The IPKat weblog and the European Patent Office: some points of clarification

This moggy notes with concern that the posting of comments on the IPKat's weblog on European Patent Office (EPO) matters has got somewhat out of hand. The IPKat has asked her to have a word with readers, which is exactly what she is doing now. If you are one of the participants in the recent strings of comments, please take careful note:


This weblog has been accused by many anonymous readers -- but not as yet by any named ones -- of "taking sides", "bias" and "partiality". Merpel would like to remind everyone that this weblog doesn't have a policy or a position: it would be difficult for it even to formulate one, seeing as it is a team of some ten individual bloggers with different professional or vocational skills, spread across different countries and with a variety of intellectual property interests.

Sometimes a good roar can open a dialogue...
This weblog exists to further understanding of intellectual property rights and the means by which they are created and administered.  To that end, it is always willing to consider posting material that helps to fulfil this function.  Last year, in a post entitled "Merpel roars: the EPO responds" (5 August 2014, here), this weblog reproduced in full a letter from the EPO's then Principal Director for Communications, Oswald Schroeder.  Merpel thanked Oswald for his contribution and invited readers' comments, the IPKat adding: "let's hope that this heralds a new era of fruitful communication between the EPO and the rest of the IP world".  Shortly thereafter, Oswald and the EPO parted company "in mysterious circumstances" and "by mutual consent", since which time this weblog has received no direct communications from the Office in response to, or by way of clarification of, any points raised in its features or by those who have posted comments on it.

It remains the case that, since July of last year when the governance of the European Patent Office was first seriously addressed by this weblog, the overwhelming majority of readers' comments and emails received by the IPKat's Gmail account and individual members of the blog team has been highly critical of the activities of the European Patent Office, its President and some of its senior officials. This moggy and the other Kat-bloggers are quite busy enough with their day-jobs and with covering other IP developments and have no interest in either manufacturing comments or manipulating debate. Their interest, as is everyone's, is in the existence of a smoothly operating, efficient and high-quality EPO which will function both within the context of the European Union's new patent regime and beyond it, in a manner which offers confidence to its users, dignity to its officers and genuine job satisfaction to its staff.

Incidentally, a reader has recently pointed out that the European Patent Office has its own weblog, which you can access here. Like the IPKat, the EPO's blog has a comment facility but a brief inspection of some of the blogposts suggests that it may not have been used.


This moggy will repeat what this weblog has said in the past.  There is no policy of censoring the comments of one "side" and promoting the comments of the other.  All comments are however moderated and will be routinely blocked if they are abusive, obscene, blasphemous or defamatory. They will also be blocked if they contain nothing of relevance to the substance of the initial blogpost. This much is standard for all comments on all blogposts and on all topics.

With regard to EPO posts we have also taken down a number of blogposts, at the request of the person posting them or a body representing them, on the basis that, since the identity of the comment-poster has either been stated or can easily be identified from the content of the post, there is a reasonable expectation that the comment-poster will face disciplinary proceedings and/or possible dismissal.

Comments may end up here
A final point concerning the posting of readers' comments relates to the comment facility on the Blogger software which powers this weblog.  Sometimes, for no obvious reason, a bona fide comment is directed straight into the Spam Box, where it may reside for a while before it is spotted. The IPKat weblog gets more than its fair share of spam, much of it from people trying to ramp up their search engine optimisation by posting advertisements for their (or their clients') business on popular weblogs. Accordingly, even when team members visit the spam box in search of genuine comments, it may take them a while to find them and, by the time they are posted, the comment string may have bypassed the point they were trying to make.

Better management of readers' comments.

In the past, when blogposts rarely attracted more than 15 or 20 readers' comments, even the most controversial posts attracted strings of comments that could easily be monitored by the casual reader. In the case of blogposts attracting a large number of comments, where there were two or more strings of discussion and with most posts being authored by "Anonymous", the convention of placing the commenter's time next to the word "Anonymous" (eg "Anonymous 15:37") enabled readers of a later post to identify the string and the comment to which response was being made. Now that this moggy's posts are regularly attracting vast numbers of comments over several days, this system has become unworkable since readers of later posts can easily miss earlier comments (or assume erroneously that they have been taken down) because they were posted some days earlier.  This moggy therefore has the solution:
Henceforth, in respect of all EPO-related blogposts, no comment will be posted if it is merely ascribed to "Anonymous".  Any reader wishing to conceal his or her identity must adopt a pseudonym (which should not be obscene and should not be the name, or the mis-spelling of the name, of a real person).  The pseudonym need not be an actual login name, as long as it is stated clearly at the beginning and/or end of the comment itself. This way, it will be easier for people who post later comments to identify and remember the earlier comment-poster and to recall the discussion string.  Where, as has already happened on occasion, a string carries over from one blogpost to a later one on the same or a related subject, readers will be encouraged to use the same pseudonym for the sake of continuity.
A reminder to pick a pseudonym will be added to each subsequent blogpost on European Patent Office matters -- of which there are several currently in preparation, the first of which will be available on this weblog in the very near future.
The IPKat weblog and the European Patent Office: some points of clarification The IPKat weblog and the European Patent Office: some points of clarification Reviewed by Merpel on Sunday, March 08, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. Thank you very much for your clarification. The following follows from your observations, inevitably and coercively: you consider it not only possible but likely, that posters not posting blasphemous, obscene, defamatory or otherwise illegal content may face dismissal from the EPO. Fair guess!

    This says more than anything else about this institution.

  2. In addition to comments removed for the reasons Merpel describes, I've found that the Blogger software itself can be a trap for the unwary poster.

    Sometimes it gives error messages for technical reasons, e.g. if the post exceeds 4096 characters, or contains invalid HTML syntax. But these can be difficult to spot. The poster might assume that his comment has been transmitted successfully, and close the window oblivious to the problem.

    A technically successful post will result in a one-line message in small type at the top of the whole thread of comments, saying that the post will be subject to moderation.

    If you just see the top of the thread but no such message, you need to scroll down. The error message will be at the bottom. In a thread with 50 or 60 posts, that could be a very long way away and very easily missed.

  3. Being a Tor user, I noticed my posts are almost never published. Sure they ended up in the one or the other Spam box.
    I thus resigned to use a more conventional browser.

    Thank you anyway Merpel for your clarification and for the open tribune you offer to the EPO staff at all levels.

  4. I agree that many defamatory comments have been posted and because of that the comment section nearly became as vicious as the comment section on Patently-O.
    I hope that the current change will help to obtain comments which are actually worth reading.

  5. Dear Kat,
    Thank you for providing us with the platform.

    Dear colleagues:
    Many of us would be willing to pay Dutch, German or Austrian income tax as the price to an access to the institutions of the respective State.

  6. As someone with no particular axe to grind in the EPO debate, I feel I should say I've found both the articles posted and comment moderation on this topic (and indeed every other topic) to be as fair and unbiased as he possibly could be.

    However, my inner pedant is forcing me to point out that all pseudonyms are inherently mis-spellings of names of real people, for sufficiently large quantities of mis-spelling. I'm not sure this adds anything to the debate, but I will take a certain satisfaction from being the most pedantic poster in a thread full of patent examiners!


All comments must be moderated by a member of the IPKat team before they appear on the blog. Comments will not be allowed if the contravene the IPKat policy that readers' comments should not be obscene or defamatory; they should not consist of ad hominem attacks on members of the blog team or other comment-posters and they should make a constructive contribution to the discussion of the post on which they purport to comment.

It is also the IPKat policy that comments should not be made completely anonymously, and users should use a consistent name or pseudonym (which should not itself be defamatory or obscene, or that of another real person), either in the "identity" field, or at the beginning of the comment. Current practice is to, however, allow a limited number of comments that contravene this policy, provided that the comment has a high degree of relevance and the comment chain does not become too difficult to follow.

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