In a strikingly and unusually honest presentation, outgoing EPO president Alain Pompidou has clarified the growing confusion over the EPO's true mission. In 2004, the EPO union, SUEPO, said:
The EPO should correct its public communication so as to highlight its mission as an authority accountable for the public interest, and no longer describe itself as a business providing services to applicants.
Where "providing services to applicants" means "granting patents on as wide a range of subject matters, as quickly and cheaply as possible", not "protecting society from the scourge of unethical patents".
Now Pompidou has added further clarification about the EPO's mission by telling us that
The EPO offers its expertise for co-operation with the Community institutions in patent matters
The EPO strongly advocates the creation of a European court for patents
The EPO strongly supports the EC in its efforts to introduce a Community patent system
Where "offering expertise" means sending in the troops to "co-operate" with the Commission, Parliament, and Council, and "strongly supports" means lobbying the press, the Commission, Parliament, and businesses. All these are expensive, painful, and exhausting works, but absolutely vital if we are to get a patent system that delivers even a fraction of the value that the US patent system has managed to deliver.
It is also nice to see the EPO support the Community patent system. All this time we thought EPLA was an evil plan to finally kill and bury the Community patent! How naive of us. Perhaps the EPO can join Bulgaria and Romania, and become a member of the EU. (They will first have to adopt Christian values, as Merkel tells us.)
So, thank you, M. Pompidou, for clearing up the confusion. For a while, we were fooled into thinking the EPO was simply an administrative office, responsible to society for examining patents and throwing out the junk. This would have been disasterous. After all, who will drive patent policy if not the experts at the EPO? Who will look after the patent trolls and speculators? Who will tell us what kind of patent system we need, if not the EPO and their friends in the patent industry?
It will be a real shame to see Pompidou, with his honesty and high ethical standards, leave the scene.