10.25.16

No Promising Future For the EPO Under Battistelli (If Any Future At All)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Pessimism becomes realism at the European Patent Office as units are being torn apart, patent quality discarded, “unified” patent courts dreamed of (more patent lawsuits, higher damages), and EUIPO (EU-associated, unlike Eponia) gets closer to the EPO

THOSE WHO have followed this Web site for the past decade know we’re no enemy of the EPO. We actually used to take pride in it, especially after software patents were rejected (2005), assuring the high quality of patents (emphasis on quality, not quantity). We also sent letters and constructive feedback to the Organisation. This is all in the public record.

“Battistelli has already decided — with the usual complicity of the Administrative Council — to eject/kick out the appeal boards out of the EPO’s main building.”We fear that the EPO’s days may be numbered. Maybe it’s intentional, as we shall explain in this post in light of this morning’s announcement from the EPO (as expected).

We will share some of our observations and leave it for readers to decide what on Earth goes on at the EPO. Frankly, it does not look too good and we (even I personally) worry about the fate of the bright minds of EPO examiners (who are scientists like myself), not politicians/managers like Battistelli.

“Remember that EPO judges are already under attack (in a perpetual limbo with a warning sign that’s judge P. C.) and early next year they will have moved out, even though the UPC (the unified court — a threat to their very existence) is definitely not happening (with or without “hard” Brexit).”Battistelli has already decided — with the usual complicity of the Administrative Council — to eject/kick out the appeal boards out of the EPO’s main building. The temporary/rented office space that was allocated to them is meager and there are no long-term assurances, based on articles from the German media (there were very few of those as the EPO’s spokesperson used sordidly evasive language). Remember that EPO judges are already under attack (in a perpetual limbo with a warning sign that’s judge P. C.) and early next year they will have moved out, even though the UPC (the unified court — a threat to their very existence) is definitely not happening (with or without “hard” Brexit).

What does Battistelli envision here? Certainly nothing like the vision of those who actually signed the EPC. Now there’s the EU in place (with the EC) and along with that comes EUIPO (a new name or a rebrand for something older). Here they go again, as expected, strutting together hand in hand this morning, boasting a so-called ‘study’ (link above, but it’s epo.org and it’s propaganda, so don’t bother clicking).

For a moment there, based on tweets like this one, the EPO ‘forgot’ that it’s not really supposed to be part of the EUIPO (trademarks and patents are inherently very different and entirely separable, even if one attempts to lump them together under the propaganda/umbrella term “Intellectual Property”, as in the EPO’s new headline). Here is what the EPO wrote: “Joint @EPOorg @EU_IPO study confirms the economic benefits of IP rights for Europe http://buzz.mw/b199m_f #IPvalue pic.twitter.com/REJQsJ5NKF”

Here is what EUIPO wrote: “How are #IPR-intensive industries contributing to the #EU economy? Find out in a soon-to-be-released study by #EUIPO and @EPOorg”

“How do existing grantees of EPs feel about the status quo?”For a moment there, again, one can easily be led to believe that those two bodies are conjoined, not just in the staff/management sense (there are overlaps which we covered here before). One might crudely ask, when does Battistelli flush the EPO down the toilet and let the EU-centric EUIPO take over? When all impending applications are over? Layoffs imminent? For a while now we have been hearing about end of proper examination and expectation of large-scale examiner layoffs. Insiders tell us it won't be long before EPO workload/backlog/queue runs dry. What happens then? Two key data points cannot be overlooked here; one is the EPO loosening/ending examination and the other is the massive EPO layoffs that are expected unless there’s a dramatic change of course. Yesterday I spoke in length with Mancunian research head (a large local university). We spoke about the EPO and he now compares erosion in patent (EP) quality to rigging of the degree-granting process (undergraduate or postgraduate). How do existing grantees of EPs feel about the status quo? Or about files flying off the shelves and patents getting granted in bulk irrespective of their quality (or only with shallow/superficial checks due to unrealistic deadlines/quotas)? They should be up in arms and demand some kind of refund or compensation from the EPO. They’re not even being consulted about this, even though they’re the primary stakeholders. Battistelli lowered the perceived value of EPs. He ought to know it. So-called intellectual “assets” of corporations took a massive hit because of him. “Production” he says? Tell that to someone with an actual science degree, not an honorary Ph.D. from a university connected to his buddy from Spain.

“Think of software patents, among other families of patents.”A lot of EPO workers rightly feel as though big plans are afoot (other than the UPC, which is a disaster) and nobody has informed them about long-term ‘reforms’. Right now they just see their staff representatives and even judges coming under unprecedented (in the entire history of the Office!) attacks.

“Correct me if I am wrong,” one person wrote yesterday, “but wasn’t the concept of “cheaper patents” (of lower quality) [...] via the UPC?”

Think of software patents, among other families of patents. Here is the entire comment with more complete context:

Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t the concept of “cheaper patents” (of lower quality) part of an integral package including the vital component of “cheaper litigation” (for the big players) via the UPC?

Now that the second part of the formula has apparently been “put on ice” for the foreseeable future it seems that we are going to be left with “cheaper patents” (of lower quality).

But “cheaper” for whom exactly ?

Roll up! Roll up! Get your cheap patents ‘ere!
One for everybody in the audience !

At the EPO, as another person put it, “to discuss or disclose a procedure is in itself a crime.” Here is the full comment:

Don’t know if he was/is a union member (DG3 tend not to be), but he was said to have had contact with a staff rep who has since been fired. Whether he did or didn’t and whether that was improper or not I don’t know – all such allegations are not allowed to be revealed by the parties hence any discussion between them could also have been a disciplinary matter in its own right. Such is the system in place – to discuss or disclose a procedure is in itself a crime.

Regarding the illegally-suspended judge, this one commenter says it should be “enough for him to be re-instated, probably with compensation, however in Eponia… ”

It is not actually known what he did as the merits on the case have never been heard. It has been thrown out by the EBoA on at least two occasions due to incompetence and interference by the senior management of the EPO. In any other legal system in the EU this would have been enough for him to be re-instated, probably with compensation, however in Eponia…

“The overpowering stench emanating from the manner in which the Office is being managed and overseen” is noted in the following comment:

When do we expect the decision of the Bundesverfassungsgericht in 2 BvR 2480/10 and 2 BvR 421/13?

Also, could the evident failure of the Office to carry out instructions of the Enlarged Board of Appeal undermine any argument that the Boards are independent of the Office?

The overpowering stench emanating from the manner in which the Office is being managed and overseen could well yet reach the noses of the judges in Karlsruhe.

Another person ponders aloud: “So union representatives were fired for reasons they cannot explain to the staff they represent?”

The full comment:

So union representatives were fired for reasons they cannot explain to the staff they represent? What precludes them to do so, if they are out anyway?

History tells us that the only reason union representatives are attacked by management is that management plans to degrade the staff working conditions considerably: reduce salaries, increase working hours or simply fire everyone and get cheaper staff. Probably present staff members should start looking for another job.

It is not necessarily a bad thing for the customers, by the way. Patents will be cheaper if the staff is replaced by cheaper employees.

Some people then brought up the subject of money, as the EPO reportedly has losses (it’s hard to verify this due to the secrecy the Office enjoys). To quote:

What precludes them?
A. Any appeal against dismissal would be before the ILO. It is an administrative tribunal I.e. It only checks that the rules were followed. To do something against the rules, no matter how lacking in justice they are, would be a negative point and endanger the appeal.
B. To do so would endanger the member of the Board of Appeal as it would provide ‘evidence’ to be used against him/her.
C. The EPO pays the sacked person’s pension. That can be reduced by the office so they are still under EPO control.
D. The office is also seeking to veto employment after leaving the office employment. Annoying them is a risky idea.

Does that answer your question?

PS Cheaper staff = cheaper patents? Really? Why? Do you think the saving will be passed on? Remember BB has studies that show the office has financial problems. Saving costs may save money but will that not be needed for his problems? I will leave the issue of whether cheaper staff means lower quality means more litigation means more cost – that needs another and deeper analysis.

Judging by his behaviour (e.g. cutting benefits, reducing illness days, short-term contracts to new staff), Battistelli has been acting more like an EPO liquidator (especially of the unions and appeal boards) than a manager. He threw the EPC down the trash and now he throws the EPO down the trash. If EPO workers genuinely want to save the EPO and secure their jobs, then they’ll need to overthrow Team Battistelli before it lays them off (which will probably happen given the present trajectory which extinguishes a backlog never to be replenished).

Here is a fiscal optimist (whose claims we’re unable to verify):

“We” are making more than 1.000.000 EUR per working day. We are self-financing, not more, not less.
Yet, we are making money on a scale that everyone could go on maximum pensions right now, and for the next ten years there will be absolutely no need for reforms.
And the last reforms (career) already means a saving of several hundred millions per year in 2035….

Nope, you will not see a single cent of any saved money. You can withdraw and get a full refund on exam fees.
That is as far as the AC will go, as that is not their money…

“We are self-financing, not more, not less,” says the above. Even if that was true, for how long? Applications are running out! The backlog will will have reached zero in a couple of year. The writings on the wall are pretty clear to some insiders, who believe EPO layoffs are coming. There is even the belief that examiners will be replaced by machines. Whatever goes on at the EPO these days is rather horrific; many things are happening (all of them bad), the future is growingly grim, and anyone who dares speak about it gets fired (or first “disciplined”, so as to induce depression if not bankruptcy too).

Will someone ever reprimand battistelli or even fire him? He should have been sacked quite a while back, but nobody seems bold enough to do it, certainly not his pet chinchilla. To close this off with a comment:

What did the guy do to justify all this nonsense?

Lèse-majesté ?

See more on Wikipedia:
Lèse-majesté

This link to Wikipedia yields the following image. Picture Battistelli’s face on the wall and it will be a perfect metaphor for the way EPO workers feel about Battistelli and how they get treated for their views about the ‘king’.

Newton Bull farts

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