Reply to post: Back to the question of quality

European Patent Office staff rep blames prez for 'slipping quality'

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Back to the question of quality

It is disappointing to see the usual misunderstandings about the pay and conditions of EPO staff (e.g. that they cost taxpayers money rather than save it, that the level of their salaries uniquely buys them out of access to due process of law, (in contrast to to equally well-paid doctors,lawyers, airline pilots, or anyone working in an occupation needing a high level of skill and qualification), and that they don't need any length of experience, but can easily be replaced by a tyro after a couple of years (just as doctors, airline pilots can, yeah right).

However, what everyone is losing sight of is what a Patent Office is for. It is to ensure that innovation is fairly rewarded, something vitally important for the economy. Let me give an example. Some years ago I sat next to a patent attorney on a flight between EPO cities. On hearing that I was an EPO examiner he told me that he worked for a company whose product was and is a household name. He said that if not for the EPO the company, which started small, would never have got off the ground. They were a small company with a new product, and the EPO had granted a patent on it. Because of the EPO's reputation for quality of examination, they and their investors had enough confident spend millions successfully defending the patent when it was challenged in several jurisdictions by the "big boys". If they had been unable to trust the EPO's quality they could not have committed the money and nothing would have come of their invention. The name of the product: GoreTex.

Erosion of quality by absurd production demands favors the "big boys" who find it cheaper and more predictable to produce thickets of low-quality patents and to litigate rather than innovate. The result is stagnation of both innovation and employment.

For more than 30 years the EPO had a precious reputation, of which the staff was extremely proud. Strange as it may seem to some cynics, any "privilege" we may have enjoyed was an added stimulus to high standards, apart from the pride and satisfaction we took in our work, because we knew we were contributing to society. It is reasonable to demand that anyone enjoying good pay and conditions produces good work and we did. The frustration of the staff has in fact nothing to do with money, but rather with being forced to violate our consciences.

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