Who are the EPO, and how did they get so powerful?
They may be shy and reserved, but they make a huge impact on our lives. The EPO represents the patent industry and lobbies in every European capital for laws that make it more powerful and wealthy.
The European Patent Organisation / Office
From the EPO website:
The European Patent Organisation is an intergovernmental organisation that was set up on 7 October 1977 on the basis of the European Patent Convention (EPC) signed in Munich in 1973.
The Organisation currently has 31 member states, comprising all the member states of the European Union (except Malta) together with Bulgaria, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Romania, Switzerland and Turkey.
The two organs of the Organisation are: a) the European Patent Office, located in Munich with a branch in The Hague and sub-offices in Berlin and Vienna, and b) the Administrative Council.
In fact there is both an 'organisation' and an 'office', but for most purposes "EPO" covers the whole quite accurately.
The EPO is a treaty organisation like the World Postal Union, or the United Nations. It has 6,000 employees, many of whom have diplomatic immunity and don't pay any taxes. It earns more than Euro 1.25bn each year from patent examinations. It occupies buildings the size of the European Parliament. It has permanent lobbying offices in Brussels, Munich, and all other European capitals. It is not an EU institution. Local law stops at the EPO gates. It is run by officials who come from the different national patent offices. It is a bureacrat's dream. Work hard in a national patent office, follow the party line, say the right things, and you too could get a slice of the EPO cake.
The EPO is effectively the European head quarters and main organ of the global patent industry. For every Euro earned from patent examination, the patent industry earns another 5-6 Euro from filings, translations, and above all, litigations. And this ignores the profits to be made from licensing patents, which run into the hundreds of billions, even trillions of Euro.