10.21.19

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It Has Begun: EPO Staff Protests Against António Campinos (Starting Wednesday)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Such protests and the general uproar are motivated by the need to protect the law. Examiners wish to restore lawfulness and the law is on their side.

UK protest and uproar

2008 EPO protest:


Summary: Wednesday marks the resumption of EPO protests; it’s happening for the first time under Campinos and only a year after he took Office. Even Battistelli, the notorious thug, lasted longer before such escalations/actions or — put another way — he did better than that (if one checks the timeline of his presidency)

THE European Patent Office (EPO) is as bad as ever. The examiners are generally good people, but their managers ruin their lives with unrealistic expectations and guidelines that breach the law. A decade ago we spoke about software patents in Europe, not quite foreseeing the impact of Battistelli becoming President a year later. Things have gone downhill from there (not that things were rosy beforehand, but we generally felt rather sympathetic towards Brimelow and provided constructive criticism).

“Just because the EPO decided to formally grant some European Patent doesn’t instantaneously mean that this patent is legitimate.”Just like 35 U.S.C. § 101 (and 102 along with 103) in the US, here in Europe we have laws that limit patent scope as well as deal with prior art and obviousness. Just because the EPO decided to formally grant some European Patent doesn’t instantaneously mean that this patent is legitimate. Many are not. We sometimes call these patents “fake patents” or Invalid Patents (IPs) — a term first recommended to me by the FSF's acting/interim President, Alex Oliva.

Here’s a brand new examples where a €25,000,000 ruling gets ‘wiped’ or removed off the map after the European Patent is deemed invalid. In EPLAW’s own words: (last week)

On 12 September 2019, the cour d’appel de Lyon (court of appeal) overturned a judgment handed down on 8 September 2016 by the tribunal de grande instance de Lyon (court of first instance) which found Chavanoz’s patent EP 0 900 294 valid and infringed by Mermet.

IP Kat‘s Kan He has just taken a note of it, adding:

In the EPlaw Patent blog, Pierre Véron reports on the appeal decision in the Mermet v. Chavanoz industrie case in France. The first instance court had awarded the plaintiff the largest ever amount in Europe for damages in a patent infringement case (€25,000,000). The court of appeal overturned this decision on the ground that the patent is invalid due to lack of novelty – Chavanoz had sold the patented product before the priority date of the patent.

This is the kind of mess patent applicants will increasingly have to deal with; defendants too. They spend a fortune in courts only to eventually realise they spent ages arguing over patents which were bunk, invalid, bogus, worthless…

We wholeheartedly support EPO examiners who stand up for (or guard) the EPC. They want patent quality back and they want to do their job according to the law, not according to lawless management.

We’ve been hearing for a while about the tipping point and now it’s official. There’s also a formal letter:

Dear colleagues,

Last week, EPO staff in Munich gathered in a General Assembly against the 17 financial measures proposed by Mr Campinos and has u nanimously adopted (ca. 700 attendees) a resolution which has now been transmitted to him and to the delegates of the Administrative Council.

SUEPO is convinced that the proposed reforms will be unfavourable for the EPO. They will further demotivate staff that is already suffering from an excessive work pressure combined with a lack of recognition of the efforts made. The punitive measures are likely to lead to an exodus. We have already seen a significant lowering of the average retirement age as older staff heads for the most obvious exit, but also younger staff is likely to leave when faced with considerably reduced benefits and a total lack of career perspectives. At the same time the EPO’s ability to hire new employees “of the highest standard of ability” (Art. 5 ServRegs) will suffer. Patent quality will suffer as a consequence. Mr Battistelli did a lot of damage to the EPO. Will Mr Campinos finish the job?

On 23 and 24 October the EPO Budget and Finance Committee (BFC) will meet. During that meeting Mr Campinos will present this new attack on staff as “necessary adjustments”.
SUEPO invites staff to show Mr Campinos and the BFC its opinion on the finance report and on the reforms. Next demonstration: Wednesday 23 October 2019

SUEPO Munich

Campinos is just another Battistelli. He might even be worse. There was almost a strike just under a year after he had joined. Battistelli lasted much longer before strikes. We made this observation about half a dozen times before, namely that staff grows tired of Campinos a lot faster than it got tired of Battistelli. Here are some older articles of interest:

RIP Kat added the following letter regarding “Battistelli’s inheritance”. Here it is with some highlights added:

Mr Battistelli’s inheritance

In his final publication “Modernising the EPO for excellence and sustainability (https://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2018/20180611.html)” Mr Battistelli bragged that: “Thanks to an ambitious series of reforms, the EPO of today is a vastly different organisation … We are more competitive, more efficient, more financially secure and ready to face the challenges of tomorrow.”

According to the above publication, during Mr Battistelli’s tenure examiner production increased by 36% and the number of grants increased by 82% (!). In the same period the operating surplus of the EPO increased to about 470 million Euro/year, i.e. almost 25% of the EPO’s annual operating budget. These results were obtained thanks to the efforts of staff. For this staff was “rewarded” with reforms that have led to a considerable loss of rights, including the loss of permanent appointment for new staff, and a reduction of various benefits, in particular a significant reduction in career progression. The single-minded focus of Mr Battistelli on efficiency led to a generally recognised loss of quality in the patents granted (https://www.juve-patent.com/news-and-stories/legal-commentary/open-letter-suggests-epo-patent-quality-problem/). His extremely harsh social practices devastated staff morale (http://patentblog.kluweriplaw.com/2018/06/21/tarnished-legacy-epo-president/). When Mr Campinos took over as the next President he announced that quality and dialog with staff were among his priorities.

Déjà vu all over again

The communication style of Mr Campinos is certainly softer than that of Mr Battistelli. He has shown himself ready to talk with and listen to ordinary staff. But he did not distance himself from, or change anything to, Mr Battistelli’s reforms. And now staff is again confronted with the message that the EPO is in dire straits, requiring another massive (23-32%) increase in productivity in DG1 and unprecedented financial sacrifices of staff as a whole. How is that possible?

Mr Campinos has tried to explain the need for further increases in productivity and for his punitive reforms with yet another financial study (https://www.epo.org/modules/epoweb/acdocument/epoweb2/377/en/CA-46-19_en.pdf). The financial study is a hoax. As we have pointed out before, it is based on totally unrealistic assumptions, among which a 20-year complete freeze infee income while costs continue to rise. When we pointed at the many inconsistencies the reaction of Mr Campinos was “I don’t care, I will go ahead anyway.” This is typical for the “social dialog” that we experience at the moment. Mr Campinos is happy to talk with the staff representation, but that will not change anything.

What next?

SUEPO is convinced that, if anything, the proposed reforms will be unfavourable for the EPO. The announced measure will further demotivate staff that is already suffering from an excessive work pressure combined with a lack of recognition of the efforts made. The punitive measures are likely to lead to an exodus. We have already seen a significant lowering of the average retirement age as older staff heads for the most obvious exit, but also younger staff is likely to leave when faced with considerably reduced benefits and a total lack of career perspectives. At the same time the EPO’s ability to hire new employees “of the highest standard of ability” (Art. 5 ServRegs) will suffer. Patent quality will suffer as a consequence. Mr Battistelli did a lot of damage to the EPO. Will Mr Campinos finish the job?

The next demonstration

On 23 and 24 October the EPO Budget and Finance Committee (BFC) will meet. During that meeting Mr Campinos will present this new attack on staff as “necessary adjustments”.
SUEPO invites staff to show Mr Campinos and the BFC its opinion on the finance report and on the reforms.

Please note the date:

Next demonstration: Wednesday 23 October 2019

We’ll try to cover that as best we can, maybe with photographs included (with faces obscured, as usual). The world needs to understand what’s going on at the EPO because European pundits ignore it and intentional media certainly isn’t covering any of that. That’s intentional. We know that because when we contact publishers/journalists the reaction is self-explanatory. They’re very much complicit and some of them receive money from the EPO (surely a misuse of EPO budget that contributes to corruption of the media). EPO workers don’t protest because they’re “greedy” but because they value the law. It’s not about money.

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