundreds of pages, with patent claims ranging from a couple sentences to pages of description—and expected to understand the technology behind the application, look for any possible examples of prior art, describe how the prior art anticipates or renders obvious each and every limitation of the claim, and communicate with the patent applicant about their application.

[...]

Junior Examiner Gordon spends 40 hours a week to produce 2.54 office actions. That’s 15.74 hours per office action. But Senior Examiner Allison spends 40 hours a week to produce 3.33 office actions. That’s 12.12 hours per office action. Twelve hours, to review, research, and decide if an immunotherapy patent should be granted. The average American spends 19 hours each week watching television—50% more time than a senior immunotherapy examiner is provided to determine the patentability of an application.

Experienced examiners are almost certainly better at examining patent applications than junior examiners. But can they do the same job in half the amount of time? And do they get enough time even at the start?

There’s evidence the answers are no.

So what is the EPO becoming? Just another INPI? Worse than USPTO? Thorsten Bausch previously explained that in many cases pacing down the process is desirable. He’s not alone. Intellectual Property Watch published this guest post yesterday (by Michael Kahnert, legal counsel, BIO Deutschland). The EPO is failing its stakeholders and they speak out. They want applications to be dealt with properly and not in a rush:

Reducing the application process to 12 months implies that much faster work is expected from patent examiners to maintain the same quality of patent examination. In complex sectors such as biotechnology, the shortening of the patent application process would also lead to higher costs at an early stage, because of the extensive examination procedure. Especially small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in the research and development sector usually have a high need for capital to assure cashflow. Therefore, these companies will be additionally affected by a cost burden early on. To attract investors and partners, SME as well as academic institutions often cooperate to advance their research and development and share sensitive information in the process. In order to maintain the possibility of pursuing specific aspects of the patent application at a later time, more divisional applications would be necessary and cause significantly higher costs. Therefore, the proposed shortening of the patent application process leads to a disadvantage for research-driven SME.

Just remember that once patents are granted in error it muddied the well and there’s no easy fix for it. This is why the legacy left by Battistelli will be a sordid mess from which the EPO will never recover. It’s already running out of pending applications. This necessarily means workforce redundancies. Many senior, experienced examiners will be lost for good. What asset/s will the EPO be left with? A logo and renewal fees?

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

This post is also available in Gemini over at:

gemini://gemini.techrights.org/2018/03/07/epo-annual-results-2017/

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Accessibility and Availability First

    To make Techrights more widely accessible and more difficult to block/censor we've been making further changes, including self-hosting where possible



  2. Self-Hosting Videos With Free Formats and Animated Previews, Watermarks/Logos and Translucency

    We examine the power of video editing with ffmpeg, chained with command-line scripting and HTML5 features



  3. Links 10/4/2021: Linux on M1, Wine 6.6, ClamAV 0.103.2

    Links for the day



  4. Lunduke: On Mob Justice in the Tech Industry

    A new video from the former Microsofter who fears the phenomenon that’s adopted by companies like IBM



  5. IRC Proceedings: Friday, April 09, 2021

    IRC logs for Friday, April 09, 2021



  6. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Appendix (Benoît Battistelli's Vichy Syndrome): Georges Henri Léon Battistelli and Charles Robert Battistelli

    Local copies with evidence of or something concrete about Benoît Battistelli’s connection to unsavoury — and by today’s standards outright fascistic — politics



  7. IBM Doubles Down on Masters Being an Acceptable Word in the Context of Technology

    3 days after this post which disproves IBM's stance or shows its double standards it once again says “Masters” in its official blog (won’t that offend and alienate some people as they insist?)



  8. Hate Letter Against Richard Matthew Stallman (RMS) Backfired So Spectacularly That Signers Asked to Revoke Their Own Signatures and the List Was Then Frozen Permanently (Updated)

    "An open letter in support of Richard Matthew Stallman being reinstated by the Free Software Foundation" tops 6,100 signatures (graph generated just moments ago)



  9. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag -- Part 11: The BMJV's Tweedledee: Dr Christoph Ernst

    The right-hand man of António Campinos plays a role similar to that of Herr Lutz before him



  10. Links 9/4/2021: Tanglet 1.6.0 and HPVM 1.0

    Links for the day



  11. The Libel Against Richard Stallman Did Not Age Well

    Almost 2 years down the line libel about the founder of the FSF remains online, uncorrected (in sites funded by Microsoft and IBM)



  12. The Letter in Support of the FSF and Richard Stallman is Backed by the International Community, Not American Monopolies and Nationalistic Elements

    Free software is for everybody to use, internationally, it is not the asset of a bunch of current and old monopolists (connected to the US military) that also control the media; the nature of the signatures says that out loud



  13. Gemini Over IPFS (Decentralised Web, Accessed Over Gemini Protocol)

    The Gemini protocol (gemini://) can already be used to fetch (at the back end) and present objects from a P2P-like network; we're currently exploring practical use cases and possibilities



  14. News Sites That Talk About Patents Have Become Shameless Self-Promotion 'Plugs' by Law Firms (and Sometimes Outright 'Spam' for Litigation)

    The sources of news about patent affairs have dried up; sites that actually used to investigate and report facts have since then shut down or defected to the Public Relations/marketing industry



  15. Links 9/4/2021: Kubernetes 1.21 and FFmpeg 4.4 Released

    Links for the day



  16. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, April 08, 2021

    IRC logs for Thursday, April 08, 2021



  17. [Meme] Self-styled Judges

    To suit a recurring theme at the EPO we hereby present Roland Lutz, a self-styled judge



  18. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag -- Part 10: A Faithful Lapdog Despised and Reviled by EPO Staff

    "In any event, the "Nazi" jibes directed against Lutz seem to have triggered Battistelli who decided to take revenge on his perceived enemies inside the EPO by smearing them as “Nazis”."



  19. Links 8/4/2021: GnuPG 2.3.0, Xen 4.15, Xfdashboard 0.9.2

    Links for the day



  20. The Hate Letter Which Backfired

    The FSF is more closely aligned with its founder's vision, his antagonists have left or are leaving, and that old hate letter turned out to be a loud minority (made to appear louder by biased media) emboldened by a gish gallop of lies



  21. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, April 07, 2021

    IRC logs for Wednesday, April 07, 2021



  22. IBM: We Can Say It... You Cannot

    Blog posts such as this new one help show the hypocrisy or the double standards of IBM, looking to control speech while attacking people's (software) freedom/civil liberties and profiting from atomic bombs



  23. The Collapse of Microsoft Windows

    Although the corporate media keeps insisting that Microsoft is doing well, government (or military) bailouts keep the company afloat while its desperate attempts to remain relevant (as the common carrier languishes) merit a debate



  24. Links 8/4/2021: Mesa 21.0.2, GNU Releases, and Stable Kernels

    Links for the day



  25. Petition in Support of FSF's Decision to Put Its Founder in the Board Doubles Size of Hate Letter Propped Up by Corporate Media (Partly Funded by Monopolies)

    You cannot fool the population for eternity and there's a reflexive response to a campaign of misinformation, as the graph above shows; notice it keeps growing and growing, albeit not the defamatory one from the (Google-funded) Mozilla- and Red Hat-connected Luis Villa, who put in the GNONE Foundation Microsoft people



  26. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag -- Part 9: A Veritable Virtuoso of Legal Sophistry

    "Lutz is also reputed to be closely linked to the German branch of the influential UPC lobby group centred around Prof. Winfried Tilmann."



  27. He Said, Xi Said: Hard to Censor Techrights and It's More Than a Web Site

    An explanation of some of the latest Techrights changes (mostly work on IPFS and Gemini this week, as they complement the Web site)



  28. A Patent System for Giant Corporations Like Boeing and Airbus, Not for Ordinary European Citizens

    There's hardly any illusion left that the patent system in Europe is supposed to serve the public; instead what we're seeing is an office that lost sight of its purpose and is instead trying to make law firms and their largest clients richer



  29. Links 7/4/2021: Godot 3.3 RC 8, Canonical Targets Robotics

    Links for the day



  30. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, April 06, 2021

    IRC logs for Tuesday, April 06, 2021


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts