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06.14.18

Grünecker, Hoffmann Eitle, Maiwald and Vossius & Partner Find the Courage to Express Concerns About Battistelli’s Ugly Legacy and Low Patent Quality

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A brown envelope

Summary: The astounding levels of abuse at the EPO have caused some of the EPO’s biggest stakeholders to speak out and lash out, condemning the Office for mismanagement amongst other things

THE EUROPEAN Patent Office, EPO, is in a very bad state because many talented examiners are no longer there and the Office struggles to recruit talent. Money can buy some reputation, but it cannot bury a legacy of pure evil from Battistelli. Applicants (for patents and jobs) understand, more or less at least, what’s going on.

There’s only half a month for the crook to still ‘lead’ (i.e. destroy) the Office before his ‘child’ António Campinos takes over. Insiders say that Campinos intends to change pretty much nothing. Team Battistelli will remain in tact, protected by Herrnst (Ernst) and the rest of the Administrative Council.

Thankfully, some stakeholders have — dare we say! — “unionised” against the Office and have put forth a letter. António Campinos too has received the relatively strongly-worded letter, warning about the damage Battistelli caused (without specifically mentioning Battistelli). A copy of the letter was also sent to Battistelli and Herrnst (Ernst), his ‘boss’ who did pretty much nothing over the past year, at times even openly denying the decline in patent quality. Remember that EPO staff (about a thousand of them) already admitted a massive decline in patent quality — a monumental effort to speak about it without risk of retribution.

Leading German patent law firms grew tired of the abusive and corrupt administration; we appreciate that, but why did they wait until a fortnight before Battistelli leaves? Is Campinos the main target audience of this letter? He’s indebted to Battistelli who gave him the job (or cemented the candidacy), so we very much doubt it’ll have an effect on him. “Each year our law firms file more than 9500 patent applications with the EPO,” said the authors of the letter. Will they consider reducing that as deterrence against the EPO’s bad policies? They make some solid points; for example, the fifth point: “If the users of the European system gain the impression that granted EP patents cannot be relied upon anymore due to insufficient search and examination, the users may increasingly be discouraged from filing European patents. This might unhinge the entire patent system.”

They also say “in contrast to an industrial company, we cannot see why the profit of the EPO needs to be increased beyond the level of self-funding.”

Don’t worry, Battistelli pockets the spare cash.

Here’s Kluwer Patent Blog’s introduction to the letter, which it posted this morning:

Four leading patent law firms in Germany – Grünecker, Hoffmann Eitle, Maiwald and Vossius & Partner – have published an open letter expressing ‘great concern’ about the developments at the European Patent Office, particularly ‘the modifications to the incentive systems for the examination of patent applications’.

The ‘overreaching desire for high productivity’ has led to a series of problems, according to the letter, which is directed to outgoing EPO president Benoit Battistelli, the chairman of the Administrative Council Christoph Ernst, principal director user support & quality management Niclas Morey and future EPO president Antonio Campinos (who will start in office on 1 July 2018).

Among others, the firms write that when ‘the aim is to terminate proceedings as quickly as possible (…), the quality of the search and examination of applications must suffer’. The rather high fees, moreover, ‘can only be justified by giving the examiners sufficient time for an indepth assessment of each single application’. Patents with an erroneous scope of protection distort and hinder economic competition and might unhinge the patent system, they write.

More broadly, the law firms question the enormous financial reserves of the European Patent Office, amounting to 2.300.000.000 euros, 650 million euros to fund the pension scheme not included: ‘in contrast to an industrial company, we cannot see why the profit of the EPO needs to be increased beyond the level of self-funding. From our perspective, the high surplus is rather an indication that the fees are too high and that a further, problematic increase of productivity is not appropriate.’

The full text of the letter is published below.

SUEPO has already taken note of this letter and the first comment says: “I can only applaud the companies involved in writing this letter. I could not agree more with the concerns that it expresses. I can only hope that the incoming president realises that the concerns expressed cannot be easily dismissed… not least because the unprecedented nature of the letter indicates that the authors must be very concerned indeed.”

SUEPO then gets mentioned by “Save the EPO from destruction,” whose message says:

MANY THANKS for this brilliant initiative.

By the way the content of the letter could be taken up by SUEPO as-is!

Indeed SUEPO (which represents half of EPO staff) denounced since years (so far to no avail) the dangers of Battistelli’s policies (for both the quality of the patents delivered as well as on health of staff)…

and the Administrative Council remain passive.

It is 5 to 12.

In a few weeks, Mr Campinos will arrive in an exhausted office which cannot continue on this path much longer before collapsing.

Let’s hope that Mr Campinos will understand the poisonous legacy he inherits from his predecessor and in particular, that he has to be very cautious with the teams in place who are directly responsible for this debacle (in particular in HR, and DG1) since something must be done asap to restore both the social atmosphere, the reputation of the EPO AND the quality of the work performed.

Where were these law firms 4 years ago when SUEPO sounded the alarm? Or when the EPO banned (blocked) our site, in effect attempting to muzzle its own whistleblowers? This corrupt EPO management has killed the goose for a few remaining golden eggs; work is (pretty soon) running out, which means that the Office is imploding (with layoffs still expected). We have thus far found only one article about it. IPPro Patents wrote:

Four German law firms have penned an open letter to the European Patent Office (EPO), expressing “great concern” over recent developments at the EPO, specifically the ever-increasing work targets at the office.

The law firms Grünecker, Hoffmann Eitle, Maiwald, and Vossius & Partner wrote that “the incentive systems and internal directives appear to be increasingly directed towards rewarding or even requesting rapid ‘termination’ of proceedings and a correspondingly higher productivity”.

The letter said that this has resulted in penalisation of detailed and thorough assessment of cases.

It said that while the law firms do appreciate the increased speed, such “overreaching desire” for high productivity has led to a range of problems, including issues of quality, scope of protection and inadequately assessed patents.

Now is the time to carefully check which so-called ‘IP’ site covers the matter (letter) and which ones deliberately ignore it like IP Kat (controlled by Team UPC elements and patent maximalists nowadays).

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