| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Amid growing concerns by some U.S.
lawmakers that federal officials may be granting patents that
fuel abusive litigation, the head of the European Patent Office
says his agency is producing better-quality patents than its
EPO President Benoît Battistelli said his office scrutinizes
patent applications more closely than the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office, which he said results in patents that are more
legally sound going out the door.
"It means we are sometimes not issuing patents which have
been issued in the U.S.," Battistelli said in an interview on
Asked whether this means that European patents are of better
quality, he said, "This is what we think."
USPTO spokesman Paul Fucito declined to comment.
Battistelli made his comments after USPTO Director Michelle
Lee testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary
Committee on Tuesday. She defended her agency over a July report
by the Government Accountability Office that found the PTO's
policies and practices may be hurting patent quality.
Without a consistent definition of patent quality or
requirements for greater clarity in applications, the GAO said
the PTO is at risk of issuing overly broad patents that are more
likely to be used to sue companies for infringement.
Most patent-related lawsuits in the United States are filed
by companies that make money by litigating patents instead of
selling products, referred to by some as "patent trolls."
Lee told the committee that patent quality is a top priority
for her, and is the reason behind an ongoing program at the
agency that aims to enhance quality through improved training of
employees, automated searches of prior art, and other measures.
"High-quality patents ... reduce the potential for abusive
litigation, permitting our companies to focus on innovation,"
Battistelli, a French national who has led the EPO since
2010, said his agency has developed databases and search engines
that allow it to perform the most comprehensive research on
prior inventions that could lead to a rejection of a patent.
Unlike in the United States, he added, all patent
applications are scrutinized by three officials, known as patent
examiners, rather than just one.
This leads to a lower rate of granted patents, he said, but
they are legally solid.
On the other hand, it costs roughly twice as much to obtain
a patent in Europe, around 5,000 euros ($5,625), than in the
($1 = 0.8889 euro)