Monday, 23 February 2015

EPO to revise strike regulations

According to a post on the IPKat here, the Den Haag appellate court has granted an appeal filed by EPO staff organizations SUEPO and VEOB against a 1st instance decision and ordered that the EPO should nullify recently introduced limitations of the right of the EPO employees to go on strike.

The English translation of the decision is not yet available but will be published. According to what I have understood, the EPO did not contest the international jurisdiction of the Dutch courts such that the ruling should have effect for the German parts of the EPO as well. Even though the international jurisdiction might be doubtful, I think that the decision of the EPO's management to subject its decisions to judicial review is of great benefit to the public trust in the organization.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Once Out, Always Out

I have posted on a tendency to apply the discretionary power of the EPO Boards of Appeal to admit documents which had not been admitted by the Opposition procedure here. Other examples are  T1872/08, T1817/08  and T1485/08.

In brief, the Technical Board of Appeal argues in each of these decisions that it has no discretion on its own to admit documents which have not been admitted in the first instance for good reasons. Documents which have not been admitted in the first instance will not be admitted in the second instance either.

All these decisions refer to the decision T 640/91, Official Journal EPO 1994, 918 and terribly misunderstand this decision. The paragraph which is repeatedly cited relates to the question whether a refund of the appeal fees is justified because opposition division has violated the right to be heard by not admitting documents at a late stage and examines the way in which the first instance has exercised its discretion for this purpose.
A new decision in the same direction has been published today: T 1643/11. I really regret this development. The circumstances may be very different in the 2nd instance: Adjournment of the oral proceedings might have had to be necessary when the document was filed late in the Opposition Proceedings whereas the parties have plenty of time to study the documents when they are filed together with the appeal brief.

The approach taken by the TBA encourages parties to not even try filing documents at a late stage of the 1st instance but rather wait for the appeal in order not to produce evidence that the document "could have been filed in the 1st instance", which, according to the current attitude of the TBA, amounts to a death sentence of the evidence. This is clearly not beneficial for the procedural economy.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Patent Infringement on Trade Fair?

The OLG Düsseldorf has decided that exhibiting infringing products on a specialist trade fair is "offering for sale" in the sense of § 9 S. 2 Nr. 1, 2. Alt. PatG unless the fair is a pure "performance show" (Leistungsschau).

This ruling is contrary to an earlier ruling by the  Mannheim District Court (29.10.2010, 7 O 214/10, see here) which judged that the mere fact of exhibiting a product infringing a patent was not sufficient to prove the alleged infringer's intention to sell the product in Germany with a degree of certainty sufficient to grant a preliminary injunction.

The BGH had decided on the question of trademark infringements by exhibiting on trade fairs in the decision Pralinenform II and in relation to a risk of first offence in an unfair competition case here.

For more background information see here

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

T2563/12 - Structural association sizes

The decision T2563/12 is a further example of the fatal consequences of using terms with no well-recognized meaning in the relevant technical field in a claim without defining them in the specification.

The requests were directed to a concrete delivery system comprising a substrate with a surface comprising a metal/metal alloy, wherein at least a portion of said alloy has "structural association sizes" in the range of one or more of the following:
  • (i) 5 Angstroms to 100 Angstroms
  • (ii) 10 to 150 nm, or
  • (iii) 150 to 1,000 nm
The board concurred with the Examining division in that the term "structural association sizes" does not have a well-recognized meaning and is further not defined in the specification such that it remains unclear.

In the absence of any disclosure suitable for clarifying the claim without violating Art. 123(2) EPC the application was doomed to fail.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Damages for Unjustified Preliminary Order

The decision I ZR 249/12 of the BGH deals with the claim to damages of a party having observed a preliminary order which finally turned out to be unjustified.

The Hamburg district court had issued a preliminary injunction ordering to stop selling trousers allegedly infringing rights in designer jeans called "Nero". The injunction was issued on June 9, 2006, a simple copy of the injunction was sent to the defendant on June 12, 2006 by the plaintiff and the defendant stopped producing the trousers on June 20, 2006. A formal notification took place on July 6, 2006.

The preliminary injunction was initially confirmed in the procedure on the merits but then withdrawn by the alleged right-holder in the course of the oral proceedings on March 14, 2007. The final decision on non-infringement was issued on December 19, 2007.

The dispute went on for several years and through various instances including a decision of the BGH in 2009. The defendant never resumed the production of his version of the "Nero" jeans but requested roughly 0.5 Million Euros consequential damages for the lost sales between June 2006 and December 2007.

The BGH ruled that the claim to damages is to be limited to the period in which the preliminary injunction was in legal force, i.e. from July 6, 2006 to March 14, 2007 and that the fact that the order was observed before or after this period was not a compulsory consequence of the preliminary order such that the claim to damages for the lost sales is limited to the above period.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Communiqué on 142 meeting on EPO Administrative council

The report on the meeting of the Administrative Council of the EPO has now been published here as follows:

142nd meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (Munich, 10 and 11 December 2014)

The Administrative Council held its 142nd meeting in Munich on 10 and 11 December 2014 with Jesper Kongstad, Director General of the Danish Patent Office, in the chair.

After the Chairman's report on the last meetings of the Board of the Administrative Council, the President of the European Patent Office, Benoît Battistelli, presented his activities report. The Council expressed its clear satisfaction.

The Council then exchanged information on strategic matters within the Organisation and on the social climate and addressed a particular issue concerning alleged misconduct by a Council appointee under Article 11 (3) EPC, reported separately on this website.

Further, the Council proceeded with a series of appointments and re-appointments to positions in the boards of appeal.

Later, the Council heard status reports on the Unitary patent and related developments as well as on substantive patent law harmonisation.

Lastly, the Council adopted a reform of the career system as well as the draft budget for 2015.

Council Secretariat
No surprise so far. The rumors that the new career system has been adopted are confirmed. The new career system is supposed reduce (or entirely eliminate) the effect of seniority on salary increases and put a strong focus on productivity. According to a letter published via the FOSS blog run by Florian Müller, this is likely to affect the quality of the patents delivered by the EPO.

This blogger thinks that a more incentive-based salary system is a very good idea as long as the quality of the work remains an essential factor. However, the quality of the work of patent examiners is difficult to quantify insofar as the substantial part thereof is concerned. Quality management systems tend to put an excessive weight on factors which can be easily "measured" and to neglect other, more  relevant factors. Is the recent trend showing an increasing number of EPO examination procedures limited to purely formal issues without ever entering into a deeper a discussion on the technical merits of the invention a result of an unbalanced incentive system?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Dangers of Copy & Paste



The fist embodiment
In the case T395/13, the technical board of appeal of the EPO had to deal with a case where the appellant - who had not participated in the oral proceedings of the 1st instance -  argued that the decision was not sufficiently reasoned.

According to the appellant,
Sections 11.4 and 11.5 of the decision under appeal did not relate to the present case, but could instead be seen to have been copied from the decision in one of the parallel cases involving the same parties and opposition division (specifically the opposition against European patent No. XXXXXXXXX). The document referred to in those sections as E2 was clearly not that identified as E2 in the section "Facts and submissions" in the decision under appeal, but was instead the document now referred to as E2A. That these sections were not relevant to the present case was also apparent from the fact that it used terminology (specifically the expression "local client printer module") which appeared only in the parallel case, not in this one.
 The board adds that:
It is also clear that ..... sections 11.4 and 11.5 are exact copies of the corresponding sections of the decision taken by the same opposition division in the parallel opposition procedure against the European patent No. XXXXXXX, including even the repetition of mistakes (such as "The fist embodiment" in section 11.5.2). (emphasis added, cf. reasons, item 2.1)
The decision was set aside and remitted to the 1st instance.
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