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Comments from EQE candidates

Comments from EQE candidates

by Jacqueline Kalbe -
Number of replies: 8

Please, find attached some comments on the epi’s e:EQE – Discussion Paper from an EQE candidate from Bulgaria /professional with more than 13 years’ experience in patent field/ consulted and supported by another EQE candidate from the CEE region.


In reply to Jacqueline Kalbe

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by - Anonymous -
Hello, I'm EQE candidate from one of the countries where there are only few EQE-qualified patent attorneys and I support all the points raised here by the above candidate. The difficulties of gaining practical experience is the same in our country. I would also like to add that shortening the exams to 2 hours for non-native speakers would bring in even more constraint and the candidates from EN, DE and FR speaking countries would be in better position then they are in the current EQE system.
In reply to - Anonymous

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by Hendrik Promies -
I also find it unacceptable that the EQE (which in itself is difficult enough) continues to pose an additional burden for those whose native language is not one of the EPO languages. I speak from experience: although I have a solid C1 rating in English and feel comfortable using it, I would estimate that I would at least need 15-25% more time for tackling an EQE paper in English (depending on how unfamiliar I am with the technology to which the paper A, B, C relates).

Therefore I think that a major improvement for candidates whose native language is not one of the EPO languages would be to remove the language as a factor entirely. The EQE will be an computerized exam going forward (be it in an exam center or online). Consequently, an automatic translator could be made accessible and provide the entire paper in the candidate's preferred language – just like in the daily life life of an European Patent Attorney anything can be copy-pasted into DeepL or Google Translator.

Such needs to be supported by the exam software, of course, but this is a minor technical detail that in the 21st century can easily be solved (as Tiem Reijns put it: we have evolved beyond the fax machines). Where applicable, the EPO language versions would still be the decisive documents. A few thoughts:

  • For paper A, the claims could be drafted in the candidate's language, which is in accordance with Art. 14 (2) EPC and would thus also move the EQE closer to "real life". For correction an automated translation could easily be used, and where this fails, a certified translation could later be provided, outside of the pressure of the examination environment.
  • For paper B, the claim amendments would have to be made in any of the three official languages, but the arguments could be drafted in the candidate's language, in line with Art. 14 (4) EPC.
Allowing the candidates to read real-time automated translations of the exam papers while being able to refer to the original texts would reflect real life much better, especially for those in the early years of their careers.

In other words, the EQE should test the candidates' ability to represent clients from their country before the EPO – it should not be a language test, and modern technology can easily remedy that. (Just remember that the EU commission stated in 2012 that within 12 years or less automatic translations would be sufficient in the context of the "patent package", i.e. for the unitary patent, see Council Regulation (EU) No 1260/2012)
In reply to - Anonymous

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by - Anonymous -
I am writing in support of the opinion of EQE candidates from Bulgaria, and additionally would like to express some more personal views regarding the current e:EQE – Discussion Paper.
I am a recently EQE-qualified European Patent Attorney (EPA), from a Contracting state that has very few EQE-qualified EPAs, while the majority of EPAs are grandfathers.

Time and modularity of exams:
I support making some of the EQE papers into modules, but don’t think that all of the current papers should become modules of increasing level of complexity. Providing more modules, more frequently, would require more drafting work, so the question is if more drafters would be needed, or the same number of drafters would be drafting more papers? In the latter case the current drafters would need to draft more papers presumably during the same time period as they currently do. This may in turn lower the quality of the papers, and, if the marking schemes are not made more flexible to at least compensate for this, the ultimate goal of providing an exam to select candidates that are more “fit for practice” may not be met. Accordingly, the only other exam paper beyond the Pre-exam that could potentially work well in modular form and be held e.g. twice a year, and, if desired, have at least some MSQ, would seem to be a module corresponding to the current DI part of EQE D exam. Other main exam papers are way more complex and need to be very complete to properly test for candidates’ fitness for practice.
The suggested times for the exam - for a non-native speaker (which is also my case) all the time given for an EQE paper is of essence, so short examination times could put such candidates in a worse position. Being a non-native speaker, it takes more time to read and understand the material during the examination, especially, when this is done under time constraints and the topic is in different technical field. As a non-native speaker and being outside the mechanical/electricity field, I even had technical dictionary during the exam to be able to translate some of the terms that may seem very much common to the drafters-engineers, but not as clear to a non-native speaker specializing in a different field.

Training and methodology courses:
I strongly believe that trainings and methodologies of how to structure the answers during the EQE are very useful in “real-life” practice as well and is not something that the future exam structure should aim to reduce candidate’s reliance upon. First of all, if a candidate is really not fit for practice, he or she would not score sufficient marks during the exam. For the rest of the candidates, having a methodology helps in taking all aspects of the question into account and not to miss important information when providing answers and solutions during the EQE under stress and time pressure. As already mentioned, many of the methodologies for various EQE papers that candidates develop themselves or learn the training courses, can be used later on in their every day practice once they’re EQE-qualified, serve as helpful checklists and so on. This holds very true for the candidates from the states where the numbers of EP applications filed and prosecuted are smaller, numbers of consultations of clients are smaller, and the candidates might not gain as much experience during the same number of years as compared to other states, such as Germany etc.

Digital format:
Digital format is most welcome and is already a huge step in EQE modernization. To further modernize the exam and to test candidates under more realistic conditions, it should be made possible for the candidates to use all the materials they wish in the digital format, as they would do for most of the time during their “real-life” practice.
As regards the venue of the EQE, I support suggestions that the examination could continue to take place in examination centers, however, these could be made available in every Contracting state (either at a dedicated examination center or at a national patent office) where there are resident EQE candidates registered to sit the EQE. For the digital EQE, the candidates could come to the examination center with their own laptop (as they all did this year at their homes or offices). This way the invigilation problems and any privacy concerns raised during this year exam could be avoided.

Passing rate and resitting:
If passing rate is raised or it is raised upon resitting the EQE, there is a threat to equal treatment of candidates – if failed at least once, it may become more and more difficult for the candidates from the Contracting states with very few EQE-qualified EPAs to act as mentors and having less training in various aspects, to pass the EQE. If a resitting is needed, a candidate should not be punished by the passing rate increase – there are multiple good EPAs which did not pass one or more of the EQE exams from the first time! It is important as well that, if passing rate is to be set higher, the marking schemes are more flexible then the current ones.
In reply to - Anonymous

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by - Anonymous -
Regarding language problems I respectfully disagree with the views provided.
Language skills are part of the „fit to practice“ test. Any work done with the EPO has to be in one of the official languages. Claims have to be drafted in one of the official languages and arguments provided by examiners, opponents, examination boards and appeal boards etc. are in one official language. If you don’t have deep knowlegde in at least one of the office languages, how can you work as a professional?
The work is about words and language. A digital translator may be ok. to get an overview what a prior art document is about, but translators cannot be expected to exactly translate for example words in a claim, where a word in one language can have 10 English translations and vice versa. It is the exact word that one has to understand and use. Therefore, it is not unfair that one has to understand the documents in one language (in earlier years one had to read documents in all three languages in a closed book exam, i.e. without any dictionary), but necessary to test if a candidate is fit for practice. In reality it can be assumed that (depending on the field, but certainly for biorchemistry) about 90 % or even more of a European patent attorney‘s work is done in English and thus for candidates from 35 member states (all member states except GB, IE, MT) in a non-native language. In other words candidates when fit to practice have to understand complex scenarios, to argue convincingly, to discuss in oral proceedings, etc. in a language that is not their mother tongue. They can be only successful if they can do it.
As „language“ in EQE was a topic for decades, many ideas have been discussed, such as more time for those candidates, whose mother tongue is not one of the official languages. The question then is, who should be in that group? What about candidates from countries like Belgium, Switzerland, etc., who have more than one official language, at least one of which is English, German, or French? What about those candidates that were borne in a non-EN, FR, DE country (country where none of the EPC official languages is an official language), who were raised in an EN, FR, DE country? For example, I had a paralegal of Italian nationality, who was borne and raised in Germany – as a candidate would she be in the above group? What about candidates that studied and made their technical exam in an EN, FR, DE country? Would all of those get additional time? On the other hand, what about candidates who were borne in a EN, FR, DE country but raised in a non EN, FR, DE country, would they not get additional time? Who should check that?
By the way, from the beginning it was possible to write in one’s mother tongue. This was and is rarely used.
In reply to - Anonymous

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by - Anonymous -
I agree with the note above that the EP applications, in cases where drafted in a non-EPO language, have to be anyway prosecuted in EN, FR, GB. But one should always bear in mind that it may (and it will, in most cases) take a non-native speaker candidate longer to read through the exam paper. I don't think the discussion is about making native/non-native speaker candidate groups or different times for them, but it is about the importance of not taking the available exam time away.
In reply to - Anonymous

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by Hendrik Promies -
Thank you, that was my point exactly.

Note that I, on purpose, did not propose to allow more time for the "non-native" speakers because, as the post dated Monday, 14 June 2021, 2:42 PM points out, this would create a great number of additional problems.

Maybe one of the non-native speakers here could share some insights why the option to draft the response in their native language is rarely used.
In reply to Hendrik Promies

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by - Anonymous -
I believe this may be because e.g. drafting claims in one's native language is not easy if one normally does not do it. I don't think any native speaker could just write a proper claim on day one of joining the patent profession. It needs practice. For instance, I don't think that English native speakers (not part of the patent profession) pay much attention to the difference between consisting and comprising. A patent attorney (and trainee) who does his/her daily work in English would be very much aware of the difference regardless of whether he/she is a native speaker. I doubt that if one does not normally draft/or do patent work in his/her native language that one is aware of the patent specific terms needed for drafting etc in his/her native language. That said, I think it is not so much the fact that one has to read all the exams in a non-native language, but the additional difficulty is to then also be confronted with a different technical field. For instance, a trainee specialising in chemistry/biotechnology is not necessarily familiar with all the specific terms used in the mechanical field and it will likely take longer to understand the invention due too little practice (in the mechanical field). In that respect the proposal to have technology specific modules is very much welcomed as they will allow to test technology specific areas of e.g. drafting. I believe technology specific exams will also allow to better judge whether someone is "fit to practise". After all you want to be considered "fit to practise" in your area of expertise. For instance, a trainee patent attorney in the life sciences should be able to draft a Markush claim to be considered "fit to practise". Markush claims are however something that never shows up under the current exam format because it is considered too technology specific and thereby putting candidates with a background in mechanics/electronics at a disadvantage.
In reply to Jacqueline Kalbe

Re: Comments from EQE candidates

by - Anonymous -
Ces commentaires ont été soumis anonymement, au nom d'un groupe de candidats. Ils soulèvent des questions intéressantes, dont je ne commenterai que deux:
- en résumé, les candidats doivent effectuer un stage sous la direction d'un mandataire agréé, ou représenter leur employeur devant l'OEB: si le mandataire mentor ne peut ou ne veut diriger le stagiaire de manière adéquate, ou si l'employeur utilise un agent extérieur, le candidat ne devrait pas être admis à s'enregistrer;
- le nombre de demandes de brevet européen déposées et le nombre de cas d'opposition contre des brevets européens ne sont pas les critères, puisque l'on prend également en considération les activités exercées par les candidats dans les procédures en matière de demandes de brevet national et de brevets nationaux.
Enfin, il n'est pas correct de dire que l'EQE a été "plus ou moins le même" depuis 1979, loin de là. L'évolution a été lente, mais certaine.