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07.02.19

The EPO is More Interested in Silencing Its Critics Than in Actually Correcting Injustices

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

They’ve already blocked Techrights and sent several law firms after it (with threatening letters)

Castle at Gondar
Castle at Gondar (Portuguese Empire). Freedom of the press is probably healthier in Ethiopia than inside EPOnia.

Summary: EPO makes ‘peace’ (or photo ops) with Ethiopia and covers up the patent quality crisis; this isn’t amusing and staff will likely suffer because layoffs are still foreseen while budget gets diverted to member states (to buy votes, to remove oversight)

THE annual ‘festival’ of the European Patent Office (EPO) is over, as is the quarterly meetup in which Campinos and Battistelli buy support from the Council (e.g. ‘cooperation’ money, which happened again last week).

Do not expect reprieve or amnesty to come from the Council. It’s not “Administrative”; it administers nothing but its own selfish interests (pertinent nations or their national patent offices). We’ve quite frankly come to the point where we have far more confidence in the USPTO (than in the EPO).

Nowadays it’s easier to get software patents in Europe than in the US. Several law firms have said so themselves, as did IBM quite recently. It’s incredible, isn’t it? What a reversal!

The EPO is still granting illegal (as per the EPC) patents on algorithms and Bardehle Pagenberg, the most vocal proponent and promoter of such patents (regularly visits the EPO as well), has this new example, brought up by Patrick Heckeler earlier this week.

“Ethiopia was part of the Portuguese Empire (not many people know this) and the President of the EPO is French-Portuguese.”One might be tempted to say that this is the sole problem (it certainly was the only issue we talked about between 2006 and 2014), but today’s EPO doesn’t just grant patents on algorithms but on things that existed in nature for many thousands of years. Remember that 'Teffgate' in Ethiopia? Who can forget? It was all over Dutch media, albeit not other nations (and Dutch is almost incomprehensible to over 98% of the world’s population).

Yesterday the EPO issued this new nonsensical statement (warning: epo.org link) under its “news” section (with “Ethiopia” in the headline). Is the EPO googlebombing “Ethiopia” now? We suspect so. There are hardly any EPs from Ethiopia, but loads of negative publicity for the Office. Here’s what the EPO said: “Following the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding on Reinforced Partnership with Ethiopia in April of this year, EPO President António Campinos and the Director-General of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO), Ermias Yemanebirhan, signed their first Biennial Work Plan for 2019-21 on the occasion of a visit by a high-level Ethiopian delegation to Munich last week. This is the second time the EPO has concluded such a partnership with a non-member state, following a similar agreement signed with South Africa last year.”

Ethiopia was part of the Portuguese Empire (not many people know this) and the President of the EPO is French-Portuguese. Battistelli used to sign many such ‘vanity’ deals with former French colonies, especially in Africa. Coincidence? Let’s not forget what happened two years ago in other Portuguese colonies (where António’s father was born).

According to the EPO’s very own figures (warning: epo.org link and in Microsoft’s proprietary format of course!), Ethopia had just ONE EUROPEAN PATENT IN ABOUT A DECADE!

Was this deal worth the journey? The carbon footprint? Did Campinos manage to board a plane OK? Or did people fly over to him (as if the EPO means a lot to Ethiopia)? Well, they certainly got some photo ops out of it! This is what the “news” is about: photo ops.

It is very probable, in our assessment, that this publicity stunt (yes, it can be regarded as such) is likely connected to the ‘Teffgate’ scandal that cost the Ethiopian government (and people) a fortune! Because examination hadn’t been done properly…

Don’t get us wrong…

EPO examiners are in general good people.

They’re not permitted, however, to do a good job (or do their job properly, based on the law which governs them and empowers the Office, namely the EPC).

That’s because they’re ruled by very bad people, career-climbing sociopaths who revel in pain and angst.

Here’s another example that we alluded to some days ago and IPPro Magazine has just covered as well (“Apple device unlock patent rejected in EPO appeal”). The EPO never needed to allow this fiasco to get this far. This patent application is very obviously a ‘scam’, but many patents were granted to Apple by EPO examiners due to debased management. We know because the people involved told us so. And these patents of Apple are still unchallenged. This means that a lot of existing Europen Patents are just “fake”, they’re utter rubbish. On this latest example:

Apple’s appeal to dismiss a European Patent Office (EPO) ruling denying a patent for unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image has been dismissed.
The patent was found to be lacking in novelty and did not show an inventive step.

It covered methods that would allow users to unlock their Apple devices using various swipes, compared to the current old method of simply swiping right.

It would also allow users to unlock the devices via several unlock images, each being associated to a specific application.

Apple appealed to the EPO Technical Board of Appeal, but has now been dismissed.

Instead of working to correct things, the EPO throws itself right at the fire or under the wheels. Yesterday I told the EPO (which incidentally follows me in Twitter!), “have some class. Have some tact. Do you even know what 4IPCouncil stands for? It’s like the NRA of the patent world.”

I responded to this tweet: “Take a look at the interactive guide of @4ipcouncil. A new resource for European SMEs to unlock the value of patents.”

This is Team UPC speaking 'for' SMEs. That’s what 4IPCouncil does nowadays. It’s like AstroTurfing, not grassroots. The ones most harmed by this agenda are having their voice hijacked and then the EPO amplifies the lies. “Instead of doing its job, which is patent examination, the EPO does lobbying and sponsors so-called ‘studies’ (marketing/propaganda) to lie about SMEs, which it harms,” I said regarding the subsequent EPO tweet which said: “Can the filing of IP rights be used as a reliable predictor of the likelihood that an SME will experience high growth? This study answers this question…”

Who funded this ‘study’? The former employer of Campinos together with his current one. Unfortunately for him, one week since he started the job people pick on the odor and realise, openly, that they got a more ‘orange’ version of Battistelli.

“At least 3 lies in one sentence,” I told the EPO regarding its next tweet. “It’s another Battistelli — congrats!”

The EPO quoted its President as saying: “The plan will help us to provide a prosperous future for European innovation and a strong European patent network by putting sustainability first”. Have a look at the plan…”

Well, watch who’s bragging about this plan. Here’s a site of patent fanatics (long history there) copying that almost verbatim this week:

The European Patent Office (EPO) published the 2023 Strategic Plan (SP2023) adopted by the Office on 27th June 2019. SP2023 was developed over two rounds of consultations that involved the active participation of all the 38 EPO states, IP offices, staff members and the public. The Plan was unanimously adopted by the EPO Administrative Council; it identifies five key goals in order to ensure that the EPO dispenses nothing but excellence through all its services. It has also recognized specific areas within each of the five goals which will be implemented over the course of four years.

This is complete lunacy which we responded to before, as did others (connected to the EPO, probably insiders). The accompanying “speech” feels like satire because there’s a lie every 10 seconds. There are yet more comments about this “plan” and this “speech”, one of which from an examiner who wrote (after SUEPO had linked to it): “I rather suspect that the most likely outcome is that, in the long term, the downwards direction in quality of the EPO’s work products will continue … all the way to the bottom.”

Here’s the full comment:

Take a look at the picture from the staff survey published in R.I.P. Kat:

https://rip-kat.blogspot.com/2019/05/a-picture-is-worth-1000-words.html

That tells you all that you need to know. In essence, the current culture at the EPO works well for a small number of managers but makes life miserable for the much larger number of examiners that do all of the work that generates the EPO’s funding.

In the private sector, it has long been the case that the management and overseers (non-executive directors) of a company form a cosy relationship that leads to hyper-inflated salaries and massive bonuses or pay-offs (even extending to what could be viewed as rewards for failure).

We should perhaps not be so surprised that the same kind of relationship has now translated to the EPO. Thus, it now seems that, so long as they get an adequate pay-off, the AC will support ever-increasing rewards for the EPO’s management, even if there is clear evidence of abject failures of the policies of that management.

How does the EPO keep up the flow of funds that guarantees a complacent and compliant AC? Simple! Just drive down the EPO’s “costs” (for which read salaries and benefits for the majority of the workforce, including examiners) at the same time as increasing the performance demanded from each examiner and remunerating well those managers that enforce the increased targets. In a nutshell, this explains the huge gap in levels of contentment between “the workforce” and “the management” of the EPO.

It does not take a genius to work out why such a policy cannot be sustained in the long term without seriously degrading the quality of the EPO’s work products. Whilst one might assume that this means that the whole charade must come to an end at some point, I do not believe that such an assumption is currently justified.

The shareholders of a private company might eventually rebel against a greedy and useless management. Also, the company’s customers might take their custom elsewhere. However, the EPO’s current set-up means that the management and the AC are free to ignore the opinions of the EPO’s “stakeholders”, as well as national and EU laws that might otherwise constrain their employment practices. Also, the EPO’s “customers” cannot go anywhere else to obtain a European patent (certainly not via the PCT route), never mind such a patent having unitary effect.

Thus, I rather suspect that the most likely outcome is that, in the long term, the downwards direction in quality of the EPO’s work products will continue … all the way to the bottom.

Notice the silence from IP Kat; it’s hardly even surprising anymore.

MaxDrei, who used to regularly comment in IP Kat, said this:

We live now in the age of impunity, the age of the bloviating “Hyperleader” who cultivates his super-gullible and unquestioning world-wide fan base with the help of Fake News broadcast over the Internet. Donald Trump was the first but now we in Europe are saddled with his various disciples, to be found in an ever-increasing number of the EPC Member States, whose influence reaches to Brussels and Munich..

But cling to optimism. If the resistance to attacks on Democracy and the Rule of Law is stalwart and unrelenting, such “leaders” can be subdued. The one in Turkey is no so cocky now, I imagine. Alistair de Pfeffel “Boris” Johnson in London has suddenly gone all quiet. Let’s see what happens in the USA, these next 12 months. In the long run, all things must pass. There is hope yet!

The next couple of comments are amusing; they compare EPO transparency to the surveillance which is “glass walls” (a Campinos plan):

Transparency equals glass walls….

“retaining talent” ?

How do they wish to do so, beyond the “golden cage” effect?

Also, PD3.1 desire to create a turnover of 10% of active staff every year contradicts this very much as well.

Dear Transparency

Who is (or what is) PD3.1 ?

A 10% staff turnover every year is practised in such companies as Goldman Sachs and Amazon. The rule is simple and brutal : based on annual performance appraisals, the 10% lowest performers are terminated.

That does not sound very effective for attracting “talents” and building teamwork and mutual training within examiners.

Forget about attracting “talents” because the EPO is barely even recruiting anymore (no ads); those who get recruited are lawyers who will likely fight dismissed staff in 'courts' (kangaroo courts, internal ones), bankrupting them if necessary because their bills aren’t footed by EPO budget. Quite a deterrent, eh? Justice is not the goal. It’s all about power.

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