Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How high will the ball bounce?

The hockey stick graph is a familiar issue in climatology. A sudden step change in a measured variable indicating something happening in the background. Are we witnessing a hockey stick phenomenon at the EPO?

The graph below shows the number of B1 publications (grants) from the beginning up to 15th June of the stated years 2008-2016.  As can be seen, these have been in the region 21,000 to 30,000 from 2008-2015, but increase dramatically (to over 41,750) in 2016. This looks like a hockey stick graph to me.

Also shown is the total number of grants from 2008 to 2015, which can be seen to roughly reflect what happens in the first part of the year.

Applying some rough and ready guesswork, one can guess a total number of patents granted in 2016 as in the region 88,000 to 102,000 representing an increase of 29-49% in the number of grants over 2015.

What is  happening in the background that explains this sudden increase?


  1. As you probably know, the famous hockey stick by Mann et al is a fabrication. Are you suggesting that this one is too?

    1. This one shows real numbers with little scope for error. A B1 spec is a B1spec.

      What is behind them is the question.

      As for the famous hockey stick graph, I prefer to follow the consensus that it is real.

    2. The numbers are usually real - what's behind them is always the question. Average world temperature has certainly gone up since 1870. At least some of that is due to more CO2 (consensus). The question is, what (if anything) we do about it?
      So here. There are problems at the EPO (consensus). Do we solve them by sacking the President?

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I did not say there was a problem, and I did not propose a solution. I pointed to a change in number of patents granted and asked, "Why?".

      The increase in number of grants could be good (greater productivity), bad (lower quality), or indifferent (an accidental surge resulting from the change to ECfS).

      That there is a change is clear. The explanation for it is so far open to debate.

      The "if it's new, let it through" approach referred to by XXaminer would be bad. But so far there is only anecdotal evidence (an oxymoron) for that.

      The use of new tools could be providing increased productivity (still anecdotal).

      The change to ECfS necessarily has resulted in a switch in priorities and necessarily there will be (has been) a surge in activity.

      So in summary, there is a growing view that there are problems at the EPO. There is not (yet) consensus as to the cause, but that consensus seems to be developing.

      What is singularly lacking is objective evidence.

    5. I suspect it is down to a push to get examiners to finish the job and be more pragmatic if it would get the job done. I find that examiners now seem to be much more willing to engage over the phone or by email to get informal agreement, which typically results in less hassle overall and a speedier result (often avoiding the need for oral proceedings). This has to have an effect on the number of applications going to grant.

      As for the other hockey stick, I'm surprised that someone interested in statistics has not looked into it. The story of how the hockey stick was comprehensively demolished as a work of pseudo science is very nicely told in Andrew Montford's book The Hockey Stick Illusion. I highly recommend it, particularly if you like detective stories and statistics.

  2. A simple explanation would be (while the easy denial would be: too simple !) :
    A. the introduction of automated (pre-)search tools, the more or less 'lean back' use of the tools for search,
    B. the increasing entropy / mixing up of the technological basic professional background knowledge of examiners, more and more forced to work in field's they have no expertise in, and thus a lack of judgement/ feeling for inventiveness, due to the management induced policy of AOCS,
    C. the every year increased production pressure, and as cherry on all that, last but not least,
    D. The New "career",
    E. and so, no wonder if finally you get an attitude amongst examiners of "if it''s new, let it thru"
    That's as simple as that to destroy a formerly well functioning patent office.