Patent Protection at Risk
Open Letter to the European Patent Office: Quality of patent examinations at risk
In an open letter to the European Patent Office, four large Munich-based patent law firms criticize the way patent applications are currently being examined, their fear being a decline in quality. While faster processing of patent applications has improved productivity, the quality of granted patents has suffered as a result. The hitherto reliable patent protection afforded to inventors and companies is being jeopardized, warn the law firms, which between them handle many thousands of patent applications and patents on behalf of clients.
Munich, June 14, 2018: The four Munich patent law firms of Grünecker, Hoffmann Eitle, Maiwald and Vossius & Partner have joined forces to write an open letter to the European Patent Office in Munich. Their action was prompted by the realization that in recent years the Office has primarily focused its attention on speeding up examination procedures, leaving examiners little time to scrutinize applications for legal certainty. Inventors and enterprises that previously relied on the good reputation of the European Patent Office and the quality of granted patents now face greater legal and economic uncertainties. The law firms consider efficiency in processing patent applications to be important and right, but not at the expense of a public body’s essential task to ensure reliable patent protection. They call on the Directorate of the European Patent Office to reflect again on its core mission so that applicants can again count on thorough and legally reliable processing of patent applications. The law firms’ warning follows the petition submitted in March of this year by 924 examiners of the European Patent Office expressing their criticism of general inadequacies in the examination system currently prevailing in the EPO.
The risks are obvious
The patent attorneys criticize the fact that the European Patent Office, which is financed mainly through fees paid by patent applicants, is currently recording large surpluses. This money should be used to maintain the very high quality of granted patents, something that was formerly taken for granted. Insufficiently stringent analyses, which the Office accepts as the price to be paid for its one-sided focus on productivity, devalue examination and grant processes, resulting in weaker patent protection. Patent attorneys worry that the effects of such a practice will be felt for decades. Inventors and companies rely on the EPO to ensure that their innovations obtain the best possible protection, while markets need to be able to form a correct assessment of granted intellectual property rights and not run the risk of becoming ensnared in patent thickets. Uncertainty therefore affects everyone. All in all, the patent attorneys conclude: “As far as we are concerned, the EPO’s large surpluses are an indicator that a further increase in productivity, which brings with it its own problems, is not necessary at the moment.”