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10.06.18

The European Patent Office Has Assaulted Patent Quality While Trying to Distract From That

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

German Tornado

Summary: The EPO’s lack of interest in the merit of patents that it is granting poses a grave threat to Europe; the ‘patent lust’ of EPO management is helping nobody, definitely not patent examiners (who are the very core and heart of the Office)

MANAGEMENT of the European Patent Office (EPO) — like the new Director of the USPTO — has lost sight of the importance of patent quality and patent judges. Judges are treated like enemies because they guard patent quality (they refuse to accept wrongly-granted patents, based on the respective laws).

“Examiners constantly complain that they can no longer perform their job like they’re supposed to (as per the EPC).”Buried under a load of puff pieces, like the UPC nonsense we've just mentioned, is press coverage about decrease in patent quality. SUEPO has just cited one article to that effect (list updated yesterday). “New EPO messages reveal quality decline and ‘confuse’ staff,” the headline says. The EPO’s management would prefer nobody to see this. Instead, see the JD Supra press release that’s an EPO puff piece from Barley Snyder. From his opening paragraphs:

During my time in Germany, I have learned and discussed with colleagues differences between American and European patent laws ranging from the nuanced to the more pronounced, and the differences in argument strategies corresponding to these legal distinctions.

But one of the commonalities between the patent laws and processes has recently become especially clear.

The patent process, by its nature, requires a patent examiner to conduct legal analyses regarding technology, including proverbially stepping into the shoes of a person “with ordinary skill in the art” at the time the patent application was filed, to determine whether written claim language of the present application is sufficiently different from the prior technology to issue a patent. This determination necessarily involves varying degrees of judgment based on experience. Critical points of understanding can depend on small variations in language. An examiner’s decision in a patent application is necessarily colored by his or her own opinions, personality and understanding of both the application and prior art.

Or, as things stand at the moment, demands and ‘targets’ from above. Examiners constantly complain that they can no longer perform their job like they’re supposed to (as per the EPC).

Hogan Lovells has a new essay on the EPO allowing software patents in Europe (so-called ‘computer-implemented inventions’ or ‘CII’) through misuse of broad and vague buzzwords like “AI”. Published on Friday, it said this:

Earlier this year the European Patent Office (“EPO”) held its first ever conference on patenting artificial intelligence (“AI”). Following intensive discussions on the impact of AI in the patents sector, the EPO promised to update its Guidelines for Examination, to provide specific guidance on the examination of AI applications under existing computer-implemented inventions (“CII”) practice and case law.

The EPO has delivered on its promise. A preview-version of the new Guidelines is now available on its website. These Guidelines are set to take effect on 1 November 2018. Plot spoiler alert – the new section on AI and machine learning now appears in section 3.3.1 of Part G of the Guidelines. Those of you who are familiar with the Guidelines will immediately spot that this new section on AI and machine learning has been inserted under the part of the guidelines that deals with mathematical methods.

We wrote about this as recently as yesterday when we also mentioned patents on life in light of this hearing, as covered yesterday by IPPro Patents. Ben Wodecki (of IPPro Patents) called these patents on nature “unlawful” in the headline (quoting those who judged them):

The European Patent Office (EPO) has reduced the scope of a patent granted to Carlsberg and Heineken related to conventionally-bred barley.

The decision was made during a public hearing in Munich, where examiners found that the patent, which covered conventionally-bred barley, its usage in brewing and the resulting beer, is now restricted to plants with a specific mutation which can influence the content of these flavours.

Originally, the patent covered all plants with a reduced content of some undesirable flavours.

The No Patents on Seeds pressure group said that it plans to appeal the decision as it is “only a partial success” and has called on politicians to take action.

The group had called on European politicians to speak out against companies abusing the patent system so that the EPO “will once again be reminded of their continuing responsibility to protect the common good”.

The EPO’s Web site has not said a word about it. The Twitter account of the EPO did not mention it either. Yesterday the EPO instead chose to belatedly post this nonsense: (warning: epo.org link)

The 58th series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which took place from 24 September to 2 October 2018, provided a unique opportunity to take stock of the progress in co-operation activities, and to define future directions. The EPO agenda included over 45 official meetings with national patent offices from other regions.

The meetings aimed to further strengthen relations with a number of strategic partners; these take the form of comprehensive co-operation plans which aim to streamline patenting procedures while building up national capacities, and to deliver high-quality training and assistance to the partner offices.

IP Australia officially joined the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) family by signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the CPC together with a comprehensive biannual work plan. This brings to 28 the number of offices classifying their patent documentation using this highly refined system. Other important developments were the signing of MoUs on co-operation with the National Institute for the Defense of Free Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property of Peru (INDECOPI), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Eurasian Patent Office (EAPO). The EPO also renewed its MoU on co-operation with the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce of Colombia, a user of EPOQUE Net.

Seeing the European Patent Office in bed with WIPO (whose abuses can be similar at times) is hardly surprising. Both institutions are patent maximalists who more or less disregard science for the sake of lawyers. Patent offices were never meant to be pipelines for litigation; that kind of changed when a patent lawyer was put in charge of the USPTO, whereas the EPO got itself a politician in charge (and now a former banker).

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