Monday, December 8, 2014

European Patent Office: examiners fear they won't "be able to ensure appropriate quality standards"

This morning, the EPO-FLIER team, an anonymous group of European Patent Office employees who send independent information to private email addresses of colleagues and are not affiliated with the official staff union (SUEPO), distributed two PDF documents that I thought warranted publication with a view to the meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation on Thursday (December 11).

I've previously reported on the fight of EPO staff for certain rights (at least some of which are considered fundamental and inalienable human rights that require no discussion, let alone strikes or protests, anywhere in democratic Europe except in this context) and a demonstration in Munich last Tuesday. I won't be able to cover this labor conflict in all respects and from all angles, and you can find some interesting information on other sites, such as the World IP Review and the IPKat blog (which also reported on the alleged suspension, without what would be considered due process in European countries, of a judge, which I haven't been able to verify but which would be disconcerting if confirmed). But I've been saying for a long time that patent quality is key, so I'm concerned when I read an open letter from EPO employees warning that "EPO examiners will no longer be able to ensure appropriate quality standards" if a so-called New Career System (NCS) was put in place. Those staff members oppose an "entirely performance-based career proposal" and say it runs counter to core European Union policy positions. For example, the European Commission's Industrial Property Rights Strategy for Europe of 2008 document noted that "[h}igh quality rights are an essential requirement for all aspects of the system – support for business including SMEs, facilitation of knowledge transfer and effective enforcement of rights to combat counterfeiting and piracy."

Here's the open letter to national delegations to the Administrative Council of the EPOrg (this post continues below the document):

EPO Examiners Can No Longer Ensure Appropriate Quality Standards by Florian Mueller

I don't have an opinion on examiners' pay and will never express one, except that these are obviously highly-qualified people (advanced technical education, training in patent law, and at the EPO they must be fluent in three working languages in addition to their native tongue). But regardless of how much these examiners earn, it's one of the most crucial questions of patent policy (in my opinion, at a level with or arguably even more fundamental than such questions as access to injunctive relief, damages theories, bifurcation etc.) whether quality or quantity is incentivized at the examination stage. Therefore, the above open letter warrants consideration.

On a completely nonjudgmental basis (except for opinions I've previously expressed) I'd also like to show you the latest "EPO-FLIER" (again, it's completely unofficial), which is entitled "The spirit of the regulations" and focuses on human rights and rule-of-law/governance questions:

EPO-FLIER 13 - The Spirit of the Regulations by Florian Mueller

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