M. Névant (FR), Editorial CommitteeM. Névant (FR), Editorial Committee

Titan-eqe: is the ship sinking?

Last year’s miscue in paper D1 could have been regarded as an isolated mistake in an otherwise well-functioning system (after all it was the first e-EQE ever organized). This year’s blunders in the pre-EQE (an incorrect translation into German) resulted in the Examination Board awarding full marks to all candidates for questions 11 to 15 and 20 (i.e. almost one third of the questions). This, in my view, should raise more than eyebrows.

For those of our readers who are not familiar with the Xs and Os of the European Qualifying Examination (EQE), here is some must-know information:

  • epi and the European Patent Organisation are bound to collaborate on the EQEArticle 4 of the Regulation on the establishment of an institute of professional representatives before the European Patent Office;
  • 3 mixed epi-EPO bodies oversee the preparation and conduct of the EQEArticle 1(6) REE:
    • the Supervisory Board which, in consultation with the Examination Board, determines the nature, structure and number of the examination papers, and also supervises the Examination Secretariat,
    • the Examination Board (EB) which gives instructions to the members of the Examination Committees for a) preparing the examination papers, b) preparing the marking sheets and c) marking candidates’ answers consistently;
    • the Examination Committees (ECs) which are entrusted with the preparation of the examination papers and marking sheets, and with the marking of papers.

Until about 8-10 years ago ECs consisted of equal numbers of EPO and epi membersArticle 7(3) REE; the ruleRule 27(1) IPREE has however changed dramatically with the effect that nowadays at least 70% of EC members come from epi.

There is no denying that, year after year, the EQE Secretariat, the EPO IT support team and epi members involved in the ECs have been doing an outstanding job. So is there any reason to worry about the quality and consistency of the EQE? I am afraid that the answer to that question is probably yes.

As far as I can remember (I once was an EC member), harmonisation of the examination papers in the three official languages has always been at the centre of considerations of ECs. A special Committee, comprised of members from ECs, is dedicated to this taskRule 27(2) e) IPREE. Typically, EC members would sit around a table and go thoroughly through each finalized paper, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, to ensure that the papers convey the same information in all three languages. Obviously this meticulous exercise is not so easy to carry out remotely and can inadvertently lead to errors (as this year’s pre-exam has shown). And this is exactly where the problem lies: no physical meetings of ECs actually took place between March 2020 and a few weeks ago because EPO examiners who are EC members were grounded by their managers and not allowed to attend such physical meetings. The errors in this year’s pre-EQE were therefore predictable.

This is worrying, not only because there is today no guarantee that similar errors will not happen in the future, but also (and especially) because the bar to pass the pre-EQE or the EQE is de facto lowered: if you need 50 marks to pass a paper, and that 25 marks are automatically awarded to compensate for a mistake in that paper, it is not rocket science to appreciate that the step to pass the paper is not really high. I am not convinced that this is what the profession wants.

In addition, the lack of physical meetings also had a dramatic effect on the preparation of papers. Rumour has it that there are no spare papers (as we go to press) for the 2023 EQE, and that it has become more and more difficult to find volunteers to draft future papers.

The lack of physical meetings has also a dramatic effect on the morale and commitment of EC members, especially epi members who do not count the hours on their free time to make sure that the (pre-)EQE runs smoothly. The gloom is spreading to epi members, accompanied by a growing feeling that their work is not recognized for its true value, with the consequence that quite a few have chosen to become non-active membersArticle 7(2) REE for (at least) a couple of years.

On these thoughts, I wish all our readers, on behalf of the Editorial Committee, a nice and relaxing summer break.