EPO staff strike over patent quality

Accuse office directors of profiteering


The European Patent Office (EPO) was hit last week by a strike by staff who were demanding not better pay and conditions but the freedom to help create better quality patents.

Around 250 staff took part in the strike and a march through Brussels demanding better governance of the EPO, according to the EPO staff union, SUEPO. A delegation met with officials from European Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy's office the next day to outline their concerns.

The protesters claim that the EPO is forcing them to grant patents that are not of good enough quality so that the EPO can receive patent registration fees from them. They claim the result is a potentially disastrous lowering of patent quality.

The staff objections mirror those from opponents of the patent system in Europe and the US and opponents to any extension of patents to cover software. A common argument from those opponents is that examiners are not strict enough in policing patent quality.

EPO staff have argued that national patent offices, whose directors sit on the governing body of the EPO and which share 50 per cent of EPO revenues, are pressurising the organisation into generating patent revenues where no patents should be awarded.

"A conflict of interest has therefore existed since the founding of the EPO … the eagerness of the national patent offices to get more money out of the EPO has led the EPO management to squeeze more and more patent grants from the staff," said Sylvie Jacobs of the Union Syndicale Federale, to which SUEPO is affiliated at the Brussels march. "In the EPO, it ruins the professional pride of the examiners and other EPO staff who thus find it more and more difficult to meet the quality level imposed by patent law and expected by industry and the public."

Jacobs said that the consequences of the problems are severe.

"Lowering quality standards while increasing the EPO’s output, or sharing core tasks with less qualified national patent offices, have … disastrous effects," she said. "In a situation where many of the granted intellectual property monopoly rights worldwide would be unjustified, and the scope of those monopolies would be blurred, large companies would end up in dominant positions on markets through the sheer number of intellectual property rights and their economic power."

"These rights can easily be misused to put smaller entities under pressure and stifle rather than promote innovation. We have been warned by the evolution of the American patent system that has provoked much headache and dispute on the other side of the Atlantic. Ultimately, the European consumer will pay the bill for such a distortion of competition," she said.

Last week's action was not the first time that staff had expressed their opposition to the way the EPO is managed. They staged a demonstration and a strike last year over similar issues, and in 2006 held protests demanding enough time to make sure that patents were of a high enough quality.

The staff complaints were addressed to EPO president Alison Brimelow and its council president Roland Grossenbacher.

"Ms Brimelow, Mr Grossenbacher: stop decentralising EPO tasks, stop ruining the quality of granted patents, stop distorting the system away from the interests of real innovators towards the interests of the most aggressive international players and perhaps a few Anglophone patent attorneys, stop opposing the Lisbon agenda, stop frustrating the EPO staff," said Jacobs. "Become aware of your real task: serve the European consumers, universities, SMEs and all real innovators, gear the EPO to the EU, support and facilitate the introduction of the community patent, allow your staff to proudly serve Europe and its citizens."

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.


Other stories you might like

  • Suspected phishing email crime boss cuffed in Nigeria
    Interpol, cops swoop with intel from cybersecurity bods

    Interpol and cops in Africa have arrested a Nigerian man suspected of running a multi-continent cybercrime ring that specialized in phishing emails targeting businesses.

    His alleged operation was responsible for so-called business email compromise (BEC), a mix of fraud and social engineering in which staff at targeted companies are hoodwinked into, for example, wiring funds to scammers or sending out sensitive information. This can be done by sending messages that impersonate executives or suppliers, with instructions on where to send payments or data, sometimes by breaking into an employee's work email account to do so.

    The 37-year-old's detention is part of a year-long, counter-BEC initiative code-named Operation Delilah that involved international law enforcement, and started with intelligence from cybersecurity companies Group-IB, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42, and Trend Micro.

    Continue reading
  • Broadcom buying VMware could create an edge infrastructure and IoT empire
    Hypervisor giant too big to be kept ticking over like CA or Symantec. Instead it can wrangle net-connected kit

    Comment Broadcom’s mooted acquisition of VMware looks odd at face value, but if considered as a means to make edge computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) more mature and manageable, and give organizations the tools to drive them, the deal makes rather more sense.

    Edge and IoT are the two coming things in computing and will grow for years, meaning the proposed deal could be very good for VMware’s current customers.

    An Ethernet switch that Broadcom launched this week shows why this is a plausible scenario.

    Continue reading
  • Ex-spymaster and fellow Brexiteers' emails leaked by suspected Russian op
    A 'Very English Coop (sic) d'Etat'

    Emails between leading pro-Brexit figures in the UK have seemingly been stolen and leaked online by what could be a Kremlin cyberespionage team.

    The messages feature conversations between former spymaster Richard Dearlove, who led Britain's foreign intelligence service MI6 from 1999 to 2004; Baroness Gisela Stuart, a member of the House of Lords; and Robert Tombs, an expert of French history at the University of Cambridge, as well as other Brexit supporters. The emails were uploaded to a .co.uk website titled "Very English Coop d'Etat," Reuters first reported this week.

    Dearlove confirmed his ProtonMail account was compromised. "I am well aware of a Russian operation against a Proton account which contained emails to and from me," he said. The Register has asked Baroness Stuart and Tombs as well as ProtonMail for comment. Tombs declined to comment.

    Continue reading
  • As Microsoft's $70b takeover of Activision nears, workers step up their organizing
    This week: Subsidiary's QA staff officially unionize, $18m settlement disputed, and more

    Current and former Activision Blizzard staff are stepping up their organizing and pressure campaigns on execs as the video-game giant tries to close its $68.7bn acquisition by Microsoft.

    Firstly, QA workers at Raven Software – a studio based in Wisconsin that develops the popular first-person shooter series Call of Duty – successfully voted to officially unionize against parent biz Activision. Secondly, a former employee appealed Activision's proposed $18 million settlement with America's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding claims of "sex-based discrimination" and "harassment" of female staff at the corporation. 

    Finally, a group of current and ex-Activision employees have formed a Worker Committee Against Sex and Gender Discrimination to try and improve the company's internal sexual harassment policies. All three events occurred this week, and show how Activision is still grappling with internal revolt as it pushes ahead for Microsoft's takeover. 

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia shares tumble as China lockdown, Russia blamed for dent in outlook
    Sure, stonking server and gaming sales, but hiring and expenses to slow down, too

    Nvidia exceeded market expectations and on Wednesday reported record first-quarter fiscal 2023 revenue of $8.29 billion, an increase of 46 percent from a year ago and eight percent from the previous quarter.

    Nonetheless the GPU goliath's stock slipped by more than nine percent in after-hours trading amid remarks by CFO Colette Kress regarding the business's financial outlook, and plans to slow hiring and limit expenses. Nvidia stock subsequently recovered a little, and was trading down about seven percent at time of publication.

    Kress said non-GAAP operating expenses in the three months to May 1 increased 35 percent from a year ago to $1.6 billion, and were "driven by employee growth, compensation-related costs and engineering development costs."

    Continue reading
  • Millions of people's info stolen from MGM Resorts dumped on Telegram for free
    Meanwhile, Twitter coughs up $150m after using account security contact details for advertising

    Miscreants have dumped on Telegram more than 142 million customer records stolen from MGM Resorts, exposing names, postal and email addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth for any would-be identity thief.

    The vpnMentor research team stumbled upon the files, which totaled 8.7 GB of data, on the messaging platform earlier this week, and noted that they "assume at least 30 million people had some of their data leaked." MGM Resorts, a hotel and casino chain, did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    The researchers reckon this information is linked to the theft of millions of guest records, which included the details of Twitter's Jack Dorsey and pop star Justin Bieber, from MGM Resorts in 2019 that was subsequently distributed via underground forums.

    Continue reading
  • DuckDuckGo tries to explain why its browsers won't block some Microsoft web trackers
    Meanwhile, Tails 5.0 users told to stop what they're doing over Firefox flaw

    DuckDuckGo promises privacy to users of its Android, iOS browsers, and macOS browsers – yet it allows certain data to flow from third-party websites to Microsoft-owned services.

    Security researcher Zach Edwards recently conducted an audit of DuckDuckGo's mobile browsers and found that, contrary to expectations, they do not block Meta's Workplace domain, for example, from sending information to Microsoft's Bing and LinkedIn domains.

    Specifically, DuckDuckGo's software didn't stop Microsoft's trackers on the Workplace page from blabbing information about the user to Bing and LinkedIn for tailored advertising purposes. Other trackers, such as Google's, are blocked.

    Continue reading
  • Despite 'key' partnership with AWS, Meta taps up Microsoft Azure for AI work
    Someone got Zuck'd

    Meta’s AI business unit set up shop in Microsoft Azure this week and announced a strategic partnership it says will advance PyTorch development on the public cloud.

    The deal [PDF] will see Mark Zuckerberg’s umbrella company deploy machine-learning workloads on thousands of Nvidia GPUs running in Azure. While a win for Microsoft, the partnership calls in to question just how strong Meta’s commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) really is.

    Back in those long-gone days of December, Meta named AWS as its “key long-term strategic cloud provider." As part of that, Meta promised that if it bought any companies that used AWS, it would continue to support their use of Amazon's cloud, rather than force them off into its own private datacenters. The pact also included a vow to expand Meta’s consumption of Amazon’s cloud-based compute, storage, database, and security services.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022