The final straw for patent quality?
In its October meeting, some delegations to the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC)
heavily criticised proposal CA/103/17 for a “modernisation of the employment framework” presented by the Office. It’s status was then reduced from for opinion to for information. The proposal would have allowed the Office to employ 100% of all new examiners on fixed-term contracts, starting from January 2018.
But the proposal is not off the table. During its last Board 28 meeting, it was agreed that a final proposal would be tabled for the March 2018 Council meeting. The revised proposal as it stands sets down that up to 40% of examiners may be employed on five-year renewable contracts. But permanent employment is a mandatory requirement for the independence of the examining divisions (Article 18 EPC), which have already suffered many “reforms” since 2013. We must therefore warn in the strongest terms against the implementation of any “reform” which would further deteriorate the working conditions, the working atmosphere, and the independence of the examining and opposition divisions.
Impact of past “reforms” on employees’ commitment to quality
Until few years ago, examiners and formalities officers were committed to delivering high quality services, including search reports and granted patents. This attitude has more and more given way to feelings of despair and resignation. For many, the priority has shifted towards satisfying their line manager’s production demands in order to protect themselves from being targeted as “low performers”. Examiners are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to comply with the still rising production demands whilst maintaining good quality. But the full adverse impact on the quality of the EPO’s services of the past “reforms” – the new career system CA/D 10/14, the DG1/DG2 reorganisation CA/65/174 and the “reform” of the internal justice system CA/D 7/17 – is yet to materialise.