Bonum Certa Men Certa

António Campinos Makes Excuses for Granting European Patents on Software in Spite of the EPC

Empty rhetoric again from the 'low-profile' President in his third blog post (in more than 100 days)

EPO frame and shredder
Source



Summary: Continuing the horrid tradition of Battistelli, António Campinos sends patent quality -- the one aspect which the EPO was once renowned for -- down the drain (or down the shredder, for lack of a better and more timely metaphor)

THE quality of patents granted by the EPO used to be very high; examiners were given a lot of time to study applications and strictly assess every aspect; more than one examiner would deal with a given application, so there was opportunity for verification or peer review. Gone are those days because it's all about "production" now, where "production" is directly harmed by the concept of quality control. What the Office nowadays calls "quality" is speed; by that definition, top quality would be INPI, i.e. immediate grant with no real scrutiny whatsoever.

"What the Office nowadays calls "quality" is speed; by that definition, top quality would be INPI, i.e. immediate grant with no real scrutiny whatsoever."After being criticised for further lowering patent quality at the EPO António Campinos writes this fluff in Battistelli's old blog (warning: epo.org link) -- a blog which he hardly even touched. He again added an image of himself, the hallmark of Battistelli. As if it's all about the person. I've almost never uploaded images of myself to articles in Techrights. Anyway, almost immediately the EPO promoted this blog post (as it had done for Battistelli, unlike for the site's news section). And while António Campinos drones on about patent quality the EPO continues promoting software patents in defiance of the EPC. It does this on a daily basis and this latest example once again calls abstract patents "AI". "Our Patenting #ArtificialIntelligence conference offered a discussion platform in view of the rapid evolution and spread of AI in the IP world," it said yesterday.

In his blog post Campinos said that "later in December we are planning a conference on Blockchain to evaluate questions surrounding the patentability of this fast-evolving technology."

Surely he knows these are software patents and hence fake patents. Software patents like these are null and void even in the US; they're merely symbolic to actual courts. Here's a new example from the news:

Chinese multinational conglomerate Alibaba has applied to patent a blockchain system with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The system, as explained in the patent application filed Thursday, would allow an intervention in a smart contract — computer protocol intended to digitally facilitate or enforce negotiation of a contract — in case of illegal activity.

Blockchain has unique features — openness, unchangeability, and decentralization — but it does not integrate certain practical processes that are usually associated with real-life transactions. For instance, the patent application explains there is real life "administrative intervention" activity, like “when a user performs illegal activities, a court order may be executed to freeze the user's account.” This kind of an intervention with smart contacts cannot be carried out in the existing blockchain systems.


This is pure software. It should be rejected.

Sadly, however, the EPO no longer even pretends that it objects to software patents. As noted in Mondaq yesterday (article by Caroline Day, Joseph Lenthall, Matthew Howell and Natasha Fairbairn from Haseltine Lake LLP), the EPO just goes ahead with "Computer Implemented Inventions" (i.e. software patents in Europe through the EPO, albeit by another name). To quote "New Guidelines For Examination At The EPO":

The Guidelines for Examination at the EPO have been significantly revised with the updated version due to come into force on 1st November 2018. The revisions relate to Computer Implemented Inventions, Inventive Step assessment in Opposition, Unity and more.


Haseltine Lake LLP wrote about the soaring number of oppositions at the EPO only months ago. SUEPO amplified them at the time.

It seems to have become a battleground wherein many fake patents are being challenged by outsiders nowadays. They don't like what's happening, so oppositions are being filed. Mondaq also published the following yesterday, under the headline "New EPO Guidelines Clamp Down On Scatter Gun Inventive Step Attacks In Opposition Proceedings"; Joseph Lenthall from Haseltine Lake LLP wrote about the EPO trying to curb oppositions to fake patents (just what Battistelli wanted) using the new guidelines (Campinos):

The EPO's problem-solution approach for assessing inventive step of a patent includes determining the "closest prior art" as the first of a three stage approach. The obviousness of the claimed invention is then determined starting from this document. The closest prior art, therefore, plays a pivotal role in the assessment of inventive step at the EPO.

The current revision to the relevant section of the EPO Guidelines aims to curb Opponents arguing that several documents can be considered the closest prior art and making several inventive step attacks, each starting from a different document. Understandably, Opposition Divisions tend to see such a scatter gun approach as procedurally inefficient, as well as creating more work to review and make a decision on these attacks.

The Guidelines therefore now state that application of the problem-solution approach starting from more than one prior art document as the closest prior art is only required where it has been convincingly shown that these documents are equally valid starting points.

In principle, this is a noble attempt to focus opposition proceedings and the avoid many of the weak attacks from Opponents. However, it is not clear that this addition will provide much procedural efficiency. In particular, the Guidelines imply that the Opposition Division need not consider inventive step attacks from close (but not the closest) prior art documents. We can therefore anticipate that arguments over the selection of the closest prior art may be more detailed both in written and oral proceedings.


If the EPO continues to drift in this same trajectory, it will go down the bin of history. A patent office that disregards the quality of patents will grant fake patents that courts will reject, harming legal certainty.

As noted by Campinos yesterday, they are "planning a conference on Blockchain" by which to legitimise software patents that are disguised using such glorified terms. A few days ago EPO officials had met and then bragged with WIPO (huge proponents of any kind of patents and also serial violators of human rights); the EPO pushed it again in Twitter (late yesterday), having added a group photo with Lutz in it. "EPO fosters international co-operation during WIPO Assemblies," it said and Banana IP's "IP News Center" (pushed as press release/blog into Google News) added: "The main focus areas of the co-operation plan will include areas of patent law and patent examination guidelines, examination quality, data exchange, classification, search tools and machine translation along with a joint study on Computer-implemented inventions."

Yes, a "joint study on Computer-implemented inventions." (software patents)

This is the pattern. They try to completely legitimise patents on algorithms. The EPC is dead.

The EPO under Campinos may not be seeing as many protests (not as many as before), but when it comes to patent quality it's more of a cesspool than ever before.

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