Primer to the Crisis and Scandals at the European Patent Office (EPO)

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Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: An introduction to the chaotic state of what used to be the world’s leading patent office and quickly became Europe’s biggest embarrassment

WHEN DEALING with subjects for a number of years it’s easy to delve into pertinent details and lose sight of the overall picture, which in turn can put off or turn away an ordinary audience with no prior knowledge of the subject. Back in the days when we focused on Novell we occasionally wrote short summaries about the subject (upon request/demand from errand readers). Today we wish to do the same about the EPO, which is, in our assessment, Europe’s biggest scandal that the media intentionally ignores (with few exceptions) because media owners have no interest in ‘scandalising’ the subject and moreover the EPO pays a lot of European media, thereby buying its loyalty/silence.

“Patent law firms would benefit from a surplus of litigation, so they conveniently lie (often by taking over the media) on behalf of Europeans, bragging about the supposed advantages of the UPC.”The EPO stands either for European Patent Office or European Patent Organisation. These are not the same thing. They came into existence a number of decades ago — irrespective of and predating the EU (the EPO has nothing to do with the EU) — through a long document known as the European Patent Convention (EPC). It is the de facto ‘treaty’ of the Organisation, which is supposed to manage or oversee the Office through a set of national delegates, who are in practice (typically) heads of national patent offices (NPOs).

In recent years a massive set of blunders came with ambitions of so-called ‘reforms’, supposedly in preparation for the Unitary Patent — a horrible regime constructed by (and for) patent law firms and their largest clients, which are not even European. The Unitary Patent, or Unified Patent Court (UPC), merits a separate primer, but in a nutshell it offers no benefits to European people, European businesses, or European workers of the EPO. It would be mostly beneficial to patent trolls from abroad — those who would like to target (in the prosecution sense) a lot of European people and European businesses. Patent law firms would benefit from a surplus of litigation, so they conveniently lie (often by taking over the media) on behalf of Europeans, bragging about the supposed advantages of the UPC. There are dangers associated with patent scope too, namely the expansion of patent scope in the whole of Europe without proper national debates on the matter.

“Workers of the EPO are rightly upset about all this. They will lose their job if this carries on.”Workers of the EPO are not bad people. They are highly educated staff (not just the examiners) who thought they had joined for a good cause and as specialists in various fields of science (some have academic background) they want to reward real innovation, not merely operate like production line workers yanking out a lot of worthless patents. But the EPO is now run by a tyrant, who not only ruined the Office but is also ruining the entire Organisation (which is capable of firing him, but never did it due to cronyism) and stomping on the EPC. The situation is untenable. To make matters worse, this tyrant brought over many of his old friends (sometimes even their family members) to top positions, hired highly notorious thugs who face criminal charges in their home countries, and ousted anyone who dares question his authority, e.g. actions in defiance of the law, the EPC and so on. To use an analogy, think of Mugabe, Erdoğan, or Putin. Separation of powers was gradually and deliberately vandalised. There is no democracy at the EPO; it’s akin to monarchy even if it’s not formally labeled as such.

Workers of the EPO are rightly upset about all this. They will lose their job if this carries on. They regularly go on protests, they go on strikes, and their unions are being attacked by the tyrant, who already strategically fired some of them using bogus (or highly dubious) charges. The tyrant enjoys supposed immunity which is guarded by self-serving governments and his terrible gymnastics in ‘justice’ are defended by a cowardly ILO, which only gives an illusion of recourse to justice.

“The EPO does not need scorn; it needs our help. It has been hijacked by malicious actors and nefarious interests.”In the course of this tyrant’s regime the tyrant has not only hired firms to corrupt the media but also to illegally spy on staff, to censor the Internet connection (banning sites such as Techrights), and to send threatening legal letters to bloggers who are in no way affiliated with the EPO. Contracts are habitually being signed without tenders (especially for big projects), contractors are being ‘burned’, waste and abuse are a matter of norm, and EPO stakeholders (e.g. applicants, law firms) are understandably upset. Any person who ever received a European Patent (EP) suffers from this and staff of the EPO is growingly depressed, many to the point of being suicidal (the number of suicides is said to have grown tenfold under the tyranny).

The EPO does not need scorn; it needs our help. It has been hijacked by malicious actors and nefarious interests. If the EPO cannot be rescued from this self-serving, money-draining tyranny, Europe as a whole and science as a whole will suffer dearly.

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