Bonum Certa Men Certa

The European Patent Office (EPO) Doesn't Like Spanish, So Why Should the Spanish Tolerate the EPO?

Contra EPO

Contra EPO



Summary: Old complaints about the EPO's discrimination against Spanish speakers, as demonstrated by actually speaking to EPO staff

Spanish is -- by some criteria and depending on the definitions one chooses -- the world's most used language (e.g. based on number of countries where it is a first/spoken language). Techrights made Spanish its second language and there are many articles here which were published in Spanish.



"The Spanish language hardly even exists at the EPO. It is definitely not treated as it should and one needn't look far back to see how the EPO, which is based in Munich, (mis)treats Spanish staff."The EPO discriminates against many European languages, but only the Italians and the Spanish had the courage to stress this point and fight over such an important matter (perpetuating power through lingual domination, as the British have done for centuries). The EPO's Twitter account ("European Patent Office" only ever writes in English) promoted automated translations the other day, but these are subpar. Here is the tool they recommend (warning: epo.org link). "Patent Translate," they said in Twitter a few days ago, "comes with a correction editor, which allows you to propose even better translations" (well, that's crowdsourcing, turning Spaniards, for instance, into volunteers for corporations' private gain).

The Spanish language hardly even exists at the EPO. It is definitely not treated as it should and one needn't look far back to see how the EPO, which is based in Munich, (mis)treats Spanish staff. One of them had a nervous breakdown a couple of months ago, after he had been bullied by the 'whiter' staff of the EPO, the I.U. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

"They can at least demand that the EPO doesn't treat Spanish as a non-language."We recently became aware of other forms of discrimination against Spaniards at the EPO. "I was reading this article," one person told us about an article we've translated into Spanish a few days ago. "I tried to request Spanish as an opposition language when we were opposing the Amazon Gift patent," this person told us. "We got a nice phone call and email from the EPO saying we have to pay for a translator, while other people with German or French would not have to pay for simultaneous translations during oral proceedings."

That's rather revealing, is it not?

We decided to look further and deeper into it because this is a shared complaint (shared among EU member states); only the Spanish, however, have a strong enough voice (large population) and a good argument for the inclusion of their language because it's incredibly popular (second only to Chinese, Arabic, and English depending on the definition of popularity). It was brought up when debating the UPC's viability at one time. The EPO's management wants the UPC to pass (it even lobbies for it out in the open), but the Spanish people, if properly organised, can definitely do a lot to derail it. They can at least demand that the EPO doesn't treat Spanish as a non-language. Some groups already complained about this, but nothing really came out of such efforts.

"We sent this request in Spanish," wrote to us the above person (the name can be found deeper in the links if one is desperate to know it), and the English translation is his. He ended up "trying to download the thousand pages in the EPO register to locate the right PDF" in this mess. The original letter is as follows (from the FFII):

Bruselas, 07 de mayo 2012

Sujeto: EP927945: el lenguaje de la vista oral de 12 de junio 2012

Estimados Miembros de la Oficina Europea de Patentes,

FFII eV ha recibido su carta del 16 de abril 2012 en relación con la elección de las lenguas de los procedimientos orales con respecto a nuestra oposición a la patente de regalo de Amazon EP927945.

Tenemos la intención de usar el español tanto para los procedimentos por vía oral (habla) como para la interpretación simultánea (escucha).

Saludos cordiales,


And in English:

Brussels, the 7 may 2012

Concerns: Amazon gift patent EP927945: language of the oral proceedings of 12 June 2012

Dear Members of the European Patent Office,

FFII eV has well received your letter of 16th of April 2012 regarding the choice of languages of the oral proceedings regarding our opposition to the Amazon gift patent EP927945.

We intend to use Spanish for the both the language of the oral proceedings (speaking) and the simultaneous interpretation (listening).

Best regards,


"The link to the EPO register is here," he said. "Unfortunately, their website is so crappy that you cannot download the PDF with wget. Here is our answer to their refusal. Trying to find the original in plain text..."

"What is going on, how did it become so bad, and why aren't Spaniards more vocal about this?"Their official answer is here.

"Trying to recover the email from [a person] who is Spanish," he wrote, "when he received the phone call from the EPO yields the following old letter..."

The following is quite self-explanatory:

Dear board,

this email is private, don't forward it, etc.

A German speaking woman from the EPO has just called the office. She was speaking like a script. Question from me, standard answer from her. Well trained. I summarized.

Mr. [redacted] has sent a fax in Spanish :-), but Spanish is not one of the 3 languages accepted by the EPO. I of course said that this is not good for the Spanish speaking people in the EU, bla bla. The standard answer: the 3 official languages of the EPO are bla bla, additionally the EPO offers at no cost a list of translators bla bla that we can hire. I asked for this in written form, she said she cannot reply to a fax in Spanish, we should send the fax in one of the 3 official languages and then she will reply. She asks for this to happen quickly, as she cannot achieve a fax in Spanish in the EPO system.



In conclusion, Spanish is strangely enough being snubbed by the EPO, whereas French (which fewer nations and people can speak) is an "official" language. The same goes for German, which not many people speak at all (except in Germany's area). Are member states treated favourably based on their financial might as opposed to the target audience internationally and locally (Portuguese is more popular than both French and German, maybe even combined, going by some criteria)? What is going on, how did it become so bad, and why aren't Spaniards more vocal about this?

"The European Patent Office is a Corrupt, Malicious Organisation Which Should Not Exist"

--Richard Stallman

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