10.17.17

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SUEPO Representatives Like Elizabeth Hardon Vindicated as Battistelli’s Detrimental Effect on Patent Quality is Widely Confirmed

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

And some EPO insiders already want Christoph Ernst (below) to resign or be fired

Christoph Ernst, EPOSummary: Feedback regarding the awful refusal to acknowledge patent quality crisis at the EPO as well as the appointment of a President so close to Battistelli (who most likely assures continuation of his policies)

THE EPO saga is a show that never ends. It just keeps getting worse in all sorts of ways, much as predicted by insiders several years ago (they were trying to prevent this horror show while it was still remotely possible).

“Reckoning With The “System Battistelli”” — an article which we mentioned 24 hours ago — is now available as a PDF at SUEPO’s Web site (it’s otherwise behind a paywall at IP Watch). Having read that article, it seems to be very similar but not identical to Monika Ermert’s report at Heise (in German, translated and published by us on Monday night). The importance of this couple of reports from Ermert is that they shed some light on the otherwise-secretive proceedings. It doesn’t look particularly good for Christoph Ernst. EPO staff doesn’t seem too happy about him, either.

“After all, it’s not really difficult to find out what’s wrong rotten in and about EPO, is it? Reports, whistleblowing, all easy there to see,” one observer or insider wrote. “Maybe he’s paid to not grasp,” s/he continued. “It’s often the case.”

People like him tend to be promoted based on whether they turn a blind eye to it all. It’s the same in politics. Ethics/morals aren’t appreciated, only an illusion thereof. Apathy and loyalty/obedience is something people tend to be rewarded for (in this domain anyway).

Someone whom we know for sure is an insider told us: “Immediate resignation of Ernst would be more than appropriate. With all respect but Ernst is an insult to EPO staff. Remember, supporting Battistelli for 5 years…multiple suicides and firing/downgrading of union workers….the list seems almost endless…”

Strong words.

Earlier today Kieren McCarthy published yet another article about EPO affairs (third article in less than a week). It’s similar to what Ermert reported, including the bits about Elizabeth Hardon.

Well, Germany has become infested with patent trolls (we wrote some articles about this, the statistics speak for themselves) and crappy European Patents that should not exist are at the centre of it. Many of these are found to be invalid only after two parties spend a lot of money on lawyers (legal fees). We covered some examples of that recently (in English, not in German).

Anyway, from McCarthy’s article:

The issue of falling patent quality at the European Patent Office (EPO) has again reared its head, this time thanks to German intellectual property lawyers.

Following a testy exchange last week at an official meeting of the EPO’s Administrative Council where staff aired their grievances and were attacked by EPO president Benoit Battistelli in response, companies are now raising their concerns.

According to German newspaper Heise, a meeting at the Max Planck Institute in Munich grew heated when a group of patent lawyers used a presentation by new EPO chairman Christoph Ernst to make their views known about the “System Battistelli”.

For several years Battistelli has been aggressively pushing changes at the EPO aimed at increasing the number of patents that are reviewed and approved. The result of that drive has been a complete breakdown in communications between EPO staff and management – but that is something many consider a price worth paying in order to “modernise” the EPO and keep it in line with other competing patent authorities in the US and Japan.

The problem, as the patent attorneys told Ernst, is that despite official EPO claims stating the opposite, quality is starting to fall as a result of the changes.

[...]

That point was also made last week by a Reg commenter who complained that even though his patent application had been noted as valid by the EPO, “the brief comments given provide just one reference to another document – and that one has very little to do with the subject of my invention. Seems that a poor soul under heavy pressure to close as many open cases as quickly as possible just did that.”

A further warning was relayed by another German IP lawyer who was present at the meeting. Thorsten Bausch warned in a blog post that there is also a “catastrophic backlog of EPO appeal cases” and argued – in all caps – that “URGENT ACTION IS REQUIRED HERE! This matter should not be allowed to wait until the next EPO President takes over.”

[...]

However, Elizabeth Hardon, an EPO staffer who was controversially fired by Battistelli for resisting his reforms, was also present at the meeting and said that it is going to take a few years for a decline in quality to be officially recognised as poor patents are challenged in nullity actions.

There are a few comments there too. The first few comments are OK.

“So less appeals is an obvious result of more patents granted,” said the second comment to appear. To quote:

What rubbish!!! If EPO rejects a patent, the filer will presumably appeal. If the patent is accepted, of course there will be no appeal. So less appeals is an obvious result of more patents granted. More patents granted means either an upsurge in quality of patent filings, or a lowering of standards for accepting filings of the same quality. My money is on the second.

We have been talking about this for years. It’s not at all surprising. It was inevitable.

There are many more comments at IP Kat. Why did that blog even mention the EPO after all this time? Well, check out this comment. The comment may be why IP Kat (nowadays a primarily mouthpiece for Battistelli and UPC, as it’s connected to CIPA) belatedly mentioned Campinos, and only in a short puff piece (the comment was approved only 5 days after it had been posted). To quote: “I wonder if I am missing something here. A new EPO President has been elected and IPKat is completely silent about this development … how strange …”

It took a long time (almost a week) for this comment to appear (it appeared earlier tonight).

As usual, comments are much better than the posts at IP Kat, which is mostly used for (self) promotional purposes since the founder left.

Let’s examine some of the latest comments on the puff piece:

“Merpel welcomes Mr. Campinos to the exciting world of European Patents.”

Shouldn’t that read “to the murky world of the European Patent Office”?

Yes, it should. They refrain from even mentioning the EPO.

And what’s “exciting” about European Patents? The rapidly-declining quality?

Watch the next comment:

The Importance of Being Ernst is a farcical comedy with a Wilde plot about patent quality. This Oscar candidate will be showing at your local cinema soon(open Bank Holidays).

Not a big fan of Ernst then…

Regarding Campinos:

Another French grand commis d’ètat in disguise…

Yes, he’s French but disguised as Portuguese to give an illusion of ethnic/national diversity at the Office. He and Battistelli go quite a few years back. They know each other well.

The next comment refes to Ernst as “Senor Ernst.”

Here it is:

To that last Anonymous, I too see an increase in something you might call “Quality”. Every one of my cases glides through to issue. My clients pay the EPO fees and, in return, the EPO grants them a patent, as fast as the Applicant requires. No wonder some Applicants are happy.

So there are more crap patents, and more oppositions. And the oppositions get examined more quickly, don’t they? Trouble is, OD Decisions are less and less rigorous. Crappy, one might suggest?

Which throws the burden of maintaining “quality” on to DG3. Precisely where the AC hasn’t got a clue, and doesn’t give a toss.

The consequences of this disgraceful sacrifice of “quality” will manifest themselves long after your career and mine have ended, anon. not to mention the EPO career of Senor Ernst.

The next comment quite correctly recalls that “[t]he Portuguese AC member hasn’t exactly been particularly vocal in condemning BBs behaviour, and Campinos is clearly a member of the French school…”

We wrote about the Portuguese AC member before. Again, plenty of connections there, linking back also to Battistelli.

I agree with Max3. I see poor examination quality (sometimes to the detriment of my clients, sometimes to their benefit), disrespect for procedures and for applicants legal rights.

I also see increased productivity,and in itself that is a good thing, but not with inferior quality

The Portuguese AC member hasn’t exactly been particularly vocal in condemning BBs behaviour, and Campinos is clearly a member of the French school, so I am sceptical, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

Things get even heavier in the next comment, which says that “even under the new chairman, the AC is much more of a lapdog than a watchdog.”

To quote:

Better late than never. I was beginning to think that IPKat had given up entirely on matters pertaining to the EPC and the EPO.

On a more serious note, I am prepared to put my scepticism aside and see how Mr Campinos performs before reaching any conclusions on whether it is a good or a bad thing that he has been appointed as the next President of the EPO. In the meantime, I will be much more interested to see how another “newbie” performs: Mr Ernst, the Chairman of the AC. My hope is that the AC will grow a backbone and start taking its role as a supervisory authority more seriously.

In this regard, does anyone know the fate of CA/103/17 (https://regmedia.co.uk/2017/10/10/epo-reforms.pdf)? If the AC failed to block the heinous proposals in that document, then we will be able to say with certainty that, even under the new chairman, the AC is much more of a lapdog than a watchdog.

We imagine that many people who wrote these comments are either insiders or stakeholders (or people who used to be one and are currently the other).

In reply to the above:

you might be interested in the “Ernst” thread on the Kluwer blog, here:

http://patentblog.kluweriplaw.com/2017/10/16/epo-all-problems-solved/

As to those who sit on the AC, and whether they are worms or vertebrates, it is well-known to be folly to commit all your troops to a battle you cannot win. This is why, until now, so many AC members have declined to challenge BB to his face. But now BB is half way out the door, those AC Members, scarred during the tenancy of the departing President, have a second chance to do the right thing, to draw a better ethical line in the sand, and collectively grasp afresh the responsibilities that come with their office. Can we be optimistic that they will seize the chance, under their very experienced new Chair? I do hope so.

And also in reply to the same:

Isn’t that document on the agenda of the next AC, despite its date – it was too late for the October meeting? It still has to go to the Budget & Finance Committee.

If someone has all these documents, please consider sending these to us. This stuff needs to be made public (not partially but wholly).

There is some troll in the comments, basically trolling EPO examiners, like at The Register‘s comments, only to receive this reply (we would rather not draw attention to it all). “Please do your housework and check FACTS before trolling,” it concluded. But replying to these merely emboldens the trolls and tends to invite yet more insults.

The latest three comments say a lot about declining patent quality and intentional denial of the facts. In case IP Kat deletes these comments (it recently deleted some UPC comments, and not for the first time) we have reproduced these below:

There is in Germany a misconceived idea that, given enough time, an Examining Division can issue a valid patent. Wrong! Inter partes proceedings are the only thing that can truly test validity. So there has to be a balance, how much time and effort to put into examination, ex parte, prior to issue. Too little, and crap patents routinely issue. Too much and EPO fees for everybody rise too high.

The EPO President must know this. The EPO AC must know this. Shame on them both, then, that they give no attention to getting the balance right. Shame on them, that they discard the jewel of the 40 years life of the EPO, namely, the vigour and “Quality” of DG3; the clarity of the Established Caselaw of the Boards of Appeal of the EPO.

There are so many hidden gems in CA/103/17 that one does not know where to start.

My preferred is however Article 14. A true masterpiece missed by many observers.
While the newcomers are to be recruited on a fixed-term basis for a couple of years (extendable, of course, to introduce flexibility and modernise the framework) the present “compulsory retirement at 68 years” sentence is now suddenly gone, so that the old lucky ones who are in the grace of Le President may enjoy the EPO as long as they like after the age of 65 (always, of course, “in the interest of the service”).

Proof, we’ll know pretty soon what kind of dog the AC is.

It’s already looking more like a lapdog than a watchdog.

The longest and most detailed comment speaks quite correctly about Ernst’s not-to-earnest record. “During the past 5 years, Dr Ernst supported ALL policies presented by Mr Battistelli,” it says. To quote the whole thing:

1 – the EPO quality figures are produced and checked by the EPO (this in all objectivy of course).

2 – Dr Ernst (new Chairman of EPO Administrative Council since this month) was former Head of the German Delegation at the Administrative Council of the EPO.

During the past 5 years, Dr Ernst supported ALL policies presented by Mr Battistelli.
Dr Ernst systematically disregarded ALL reasoned opinions he received from the Central Staff Committee and SUEPO among which those underlining :

- the risks on the health of staff generated by HR policies deliberately designed to add too much pressure with irrealistic production targets (please never forget the six suicides for which the CSC/SUEPO requested independant enquiries which were all refused by Mr Battistelli and the 7th miraculously avoided 3 weeks ago in The Hague see http://www.br.de/br-fernsehen/sendungen/kontrovers/traumjob-albtraum-arbeit-belastung-story-100.html),

- the fact this far too high production pressure de facto leads to cutting corners with regards to patent quality.

The more one speaks about something (eg sex) the less he/she actually practices it.

Dr Ernst (or is it Germany?) speaks a lot of quality but it seems they play naughthy on all grounds at EPO:

1 – with Munich and Berlin as EPO branches : over a BILLION of EPO money have been invested in buildings (and their maintenance) over the past 4 decades in Germany.

2 – with Munich and Berlin as EPO branches : 4000 EPO Staff live in Germany with their families (thousands of dependents) and spend tons of EPO money in eg houses, schools, restaurants, cars, clothes etc; hundreds of pensioners (even expats) stay in Germany when retired and continue thus to actively support the German economy.

3 – Finally last year roughly about 140.000.000 Euros went from the EPO back into the German State budget (that of the Ministry of Justice).

GELDGIER. Nothing else but money matters at EPO.

Funny though is that after years of a brutal Battistelli regime actively supported by Dr Ernst, all of sudden some wonder that the quality of EPO patents may have declined. Funny is that they find surprising that when questioned Dr Ernst has nothing convincing to answer.

The reality at EPO today is simple: hundreds of EPO staff of each site come at work every day with pain in their stomach; hundreds are in treatment with psycho-therapists; hundreds take drugs to go to bed and other drugs to stand in the morning and be able to go to work.

You bet that they produce lower quality like hell since otherwise they fear reprisal via harsch sanctions in mock trials and are being put off work. All this was said by SUEPO to no avail for more than five years. All this is known by Dr Ernst which could not care less.

Yes the quality of patent at EPO is worse off than before Battistelli’s time.

But have faith in the system: for his zealous and complacent attitude towards Battistelli Dr Ernst will soon be properly rewarded: he should get the position of VP5 which will soon be vacant (when current VP5, another competent jurist coming from the German Ministry of (in)justice), retires).

All this is a sad cynical farce. They cannot care less about the quality of patent work at EPO. Only their little interests matter, not that of the Public, much less that of true inventors.

Battistelli does not care about inventors. He just has a lobbying event named after them, and the event is all about him, not them.

The EPO has become nothing but a shrine to Battistelli, with his face and quotes plastered everywhere to glorify him like a bunch of statues in public squares. Nothing will stop that any time soon because he promoted his loyalists to top positions at the Office, in order for them to enjoy EPO budget while it lasts. They certainly make a killing. A pile of dead bodies won’t bother them.

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