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11.17.18

Patent Maximalists in Europe Keep Mentioning China Even Though It Barely Matters to European Patents

Posted in Asia, Europe, Patents at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EPO white flag

Summary: EPO waves a “white flag” in the face of China even though Chinese patents do not matter much to Europe (except when the goal is to encourage low patent quality, attracting humongous patent trolls)

PRESIDENT António Campinos continues the tradition of his predecessor, posing with Chinese officials as if China is strategic to Europe’s patent system. Campinos and the man who gave him the job possibly fancy China because of its notoriously low standards/quality of patents, which in turn usher software patents into Europe (‘normalising’ this illegal practice, which is only legal in China).

“As EPO insiders are well aware, China accounts for a very small proportion of European Patents (Japan is way ahead and tiny South Korea is just about on par)…”A European Patent Office (EPO) director, Peter Albrecht, speaks to patent maximalists, for one can assume that to become a director (or Director) at the EPO one must be a patent maximalist (to get promoted to that position if not just to keep that position).

As EPO insiders are well aware, China accounts for a very small proportion of European Patents (Japan is way ahead and tiny South Korea is just about on par), yet this propaganda site of patents on life/nature (Life Sciences Intellectual Property Review is exactly that) uses Albrecht as follows, citing a lobbying event/think tank called “LSPN Europe”. Here they go:

Last year, for the first time in European Patent Office (EPO) history, a Chinese company filed the most European patent applications, making an “impressive statement” on what companies in the country are doing, according to Peter Albrecht.

Albrecht, who serves as principal director of the EPO’s healthcare, biotech and chemistry sector, was speaking at LSPN Europe 2018 today.

In 2017, electronics company Huawei claimed the top filing spot with 2,398 patent applications, in a move that Albrecht said was a “surprise”. Huawei bumped Siemens (based in Germany) into second place, ahead of competitors LG, Samsung and Qualcomm.

In China those few very large companies are typically connected to the government and they have a lot of patents; this gives the false impression that China matters a lot to the EPO. But it doesn’t. Less than one in 20 European Patents/applications are Chinese in source/origin.

“IAM isn’t against trolls but against the narrative, i.e. against trolls being called “trolls”.”Meanwhile, CCIA‘s main patent person wrote that “[t]he [Chinese] media has come up with new Chinese coinages translating to ‘patent scoundrel’ ‘patent cockroach’ and ‘patent monster’.” Patent troll suddenly seems so dated and staid.”

This is also based on an old report from IAM (from a Chinese-speaking writer); IAM isn’t against trolls but against the narrative, i.e. against trolls being called “trolls”. IAM’s ‘PR’ campaign for IPEL, a patent troll looking to prey on China (see some background in [1, 2]), is hard to forget; it was recently mentioned again by Managing IP, another proponent of patent trolls.

The article cited by the above says:

A recent article titled “Why non-practicing entities are good for China” has attracted notice in the English-language IP blogosphere. Originally featured on Chinese IP news site Zhichanli, which is affiliated with litigation data provider IP House, the article puts forth the case that greater activity by foreign NPEs in China can lift the value of Chinese patents, boosting the entire innovation ecosystem. By contrast, it warns, “failing to embrace foreign NPEs would immediately tell investors around the globe that Chinese patents are a bad investment”.

The article was posted by Zhichanli’s news editor, but contains a note explaining that it was compiled based on “relevant” material and does not necessarily reflect the site’s own point of view.

Much of the article focuses on iPEL, the NPE helmed by Brian Yates and Rasheed McWilliams that announced it had raised $100 million to buy and monetise Chinese patents earlier this year and claims to own around 1,000 former Huawei and ZTE rights. iPEL is framed as a company that is entering the market to target overseas infringers that are “stealing intellectual property from Chinese companies”. The NPE could hardly come off better if the article were written by Yates himself.

We already published about a dozen articles about how China (or “CHINA!”) was exploited by patent maximalists to manipulate politicians and steer agenda/policy, based on fear, hate, jealousy, and stigma. Similar political strategies exploit “RUSSIA!” but Russia isn’t too keen on this domain, so the patent maximalists typically settle on “CHINA!”

“The EPO needs to ask itself who or what it serves; as it stands at the moment it serves neither Europe nor science and instead it serves patent trolls/lawyers, irrespective of where they come from.”One has to be careful about these thinly-veiled xenophobic tricks or pseudo-patriotism if not overt nationalism. They make China seem like a potent threat based on patents that aren’t even prevalent in the West. But such is the agenda of sites like IAM, which does this to India as well; they wrote about Dolby in relation to India some months back and days ago they issued the latest ‘PR’ for Dolby’s patent aggression (in their site and in Twitter).

The EPO needs to ask itself who or what it serves; as it stands at the moment it serves neither Europe nor science and instead it serves patent trolls/lawyers, irrespective of where they come from. Obviously that’s a problem — one that well-educated patent examiners can recognise and routinely warn about publicly.

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