Everyone is happy because the supreme leader says so
Summary: The Benoît Battistelli-led institution is so misguided so as to actually expect people to believe that EPO staff feels happy, despite increased awareness of staff suicides, protests, lawsuits, etc.
BE PREPARED and brace yourselves for another charm offensive from the ever-so-charming (but highly offensive) Benoît Battistelli, who paid the French media for puff pieces about him and his notorious EPO reign.
According to our sources, there is nasty propaganda in the making. We don’t know when it will come out and when Benoît Battistelli et al intend to foist it upon the media, but here is what we do know. To quote one who is familiar with this matter:
Operation “Le Bilan”
Mr Battistelli obviously has a very high view of his own performance and does not cease to tell the world. It is clear that his “efficiency scenario”, the combination of cost-cutting, pressurizing staff and prioritizing the easier files in DG1, has produced the desired results: by the end of July the result of the operation budget (= the real money, as opposed to IFRS) was EUR 245m and ”grants (10% over the already very ambitious plan) by first examiner” were up with 29% with respect to 2014. With that the Council is happy. The applicants may be happy (time will tell). Staff clearly is not, but that is being tackled. As briefly mentioned elsewhere, Mr Battistelli has ordered a communication campaign aimed at convincing EPO staff of his great achievements and the benefits to staff. It will include a series of interviews with carefully selected “volunteers” who have the right positive opinions. The call for candidates and the list of the topics can be found [online]. [One can] hear that finding such volunteers has been difficult and that some have been told to volunteer “or else”.
The communication campaign is organised by Ms Lefèvre (Head of Ms Bergot’s office + a.i. head of the Conflict Resolution Unit + a.i. director of internal communication + the direct superior of the 100% staff representatives), and Ms Mittermaier (newly recruited director external communication). Both have an impressive track record. Ms Lefèvre in the French army, including service in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Ms Mittermaier’s in a leading function at
Transparency International for several years. [People] are surprised and disappointed to learn that both have lend themselves to organizing such a propaganda campaign including interviews with colleagues who have been carefully selected especially in DG1 where Mr Minnoye (VP1) keeps a close eye on who can be interviewed. It cannot have escaped the attention of Ms Lefèvre and Ms Mittermaier that the vast majority of staff is not happy. And it seems disrespectful to presume that a mere communication campaign will fix the outstanding problems. We note that the last time the Office really asked staff for their opinion through an Office-wide staff survey was about 4 years ago. We therefore call upon Ms Lefèvre and Ms Mittermaier to organize a fair and independent staff survey* instead of organizing a propaganda campaign.
* The last request of the CSC to that effect after a first letter in July 2015 has not even been answered by the administration, which does its best not to address adequately the running of a new Technologia survey Office wide (as the CSC did in 2010 and 2013).
If pointing out this crooked plan helps derail it, then so be it. Staff of the EPO is certainly not happy, not motivated, and not satisfied. A lot of people are depressed, afraid, and overworked. █
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Even the British and English-speaking media started to cover the scandals from Germany and the Netherlands
Summary: The terrible policies and the atrocious behaviour of the EPO’s management is gradually becoming too widespread an issue, leading to a lot more media coverage and with it public scrutiny
THE EPO is in shambles due to EPO abuses. More accurately, it is the management that comes under fire, for coercing smart patent examiners into doing their job improperly while not exercising their very basic rights. The examiners are not tolerating this abuse, which is why there is an EPO staff protest right now (at the very time of writing this), in front of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs.
You know something is clearly amiss when most EPO staff (yet to be confirmed) leaves the building to demonstrate against the employer.
There is a mischievous PR effort under way to colour EPO staff “happy”. Not even the most cynical among people would find this funny. This is something that we intend to respond to in our next post. It is rapidly becoming widespread knowledge that EPO is managed by corrupt or corruptible individuals, who prioritise the needs of very large (and mostly foreign) corporations, as a matter of policy. The EPO was supposed to be run in the public’s interest (the European public). Some people compare the EPO to FIFA, but the EPO is in many ways worse than FIFA and a lot more people are involved (or complicit) in the racket. The general public would be a lot more interested in this scandal if it involved soccer/football rather than something ‘geeky’ like science.
“It is rapidly becoming widespread knowledge that EPO is managed by corrupt or corruptible individuals, who prioritise the needs of very large (and mostly foreign) corporations, as a matter of policy.”Yesterday Techrights was mentioned in Germany’s biggest IT news site and this was also mentioned a lot in social media sites (where there are ongoing discussions about it). To quote Stefan Krempl’s report (in German): “Das Blog “Techrights” hat ein internes Memo des Europäischen Patentamts veröffentlicht, wonach das Europäische Patentamt zunächst zehn großen Antragstellern in einem Pilotprojekt einen “besseren Service” bieten will. [...] Dem Techrights-Blogger Roy Schestowitz erscheint das Vorgehen in vielerlei Hinsicht mehr als fragwürdig. Zum einen verhalte sich das EPA mehr und mehr nicht wie eine zwischenstaatliche Behörde, die sich dem öffentlichen Dienst verschrieben hat, sondern wie ein Unternehmen. Zum anderen sei nicht nachvollziehbar, wieso gerade viele außereuropäische Konzerne von der “VIP-Behandlung” profitieren sollten. Eine Stellungnahme der EPA auf Anfrage von heise online steht zur Stunde noch aus.”
“You know something is clearly amiss when most EPO staff (yet to be confirmed) leaves the building to demonstrate against the employer.”There is also coverage in English coming, based on our understanding (reporters who say so). The EPO is already embarrassed in its main headquarter’s country, Germany, but not many people around the world can read German. Florian Müller, who lives neat the EPO, wrote that “Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the following: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” But the EPO doesn’t believe in human rights and is, as Dr. Schestowitz accurately notes, run like a private, profit-maximizing enterprise as opposed to an honorable institution properly applying the law. I’ve previously likened the EPO to FIFA, but with the latest evidence I almost feel like I have to ask FIFA for an apology for this comparison, given that different standards must be applied to a sports body vs. a government institution in charge of a key area of commercial law. FIFA doesn’t rig soccer matches, at least not the extent the EPO’s leadership compromises the patent granting process.
“The general press should take much more of an interest in the EPO’s corruption. Yesterday I was pleased to see that Heise online, Germany’s leading IT news site, has written about this after reading the TechRights story.”
Müller previously suggested to some EPO staff that if they cannot overthrow — so to speak — the corrupt management, then they should at least consider working elsewhere (committing suicide works to one’s own detriment, obviously). There is already brain drain being reported. █
“What’s this about pay-grade? It’s a military term, often misappropriated by civilians who are avoiding an ethical decision. It’s a good excuse in the military: politicians are accountable for the decision to enter a war, while the military are oath-bound to follow orders at pain of court-martial and possibly execution, and are only accountable for the conduct of the war.”
–Bruce Perens, former Debian leader
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Everyone loves Benoît
Summary: Having ‘infiltrated’ most key positions at the EPO, Benoît Battistelli now ejects everything that remains potential threat to his unquestionable total domination
THE EPO isn’t viewed as a villain for no reason. TPP apologists and lobbyists (the corporate media being a big part of it) try to paint TPP critics as clueless (with no access to the text because it’s intentionally kept secret), paranoid (assuming the worst), irrational haters and the EPO’s management hopes that the European public will view internal backlash as just a few disgruntled employees (or laid off staff seeking revenge).
Those who hate the TPP ought to take a closer look at the UPC and the EPO, which is privately and even publicly pushing for the UPC (to essentially change the law, meaning that the EPO does politics now). The EPO is totally out of control and anyone who dares to say so is being eliminated, if at all possible, by stretching the law (or by simply changing the rules). We are among the victims because Techrights has been permanently blocked by the EPO (for the first time in history) and put under rogue surveillance. Nothing and apparently nobody — not even outside the EPO — can escape the ire of Benoît.
Techrights has become an eyewitness to something rather disturbing. Based on a circulated PDF from people who are familiar with the EPO’s abuses, Battistelli and his cronies are definitely going to crush the boards and even go further than that. To quote the text of relevance:
Are the Boards of Appeal dying out?
Some public debate already took place at the beginning of the year 2015 as regards staffing of the Boards of Appeal (BoA). The business distribution scheme revealed in June an increased number of posts as chairpersons or members left vacant as a result of the decision of the President of the EPO to refuse to propose to the Administrative Council (AC) any new appointment to the BoA, which is his exclusive prerogative according to Article 11(3) EPC. Some AC delegations already questioned this decision, to no avail until now.
The problem obviously worsens with time, in particular with chairpersons and members choosing to leave the Office before a new pension system comes into place. At the beginning of 2016, it is already certain that 7 chairperson posts, 13 technical member posts and 7 legal member posts will be vacant. The situation is particularly critical for chairpersons and legal members, where roughly one post out of four is not staffed. Moreover, some technical fields might become orphaned when the competent technical members retire.
In the meantime, the production of the Boards per capita increases. The President of the Office presents this as a confirmation for his very personal decision to block appointments, neglecting to mention that part of the increase stems from the efforts of the Board members and chairs, but also, and to a non-negligible amount, from increased withdrawal rates (see Rule 103 EPC: Reimbursement of appeal fees). It thus seems that the President applies for the Boards the same recipe as in other departments, most notably DG1, where statistics and production figures are misused to justify policies and reforms.
We kindly ask anyone with information about the status (or fate) of Wim Van der Eijk (Chairman of the Enlarged Board of Appeal) to contact us anonymously. We need to get to the bottom of it because some people hypothesise that he too was dismissed/terminated using some loophole or misinterpretation of the rules. Sources told us that he had stood up to Battistelli and that therefore there might be a correlation, leading not to resignation or firing but something rather vague, judging by history. If Wim Van der Eijk is really ill, then some of the EPO’s AstroTurfers in IP Kat would probably have stated something to that effect by now.
There is a tendency to think that only the boards are in Battistelli’s crosshairs; Not so! Based on what we have seen, DG4 (Directorates-General) is also in a bad state (Wim Van der Eijk is Vice-President of DG3). To quote:
Musical chairs in DG4
We all know the game of “musical chairs” where – when the music stops – n participants rush for n-1 chairs. The one who did not get a chair is out. We do not know whether this game was played for real in HR, but we know many did not enjoyed the music. Since Ms Bergot took over the HR department as PD43, four (out of five) HR directors have gone elsewhere, the last one being about to do so (the fifth and last one, director 433 should soon
leave elsewhere in the Office). Heads of unit have also changed. We are not aware that any of these managers have volunteered to give up their posts. As a consequence several positions are now held by happy few – none of them belonging to the “old” team – who enjoy the trust of Ms Bergot (at least for now…). For such an – almost military – efficiency in getting rid of so many people in so little time Ms Bergot certainly deserves a bonus at the end of the year!
Remember how Ms Bergot is connected to Battistelli and that her husband, a former colleague of Battistelli, is now Director at the EPO. Well, maybe just a coincidence… █
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Defeatism or learned helplessness increasingly unjustified in the fight against software patents
Summary: The United States’ supposed leadership in software patenting grinds to a halt as more software patents simply die in the courtrooms and patent lawyers try hard to overcome this new debacle of theirs, usually by misleading current and prospective clients
COMPANIES that are consciously — as matter of strategy in fact — patenting software usually patent everything in bulk. A handful of patents would just be ineffective, unless one is a patent troll (i.e. lacking any real products) or plans to sell the patents to a patent troll somewhere along the way (e.g. bankruptcy). There is no one patent for every single program or — put another way — there is no one-to-one correspondence between a component in a program and a single patent. Think of poetry and ponder the equivalence involving a program’s components and verses (or paragraphs). Software is, by its very basic nature, quite suitable for copyright assignment (not at a binary level) but not for verbal descriptions asserting a monopoly over a mathematical (implemented and executed by a machine) idea. In practice it means that in order for a company to effectively use software patents (offensively) it needs a huge pile of software patents — much bigger than those of its competitors. Suffice to say, such a state of affairs favours and inevitably benefits vast companies such as IBM. No small software company can sue IBM over software patent infringement because IBM, in response, can sue with far greater a number of patents, covering an almost infinite number of software that can conceivably be created. It’s shameless stockpiling that makes up deterrence. People who have actually looked into pertinent software patents will probably know why; they’re so vague and often so trivial that almost every simple program can infringe on thousands of patents (some patents may already be expired, inferring woes for past generations and possibly planned retardation of science and technology).
“No small software company can sue IBM over software patent infringement because IBM, in response, can sue with far greater a number of patents, covering an almost infinite number of software that can conceivably be created.”Thankfully, courts in the United States have not lost sight of last year’s SCOTUS ruling — an important and very widely-referenced ruling which determined that abstract software patents (that’s a lot of them!) have no room in the system. Not only has that discouraged filings of new software patents and lawsuits; it also helped invalidate existing software patents which, once brought forth litigiously (even defensively, in response to offensive action), were subjected to lengthy challenges in courts, whereupon they stood little chance of surviving (statistically-speaking, so far). Today we present some new examples that we have been gathering over the past 4 weeks. We will start, however, with a cautionary tale or two. It is largely reactionary as we still see misconceptions about patents in the mass media.
The Mirage of ‘Defensive’ Software Patents
The Alice Case/§101 has already shut down many cases involving software patents, but not everyone caught up with the news. Some companies carry on pursuing software patents. Bank of America, for instance, is patenting software [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] pertaining to cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin.
“Does Coinbase really think it can take on Bank of America when it comes to patent battles?”Coinbase, a Bitcoin company, is already patenting software too (applying for nine patents at the moment) although according to this article: “The CEO went on to say that while he does not personally believe in software patents, the company would invest effort in ensuring it would “play nice” while navigating the realities of the patent space.”
Does Coinbase really think it can take on Bank of America when it comes to patent battles? Who would be bankrupted first due to quickly-amassing legal fees? Which side would have more leverage in a court of law? Patenting of software is the core issue; the solution to it isn’t acquiring more patents of one’s own.
“We continue to protect our freight tracking software with new patents,” said this statement some weeks ago, from a company which is apparently hoping it can block competition using software patents. Has it not heard the news about the status of software patents in the US? Has it considered hypothetical scenarios in which this patent can actually help the company? Is this patent just purely for marketing/posing (as is often the case these days)?
“These examiners put aside science for the sake of business-minded considerations.”Misguided USPTO examiners will no doubt continue to issue some software patents, in order to increase their profits (quantity rather than quality). By rushing their job (not properly reviewing the applications and searching for prior art) they actually increase income rather than compromise their income (rewarded for doing a poor job as opposed to a proper job). These examiners put aside science for the sake of business-minded considerations. They operate in somewhat of a business now, and they treat other patent offices as “competition”. The EPO has had the same problem in recent years and it even prioritised large applicants (discrimination by design), disgracing the very foundations of this overly glorified occupation.
The USPO still glamourises monopolies (patents) in a bunch of recent articles in which the sheer number of patents is publicly boasted, as if the more patents get granted, the merrier (irrespective of the quality/thoroughness of an examination job). China has a huge number of patents (probably the most granted per year in recent years), but that doesn’t mean that China is at the forefront of innovation. To quote one article: “The US Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched PatentsView(link is external), a new patent data visualization platform. The PatentsView beta search tool allows members of the public to interact with nearly 40 years of data on patenting activity in the United States.”
It does not really say much except lenience in acceptance of applications. Consider the fact that about 92% of US patent applications eventually reach "success" (granted). It’s nothing to brag about, it highlights the poor quality of these patents and the USPTO’s incompetence (if not corruption).
“Consider the fact that about 92% of US patent applications eventually reach “success” (granted).”Courts, unlike the USPTO, don’t earn any less or any more based on the validity of patents. They usually just do their job and each time a patent gets re-examinated (and usually then trashed after a court’s intervention) it serves to discredit the USPTO. Below are recent examples of this.
Video-On-Demand Patent Killed by Alice Case/§101
Earlier this month we learned from this post that the famous “pen and paper” analogy was used to invalidate (or in the process of invalidating) a software patent. Here is the core of the story: “The court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment that plaintiff’s video-on-demand patent was invalid for lack of patentable subject matter and found that the claims were directed toward an abstract idea. “Plaintiff briefly complains that Defendants’ descriptions of the patent claims are ‘oversimplifications,’ but it does not delineate what, if anything, Defendants leave out. . . . [T]he patent claims the concept of ‘using the same hierarchical ordering based on metadata to facilitate the display and locating of video content.’ To do so, the patent exploits matches between hierarchical identifiers – uploaded at one end of the process as metadata, and read at the other end to display listed videos – in order to facilitate the automatic [electronic program guide] listing of videos sent to cable companies by outside publishers. . . . Even though the [patent-in-suit] anticipates that its steps will be performed through computer operation, it describes a process that a person could perform ‘[u]sing a pen, paper, and her own brain.’””
Signal Transmission Patent Killed by Alice Case/§101
“Another signal transmission patent [was] held invalid under 101/ Alice,” Patent Buddy noted, linking to this analysis (same blog as above). To quote: “The court granted defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings that plaintiff’s signal transmission patent was invalid for lack of patentable subject matter and found that the patent was directed toward the abstract concept of translation. “Plaintiff argues that the claimed invention is not directed to an abstract idea because it addresses a problem that ‘specifically arises in the context of communication networks due to the presence of incompatible devices and formats.’. . . This problem, however, does not ‘specifically aris[e] in the realm of computer networks,’ and the solution is not ‘necessarily rooted in computer technology.’ Incompatible communication types have existed since before the emergence of computers and the Internet. Translators have been used for centuries to facilitate communication between individuals who speak different languages. The translator receives a message in one language, translates it into another, and delivers the translated message. Here, the claims require a computer system that receives a payload in one media form, translates it into a different media form, and delivers the translated payload. This is no different than the function of a translator.”
“Courts, unlike the USPTO, don’t earn any less or any more based on the validity of patents.”Take note of the punchline, so to speak. “This is no different than the function of a translator.”
eDekka Lost to 84 Defendants Thanks to Alice Case/§101
“Notorious Patent Troll, eDekka,” wrote Patent Buddy, “Lost Patent and 84 Defendants with one Alice/101 Kill” (cited case).
This has also been covered by Joe Mullin, who wrote: “The most prolific patent troll of last year, eDekka LLC, has had its patent wiped out. The ruling (PDF) will shut down 168 lawsuits that eDekka filed based on US Patent No. 6,266,674, according to Texas Lawyer, which first reported the ruling.
“The ruling comes from a surprising source: US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, the East Texas judge who has been criticized for making life extra-difficult for patent defendants. Gilstrap, who hears more patent cases than any other US judge, will eliminate about 10 percent of his entire patent docket by wiping out the eDekka cases.”
“Patent profiteers try to sell the impression that all is fine and dandy for software patents.”Over the weekend it was mentioned here too, with the author saying that there is a lot of public interest in the outcome (many victims, hence widespread concern).
Sole Survivor of Alice Case/§101
We only know of one case where a patent seemingly withstood challenge from Alice Case/§101 in recent weeks. This is about US patent number 6,963,859 and it’s quite a rare case where software patents are successfully defended in court. Patent lawyers, understandably, always latch on to such rulings and hype them up (endless jubilation and repetition). Patent profiteers try to sell the impression that all is fine and dandy for software patents. They are cherry-picking for their desired bias.
Let’s look at what patent lawyers have had to say about the status quo in recent weeks.
What Patent Lawyers (Profiteers) Are Saying
“Maybe they would rather not pay attention or remain in denial over the facts, or the statistically-meaningful number of rulings against software patents since Alice (2014).”The spin from patent lawyers is very much expected. Asking them about the situation here is like asking companies which manufacture weapons about the state of war (or peace) in some countries where weapon sales are imminent, possible, or at risk. Patents are the armament equivalent in the field of patent litigation.
“Value of software patents has fallen by 80% since SCOTUS decisions in Mayo and Alice,” wrote one ‘IP’-centric account at IPO Annual Meeting (#IPOAM15). Another, from IAM's patent maximalists, said: “No surprise that it’s standing room only for #IPOAM15 session on software post-Alice and Oracle” (the case of Oracle has been covered here too).
In short, patent lawyers try to deny the importance of Alice. There are some exceptions to this, but they are few. Here we have “Hawley Troxell partner Brad Frazer, with contributions from Hawley Troxell Patent Group Chair Phil McKay and patent attorney Allison Parker,” going with the dramatic headline “Software patents are dead! Long live software patents!” The article is in fact in favour of software patents and claims that they are far from dead. Here is the punchline: “So the next time you hear or read that software patents are dead because of Alice, think of young King Tommen and remember that a good experienced software patent attorney can still do much to obtain patent protection for your software-based inventions.”
“It’s sometimes referred to as cognitive dissonance.”It doesn’t seem as though they have been paying attention. Maybe they would rather not pay attention or remain in denial over the facts, or the statistically-meaningful number of rulings against software patents since Alice (2014). It’s sometimes referred to as cognitive dissonance.
Here we have proponents of software patents who are also patent lawyers admitting (in the headline even) that “Statistics show Alice PTAB interpretation not favorable to patent applicants”. To quote some relevant parts: “The United States Supreme Court is commonly known to resolve difficult issues of law. Yet, Alice v. CLS Bank[ii], last year’s unanimous Supreme Court decision, has caused confusion about whether computer-implemented business methods and software innovations are patentable under 35 U.S.C. §101. The question of patentability of software-related innovations – even those involving merely implementations of business-related innovations – seemed settled after State Street v. Signature Financial[iii], the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s 1998 decision[iv].
“After State Street, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) granted thousands of patents related to computer-implemented business methods and software.[v] Simultaneously. America experienced an explosion of growth in e-commerce, Internet, and mobile phone technologies. Nonetheless, without even mentioning the terms “business method” or “software,”[vi] Alice has upended the understanding that computer-implemented business method innovations and software innovations are patentable under §101. One veteran litigation attorney starkly stated that the decision left us with the question of “[a]re software patents dead?”[vii] The Federal Circuit’s decisions after Alice have not provided much clear guidance to answer this question.”
“To say that software patents are as potent as ever before is to shamelessly lie.”The author says that the USPTO “granted thousands of patents related to computer-implemented business methods and software.” But how does the number relate/compare to previous years? There was a reported slowdown in litigation, application, etc. To say that software patents are as potent as ever before is to shamelessly lie.
Seyfarth Shaw LLP (patent lawyers) decided to come out with a gross dichotomy that frames secrecy and software patents as very much necessary. What about copyrights? They are not even mentioned before therein no lawyers fees are likely to ever materialise/emanate. To quote the lawyers-like language: “There are many ways to obtain intellectual property protection for software creations. Many keep the software code confidential and maintain the software as a trade secret. Others seek patent protection on the software, which discloses the higher-level concepts surrounding the software without explicitly publishing the source code. Recent changes in patent law have changed what types of software inventions are patentable and the requirements for obtaining such patents. However, the evolution of the law has been ongoing for quite some time.”
What about copyrights? They just pretend that it does not exist. How convenient. Gross propaganda terms like “intellectual property” are used instead.
“Parasitic, self-serving elements (or Hubris) in any patent system are ultimately its Nemesis.”IAM’s own patent maximalists (patent lawyers who profit from it) accept that software patents are now besieged by courts, albeit not in the USPTO. We mentioned the reasons for this earlier on. This is an institutionalised conflict which needs to be overcome by structural changes. Both the USPTO and patent lawyers profit from the injustice of dealing with bogus patents. Technical people are the ones whose personal wealth will be afforded and wasted. IAM uses the word “uncertainty” to say invalidity — the same word that other patent maximalists use (“Uncertainty is Where Patentability Resides”). Why are patent lawyers and lobbyists of software patents so eager to associate bogus patents with uncertainty? Is that really what they mean to say? That’s like saying that only in case of error or bad decisions will software patents be granted right now. It’s almost like admitting that they are trying to fool, game, and maybe even corrupt the system. Some cynics would nonchalantly say that this is what they indeed do; it’s their job and this is what they’re paid for. Parasitic, self-serving elements (or Hubris) in any patent system are ultimately its Nemesis. █
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Corporate fast lane, like NASCAR sponsors
Summary: Canon, Philips, Microsoft, Qualcomm, BASF, Bayer, Samsung, Huawei, Siemens, Ericsson and Fujitsu receive V.I.P. treatment from the EPO, despite most of them not even being European
HOW can an outsider tell that the EPO operates like a business rather than a public service (to Europeans)? It’s simple. Just watch how, as a matter of policy (i.e. coming from above), the EPO is tossing aside patent applications of small European companies and instead researching, under pressure and in a rush (hence unlikely to find adequate prior art) for large foreign corporations, probably resulting in the granting of poor patents, due to notoriously overzealous bossing and work-induced pressure (examiners rewarded based on the wrong yardsticks) and secret corporate partnerships. It’s just wrong and it creates a toxic work environment with false goals. As the EPO is supposed to be transparent (considering the consent allegedly given by the public), we believe that the information below must be in the public domain. It compromises nobody except entities that selfishly collude.
Watch the following leaked memo. Is this the spirit of science or of business?
Memo: Closer Contact with Major Applicants
Why is closer contact with major applicants desirable?
Both The President and VP1 have expressed the opinion that there needs to be closer contact between examiners and their applicants. We should foster a better esprit de service, not least to ensure that we do not lose workload market share to other major offices.
Historically, DG1 has had frequent contacts with applicants but no systematic way of approaching them or feeding back business intelligence obtained from them. Moreover, DG1 has not always passed on consistent messages to them.
Microsoft, Canon, Siemens
The ICT cluster has had close contact with both Canon and Microsoft recently and their experience has prompted the proposal for this pilot. Microsoft had 450 files which they regarded as “stalled” within the EPO. Under the auspices of Grant Philpott, Francesco Zacca and the PA KAM, together, they have found a mutually acceptable way to treat these files. Similarly Canon had a list of files which they considered excessively delayed. However, again with Grant Philpott supervising, Franco Cordera and PA KAM have started working on the first list of around 170 files. In JC EET, Jeremy Scott has initialised general and specific lectures from Siemens, their global patent strategy and specific training to examiners working in the fields of Sub-sea Connectors and Wind Turbines. At the same time, informal checks were made about what Siemens thought of the EPO way of handling their files. These are concrete ways in which the EPO’s major applicants are being facilitated through issues due to concrete contact with DG1 PDs and directors.
It is proposed to start a pilot for ten major applicants, worldwide, lasting one year (1.4.2015-1.4.2016). The applicants will be selected by DG1 but taking into consideration input from PA, PDQM and DG5. This will be based around strong existing contacts. 5 liaison directors will be selected to deal with two major applicants each. They will be in regular contact with these applicants and will have at least one face to face meeting during the year of the pilot.
Liaison with DG2 and DG5
Patent Administration will be an integral player in this pilot project and close links to the Key Account Managers will be needed. To facilitate this PD PA will be kept fully in the loop. DG5 has been approached and informed. They will be present in the kick off meeting for the contact directors.
Benefits for DG1
This pilot will bring significant benefits to DG1:
- more efficient use of missions
- technical training
- predicting incoming workload
- targeting recruitment to the right areas
- dealing with file requests such as PACE/late files
- esprit de service
Historically missions were organised on a directorate and cluster level with little coordination beyond that. Moreover, they did not always target he largest applicants, but more often the “nicer” locations. With the deployment of the Coordination Tool for External Contacts and with more directional input from the PDs, along with the experience from the liaison directors it is guaranteed that DG1 missions will be more focussed on our major applicants and delivering a better service to them.
The Coordination Tool for External Contacts
The coordination tool can provide a good starting point for coordinating this pilot. For example there can be a link with the highlighted companies so that anyone wishing to visit should first contact the liaison director to a). see if the visit can go ahead; b). check what messages should be passed or if the applicant has specific issues; c). provide a place to feedback any business intelligence gathered on the mission.
It is envisaged that there will be 5 DG1 directors, each in contact with 2 major applicants. These directors will also work closely with the appropriate KAMs. The ERG should nominate someone to oversee the whole structure, to help with harmonisation of what is done, sharing of knowledge and best practice, and to make sure everything runs smoothly. Currently it is proposed that Jeremy Scott takes on this role. He would additionally sit on the ICT group, set up by Grant Philpott in this role.
Selected Directors and Companies
Canon (22) F.Cordera
Philips (3) F.Cordera
Microsoft (28) C.Platzer
Qualcomm (9) F.Zacca
BASF (5) M.Weaver
Bayer (16) M.Weaver
Samsung (1) under discussion
Huawei (11) under discussion
Siemens (2) J.Scott
Ericsson (10) F.Zacca
As can be seen, the applicants selected are major ones (their ranking in terms of applications filed in 2013 is parenthesised). The lowest applicant selected, Microsoft, filed 600 applications. All in the top 12 file over 1000 and Samsung filed 2833 applications in 2013. These applicants come from different technical areas and different geographical locations to maximise the learning potential of the pilot. It can be explored as to what the EPO can do for them and vice versa. Many of these applicants have been chosen because of the strength of existing contacts, which will facilitate the speedy implementation of the pilot.
Upscaling the Pilot
If the pilot is deemed successful, the idea would be to upscale the pilot to more companies in the second half 2016. The speed at which this would be done is determined mainly by the manpower PA requires to deal with the requests.
To carry out this pilot, approval is sought from VP1.
If this whole spiel sounds too familiar, perhaps it should. We wrote about this before and commented on it, explaining why this is inherently corrupt. Microsoft, as it turns out, is one among several such partners — something which Florian Müller, who had worked for Microsoft, publicly told us about.
Don’t let the EPO’s reputation be tarnished by managers who treat it like a monopolies ‘meat market’, where ‘meat’ is sold to the highest bidder.
Stay tuned as we have a lot more to come this week. We are going to assemble pieces of some other puzzles which help show just how rotten the EPO became under Battistelli’s merciless reign. Demonstrations (to be staged by staff of the EPO, as the European public is still largely uninformed) are only days away and we have more stuff to share than we can publish in just a couple of days. If any of our readers possesses additional material that they can share, please send it anonymously. In our 9-year history we never compromised a single source. █
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Class warfare codified in law
Summary: The Wikileaks “TPP Leak,” says Julia Reda, suggests that, based on the patentable subject matter section, signatories must add software patents
THE TPP Intellectual Property Chapter (a secret collusion between wealthy stakeholders) may be yet another reason for EPO staff to stage a protest later this week [1, 2, 3]. An EPO without oversight (it was intentionally destroyed) will no doubt be delighted over TPP passage, for it means potential profit at the expense of the public (and the EPO is no longer a public service anyway).
Helpfully enough, the widely-regarded (especially in the area of copyrights in Europe) Julia Reda looked at the TPP leaks and concluded: “TPP Leak: Patentable subject matter section reads as though signatories must Software Patents” (US policy exported en masse).
This doesn’t seem too shocking at all and now that the text is accessible by the public (because of leaks, not willful transparency) critics cannot be accused of “paranoia” or anything like that. The rabbit is out of the hat “and yet #NZ [New Zealand] is claiming that’s not the case,” Dr. Glyn Moody wrote, alluding to the latest developments pertaining to software patents in New Zealand.
In New Zealand and Europe there are already similar loopholes for granting of software patents. Software patents in Europe are not, however, formally legal. After Brimelow’s “as such” loophole one has to jump through hoops to acquire (i.e. be granted) software patent monopolies in the EU, no matter the country or the applicant. What Reda (shown to the right) found out ought to be a wakeup call.
This is not a new issue and it didn’t start with Benoît Battistelli. Elizabeth Hardon from SUEPO has worked in the patent office since 1988 and over at Nature, back in 2006 (almost a whole decade ago), she is mentioned as follows: “Quality will be sacrificed for quantity if the system is introduced, says Elizabeth Hardon, chair of the EPO staff union.”
“What Hardon had warned about clearly became a reality, namely the sacrifice of quality (science) for quantity (money).”Battistelli has clearly accelerated this trend and if TPP makes it possible for any company to easily patent software in Europe, then the floodgates will open and abusers will enter.
Quoting the Nature article again: “Now the EPO is planning to introduce a new system of assessing their work, which the examiners claim will force them to get through even more files, and push them beyond the point at which they can guarantee consistently good work.”
If this sounds familiar, it probably should. What Hardon had warned about clearly became a reality, namely the sacrifice of quality (science) for quantity (money).
The FFII’s President wrote the other day that “EUCodeWeek will ask people to write code, while they are pushing for software patents and the unitary patent” (UPC).
“OIN is basically just an aggregation of many software patents and a non-aggression pact, sending out the message that there is nothing inherently problematic with stockpiling of software patents.”The UPC, together with the TPP, is definitely loved by giant corporations. IBM lobbied for software patents in both Europe and New Zealand (we covered examples of both in past years) and nowadays it is hoping to popularise software patents even in the FOSS community, using OIN whose latest publicity stunt (a so-called birthday or anniversary) reached this site. To quote the puff piece: “When a group of major corporations within the same industry get together and agree not to target each other legally, it’s usually cause for alarm. The government–and consumers, if we’re being honest–starts to raise its collective eyebrows over fears of price fixing, monopoly, and more. But in the case of the Open Invention Network, or OIN, the goal of such a group is far more noble.”
OIN is not an assurance as such; watch how Oracle sued Google, for example, over Android (Linux-based) to make matters worse. OIN is basically just an aggregation of many software patents and a non-aggression pact, sending out the message that there is nothing inherently problematic with stockpiling of software patents. The corporate media almost never cites of quotes sceptics/critics of OIN, just as it hardly cites critics of TPP, the UPC and the EPO (although when it comes to the EPO the consensus is rapidly changing, especially in European press). █
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Summary: A probe by an external and independent entity is sought with the aim of looking into systematic harassment against EPO employees who simply ‘dare’ to point out gross violations by their managers; staff protests at EPO headquarters in the Netherlands and Germany are scheduled
Solicitors, who are expensive and usually non-technical, appear to have entered the zone now that Battistelli’s repressive leadership resorts to union-busting, SLAPP, censorship, and even illegal terminations of staff which is outside the sphere of control of the EPO. To think that people who do this are allowed to walk free (with private bodyguards) into publicly-funded offices in Europe is to basically accept that Europe is no better than China or Russia when it comes to human rights.
The EPO's internal investigation was a sham (the oversight is in bed with the subject of oversight), so outsiders need to objectively assess the situation and rationalise corrective action, however difficult this can be, at least politically.
Attacks (in the form of grilling/interrogations) against Elizabeth Hardon from SUEPO turned out to have had an enormous personal toll (not just financially but health too). It was gone for a very long time in an effort to silence/censor her using threats (not just termination but also legal action/s). We are now learning that Hardon is making a complaint of harassment against Benoît Battistelli et al, on behalf of or aided by her representatives. Here is what we have so far (no plain text yet, but it should be self-explanatory we hope):
SUEPO has meanwhile come out with a more formal plan for staff demonstrations next week, stating at some stage on Friday (at the public site of SUEPO) the following (along with a schedule):
During the coming meeting of the Administrative Council (13/14 October) staff of the European Patent Office will demonstrate in The Netherlands and Germany.
In The Netherlands EPO staff will demonstrate on Tuesday 13 October at 12.00h in front of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs in The Hague (Parnassusplein 5, next to the Central Station).
We request an urgent labour inspection of the EPO by the Dutch Arbeidsinpectie in conformity with the Article 20 of the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities (PPI) of the EPOrg.
In Germany EPO staff will demonstrate on Wednesday 14 October at 13.00h in front of the EPO Isar building in Munich (Bob-van-Benthem-Platz 1).
According to SUEPO, the EPO has been transformed into a totalitarian state where the rights of staff and of those who defend the rights of staff – or simply adhere to common sense – are being crushed to the benefit of a few, mainly French, who are making rocket careers.
The EPO is a civil service organisation and not a self-service organisation.
We wish to remind the Council delegates and the governments of the Member States that they are responsible for the European Patent Organisation, its mission and its staff.
“Merpel is curious to know why the @EPOorg President is apparently so anxious to send the Boards of Appeal into exile,” IP Kat wrote, whereas the President of the FFII said: “Let’s crowdfund legal support of poor Examiners against the rich EPO” (linking to Techrights).
Maybe it’s worth considering a fund-raiser for Hardon’s defence. A war on her rights should be treated as a war on the rights of all European citizens. It is a race to the bottom at the EPO these days, and it’s already at gutter level. █
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Summary: India’s famous skills, which revolve around software services and software development, are under attack by new laws which strive to grant foreign corporations de facto monopolies on software, even inside India
GROUPS in India continue to fight back against what’s correctly perceived as distortion of law and betrayal of Indians. It’s regarding India’s patent policy, which has come under attack from foreign multinationals for as long as Techrights existed. India moves closer to officially endorsing software patents, despite the US cracking down on many of them (Alice/§101 [1, 2]), and the media-shaping IBM is happy about it. Microsoft patents software in India even when it's not legal.
The Indian media did not always give space (and a voice) to large foreign corporations. See for example this article titled “How the Patent Office is Intent on Killing Innovation in India?”
“Newsclick interviews Venkatesh Hariharan,” says the author, “Outreach lead for the Open Invention Network and a member of the Ispirits expert group on software patents, to discuss the issue of software patenting, the effects this can have on society, as well as the specific guidelines issues by the IPO.”
Well, the Open Invention Network (OIN) is not against software patents, so it’s baffling that they chose to speak to OIN, a de facto front group of IBM et al..
“Software Patents Refuse to Die” was a better article from the same publication (Newsclick). It said that “Software patents are like the “living dead” in the zombie film genre that Hollywood has made popular. They just refuse to die. As many time you kill them, they revive again and keep coming back. In India, we thought we had killed and buried software patents with the Amended Patent Act in 2005, and again in the Patents Manual, 2011, both of which effectively deny software patents. The recent Guidelines on Computer Related Invention (CRI) issued by the Indian Patents Office last month, has brought them back again, with an interpretation that not only violates the Act, but also the English language.”
Perhaps the best response that we found in recent weeks is this joint letter to the PMO. Here are some quotes from this letter:
This concerns the “Guidelines for Examination of Computer Related Inventions (CRIs)” issued on August 21, 2015 by the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks. We, the undersigned, wish to share with you some of our concerns over this document, particularly in context of its potential repercussions on Indian industry and innovation. The Guidelines in their current form, by providing for patenting of software, could place the Indian software industry, especially software product companies and startups, at the mercy of Multinational Corporations and patent holding entities who have amassed many patents in the area and continue to do so. The Guidelines by allowing for software patents will make writing code and innovating in the area of software a dangerous proposition due to the chance of infringing on the patents held by big corporations.
The stated intent of the document is to provide guidelines for the examination of patent applications relating to CRIs by the Patent Office so as to further foster uniformity and consistency in their examination. However, we submit that the Guidelines in their current form run counter to the object of Section 3(k) of the Patents Act, 1970, which is to unconditionally exclude mathematical and business methods, computer programs per se, and algorithms from patentable subject matter.
Well, more actions may be needed in order to stop the plutocrats because their lobbyists have a lot of influence in India, which has notoriety for political corruption. The conglomerates in India (not even Indian) are conspiring against software developers, including Indians, trying to essentially destroy any chances of software independence in the country where programmers are renowned for their skills and sheer number. To keep Indian software companies marginalised (unable to effectively compete with Western software corporations) one needs to threaten and occasionally sue, e.g. with software patents.
Sadhana Chathurvedula wrote an article in a few places — an article that proponents of software patents (like IBM) like to cite. “Revised guidelines say software that demonstrates a technical application or improves hardware may also be patented, widening the scope of patents,” the article says.
It seems likely that unless some very major backlash disrupts the political system, foreign corporations will cement their occupation of India (in the software sense), bolstered by monopolies on algorithms. Activism is sorely needed now. █
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