12.13.16

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The European Patent Office Suffers Quality Crisis, Finally (Belatedly) Agrees to Publicly Comment on It

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Succulent

Summary: The patent quality of EPs — patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) — is declining and so will certainty surrounding EPs and value associated with them

OUR interest in the EPO goes back over a decade ago, back when software patents in Europe were debated and ruled out by Parliament (not that the EPO cared much about what Parliament had decided). With loopholes “as such”, the EPO granted a lot of software patents. EPO insiders even admit this to us.

Now that more and more EPs (European patents) are found to be invalid there is risk that applicants will no longer find the EPO all that attractive. Battistelli’s accelerated race to the bottom (of patent quality) yielded results like yesterday’s press release that speaks of EPs getting repeatedly revoked:

Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:AKBA), a biopharmaceutical company focused on delivering innovative therapies to patients with kidney disease through the biology of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF), today announced that the Opposition Division (OD) of the European Patent Office (EPO) has revoked another of FibroGen, Inc.’s HIF-related patents. The patent, EP 1 633 333 (the ’333 patent), claimed various compounds that were purported to stabilize HIFα for treating or preventing various conditions, including iron deficiency and specific forms of anemia. This ruling follows Akebia’s challenge to FibroGen’s earlier European patent, EP 1 463 823, which was revoked in its entirety by the OD earlier this year.

What is the EPO going to do about this obvious failure to guarantee patent quality? Tomorrow the Administrative Council is supposed to bring up this subject, as per intent expressed previously.

Belatedly (years late), and perhaps opportunistically after a lot of pressure (and ahead of the Administrative Council’s meeting), the EPO finally claims to obey some laws (for a change) by stating that it will no longer treat the EU Biopatent Directive (98/44/EC) like something to be spat at or ignored. There was a whole “news” item (actually hogwash) about it at epo.org yesterday and it said:

The European Patent Office has decided to stay all proceedings in examination and opposition cases in which the invention is a plant or animal obtained by an essentially biological process.

The decision was taken following the discussion by EPO member states in the Patent Law Committee of the Administrative Council on the recent Notice of the European Commission related to certain articles in the EU Biopatent Directive (98/44/EC).

When will the EPO obey the directive about software patents and stop granting patents on software? When will the Office admit that it messed up and granted many patents in error and/or against the rules? Who will take responsibility/accountability?

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