From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Curtain - Merpel's final EPO post

As many kind readers have pointed out, the frequency of Merpel's visits to the EPO has been decreasing of late. This is, alas, not a sign that all is well there, but rather on the contrary that the worrying and depressing developments have been proceeding at a pace that she has, to her great regret, not been able to keep up with.

For nearly three years Merpel has been documenting the troubles of this increasingly problematic organisation, which she dubbed "Eponia" in an early satirical blogpost.

The current EPO President Benoît Battistelli has been attacking all parts of the EPO with ruthless efficiency. The strands of this are almost too numerous to enumerate, but Merpel will attempt a brief summary.  (Most of the posts on this topic are labelled "Eponia" so a search on this should reveal to any keen readers the majority of Merpel's posts.)

  • A Board of Appeal member remains in limbo having been suspended, but the Enlarged Board of Appeal three times (showing admirable and rare backbone) having declined  (also noted here) to propose his removal from office.
  • The staff representation has been emasculated, and the main staff union SUEPO has been constantly under attack, with four of its officers either sacked or demoted on dubious charges (see posts here and here).
  • The Boards of Appeal have likewise been emasculated and banished to Haar, approved by the AC last October, seemingly in retaliation for the lack of compliance of the Enlarged Board of Appeal with the President's wishes.
  • Examination quotas have been continually increased for Examiners, and while the mantra about "quality not affected" is often raised, there is actually no proper assessment of examination quality, with many reports that it is suffering.  The astonishing 40% increase in granted patents in 2016 has been widely reported, although this is presumably partly due to the changed examination priorities which, inter alia, involve progressing rapidly to grant cases that are clearly allowable.
  • The social situation at the EPO has deteriorated with repeated amendments to the employment regulations, and the atmosphere between Examiners and managers grows increasingly toxic.
The ILO-AT (the international tribunal that adjudicates employment issues for a number of international organisations including the EPO) has a huge backlog of cases, many from the EPO, so that cases take many years to reach judgment, meaning that effective justice is denied to EPO employees.  A recent decision found that the EPO's internal appeals process used a wrongly-constituted Appeals Committee, and this may invalidate a number of decisions (if you are so inclined you can watch a video of the session that announced four judgments including this one).  But a Dutch court decision lifting the immunity of the EPO from national jurisdiction, on the basis that the delay at ILO-AT denied EPO employees effective access to justice, was overturned on appeal.

The EPO question is now also being raised increasingly in political circles in France, the Netherlands, and Germany.  But so far such political pressure does not seem to have been effective either directly against the administration, or indirectly via the Administrative Council.

Of course Merpel did not expect that the writings of a fictional feline would alter the course of EPO history.  But she did hope that documenting and raising the public profile of the issues might cause some of those who actually have oversight of the EPO to take note of the developments.  Depressingly, the Administrative Council, to whom oversight of the EPO and its President is entrusted, has failed in its task and on countless occasions has agreed to the reforms proposed, usually with just some token abstentions to indicate concern.

Most of the damage has now been done with many of the harmful changes already implemented.  Several of SUEPO's committee have stepped down, and now Merpel feels the time is right for her to do the same.  She has many other calls on her time, and now she wishes to spend some more time with her kittens.  She will from time to time write about other matters, but she will no longer be covering the situation at the EPO.

There are signs that the EPO situation is being caught in the wider press as well as in political circles - EPO-related stories have at last begun to appear in the regular press with reasonable frequency, and even in everyone's favourite satirical magazine Private Eye.  Merpel hopes that this will continue, and perhaps change will finally come.  The Register recently opined that "Time is running out for European Patent Office president Benoît Battistelli", but this seems premature to Merpel even now, as he is an astute political operator and has weathered many apparently career-terminating storms before.

Merpel would like to thank the readers and commenters that have made the comments sections of earlier posts so informative.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

So a European IP blog is no longer going to be covering one of, if not the, biggest ongoing issues in IP in Europe? Or is somebody else other than Merpel going to start covering the crisis at the EPO for the IPKat?

Anonymous said...

Everything changes, so does the IPKat. Don't change too much please. It would be good if you could keep some of the charm this blog used to have in abundance under Jeremy, Johanna, Illana, Brigit, David.

Don't stop covering the EPO.

Anonymous said...

Keep going - don't stop! He will have his Waterloo soon...surely, please God!

From: a "customer" of the EPO, that like quality "products"...even if they to wait a little while to get them

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your regular reports in the past. It appears that also applicants lost their interest in the EPO. Why should we pay enormous fees for fake quality? I feel sorry for the examiners, but they are digging their own graves by solely looking at production figures in order to get more money. No strikes anymore, no resistance, nothing. Good bye, EPO!

Proof of the pudding said...

Merpel - many thanks for covering the EPO up to now. The information, insights and commentary that you have provided have been invaluable in shedding light on dubious (AC / EPO management) practices that are a serious threat to the reputation of all of us who work in the patent microcosm.

I do hope that you will be able to pass the baton over to another member of the IPKat family. With the reputation of the EPO now in tatters, it would be a shame if the IP world lost an important source of information that helps it to critically assess the picture painted by the management of the EPO.

Anonymous said...

EPOmustGO. Replacing the president won't change anything in its democratic deficiency.

Gone too early said...


Guys be proud of the work you did for the benefit of the IP community since the dysfunctionings of the EPO impact the IP community obvsiouly.

Your posts will be missed but hey that's life.

All the best to you and thanks for work done.

Observer said...

Warm thanks to Merpel for what she did, but I am sad to see her resign.

I hope that Merpel’s renouncement has not been provoked by threats uttered against her.

It is a pity that a voice like Merpel goes out. In the end, the president of the EPO will be grinning: another one I manage to shut down…..

That things should change at EPO which had entered a certain trot is not to be denied. But did it have to be done with an ax? There is a difference between what is legal and what is moral; what was done looks legal but is certainly not moral.

It is sad to see that how an office which was thriving and having an excellent reputation is driven in the wall by would be managers.

Under other skies it is called shareholder value. Here the shareholders will be happy that they can cash in annual fees much earlier, so that disapproval by the AC is probably not on the table.

I wonder whether this frenzy of quick granting of cases is really in the interest of the applicants at large. I have always heard that it becomes expensive once the patent is granted, and the numerous publications about PACE, i.e. acceleration of search and examination, in old editions of the OJ have never been followed by increasing numbers of such requests. There were certainly good reasons for not following this invitation, unless absolute necessity. Now EPO has decided to PACE everything, but without listening to its users and exclusively pleasing its shareholders.

In the end, one cannot suppress the feeling that what is going on at the EPO is to quickly obtain patents, which are worth what they are, so that litigation can start at the UPC. This would be to the profit of certain applicants, I do not count SMEs under those, supported by certain law firms who have been very active and keen to push the UPC through.

This also touches upon the boards of appeal and the way they have been treated. Why do we need them, if we have the UPC? The less case law the boards of appeal produce, the less chances there are of colliding jurisprudence.

I do not want to see it all as a plot. However, I cannot help but ask questions.

Anonymous said...

Great blogs come and go

Anonymous said...

So this is the end of any possibility for people to give their comments on eponia? Where else can we go?

Wouter Pors said...

Dear Merpel,

It is indeed a pity that so far no majority could be reached in the Administrative Council to take the decisions that would improve the situation at the EPO. It is also a pity that the decision to move the Boards of Appeal to Haar, which doesn't seem to serve any sensible purpose, was not stopped by a majority in the Administrative Council. However, that doesn't mean that nothing is happening. In my view, it is important that those delegations that do strive for improvement and spend enormous amounts of time and effort to achieve positive results continue to be supported. An independent and critical press can play an important role in the process. Your posts are widely read thoughout the EPC conutries and I think it is worthwhile to keep this up.

The EPO as such is a wonderful organisation for patent harmonization and will become even more crucial with the introduction of the Unitary Patent. It is and will remain important to closely monitor developments and stimulate progress, certainly also towards and after 30 June 2018.

Wouter Pors

Dr. Roy Schestowitz said...

'Public' institution threatens non-profit blog that informs the public, blog gives up. Merpel, please don't give up fighting for justice, for staff and parties affected (all of Europe).

http://techrights.org/2017/03/10/epo-gagging-blogs/

Hello-D Berg-haut said...


Personally I never understood that a cat could understand something of this IP business.This is not serious.

I see despite my greatness and endless competence in all matters I do not master, how difficult this is. So a cat talking IP.... Hahahahahah

All of this must be modernised at once: now the cat will be investing its time in more productive actions, eg chasing mice and if below target, the cat will meet the Dog.

Benoit stop barking, quiet please I am dealing with it, calm down my Benoit, calm down, the cat will soon get it trust me


Ashley Roughton said...

Dear Merpel

Cutting, unabashed and your often funny interventions make you special. We will miss you.

Ashley

Pangur Bán said...

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing".

Shame on you, Merpel. It's impossible not to lose all respect.

Anonymous said...

Dear Merpel

Thank you for your commentary and hard work. It is very sad to see you bow (meow!) out of commenting on EPONIA matters. I do not understand but I am grateful.

You have provided balanced insight into difficult situations, and hope for the unheard.

There must be a reason behind this. If it is personal - so be it - sometimes life takes us away from the path we might have wished to follow and I thank you for your efforts.

If it is something else - whether external pressure or internal frustration - could you try to find another blogger who can take on the mantel of Merpel in this role of providing sensible commentary on EPONIA. Son of Merpel (or daughter of Merpel) has a nice ring to it, someone to take on this difficult, task. Someone must be the "ringbearer" if the present incumbent cannot go on.

Who will take up the challenge - Merpel would you help such a person if they approached you anonymously? I do hope so.

Yours Psedononymouse

Anonymous said...

Raising the profile of the goings on at the EPO might have been better accomplished had the blog posting not been under the pseudonym of a kat. Why anyone would believe that others will pay heed to such anonymous comments is beyond me.

Old man of EPO said...

Thanks Merpel. Giving paws for thought. Enjoy a bit of me-ow time... And ignore the snarky know it all comments. We know you've made a difference!

Anonymous said...

So.
Farewell then
Merpel.

You were
A great
Feline.

Though you
Did appreciate
An acrostic

This smacks
Of a dishonourable
Retreat

Strange
Frankly

EJ Bringbackalib.






Anonymous said...

"Thank you for your regular reports in the past. It appears that also applicants lost their interest in the EPO. Why should we pay enormous fees for fake quality? I feel sorry for the examiners, but they are digging their own graves by solely looking at production figures in order to get more money. No strikes anymore, no resistance, nothing. Good bye, EPO!"

We EPO Examiners are not "solely looking at production figures in order to get more money" as you put it. We are doing our best to perform our job as it supposed to be done, in an increasingly hostile environment, whilst trying to keep our jobs; no more, no less. More money does not come into it, and never has.

Don't forget, examiners are all either scientists or engineers; once you have done our job for more than a few years, it is hard to change jobs, and is especially hard to do if you have a family. The unfortunate reality is that highly qualified, highly intelligent examiners are viewed as mindless drones by EPO higher management, and are treated as such...

for the good men said...

During all these years Merpel has been our "radio Londres" the voice of the resistance.
Things would have been much worse without you.
Where would have Laurent found a place to speak, to be listened ?
We have heard the voice of the real Europeans who are the examiners, but also seen the pure mediocrity of those who pretend to be superior but in reality are less than nothing.
Thanks to you (and a few others) he has lost the battle of communication and this made him even more mad and mean than he already was.
I thank you for all, but things here are dark and I fear the last year is going to turn even darker.
Please Merpel, can't you stay one more year ?

Anonymous said...

It is no surprise that the only EPO issue which is given attention by the regular media is the bad relationship between the EPO management and the staff, and there is no mention whatsoever of the wealth of knowledge brought by the EPO to the worldwide scientific and technology community thanks to the easy and free access to the espacenet database (100 millions patent documents accessible and searchable with convenient translations now available). It is disappointing that bloggers interested in EPO issues follow the same line and don't give a damn about this tremendous accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

Publish and be damned says...

I used to say of Merpel that her presence on the Eponia battlefield made the difference of forty thousand men.

Anonymous said...

Dear Merpel, we hate to see you go. Your coverage was precise, the documents good. Ther problem with the "wider press" is that often they have no clue at IP and especially the special legal construct of the EPO. You did know all that (see your impressive summary in this post) - a tip of the hat! The style of your writing is also something I'll miss. Oh yes - one last detail re BB: the restriction of internal appeals at the EPO in 2011 already, to the effect that appeals against "general" regulations were not possible anymore, i.e. they had to go to ILO. The start of the deluge there. With all these actions, its hard not to see a master plan in action. The final goal??? All the best to your kittens, Merpel! Maybe one of them wants to continue this sorely needed blog?

EPOstooge

A Pedant said...

But a Dutch court decision lifting the immunity of the EPO from national jurisdiction, on the basis that the delay at ILO-AT denied EPO employees effective access to justice, was overturned on appeal.

As I understood the Appeal Court ruling, that's not quite correct, Merpel.

The EPO's immunity was lifted not because of delays at the ILOAT but because the Staff Union (as a collective body) has no possibility to bring a complaint before the ILOAT. In other words the (main) reason for lifting immunity in that case was because the Staff Union has no access to the ILOAT.

The position taken by the Dutch Supreme court appears to have been that this did not amount to denial of access to justice. For the Supreme Court it was sufficient that individual Staff Union members could - as EPO staff members - bring individual complaints before the ILOAT.



MaxDrei said...

We are living through a period in which voters notoriously cast their vote against their own long term interests. Meanwhile, at the EPO's Administrative Council, voters are not so dumb. They vote quite deliberately in what they callously and ruthlessly perceive to be their own national (and maybe also personal) financial interest. EPO staff are seen as privileged and pampered, and therefore undeserving, so that their warnings of irreparable harm being done to the Organisation by its President are hand-waved away as nothing more than self-serving. How ironic!

How naive is it, to suppose that AC members would vote any other way?

sad EPO said...

one of the commenters consider the examiners to dig their own grave. It is easy to say when you rest comfortably on your couch not knowing what it means to work in a toxic environment everyday year in year out. Even a first class IP blog like IPkat is giving up commenting the terrible situation of Eponia (pressure? threats?), how is staff supposed to have sufficient means to say no to the sick, delirious demands we get from the management? Staff is suffering and every day adds a little more, up to the day where one gets a serious illness, depression, burn out or in the worst cases commits suicide.
IPkat, I cannot understand you stop covering the EPO news. Are you a IP and European blog ? If so, not mentioning the EPO anymore simply means we are not doing your duty of informing about IP news.
Renaming your blog IPkat "passionate about IP (except EPO - too dangerous) " would be more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Merpel, you really have done an excellent job. Many thanks for your dedication!

I had always great respect for the patent examiners working at the EPO. They produced detailed search reports. The correspondence with them during the examination phase showed profound technical know-how and a broad domain knowledge. I felt treated fairly in the procedures as well as in oral proceedings. The EPO used to work like a machine producing reliable and high-quality patents, no matter who was the primary examiner and no matter whether I was co-operative or not.

This has changed. Examiners told me that they mainly rely on the output of computer-generated overviews of the prior art now. Sometimes a simple search in Google produces better results than an EPO search report costing 1,875 euro. Furthermore, examiners now try to charge applicants for non-unity based on dubious reasons. I have received so many quasi-empty letters from examiners. It is obvious that they do not spend enough time anymore to get things right. Depending on the examiner, I simply get a patent that should never have been granted, or I have to deal with procedural traps into which they try to entice me.

I understand that the examiners have moved to this working practice because Battistelli introduced Rank and Yank. Last year, the EPO granted 90,000 patents, which is 50% more than in the years before. The examiners increased their production by 50% just to compete with their colleagues for a salary increase of about 2,000 euro per year, which only half of the examiners are entitled to receive.

I am sorry, but I have lost all my respect for the patent examiners in the EPO. They might be excellent scientists or engineers. But falling into this well-known trap shows that they are dumb, irresponsible, and greedy. The annual salary of a patent examiner is about 100,000 euro (tax-free). Battistelli managed to lure them with a bonus of 2,000 euro for every second examiner and achieved a performance increase of 50%.

But it is even worse. A judge remains in limbo, union officials have been fired, the appeal court will be moved to the outskirts of Munich. And the staff in the EPO remains silent. Poor people! They get what they deserve. "Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat."

Proof of the pudding said...

@Max

It is not naïve to assume that AC members (and the EPO management) would respect the rule of law. On the contrary, it is the minimum that the users of the patent system (and the general public) should be entitled to expect.

Whilst this situation has been allowed to persist by the EPO management's reliance upon legal immunities (and cronyism within the AC), this is no answer to the basic charge - that what has been done is contrary to EU law, the EPC and the European Convention on Human Rights.

I know that there is a layer of society that considers itself to be above the law, but to allow this situation to continue unchallenged would frankly not only be immoral but also a high risk strategy for those involved who do not have (or who cannot guarantee retaining) absolute immunity.

@Anon, 11 March 2017 at 06:43
What is your point? Does the EPO deserve a pat on the back for some of its truly worthwhile achievements? Absolutely! But does this mean that the media should think twice before reporting very disturbing developments in Eponia? Absolutely not!!

Actually, this all goes to show how highly those in the IP world value the EPO (as was). If it were otherwise, would any of us be quite so concerned about how bad things have got?

Uncle Wiggily said...

O Jeremy, Jeremy! Wherefore art thou Jeremy?

Missing you...

Uncle Wiggily

Anonymous said...

As EPO employee, I have mixed feelings, which cannot be understood by someone from outside I guess.
I am very thankful to The Kat for sharing well documented, precise news with a british humor. We found necessary that the outside world, and in particular the IP-world understands what the situation.
I feel as well betrayed to see a major help leaving us, while Eponia goes deeper into its orwelian world: cameras everywhere, spy softwares on our computers, a kafkaian investigation unit, directors going mad if the world "quality" is whispered, heavy recruitement despite a files shortage preparing a future all in "flexibility", examiners working on short term contracts and distress in every corners. We are not allowed to speak.
It is not an article in one generalist newspaper per semester, which will help broadcasting the situation.
Dear Kat, I understand that you want to take some rest but WE NEED YOU.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the examiners have moved to this working practice because Battistelli introduced Rank and Yank. Last year, the EPO granted 90,000 patents, which is 50% more than in the years before. The examiners increased their production by 50% just to compete with their colleagues for a salary increase of about 2,000 euro per year, which only half of the examiners are entitled to receive.

"I am sorry, but I have lost all my respect for the patent examiners in the EPO. They might be excellent scientists or engineers. But falling into this well-known trap shows that they are dumb, irresponsible, and greedy. The annual salary of a patent examiner is about 100,000 euro (tax-free). Battistelli managed to lure them with a bonus of 2,000 euro for every second examiner and achieved a performance increase of 50%."

I do not know anyone who works "for the bonus of 2,000 euro". I certainly don't. In fact, I couldn't care less if I get the bonus or not. What is much more worrying is missing your target by such an amount that you get a poor report.

"But it is even worse. A judge remains in limbo, union officials have been fired, the appeal court will be moved to the outskirts of Munich. And the staff in the EPO remains silent. Poor people! They get what they deserve. "Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat." "

Unfortunately we are powerless, with the changes that BB has introduced. We have been been as non-silent as possible, witness the various protest marches that we have held, resulting in occasional negative reports in the (local) press. I'm curious what else it is that you think we should do under the current management - you may have rights in your country (whichever that is), unfortunately, as has been repeatedly demonstrated, we don't. Obviously, when they decide to start investigating the contents of our private electronic devices, not only will we have no rights, we will also have no privacy.

I am posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

Sammie Littletail said...

@Uncle Wiggily

Haven't you heard ?
The Skeezicks and Pipsisewah have taken over the EPO !!!

No sympathy said...

Unfortunately we are powerless, with the changes that BB has introduced. We have been been as non-silent as possible, witness the various protest marches that we have held, resulting in occasional negative reports in the (local) press. I'm curious what else it is that you think we should do under the current management - you may have rights in your country (whichever that is), unfortunately, as has been repeatedly demonstrated, we don't. Obviously, when they decide to start investigating the contents of our private electronic devices, not only will we have no rights, we will also have no privacy.

EPO staff have nobody to blame but themselves.

A proper all out strike for a month would have sent a message that could not have been ignored.

If people are not prepared to show solidarity and fight for their rights then there is no point whingeing when they are taken away from you.

Proof of the pudding said...

@No sympathy

Wow. That's pretty harsh. Whilst I too have never been in the employ of the European Patent Organisation, I would think twice before blaming the examiners in the way that you have done.

You do realise that BB has imposed serious restrictions upon the ability of EPO employees to strike, don't you? So, in effect, he has taken away the very weapon that you condemn the EPO examiners for not deploying.

And as for fighting for their rights, do you not count taking court cases as far as possible in both Germany and the Netherlands? And what about making repeated pleas to the members of the AC?

Frankly, I think that you should walk a mile or two in the shoes of the examiners... deprived of rights enshrined in European law, badly let down by the "supervisory" bodies (the AC, ILOAT and the national courts) that should be there to protect you, invisible to the majority of the general public, ignored by most mainstream media and politicians, the subject of increasingly draconian rules imposed by EPO management, etc., etc. I would like to see how you coped with all of that!

About time you had treatment for your hypoempathy disorder, methinks.

No sympathy said...

You do realise that BB has imposed serious restrictions upon the ability of EPO employees to strike, don't you? So, in effect, he has taken away the very weapon that you condemn the EPO examiners for not deploying.

Not true.

BB certainly imposed some restrictions on striking but he did not prevent a strike being called if the staff really wanted it. There just has to be a strike ballot and the will to follow through.

Instead of striking, the staff has basically capitulated and even went so far as to churn out a 40% production increase.

While you are at it maybe you should ask the Appeal Boards what happened to their interview with an IP journal and why they voluntarily consented to be censored by BB?

Unless you can explain that one I don't intend to go for any hypoempathy disorder treatment any time soon.

Proof of the pudding said...

@No sympathy

Would that it were so simple.
"The President of the Office may lay down further terms and conditions for the application of this Article to all employees; these shall cover inter alia the maximum strike duration and the voting process"
http://ipkitten.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/the-epo-rules-on-strikes-revealed-to.html

Indeed, BB is not afraid of "outlawing" strikes for which the staff have voted (in spite the draconian rules).
http://www.worldipreview.com/news/anger-as-epo-president-rejects-latest-strike-6767

Looks like you will have to start that treatment after all...

You will also have to explain what you mean about the Boards of Appeal. The structure of the EPO means that issues with DG3 are different to those with DG1. So I am not quite sure what the relevance of DG3's actions would be to the situation in DG1. Do let me know if I'm missing something, though.

Anonymous said...

40% of grants, representing 66% of examination products, representing 33% of total products...so which is the production increase?
Also not +2.8% increase in searches with +2% of examiners

math and honesty come even before sympathy

Anonymous said...

Protest in front of the main building in Munich.

http://techrights.org/2017/03/14/epo-letter-to-heads-of-delegations/

Anonymous said...

Dear Merpel,

thank you for having undertaken the onerous and disheartening task of keeping tabs on what goes on at the European Patent Office. I can well understand that you are worn down. Your coverage as the main source and a few other sources have provided me with a total of 1.35 GB of material that only goes from bad to worse. I have kept this because it reflects a scandal of momentous dimensions, and one could fear that some of it will disappear simply due to public embarrassment. On the other hand, reading the material is not for the weak, and I cannot recommend it.

I think that the IPKat posts have been the only trustworthy ones in the field, but the comments only have very little trustworthiness. Collectively, though, the comments through their mere numbers, do draw ugly pictures.

I myself have been driven to saturation, I have become numb, there is very little that can shock me anymore, and I am only wondering ‘WHY’? Who benefits from this situation, except the perpetrators, of course. But where are the checks, where are those who ought to insist on adhering to the European Patent Convention? It is true that the subject matter is somewhat esoteric, and very few really understand what we had as a smooth-running machinery that is rapidly becoming a formalities-only examination and early certainty of acceptance. A whole collection of jurisprudence on the fundamental properties of a patent system that serves society will become an empty academic exercise that was good for a period of perhaps 25 years, but which will stand as a non-reachable Utopia because of the constant attrition.

I am surprised that the SMEs are not up in arms. Maybe they believe the hogwash that politicians have told them about the UPC. They are dependent on the state (delegated, though the power is) to weed out the patent applications that do not merit acceptance. To an SME faced with a patent that is purportedly infringed it does not matter whether the company prevails in a court case, if the result is 5 years into the future. It is just as bad as ILOAT providing justice to wronged employees of the European Patent Office so many years after the infraction.

SMEs do not have the stamina to survive an unreasonable court case. The only thing left for SMEs is to be pro-active, i.e. do the work of the European Patent Office. Search independently, file observations, but probably better: file good oppositions. Get the opposition count up! It is expensive, but it only takes one or two saved court cases to fully recoup the costs. But getting the count up also changes the statistics at the European Patent Office, and it is something that its present management may not like but can do very little about. Well, they can increase the opposition fee to the ridiculous, just as the fee for opposing a trademark in Denmark was increased by a colossal amount more than 20 years ago, because some big players leaning on the authorities thought that they had a right to bad trademarks and resented that they were being hampered by successful oppositions from the general public. Who is leaning on the EPO?

Again, many thanks, and please continue to moderate the comments that come in to the last posts. There are now at least two posts that have more than 200 comments, but it cannot be helped if there are so few posts.

Very disheartened,

George Brock-Nannestad

The Little Mermaid said...

Well spoken Mr. Brock-Nannestad.
Your contributions to the debate have always been welcome and worthwhile.

But perhaps you are not aware of the role played by your compatriot Mr. Kongstad in this sorry little affair?

Together with Mr. French he has succeeded in making a right Danish pastry of the EPO.

Uncle Wiggily said...

Dear Merpel:

Don't take a cat nap on this just when things are getting interesting.....

See this from IPWatch:

https://www.ip-watch.org/2017/03/15/epo-presidents-days-numbered/

Best wishes,

Uncle Wiggily

Anonymous said...

@The Little Mermaid: no, that is precisely the problem. I (and nobody else in the general public) is aware of the role played by the Chairman of the AC, essentially because no journalists know enough about the esoteric patent field to perform investigative journalism.

The comments in IPKat have given us rumours, but they have not been substantiated. The journalists I have spoken to have been more interested in the human angle to the managerial atrocities at the EPO, and they have not been interested in learning that such atrocities are just a means to an end. And when I have argued that we do not even know what the end is, why all of this is happening, their deadline suddenly stops their absorbance of facts.

Kind regards,


George Brock-Nannestad

The Bad Pipsisewah said...

@Uncle Wiggily

May be you should read the title of the article more carefully.
It is phrased as a question: "Are the EPO President's days numbered?"
Try not to fall into the trap of wishful thinking.

Read all about it said...


Euro Patent Office hit with wave of anti-Battistelli letters

[url="https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/16/euro_patent_office_hit_with_antibattistelli_letters/"]https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/16/euro_patent_office_hit_with_antibattistelli_letters/[/url]

El Presidente said...

Since the Watergate a US president can not order the surveillance of an American citizen.

At the EPO he can!

Anonymous said...

@ George Brock-Nannestad

The problem at the EPO is not the quantity of grants (+40%) or their low quality. The main problem is that the EPO moved from rules of law to lobbying.
In your example, you suggest for the SMEs to file observations and to file good oppositions. But what could they do when the competitor has direct contact with the directors and with the higher management?
The examiners are instructucted to follow the opinion of their managers. The BoA is under control and has lost its independence.
For the SMEs the main problem is not the grant of the patent of a competitor but the refusal of their own inventive patent.

Jack said...

Really it is not too much of a pity that the feline is no longer reporting one what is none of its concerns. It is clear that this blog has been exposed to pressure and had ceeded to it in the past. Non-profit or not, this is a blog run by patent attorneys. The conflict at the EPO is a social question of labour law and human Rights. Here you find patent and TM and copyright attorneys, not experts in interational labour law or human rights. At most educated amateurs, in any case interested ones, It shows how desperate the staff of the EPO has got to be to look and in appearance find support by their natural adversaries. As it is not dignified for the EBOA to publish their decisions on Wikipedia it is not dignified for public officials to publish their concerns on a blog like this. The appropriate fora are others, e.g. that of the SUEPO and maybe even techrights. The applicant's are not the customers of the examiners they don't pay their salaries, fees are not prices, their interest is dialectically and diametrally oppossed and should remain so. Applicant's by default are not interested in quality. The present management has reduced the EPO to a money printing machine which suits most applicants and more so representatives just fine. The vast majority of their income comes from prosecution before offices not before courts Risk of litigation nullity etc are theortical issues. A negiglible fraction of granted patents either get legally enforced or challenged. The reasons for holding a patent are different. Tax optimisation, balance sheet cosmetics and some even less noble aims. Examiners on the contrary work for the public. They protect the intellectual property of the public, not that of the applicant. A fair fraction of them is not even European and hence not a stakeholder in a European organisation.

Anonymous said...

@ George Brock-Nannestad
You write 'human angle to the managerial atrocities at the EPO'.
According to Merriam-Webster, an atrocity is a very cruel or terrible act or action.
Pray tell, what very cruel or terrible acts or actions have you witnessed at the EPO?
Flogging, dismembering maybe? Beheading?
Or might it be the non-issuance of a bonus of 1500? No salary increase for 30% of the examiners, already earning 100.000 per year, tax free, with 35 paid holidays per year, international school and university paid for the kids, household allowance, full health coverage, subsidized canteen, and to top it off in The Hague, partial diplomatic status with tax free car, gasoline, electronic devices etc etc?
The horror!
I can imagine that hundreds of examiners are fleeing that terrible place. How many left (not retired!) last year?
Yet whenever I meet examiners for oral proceedings, they seem relaxed and their coffee corners are always full.
Are we really talking about the same EPO?
C'mon people, a reality check wouldn't hurt, the EPO is by far the best place I never worked for!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said... Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 14:16:00 GMT

about atrocities

I am an examiner working in Le Croisé and on a working day of July 2013 I have seen a colleague of mine jumping out of the window to land dead on the parking.

Is this something that matches your definition of atrocity ?

This suicide was NEVER investigated independantly by the local authorities since - despite the courageous request of my staff reps - the EPO invoqued ¨... immunity.

So please shut up before telling more non sense.

Anonymous said...

Reality what ?
One question only: why don't you apply to work at this paradise ?
It is not a secret: EPO is desperately looking for patent examiners to replace those who left (sorry - who retired).
However, mysteriously enough, nobody having the required competences is accepting this job anymore.

Anonymous said...

I am so tired. Of the trolls, of the President's men here in this forum. Nobody claims that epo staff doesn't earn enough money. But money is not everything and no reason to give up fundamental rights. Epo staff has elected staff representatives, and they were elected according to rules the President made. 3 elected staff representatives were fired by the President, one downgraded, for no reason that could be upheld in the outside world. The President abolishes our rights anchored in the statute by changing them from legal texts into circulars. There is an almost endless list of new provisions, all restricting our rights and all not feasible in any national law (maybe in NOrth Corea or Turkey), just have a look at those investigation guidelines. For the last years the Office has been reigned according to the principle of "Gleichschaltung", everything is turning worse and worse. And now Ipkat is leaving us too. So desperate.

Cynic said...

So, Jack, attorneys and EPO staff are 'natural adversaries' and ' their interest is dialectically and diametrally oppossed and should remain so'.

I must remember this next time I chair an opposition. Now, how do I manage to annoy both parties so that they both feel persecuted?? Once more, a comment says far more about the writer. As an examiner, my only aim is to examine applications based on the EPC. I may get it wrong - in either direction - but there really is no interest here in opposing you just for the fun of it. Under the current regime, I stand to gain a lot more from being as generous to you as possible (within the EPC). As for oppositions or appeals, the idea that the judges are adversaries of every attorney is worthy of far wittier analysis than I can muster.

Best wishes for your future dealings. Trust me, we really have never been out to get you (yes, I know, I would say that...)

Anonymous said...

"Or might it be the non-issuance of a bonus of 1500? No salary increase for 30% of the examiners, already earning 100.000 per year, tax free, with 35 paid holidays per year, international school and university paid for the kids, household allowance, full health coverage, subsidized canteen, and to top it off in The Hague, partial diplomatic status with tax free car, gasoline, electronic devices etc etc?
The horror!
I can imagine that hundreds of examiners are fleeing that terrible place. How many left (not retired!) last year?"

The conditions are good, no-one is denying that, even though you're wrong about the "partial diplomatic status"; that is not something that most of us enjoy. Many of the other things that you quote are in fact provided by the Office in lieu of a government; most people get educational allowances for their children from their government or local authority; as we don't have access to such bodies, the EPO, as is common with many International Organisations, has to take on these responsibilities. Or perhaps you think us having health coverage is some kind of luxury?

All this notwithstanding, the ridiculous production increases (and they are ridiculous, regardless of what people outside the EPO might think) combined with agressive and repressive management policy is not good for morale. Combine that with the targeted investigation of union officials and staff reps, the tapping of telephones and computers, the fact that anyone sacked by the Supreme Leader is not allowed to publicly discuss his/her case, while the Office is free to leak any information it wants to sympathetic newspapers, the fact that the long-term sick are placed under de facto house-arrest, the fact that we have NO legal recourse against decisions taken by the Office/President, because of the way the Office is structured and the fact that any case submitted to the ILO takes many years to be heard.

Employees of the EPO live and work in a legal vacuum when it comes to labour law; as has been proved repeatedly, host countries are reluctant to get involved, meaning that EPO employees have effectively zero protection from the excesses of higher management. The question is, would YOU expect to be governed by such repressive policies in your home country? I suspect not.

Workers Paradise said...

@ Anonymous, 18 March 2017 at 14:16:00 GMT

Thank you for your learned comment - they pop up regularly in this forum, and we usually file them under "People above a certain salary level are no entitled to human and labor rights".


Anonymous said...

Amicus Curiae

"Or might it be the non-issuance of a bonus of 1500? No salary increase for 30% of the examiners, already earning 100.000 per year, tax free, with 35 paid holidays per year, international school and university paid for the kids, household allowance, full health coverage, subsidized canteen, and to top it off in The Hague, partial diplomatic status with tax free car, gasoline, electronic devices etc etc?
The horror!
I can imagine that hundreds of examiners are fleeing that terrible place. How many left (not retired!) last year?"

Again a person with exclusively financial interest in life.

First, to my best knowledge, the statements are not correct. The average examiner earns less than 100,000/year, the salary is taxed, the standard holidays are 30 per year, international schools are paid only exceptionally, same for university, and health coverage is on the level of 1970 (the ceilings for reimbursements have never been raised). True, the canteen is subsidized. Employees pay for healthcare, pension, etc from their salary.

Second, you obviously missed some other points, e.g. that the EPO enjoys immunity, as does the President. You should browse up the last decision from the Enlarged Board (Art 23 1/16) where they stated that the President infringed on their judicial independence. Under various national laws this is considered a crime worth time in jail. In the EPO, what happens is precisely nothing. Merpel has it here: http://ipkitten.blogspot.de/2016/06/enlarged-board-publishes-decision-epo.html.

It would appear that you have no issues with rule of law, respect for others, freedom and some other aspects, enshrined e.g. in the Human Rights. These cannot be bought and must not be bought.

Nobody asked for sympathy for the individual examiner. What these examiners want is precisely what we all enjoy: protection against transgressions and access to justice. They do not have that. They may not be in a position to leave. After some years in patents, you are limited to patents. There are not that many job offerings.

Thank you Merpel for having covered the topic. I appreciated your style, coverage and courage.






Kittensarenice said...

@ Anonymous, 18 March 2017 at 14:16:00 GMT

Don't forget that the President and his friends earn considerably more for a work which, at best, can be described as mediocre.

@Merkel

Thank you for all these years. Is there any way we can convince you to come by from time to time?

Proof of the pudding said...

Does anyone have an update on the current status of the suspended member of the Boards of Appeal?

On other matters, it seems that the "rebel" AC members lost their bottle again and/or were comprehensively outmanoeuvred. It may be time for those AC members to admit to their political masters that they are powerless to exercise any form of control over this troublesome President. Their masters will not be happy, but it would be better to get this all out in the open before the inevitable action at the European Court of Human Rights causes a total s**t storm.

Acta non verba said...

Kluwer Patent Blog has a long article detailing the situation at the European Patent Office:

President Battistelli under pressure to improve ‘unacceptable’ social situation at EPO

About the 40% increase in granted patents they asks:

"But is this really what the economy needs, as the EPO claims?"

Transparency in Architecture said...

King Battistelli's swish penthouse office the Euro Patent Office doesn't want you to see
https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2017/03/22/patent_office_battistellis_penthouse/

Rectal Fiscitude said...

Don't forget that the President and his friends earn considerably more for a work which, at best, can be described as mediocre.

"But is this really what the economy needs, as the EPO claims?"

Now we know what the economy needs.
New public-private partnership construction projects to kick-start the recovery ...

King Battistelli's swish penthouse office the Euro Patent Office doesn't want you to see

Anon E. Mouse said...

The Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation Has Just Buried an Innocent Judge That Battistelli Does Not Like

http://techrights.org/2017/03/23/forgotten-casualties-of-battistelli-regime/

Anonymous said...

BB's L’Albergaccio visit...

...a thousand quarrels arise and numberless insults of offensive words could be heard across the IP world.

Cryptic Cross Words said...

...a thousand quarrels arise and numberless insults of offensive words could be heard across the IP world.

Stop speaking in riddles, what are you on about ?

Macchiastelli said...

Is he about to be sent into exile?

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170317-machiavellis-secret-tunnel-to-fame

Proof of the pudding said...

Looking at the fate of CA/32/17 (proposed revisions of the EPO rules governing internal investigations, disciplinary procedures and appeals), it is clear that one of the ways in which "rebel" AC members are being outmanoeuvred is through control of the agenda for AC and Board 28 meetings. It seems that Monsieur le President can count upon the unwavering support of Mr Kongstad in ensuring that the "rebels" do not get their way.

Whist it is clear to see how such underhand tactics can work, their success does beg a rather pressing question: how is it that the AC lets the President and Mr Kongstad get away with such blatant manipulation of the agenda?

I have my suspicions as to how this all works. A quick glance at the small number of delegations behind the submission of CA/32/17 (France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland) reveals that this seems to have been very much a minority effort. The other delegations are presumably less keen to rock the boat.

With so many delegations acting as BB's "facilitators" (including by inaction or abstention on crucial matters), what is the betting that those pesky, unresolved issues (such as the continued, groundless suspension of a Board of Appeal member and the failure of the President to comply with the AC's demands from March 2016) will effectively be "buried" for at least the remainder of BB's term in office?

It beggars belief how shockingly impotent the AC has been rendered, especially in a period when the EPO has suffered the indignity of being held by a national court to be acting in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The only crumb of comfort that I take in all of this is that at least BB's "facilitators" will be on the hook when the dirty secrets behind the AC's impotence eventually (and inevitably) come to light.

Bullet in Board said...


The Max Planck Institute is organising an event in May:
http://us15.campaign-archive1.com/?u=1ba2a5b6e0717d0f2a43a0ad0&id=13c2b93bd6&e=1cc49ed40a

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