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04.07.18

Patent Maximalists Against Patent Quality and Against the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Organisation (EPO)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Campinos at JUVE
Credit/source: JUVE’s latest edition

Summary: The EPO under Campinos and Battistelli (who chose Campinos to succeed him) lacks prospects of patent quality; these two Frenchmen lack scientific background and are notorious for their patent maximalism, which 4 years ago culminated in a war on patent judges that were 'too' judgmental of software patents (whether that was the real motivation or not)

THE management of the European Patent Office (EPO) is out of control, but that does not necessarily mean that patent law firms are suffering. In fact, these firms typically profit from chaos. Shiri Burema and Rene van Duijvenbode have just published another sponsored ‘article’ in IAM. As is widely known, patent lawyers look at patent oppositions merely as another ‘business’ opportunity, not an important battle over dodgy, questionable patents. So to them, the more bogus patents (and the more oppositions), the greater profit they’ll net (at the expense of companies that actually make stuff). Burema and her colleague said:

In 2016, oppositions continued to occur mostly at the EPO’s Munich branch, although The Hague’s EPO branch is growing more popular. The top 10 private patent firms involved in 2016 oppositions was dominated by German and UK firms. The first non-German, non-UK firm on the list for 2016 was Netherlands-based NLO, ranked 14th overall.

They use words like “more popular” (referring to correction of wrong grants) and they sort of count what they enumerate as a kind of ‘product’. That’s rather gross/crude an analogy, but when one works for the patent ‘industry’ and refers to patents as “assets” rather than monopolies, this might as well make perfect sense.

Looking at another patent law firm, Douglas Rankin from Marks & Clerk’s Aberdeen office has just published this self-promotional ‘article’ that says the “latest data released by the European Patent Office [...] Software patents, for instance, may be aimed at the sector, but not specifically categorised as such.”

They just use terms like “ICT”, “CII” and more recently “4IR”. Here’s the whole paragraph in question:

The latest data released by the European Patent Office reveals that patent application filings in the ‘Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy’ category grew to 10,402 in 2017, up from 10,002 in the previous year. On top of this data, there will be other oil and gas-related patents that are not formally categorised in the sector because of their digital nature. Software patents, for instance, may be aimed at the sector, but not specifically categorised as such.

Not too long ago Marks & Clerk said publicly that it’s now easier to pursue software patents at the EPO than at the USPTO. That’s how bad things have gotten. The US has become stricter on software patents than Europe!

It should also be noted, in light of news from yesterday, that in the United States the EPA has the same problem Europe has with EPO (also called “EPA” in some countries). The boss wastes a lot of money pretending he’s king, acts abusively, denies facts, then resorts to getting rid of anyone who questions him. It’s not just the same acronym, EPA, but also similar tactics. The acronym “EPO” is also associated with athletes who cheat, but that’s another matter altogether.

“The boss wastes a lot of money pretending he’s king, acts abusively, denies facts, then resorts to getting rid of anyone who questions him”Moving on to yet another patent law firm, while EPO management is attacking the Boards of Appeal to ensure patent quality/scrutiny is removed Shrey Pathak and Hazel Ford from Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP help perpetuate the false narrative that EPO cares about the Boards. The EPO posts this every couple of days (EPO’s tweets have become incredibly repetitive and barely original/informative lately) and now Finnegan joins in the ‘fun’:

As part of measures to improve efficiency and predictability of proceedings before the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO), the EPO has launched a consultation to revise the Boards’ Rules of Procedure.

There’s that sound bite again: “improve efficiency” (by which they typically mean making staff redundant).

“Mind the sorts of metrics they use; it’s grotesque. The patent maximalists are trying to take over everything.”The Boards of Appeal are still grossly understaffed. This means that the patent maximalism cult of Battistelli can carry on interrupted. Battistelli is pressuring EPO examiners/examining units to work faster even if that means sloppy prior art search and cutting corners. Anticipat has been naming individual examiners and ‘scoring’ them, too. Now, courtesy of Prof. Sean Tu (WVU) with Chris Holt (VP at LexisNexis IP), we see more of the same:

This study focuses on overall patent office trends as well as trends at the technology center and workgroup levels. PatentAdvisor’s “Examiner Time Allocation” metric can also be used to forecast the time and expense required to obtain a patent and is based on each specific examiner’s body of work.

Mind the sorts of metrics they use; it’s grotesque. The patent maximalists are trying to take over everything.

Over in Munich, where the EPO is based, IAM will soon have an event that promotes patent maximalism (taking place in Munich on the 18th of May) and yesterday it did this piece piece for Volvo’s Ray Millien, who is a speaker at this event (Auto IP Europe). To quote:

Of all the industries to have re-shaped the way they approach IP in recent years, arguably none has gone through as fundamental a change as the auto sector.

Many of the leading manufacturers, such as Ford and Toyota, have become far more sophisticated IP players, building portfolios to rival all but the largest tech giants in size terms. Others may be coming later to the party, but there are few car manufacturers that aren’t actively considering how the forces of convergence and profound technological change in areas like autonomous driving will impact them from an IP standpoint.

Like we said here many times before (and will show again later this weekend), “autonomous driving” typically boils down to software patents — something that IAM is an ardent supporter of.

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