European Patent Agents Go On Strike To Complain About Pressure To Approve Bad Patents

from the killing-innovation dept

One of the causes of so many bad patents getting approved lately is screwed up incentives in the patent system. For a while, the US had a de facto system where agents were pushed to approve a patent when in doubt. That's because they were judged on how many patents they went through -- and if they rejected a patent, the applicant could complain and ask for a review -- meaning that the examiner would have to spend more time reviewing that same patent again, decreasing the number of patents they had gotten through, potentially harming their "stats." Thus, it's often easier to just "approve." And, of course, the Patent Office itself is usually fine with this, because that means more patent applications and more fees. The Patent Office has an inherent conflict of interest in that the more patent applications applied for, the more money it brings in. In the US, after this problem was brought to light, some changes were made to decrease the incentives to simply approve so many patents, though one could argue how effective it's been.

However, it looks like there are similar pressures in Europe, and Slashdot points out that a bunch of EU Patent Office staffers have gone on strike, complaining about the same thing: that there's pressure on them to simply approve as many patents as possible, in order to bring in more money for the patent office. The staffers are complaining that this is harming innovation. It's great to see workers in the patent office recognize how much harm approving bad patents can do to innovation -- and actually standing up and protesting the pressures to approve bad patents.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Dave, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 3:51pm

    Advertising on techdirt

    I swear I'm going to quit reading techdirt stories altogether if I have to see that tool, Graham Hill, bob his head while talking silently in those Dell ads on the right side one more time! I'm not going to wait around to see if you published this comment or not, but please take this comment to heart. Gee whiz, don't any of you people find these ads annoying on your own site!? Just a bit!? Maybe??

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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Krogoth, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 4:11pm

    Re: Advertising on techdirt

    3 words:

    Ad Block Plus

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  3. identicon
    Allan, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 4:27pm

    Patently Ridiculous

    I wonder if this has ever occurred in the United States?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 4:36pm

    Pressure to approve "bad" (whatever this means) patents?

    The below doc gives an overview of the process by which examiner performance is determined. Suggest you read it and then reconsider your comment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    dorpass, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 5:18pm


    "Pressure to approve "bad" (whatever this means) patents?"

    Oh yes, because you know, ALL corporations and ALL government agencies follow what's written in their rules, bylaws, specifications, etc. There is NEVER any type of shenanigans if there is some sort of financial gain. That's why we NEVER had any type of options backdating scandals (since backdating is not allowed). Get a grip on reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 6:46pm

    ...if I have to see...Graham Hill, bob his head while talking silently in those Dell ads on the right side one more time...

    I keep meaning to do a spoof YouTube video but haven't gotten around to it yet... His head bob is hilarious! I wonder if he knows he looks like a jackass... It's a nice ad so you think the ad guys would have told him he looked like a jackass...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 6:47pm


    Oops, again... That was me...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2008 @ 10:44pm

    Re: Re:

    The first paragraph of the article is not altogether accurate, as you would quickly realize by reading the cited paper that explains how patent examiner performance is measured within the USPTO.

    Of course, if you are a lawyer who regularly deals with the USPTO then perhaps your experience is not congruent with mine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Andrew, Sep 25th, 2008 @ 3:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think it's obvious from some of the patents that get passed that there has to be SOMETHING making them pass horrible patents. Unless they're all incompetent fools.

    Another measure of their incompetence would be the number of patents that get reversed when they're forced to be reviewed via lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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