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

Trading places

In the 1983 comedy film “Trading places" directed by John Landis[1], the lives of two unwitting people at opposite sides of the social hierarchy are switched as the result of a wager. One is a well-mannered and educated broker and the other is a homeless street hustler. The plot is based on the nature versus nurture debate, which involves whether human behavior is determined by the environment, or by a person's genes. In the movie, the environment in which the characters are placed is such that the broker falls off his pedestal (and becomes a thug) while the hustler becomes well-versed in the art of finance.

In a different context I wonder whether a professional representative and an EPO examiner (let alone a member of the Boards of Appeal) could nowadays trade places with equal “success”.

When I started in the profession some 25+ years ago it was not uncommon for EPO examiners to be allowed to stay 2 or 3 months within an IP firm as part as the program called “praktika extern”. This program still exists but EPO examiners now only spend a couple of weeks “outside their walls”. How can an examiner possibly get to grasp with our daily work within such a short period of time? How can an examiner realize that we are often faced with last minute instructions (not always useful) from our clients to reply to a Communication? Likewise professional representatives can under certain conditions spend a couple of weeks within an examining division (“praktika intern”) but the value of such internships appears to be limited for similar reasons: how can we possibly realize that an examiner has – give or take – about 2 working days to handle an application from search to grant or refusal?

The value of having well-trained professional representatives has been long recognized by the EPO and epi, and the involvement of EPO examiners in the EQE committees speaks highly for it (although we may live to regret that the ratio of EPO examiners to epi members in the committees has decreased over the past few years). It is equally important in our view that EPO examiners understand that we are bound by the instructions we receive from our clients which ultimately decide on the scope of protection they seek to obtain. We believe that it would be a beneficial learning experience for both EPO examiners and professional representatives if the former could “live the life” of the latter for a substantial period of time. We can therefore only encourage the EPO management to renew with the old practice of allowing examiners to stay with their “clients” for a couple a months.

On behalf of the Editorial Committee I sincerely wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous 2020.

  1. „Die Glücksritter“ auf Deutsch; « Un fauteuil pour deux » en français