Strawman Anonymous Oppositions

It is reasonably common for EPO oppositions to be filed anonymously by a "strawman" (a term used by the EPO Enlarged Board of Appeal in Decision G4/97). This is currently considered legally and ethically acceptable in EPO practice as long as anonymity is not used in an abuse of process in order to circumvent the law.

Anonymous oppositions are filed sometimes by licensees or by parties in negotiation with the patent owner. Parties that are concerned that they may be considered infringers by the patent owner may also consider opposing anonymously as may parties that do not wish to adversely affect their relationship with the patent owner.

Often strawman opposition proceedings are high value and there is an incentive for considerable resources to be used to gather evidence as to the identify of the real opponent. It is therefore important that the opposition strategy ensures that anonymity is maintained at each link in the chain of relationship from the real opponent to the strawman entity.

It is also important that the strawman entity is fully under the control of the real opponent throughout the opposition and any appeal proceedings. The average length of opposition proceeding is around 4 years and it is not possible for opposition status to be freely transferred. It is therefore not advisable to use an individual as an opponent nor a firm of patent attorneys who may be conflicted in the future. It is advisable to use a legal entity separate from your patent attorney and the best (although not the cheapest option) is to form a company for a particular opposition or series of oppositions.

We can handle anonymous oppositions on behalf of direct clients or patent attorneys including rapidly forming UK limited companies (if necessary with nominee directors and shareholders) to act as the opponent entity.

If you have questions on anonymous opposition please talk to us. Whether or not we can work together on an opposition matter any discussion would be, of course, treated in strictest confidence.

 

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