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Tuesday, 12 June 2007

"Unprofessional, inefficient, overpaid and malingering"

This is the view that some members of the Administrative Council have of EPO staff, according to an internal report drawn up by the outgoing EPO president, Alain Pompidou. The report (also noted elsewhere here and here), titled "Governance of the EPO: a Staff Perspective", summarises an office-wide survey of EPO staff carried out in 2006, and gives the appearance of the EPO as being not an altogether happy and harmonious place.

Some pertinent quotes from the report:

"Only 4% of all staff expressed trust in the Administrative Council, closely followed by the MAC [management committee] at 6% and the President at just 7%"
"Particularly in the last two meetings of the Council, members of certain delegations have made comments implying, or even explicitly stating, that they consider EPO staff to be, among other things, unprofessional, inefficient, overpaid and malingering. Such comments are not conducive to improving the relationship between the EPO's body of highly professional and educated staff, and the Administrative Council. It has not gone unnoticed by these staff that certain of these comments even appeared to have the implicit support of the Chairman of the Council"
"An opinion which is widely shared by the EPO staff: 'I am convinced that the way the EPO is managed today (by the Administrative Council) is such that it will mean either the death of the EPO or its transformation into a cash machine'".
The IPKat sincerely hopes that the new president Alison Brimelow, who is due to start her job at the end of this month, can help in bringing some harmony back to the EPO and bring an end to this bickering. It certainly doesn't look good to the outside world that such a large and important organisation as the EPO is apparently riven with conflict between the ordinary workers and the higher levels of the organisation.

Merpel points out that it's all about money really. The EPO is now such a cash cow that everyone is complaining, from the basis of pure self interest, that they don't get their fair share.

1 comment:

Jim Boff said...

The perception may be that the EPO is a cash cow, but the reality is somewhat different.

For many years the EPO has run on a cash accounting basis, which indeed makes it appear to be rolling in dosh. However, the EPO has now moved over to International Financial Reporting Standards [IFRS], which do not paint such a pretty picture.

Under IFRS future liabilities (such as pension provisions)have to be given a value in the accounts, whereas future uncertain assets (such as present value of future renewal fee income) cannot be put in the accounts, except as a note to the accounts. This makes the EPO appear to have a gaping wound in its finances.

There is thus a tension between:-
- those whose agenda is to close that apparent wound in finances[these tend to fear what might happen if the EPO went bust as Member States would then be liable for the shortfall];
- those who simply want a share in the dosh, by keeping fees down or otherwise.

As ever, the truth is somewhere in between, and among the many pressing issues facing Alison Brimelow [she is well able to face them back] are:-

- IFRS is no doubt excellent in valuation of companies, but is its slavish adoption the correct accounting procedure for an international organisation that appears unlikely to be the subject of a takeover?

- Does every Patent Office that is asking for the EPO to fully fund its pensions do the same for their own staff? [The answer to this question is NO]. Does any member state Patent Office fully fund its pensions?

- Is concentrating on liabilities that are a long way hence damaging the EPO's willingness to spend money now on Examiners to shift the Augean backlog?

- Is the recent decline in patent lifetimes (and hence renewal income) due to a long term change in the system or a short term response to the turbulent times following 2001?

- Is the decline in patent lifetimes being countered by increasing validation rates in some member states [e.g. Spain] as Europe undergoes a "levelling-up" in incomes?

It is a difficult job being President.

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