The IPKat has been made aware, via several sources, of apparently impending changes to the regulations for becoming a qualified European patent attorney. One of these sources, Marie Jansson, has helpfully provided the following summary of the issue, which the IPKat would like to pass on to his readers.
"I have recently come across an amendment to the regulation on the European qualifying examination (REE) that may be of interest to you/IPkat. Although mostly sensible, i.e. introducing one exam a year earlier than the rest to prevent re-sit students from repeating all the exams year after year, the REE has slipped in a rather contentious point in Annex 3.
Annex 3 provides that enrolment for the EQE will require a four-year training period for those who have completed a three-year university course. As a majority of UK trainee patent attorneys fall within this category, an increase of one year will have a massive impact on both the selection of trainees and the costs of training as per David Bradley in the January edition of the CIPA journal. Mr. Bradley points out that it seems strange to accept that students who have less scientific technical knowledge would need more time during their training contract where the focus is on legal and practical skills.
Strongly objected by CIPA, (Mick Ralph collecting evidence on the exact numbers to be affected), the real shock of the amendment is the accompanying comment:
'In practice, only UK candidates with bachelor degrees with honours will be disadvantaged. However, UK candidates increasingly have MSc (minimum four years) or PhD degrees.'
This seems to suggest that the EPO is equating a bachelors degree obtained in the UK as weighing less than that obtained elsewhere because it took less time. This proposal could then be interpreted to be anti-European after the introduction of the Bologna Process and the transfer of qualifications directive. I wouldn’t like to suggest discrimination, but how else could you justify such a move?
If its the high failure rate of the UK students that have caused this amendment then this could be perhaps justified. However, it is well known that UK candidates’ pass rates are consistently well above average as is demonstrated by the following graph:
Given that the UK pass rate is already higher than average it seems quite irrational to implement a change which requires additional training for candidates of a country which already has a higher pass rate than most.
So maybe there is the potential for Judicial Review using the German courts; perhaps the British IP industry will rally against these proposals and the ensure they never come into force. All that is certain is, if this does come into force, the UK will be unjustifiably biased."
This particular Kat, who has yet to pass all the required exams, is a little wary of expressing an opinion either way. He does, however, think it is a little odd to propose arbitrarily disqualifying a whole group of able people on the basis that their technical training is not sufficient. This Kat's own particular four year University course was an awfully long time ago, and he can't believe that extra year really made much difference in the end. It's all very well making sure that standards are kept high, but quite another thing to discriminate on irrelevant grounds. What should surely matter is how well one can do the job, which the EQEs should surely aim to be testing if they have any point to them at all. What next, the IPKat wonders? Proof of residency in Germany?
Merpel warns the IPKat to be careful; how do you know those papers are really marked anonymously?