Quantity instead of quality: Why the European Patent Office cannot continue like this

The European Patent Office (EPO) is facing enormous criticism. Four large European patent attorney firms address the President with a public urgent letter. Their accusation: the new efficiency strategy is anything but efficient, because it leads to a loss of quality. We agree that things urgently need to change.

The discussion about the new efficiency course in the EPO reaches a new climax. While the German Patent Office can hardly keep up with its work, its European colleagues suffer from real inefficiency – according to the accusations. The patent attorneys of the patent law firms Grünecker, Hoffmann Eitle, Maiwald and Vossius & Partner have therefore sent an open letter to those responsible, and criticised the new incentive system.

Internal directives have long ensured faster audits. But it is understandable that this is always not good for the quality of the patents. That is why we agree with our colleagues: This increase in productivity is welcome in itself, as long as the examinations do not suffer. The consequences could be defective patents. In the long term, the reputation of excellent European patents on the international market could decrease.

Furthermore, the remarkably high fees for a patent application and the EPO’s large reserves are rightly criticised. It cannot be that the EPO tends to want to make profits. Especially if you end up paying for mistakes with heavy fees.

And not only attorneys and lawyers, but also patent experts from the industry express criticism. According to the JUVE Patent Survey 2018, they want more professionalism. Only a few are behind the idea of the fastest possible registration process.

The EPO, on the other hand, has so far remained silent on the accusations and emphasised the productivity of the new strategy. Patent applications are said to have increased by 36 percent and the number of outstanding notifications has been reduced by 27 percent. Generally pleasing figures, but they cannot hide that productivity does not always mean professionalism.

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