The team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge, Stephen Jones, Mathilde Pavis, and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Hayleigh Bosher, Tian Lu and Cecilia Sbrolli.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

IPKat comment moderation policy

Do not make Merpel angry, or...
The comment section of IPKat posts is a place for vigourous debate, often adding valuable insights to the posts. In fact, Merpel has heard that some people visit IPKat for the comment section (Merpel: I am slightly hurt).

It has always been IPKat policy to allow pseudonymous comments. This allows practitioners, but most importantly insiders of various authorities, to add their insights without fear of repercussions. We understand that some people working for such institutions feel, justifiedly or not, that they cannot speak freely when they are identifiable.

On all posts relating to the European Patent Office, however, the right to post pseudonymously has been abused in recent times. On Merpel's post welcoming the new president of the EPO, the situation got out of hand. The overwhelming majority of comments were purely libellous ad hominem attacks on a man that has not even taken office. This led the IPKat team to decide to remove all comments on said post (IPKat did not receive any legal threats).

Going forward, we do not want to remove the ability to post pseudonymous comments. After all, Merpel is a pseudonym, too (Merpel: are you implying I am not real? Now I am really hurt).

But while Merpel is a critical cat, Merpel is not a libellous cat. He does not abuse the privilege of the pseudonym. Going forward, we will rigourously enforce the following comment moderation policy:
  1. Strictly no anonymous posts, only pseudonymous. This is mostly for readability in long threads.
  2. Strictly no personal attacks on identifiable people. If you need to spew hatred, go elsewhere.
  3. Play nice.

22 comments:

Keeping the story straight said...

"Merpel is not a libellous cat. He does not abuse the privilege of the pseudonym." Merpel appears to have undergone gender reassignment!?

Proof of the pudding said...

All very well, Merpel. But why delete all of the comments and not just the "offensive" ones?

I had not forgotten the "rules" for posting on EPO-related matters. Indeed, I took great care to follow them. So I am particularly offended that my comments were deleted. Could you please therefore extend me the courtesy of restoring them (as well as all of the other comments that comply with the "rules")?

Garfield said...

I always thought Merpel was a she?

Pangur Bán said...

Does this count as a personal attack on an identifiable individual?


"The current EPO President Benoît Battistelli has been attacking all parts of the EPO with ruthless efficiency. The strands of this are almost too numerous to enumerate, but Merpel will attempt a brief summary. (Most of the posts on this topic are labelled "Eponia" so a search on this should reveal to any keen readers the majority of Merpel's posts.)

A Board of Appeal member remains in limbo having been suspended, but the Enlarged Board of Appeal three times (showing admirable and rare backbone) having declined (also noted here) to propose his removal from office.
The staff representation has been emasculated, and the main staff union SUEPO has been constantly under attack, with four of its officers either sacked or demoted on dubious charges (see posts here and here).
The Boards of Appeal have likewise been emasculated and banished to Haar, approved by the AC last October, seemingly in retaliation for the lack of compliance of the Enlarged Board of Appeal with the President's wishes.
Examination quotas have been continually increased for Examiners, and while the mantra about "quality not affected" is often raised, there is actually no proper assessment of examination quality, with many reports that it is suffering. The astonishing 40% increase in granted patents in 2016 has been widely reported, although this is presumably partly due to the changed examination priorities which, inter alia, involve progressing rapidly to grant cases that are clearly allowable.
The social situation at the EPO has deteriorated with repeated amendments to the employment regulations, and the atmosphere between Examiners and managers grows increasingly toxic."

Legal Concepts said...

As to point 2, why is spewing hatred merely limited to personal people? Should not legal concepts be afforded the same "temperance" and "respect" and spew-proofing?

Pseudonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation Merpel.

benQ said...

"The overwhelming majority of comments were purely libellous ad hominem attacks on a man that has not even taken office."

That is simply NOT true. Those very few posts that would fall into that category could have easily moderated out.

For anyone interested in making up their own mind, the original posts are hosted as a PDF a the (rather opinionated) Techrights site.

Pseudonymous said...

On the other side, the Kluwer Patent Blog does not seem to mince his words:

‘EPC, EPO and UPCA lack guarantees for democracy, rule of law and human rights’

Proof of the pudding said...

@Keeping the story straight

There does seem to have been a shift in gender... as well as a very marked shift in approach.

No need to worry about this particular tomcat, though. It appears to have been neutered.

Oversight said...

I remain disappointed that ipKat, which used to offer reasonable and regular opinion and reporting on the situation at the EPO, has all but given up reporting on the EPO other than to provide bare factual statements. There are now more reports on copyright decisions issued by Italian courts than there are on the EPO. Obviously I don't know the reason for this change in editorial policy. I just find it disappointing.

I also echo the statement of BenQ, it is simply not true to say that the majority of the comments on Merpel's post were libellous. The relevant comments remain on the internet for anybody who is interested in checking them and making up their own mind.

Millipede said...

This is a very strange topic item indeed. It was posted a few days ago (I believe Tuesday 24 or Wednesday 25 October), but now (Friday 25) it appears as a new post with a future date of Sunday 29 October.

Apparently (also because of teh gender change) some magic has happened to Merpel and the IPKat.

Anonymous said...

As the original post is dated 29th October and today its 27th October, does Merpel have access to Dr. Who's Tardis?

MixtMetaphors said...

Maybe Merpel has lost her compass because she misses Jeremy, who was quite adept at cleaning out the litter box without throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.

THE US anon said...

Quite adept?

I beg to differ.

On several occasions the power of the editor overlapped with the views (and narrative) desired by the editor.

There will always be at least the perception of shaping content when selective pruning of comments are undertaken.

Even the notion of "what is hatred" becomes a debatable point.

To wit, on a certain oft acerbic US patent blog, a certain poster with a long and objectively verified history of spewing hatred was actually applauded by one of the regulars of this blog. The phrase used was: " Reasonable people might disagree, however, on who to include on the list of culprits. For example, much of what MM punches in I enjoy."

Trying to be nice said...

I have no desire to offend Merpel's delicate sensibilities or to libel anybody.
I would just like to make a few observations and hope that they will pass the scrutiny of the blog moderator(s).

It would appear that moves are underfoot at the EPO to lift the current 5% limit on the number of staff employed on fixed term contracts. Irrespective of the merits or otherwise of such a proposal it is likely to generate controversy. That is in the nature of these things.

However, an item of EPO "gossip" has just appeared on TechRights according to which the delegation of an EPO member state recently made a statement to the effect that the current EPO President had been asked by the President-elect to make sure that this measure was passed before he (the President-elect) took up office in July next year.

Whether or not this snippet of gossip has any substance it seems to throw up some interesting questions because it suggests that either:
(a) The President-elect is already intervening in EPO matters despite not having yet taken up office
or
(b) A national delegation is lying about the President-elect before he has even taken up office.

Whatever one is inclined to make of all this one thing is certain.
The governance of the EPO is characterised by a worrying lack of transparency.

What is also quite surprising is that IPKat no longer seems to be concerned about this serious governance deficit at the EPO.

Since IPKat is (one supposes) widely read by "users" of the EPO system, it is rather odd that it has now adopted a policy which seems to be aimed at discouraging debate about these matters.

As I said at the beginning, I am not trying to offend or libel anybody. Nor am I interested in spewing hate. I just wanted to air a few points and raise a few questions which in my mind seem perfectly legitimate and in the public interest.

Anonymous said...


here is the post " Trying to be nice said..." refers to:

http://techrights.org/2017/10/28/battistelli-and-belgium/

Garfield said...

@Trying to be nice

Obviously there is a dividing line between expressing concern about the EPO's governance and making ad hominen attacks. I can certainly understand that Merpel is concerned to prevent one spilling over into the other, and I think you do too.

The separate issue you raise is that the IPKat is no longer posting about the governance issues, which means there is less opportunity for others to express their concern. That might be regrettable, since the IPKat would be a much better forum for legitimate debate than a certain other website, precisely because Merpel filters out unreasonable comments and ad hominen attacks.

However, before complaining that the IPKat is no longer concerned, have you considered that the blog's panel of contributors changes over time, and that each contributor tends to post on topics that happen to interest them? The lack of posts about EPO governance may simply be due to changes in personnel, rather than a deliberate policy of discouraging debate.

Anonymous said...


@ Garfield said...

"each contributor tends to post on topics that happen to interest them"

should the purpose not be to post on topics to interest the readers ?

Proof of the pudding said...

@Garfield

It's not about what interests the contributors but their (professional) judgement on what should and should not be posted.

It cannot be the case that there are no individual amongst the IPKat contributors that are not "interested" in momentous developments at the EPO. It therefore becomes a matter of judgement of the contributors regarding which developments they comment upon, and how they comment upon them.

I therefore think that it is perfectly legitimate to call into question whether, collectively, the judgement of the contributors is wise or not. Unless there is some very significant non-public information to which the contributors are party, then my conclusion would be "not". This is because I do not see why a blog dedicated to all matters (European) IP should avoid discussing a topic merely because it is controversial (or "political").

Bad things can happen in the shadows, and so an extremely important duty of the "media" is to illuminate a situation. I cannot help but feel that, of late, IPKat has been guilty of dereliction of duty in this regard.

Garfield said...

"should the purpose not be to post on topics to interest the readers ?"

If it were a commercial concern such as a newspaper or magazine, and the contributors were being paid to write stuff to attract readers, then yes maybe. But it's not.

Trying to be nice said...

@ Garfield

"However, before complaining that the IPKat is no longer concerned, have you considered that the blog's panel of contributors changes over time, and that each contributor tends to post on topics that happen to interest them? The lack of posts about EPO governance may simply be due to changes in personnel, rather than a deliberate policy of discouraging debate."

I regret to say that I cannot entirely concur with you on this.

One may indeed take the position that the blog's panel of contributors are entirely free to pursue their own particular hobby horses and that this may account for the lack of attention to EPO matters.

However, if this really is the case it would - in my humble opinion - amount to a decline into "idiocy" in the classical Greek sense of the word.

"In ancient Greek society, an idiotes was a layperson who lacked professional skills. The idiot contributed nothing to public life or the common good. ... This contrasted with the status of the public citizen, or polites, such that to be an idiot was to be withdrawn, isolated and selfish, to not participate in the public, political life of the city-state.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/opinion/trump-and-the-true-meaning-of-idiot.html

The point here is that the EPO is a public inter-governmental institution and its governance is a legitimate matter of public interest and -consequently - a legitimate subject for public comment.

If the blog's panel of contributors have decided for whatever reason that matters concerning the governance of the EPO are no longer worth writing about then by all means let them pursue other subjects of interest which take their fancy.

Unfortunately according to the Greek model referred to above such a state of affairs would arguably relegate the status of the blog to that of the "idiotes" rather than the "polites".

It may well be that times have changed but those of us who can fondly remember the bygone days when IPKat seemed to be more "polites" than "idiotes" must be excused for feeling a bit disappointed by such a development.

Cynic said...

Perhaps it is also worth considering who this blog is actually directed at rather than who reads it? The current top 3 most visited articles all concern the EPO and will attract many readers among EPO staff - particularly given the oppressive regime there which acts against free discussion. The Ipkat is a public and anonymous forum, in fact a proxy meeting place for some. But of course the Ipkat is more than just an EPO discussion board. So, for that reason I’m sure a little balance is required, particularly in terms of monitoring content.

Good luck Merpel. You can please some of the people....

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