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Monday, 1 March 2010

Extraordinary, a new president!

Dear weblog readers ...

"At the Extraordinary AC meeting in Munich today, the member states elected Benoît Battistelli as our next President [i.e. President of the European Patent Office]. Mr Battistelli obtained the necessary qualified majority of three-quarters of the votes cast. Currently Mr Battistelli is Director General of the French National Institute of Industrial Property".
Benoît Battistelli here
Another great French BB here
French without tears here
New site of the European Patent Office here
Horse trading here

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh dear! M. Batty-as-a-telly is unlikely to overturn the pro-French bias of the examiners is he.

Anonymous said...

"Pro-French bias of the examiners"??

Dear fellow Anonymouse, would you please care to substantiate that? In 13 years of career in patents, I've never encountered any "pro-French" bias among EPO examiners, French or otherwise.

(On the other hand, European patent applications with French priority may well have a higher grant rate than others, for the very simple reason that, as INPI subcontracts their search reports to the EPO, there's an obvious selection bias : only a very stubborn French applicant would bother filing a European application after receiving a very negative FR search report and written opinion by the same EPO examiner set to handle the EP application. The same happens for other countries with similar arrangements with the EPO, like Belgium.)

MaxDrei said...

How about this sequence of three questions:

1) Thinking about the "language of the proceedings" (LP) and the first language (FL) of the case-managing members of the ED, OD and TBA, what proportion of cases with French as the LP are decided by EPO people with French as FL?

Let me put it another way. How often is it that a case with French as LP is NOT tried by EPO people with French as their mother tongue? I suspect that there are more French speakers in the EPO than there are cases available for them with French as the LP. If so, dare EPO managers give such a case to anybody except a French native speaker?

2) By contrast, when the LP is in English, who gets to manage that case? My perception of the default condition is: NOT a native English speaker.

3) So, could this explain why, on those occasions when UK-based attorneys find themselves representing English-speaking Opponents in cases where French is both the LP and the FL of the representative of the patentee, they worry about bias?

My view: As a prelude to pan-European litigation of an LP Euro-patent, it is helpful to have validity tested in the EPO coarse filter by non-English speaking judges. By contrast, look what happens to those French language patents, in litigation downstream of the EPO.

Steph said...

I suspect that there are more French speakers in the EPO than there are cases available for them with French as the LP.
By contrast, when the LP is in English, who gets to manage that case? My perception of the default condition is: NOT a native English speaker.
And I suspect that there are far more French, German and Spanish (FL) speakers in the EPO than there are English (FL) speakers. What's the proportion of EN (LP) cases to other languages again?

Anonymous said...

How often is it that a case with French as LP is NOT tried by EPO people with French as their mother tongue?

Extremely often, I must say. I should know, as a former EPO examiner with a different mother tongue who dealt with possibly a few hundred French-language applications...

You appear to be under the misapprehension that files at the EPO are distributed according to language. This isn't so: they are primarily distributed by technical field, and there's only a handful of examiners for each technical field, so that there can't be much redistribution by language.

An examiner may indicate that he rather wouldn't deal with files where he doesn't feel sufficiently fluent in the LP, but that rarely happens, because EPO examiners are supposed to be fluent in all three official languages.

Now, you may be have more cause for complaint with your second point. Indeed, EPO examiners with English as their mother tongue are few and far between. There are two reasons for that:
a) The low level of foreign language teaching in Britain.
b) The high level of salaries for highly-skilled graduates in Britain .

Belgians, for instance, are overrepresented at the EPO because of their multilingualism. The French, on the other hand, are not (and possibly a majority of French examiners are from Alsace). Spaniards, Italians and Greeks are also overrepresented among the ranks of EPO examiners, but not because of the general level of foreign languages in those countries (which is quite abysmal), but because young engineers and scientists, no matter how highly skilled, are very badly paid there. A young engineer with a good command of English, French and German may easily triple or quadruple his earnings by working at the EPO rather than staying in Spain, Italy or Greece (physicists, chemists, never mind biologists, will have had already enough trouble getting a paying job in Southern Europe).

So, if you want to solve the problem of the underrepresentation of native English-speakers at the EPO, there's a simple solution: halve the salaries of young graduates in Britain.

MaxDrei said...

From the EPO Annual Report, less than 10% of EPO people come from UK and IE. However, a lot more than 10% of applications at the EPO are filed in English. What might it be, readers: 60%, 70%,even 75%?

Steph, I guess you are not a member of the EPI, right?

Anonymous said...

In any case Batistelli has been elected as president and not as an examiner ...

Anonymous said...

What is your point, MaxDrei, that the EPO should be reserving two thirds or three quarters of its vacancies for job applicants from the British Isles? (Never mind that a high proportion of those English-language filings are from East Asia, and in many cases calling them "English-language" may be very charitable indeed).

Anonymous said...

I am asked what is my point. My point is about the language capabilities of the Chair and First Member in the OD and TBA at oral proceedings, in cases where the language of the proceedings is English, and those when it is French.

I suspect that French native speakers at the EPO adjudicate European patents in French more often than English native speakers get to adjudicate patents in English, and that this might be what fuels any misperception in the UK of bias in the EPO towards the French language.

I think that filling the English speaking quota at the EPO will not make much difference, because nearly all the adjudicated patents are (or at least purport to be) in English.

Which of us has not had the galling experience, at oral proceedings, of trying and failing to impart the true meaning of a sentence in English to a non-native English speaker at the EPO. Do French-speaking representatives at oral proceedings suffer the same distress, when the language of the proceedings is French?

Anybody want to demur? Tell me. I'm interested.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to IPKat!!

Clearly your reader poll had an effect on the outcome, since the elected candidate got the fewest votes in your poll.

Given a number of options the Administrative Council has a fine record of choosing the least attractive.

Anonymous said...

MaxDrei, so, basically you are p****d off because you haven't been able to convince some ODs and TBAs that some words in your patent meant what you meant them to mean.

I sympathise, as I'm sure many fellow EPAs also do, but I'm afraid that this may not necessarily be related with the fluency of the examiners and members of the TBA. They're mostly fluent enough in English (something which I've got the feeling may not always be the case with, say, the USPTO).

Considering that a European patent may subsequently be litigated in a great many languages, it is generally a good idea to draft them clearly enough to avoid this problem anyway.

MaxDrei said...

To Anonymous at 13.56hr. Your first para: No, I'm not pissed off. When I am disappointed though, it's not because my own drafting is misunderstood but because of differences between my understanding of what English language D1 discloses, and that of the TBA.

Your 2nd para. Agreed. But isn't that already implicit, in what I wrote above?

Interesting, how blog readers take from postings what they want to find, which is often rather more than what's actually there. Never mind. Whatever stimulates the thread.

MaxDrei said...

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung today observes that:

1. The new President has the same nationality as the EU Commissioner in Brussels that is responsible for IPR. They will work well together, no?

2. The new President has no plans to move to Munich

3. Many fear that the interests of the French national Patent Office might continue to lie closer to his heart than those of the EPO.

4. And industry notes that his entire career experience is as a civil servant and fears that he is short on appreciation of the needs of industry.

I wonder, after such a bruising voting-in process, will the new President be any more able than Alison Brimelow, to get the AC moving?

Anonymous said...

MaxDrei, I've checked that SZ article, and I don't see your point 2. Are you sure that he's declared that? Pompidou was said to have already tried that "absentee landlord" approach, but he ultimately had to relent and move to Munich (where his wife promptly found a job, but that's another matter).

MaxDrei said...

Anon, please forgive, if I have totally misunderstood the second sentence in the SZ piece. I do concede that I didn't translate it literally. I just assumed that a declaration of not "wanting" to move to Munich, even before the voting took place, implies no "plans" thereafter, to move to Munich. Now you mention it, I see that one can make concrete plans, even while not wanting to move. I should have rendered the second sentence more literally. Readers, I beg your pardon. But, anon, what did you make of the second sentence in the SZ, pray?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure we are talking about the same article. Isn't it this one?

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wissen/517/504726/text/

Anonymous said...

A well-drafted patent application should should not cause any language difficulties with non-native speakers. The mother tongue of the examiner will hardly have an impact on his/her understanding of the application. Patent language is not meant to be high literature. It is meant to be as clear and unambiguous as possible. So I don't see what's the fuss about the proportion of examiners that don't have English as their mother tongue.

Btw, the majority of attorneys prosecuting patent applications in the English language do not have English as their mother tongue, either. Are they less capable? Should clients be advised against using the services of non-native speakers?

"Which of us has not had the galling experience, at oral proceedings, of trying and failing to impart the true meaning of a sentence in English to a non-native English speaker at the EPO."
If a proper grammatical parsing of the sentence does not reveal its "true meaning", the drafter might not have done a very good job.

Actually, what happens quite a lot is that the grammatical meaning of a sentence does not make technical sense in the context of the invention (or the prior art document). In that case it can be fully correct to deviate from this grammatical meaning.

"When I am disappointed though, it's not because my own drafting is misunderstood but because of differences between my understanding of what English language D1 discloses, and that of the TBA."
What do you think is the proportion of (non-patent) English language documents in a technical field written by native speakers?

And what is the relation between the language of the proceedings and the language of D1? Sure, the EPO might sometimes be able to pick a family member in the language of the proceedings, but that's it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the rumour about the new president not moving or not wanting to move to Munich is based instead on this article on heise.de:
"Aktuell waren im SUEPO-Umfeld kritische Stimmen zu hören, dass der der neue Präsident nicht nach München umziehen wolle und seit März in der französischen Kleinstadt St. Germain en Laye das Amt eines Gemeinderates innehabe. Dies sei eigentlich nicht mit der Funktion des EPA-Präsidenten vereinbar."

Indeed, he is member of the municipal council of this French town.

Anonymous said...

The printed editon of the SZ reported:
"Umziehen jedenfalls möchte er nicht, so war es schon auf den Fluren des Europäisches Patentamts zu hören - und zwar ehe überhaupt feststand, dass der Franzose die Behörde mit Sitz in München leiten wird."
MaxDrei's comments seem to be about right.
EdT

MaxDrei said...

Thanks EdT. Appreciated. I guess that the key to the puzzle of the thread above lies in your words "printed edition". Is it that, as before, you shouldn't believe all you read in the papers, or that nowadays one should be slow to believe all you read in the internet. Both, I suppose.

I see that Joff Wild has chipped in his 6 penn'th of comment, on his IAM blog.

Steph said...

Steph, I guess you are not a member of the EPI, right?
To a rethorcial question, a rethorcial question and a half ;-)

The EPI will have to wait until my 10 years (Article 6, Instructions) are fully served.

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