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Thursday, 12 June 2008

Confused Kat at the EPO

The IPKat knows that the boards of appeal at the EPO are always busy, and decisions come out at a rapid rate, typically a few decisions every day on average (even though they tend to take quite a long time to get there). He was, however, surprised to see 143 new decisions announced yesterday, so very soon after 127 decisions had only recently been announced a few days previously.

He was even more puzzled to see that these 'new' decisions included none dated later than June 2007, with some going back as far as February 2006. He would therefore like to know what is going on, and wonders if any of his readers can help. Are these decisions really new to us, or has there been a slip-up?

While he is on the subject, some readers may be interested in the EPO's recently published summary of the 'landmark' boards of appeal cases from the past year, which is available here (big pdf file). This helpfully summarises the major events of 2007 as far as legal developments at the EPO are concerned. A strangely precise statistic from this document caught the IPKat's eye, relating to the percentage of ex-parte cases settled after substantive legal review (see page 10). Of the 57.4% of cases that resulted in success (at least in part) for the applicant, 28.7% resulted in grant and 28.7% were sent back for further examination. Given the number of cases involved, and the decimal precision of the numbers, this seems a remarkable match. Is it just a coincidence, or are there higher powers at work involved in balancing the EPO's books?


Anonymous said...

50-50 chance when you toss a coin for a particular result, so only right that this ended up with a 50-50 split...

Anonymous said...

If you look at the details of the Boards making the decisions, you will note that Board 3.2.06 comes up with remarkable frequency. My thoughts are that they have been squirreling the decisions and they have only just been found.

Anonymous said...

Publication of DG3 decisions on the Internet is nothing more than a service to the public. The Boards have no control over this service.
Obviously the last commentator has not yet been a party at EPO appeal proceedings!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps anon. 120608 21:20 then has an explanation for why more than half the decisions originate from Board 3.2.06. If the Board really has no control over this service I am at a loss to see how this rash of decisions could result.

Gobhicks said...

Re Board 3.2.06, their subject matter area may be a clue. Given the hundreds of oppositions involving Procter & Gamble and/or Kimberly-Clark, not hard to imagine that a backlog might build up.

I understand that these kinds of products can be hard to flush through any system.

Anonymous said...

IP Kat readers should not confuse the date a written decision is posted to the parties with the date the decision is published on the internet.
The latter service is irrelevant to appeal proceedings.

David said...

Dr Rudolf Teschemacher writes to the IPKat to say the following:

"Dear IPKat,

perhaps I may bring your confusion at the EPO to a higher level.

The EPO announces new decisions on its website on the day these decision are available to the public on the EPO's database. The time needed for this exercise which is made batchwise may depend on how busy the people responsible for this job are. This is an organisational reason why "new
decisions" may appear slightly yellowed.

As to the question how old these decisions actually are, one needs more than the date on the decision. Decisions given at the end of oral proceedings (this is the majority of Board of Appeal decisions) bear the date on which they were announced. The reasons of the decisions are drafted subsequently which may require some time. In order to find out the date on which an individual decision was notified to the parties one has to inspect the file of the respective application or patent via epoline with the indication on the list of documents "notification(s) of decisions".

Statistical data on appeals in ex parte proceedings for 2007:

Although the precise figures may be a surprising coincidence, the results are not outside the scope to be expected. The respective data for the preceding year are:

successful appeals 58%,
26% grant
32% further examination."

Anonymous said...

It would appear that most, if not all, of the decisions which have taken so long to appear on the internet site were marked "no distribution" in the chaeck box on the first page rather than the normal "to Chairmen".

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