It's not rare for governmental organizations to get all cozy with big corporations - and they get called out for it fairly often - but it's uncommon for them to respond with more than verbal denials. It is, therefore, an interesting decision of the European Patent Office to push legal threats last week against allegations of their preferential treatment for Microsoft's patent application, reports The Register.
The allegations were made by Roy Schestowitz, a software engineer in UK, based on an internal EPO email regarding patent documents submitted by Microsoft, whose screenshot he also published on his website along with a blog post last month. The email, authored by a senior manager within the EPO allegedly contains statement confirming the "highest priority" for Microsoft's patents, while also talks about a "close cooperation project" between the EPO and Microsoft. There is also a specific reference to Microsoft's eventual decision to "revert to KIPO (the Korean Intellectual Property Office) as their ISA (International Searching Authority) of choice "should the results not be fast enough", which has allegedly ticked off the EPO enough for the threats.
"The EPO will not tolerate its staff members being made subject to illegitimate an unlawful attacks in the course of their work. We are unable to discuss specific cases, save to say that the EPO will take all necessary measures to protect its staff and their families." From the EPO.
The EPO condemned the content of Schestowitz's blog post as 'defamatory', and has since forced Schestowitz to take it down. The email, however, was confirmed to be authentic. EPO's explanation for Microsoft's "priority", is that it refers to a pilot program between the agency and a number of large companies (Microsoft included), to separate processing of applications (usually in very large numbers) from these corporations from the PACE program, another fast track review program that's open to everyone.
A comment from Microsoft is not available. Schestowitz however has vowed to write about the situation. We will update you once more interesting information becomes available.