For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Merpel roars: the EPO responds

Merpel posted a piece last week, entitled "7,000 EPO employees in DE, NL, AT & BE ... plus one in FR?" on the disquiet felt by many members of the patent community concerning the circumstances surrounding the reappointment of Mr Battistelli as President of the EPO.

In her closing remarks Merpel was critical of the silence from the EPO, suggesting that the lack of information from that quarter contributed to everyone's curiosity. She was therefore suitably (and pleasantly) surprised to receive a reply for publication, from the EPO's Principal Director Communications, Oswald Schroeder. This is what he writes, in full:

Dear Merpel,
Oswald Schroeder
responds to Merpel
on behalf of the EPO
Like many others I follow your blog for enlightenment as well as amusement, so I was a bit disappointed to see quite some energy consumed on rumours about the EPO.
The facts about its President are quite simple.

At its June meeting, the Administrative Council extended Mr Battistelli's mandate for three years. This reflects the widespread support in the Council and elsewhere for policies aimed at making the EPO and its staff work more efficiently and provide better service. The terms of the President's contract were discussed by the Administrative Council in 2009, before Mr Battistelli's appointment. The attached document setting them out (CA/186/09) was made available at the time to the Administrative Council, to all observer delegations and to all EPO staff. At that time the Council could not publish the document more widely to the general public, because it only adopted a policy on publication of its documents in 2012 - following a proposal from Mr Battistelli to increase transparency.

Nevertheless, it was clearly set out in 2009 that the future President's contract would be based on practice for previous incumbents and would contain no bonus, no salary progression and no pension. Equally, there were no provisions for accommodation outside Munich. It was thus within a strictly limited framework that a contract was finalised following Mr Battistelli's election in 2010. The same process was followed this year for his re-election.

All in all, the President's total remuneration corresponds to the double of the average examiner wages (page 32 of the recently published Social Report for the year 2013, CA/55/14), a ratio which could certainly stand the comparison with many public institutions or international organizations, let alone the private sector.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that Mr Battistelli's political office in St. Germain is a voluntary unpaid non-executive function. It is a matter of public record and predates his candidacy as President of the EPO, a fact well-known to Council members. It is fair to say that his severest critics have never accused him of spending insufficient time and energy on the EPO.

Unfortunately, making the EPO work more efficiently and provide better service is not entirely popular with some sections of the staff. And as some of the commentators on your blog have pointed out, the EPO is not a State. It is simply an organisation with a specific public mission. Its policies are directed to and should be judged against fulfilling that mission and not maximising benefits for staff.

Should you wish to cross check facts in the future, feel free to contact me. I wish everybody a good summer break.

Oswald Schroeder - EPO Spokesperson
Normally, at this point, Merpel would give her guest contributor a katpat, but somehow it doesn't seem appropriate when the katpatee is a Principal Director of the EPO. She therefore thanks Oswald for his contribution and looks forward to readers' comments. Adds the IPKat, let's hope that this heralds a new era of fruitful communication between the EPO and the rest of the IP world.


Anonymous said...

Merpel has missed the final point. The communications director is happy to provide fruitful communication if Merpel can be so bothered to contact him.

Anonymous said...

The attached report provides sufficient evidence that whinging EPO staff on doing quite nicely, than you, in comparison with those working in a state.

Anonymous said...

This reply says that there is no pension. Perhaps no payments to the EPO pension scheme, but 1. (e) of the document referred to does make reference to pension contributions being made into a personal pension scheme of the person's choosing. That sounds like a pension to me (or have I misunderstood?)

Anonymous said...

The attached report certainly raised a few eyebrows when it was published. 10,860 Euros per month net for an "average" Grade A (Examiner) employee. At today's exchange rate, that equates to around £175,000 per annum (paying UK tax).

I could harp on about reducing wages to lower EPO official fees, but I think I'll just take some German lessons and buy a plane ticket!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but what is a katpat?

Anonymous said...

What is "katpat"?

Anonymous said...

Something resembling a small cowpat?

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, Merpel!

You fell hook, line and sinker for the propganda line peddled by Mr. Oswald, the EPO's answer to Comical Ali ...

The document CA/186/09 is nothing more than a "general framework" established prior to Battistelli's initial appointment back in 2009.

It is not a copy of the President's contract, and in no way does it exclude the possibility that said contract contains some kind of special clauses, e.g. relating to Battistelli's residency.

The only comment that Mr. Oswald makes on this point is the rather evasive statement:
"Equally, there were no provisions for accommodation outside Munich".
But the point is that he is referring to the framework - not the actual contract itself.
And we are not discussing "accomodation" but rather residency and how that has been defined in the contract.

The framework also refers to Article 23 of the Service Regulations.
Article 23 - Residence: "A permanent employee shall reside either in the place where he is employed or at no greater distance therefrom than is compatible with the proper performance of his duties."

None of that would prevent the contract including a clause to the effect that Battistelli is deemed to be employed in St.Germain and that this is considered compatible with the proper performace of his duties.

More to the point, why exactly would he need a monthly "housing allowance" of EUR 3000 when it would appear that he went to the bother of installing luxury private appartment on the 10th floor of the Isar building (how many renewal fees went into that I wonder ?).

And finally, a question for Mr. Oswald: has he actually seen and read the contract with his own eyes or is he just obediently spouting this stuff in accordance with instructions from above ?

Anonymous said...

"I could harp on about reducing wages to lower EPO official fees, but I think I'll just take some German lessons and buy a plane ticket!"

To get any kind of a decent position in the EPO these days, you need to be fluent in French as well.

It also helps to be an alumnus of the ENA (or to have a spouse who worked at the INPI or something similar).

Anonymous said...

Mr. Oswald states that "The same process was followed this year for his re-election."

Strictly speaking, Battistelli was not "re-elected", his current appointment was extended.

There was no "election" as the had been no invitation for candidates (at least no public notification that would have induced anybody outside of the closed circle of the AC to apply).

Anonymous said...

Stop the whining EPO staff and do some work. Read some of that prior art, if you bothered to search properly.

If we are moving to a registration system, i.e. a formal version of the present de facto position, it can all be done automatically using Epoline. Bye Bye EPO staff.

Anonymous said...

To put the Examiners' salaries in perspective, here in the UK as a patent attorney one would have to reach Partnership level to earn that sort of money in private practice.

This raises a question in my mind: how many (if any) instances are there of patent attorneys becoming EPO examiners? Examiners moving into private practice and qualifying as attorneys seems fairly common, but I have never heard of a case of anyone going the other way.

If the salary and benefits (short working hours, flexitime, generous holiday allowances, schooling, expat allowances and so on) are so generous at the EPO, why are attorneys not defecting by the dozen?

Anonymous said...

Probably moulded on Baghdad Bob.
Unusual assertions part of the job.
President Battistelli a pension-free zone?
Perhaps Merpel should send him a Katpat or bone.
Especially before committing libel or slander.
This contract needs a proper gander.

Anonymous said...

"If the salary and benefits (short working hours, flexitime, generous holiday allowances, schooling, expat allowances and so on) are so generous at the EPO, why are attorneys not defecting by the dozen?"

I'm an attorney fluent in EN, FR and DE, but I was turned down twice by the EPO after applying for an examiner position. Not too upset though, as the examiner job can be quite tedious. So I would definately want to be paid more to work as an examiner then I would being an attorney.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps from a UK point of view it may be a legit question....why don't they do so by the dozen? Could the language requirement be an obstacle? You will need to be fluent more or less in at least two of the official languages and will be expected to understand the third one. I do not know many UK attorneys who are. Interesting by the way that the term "defecting" is used....almost as if it is a crime to work for the EPO in case you are an attorney :-)

Ron said...

I am aware of at least one UK CIPA Fellow who joined the EPO. I shared a room with him when I joined the UK Patent Office in 1976. The Patent Office was then recruiting examiners with the option of transferring to the EPO when it opened, which he duly did.

UK Civil Service salaries used to be determined by a pay review process that compared civil servants' duties with their private sector analogues. My understanding is that patent examiner's analogues were private practice patent agents, the examiner grade's analogue being an associate, the senior examiner's analogue being an equity partner. The EPO salary levels therefore seem not unreasonable.

As far as the UP Patent Office is concerned, comparison with analogues went out of the door at about the time it moved to South Wales an austerity and cost cutting set in. As a consequence, in the early 1990's nearly all new examiner recruits resigned within 2 years of joining, many becoming patent agents. I had already left by then.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1115 – yes, we have revealed the salary of an A3(9) – typically in his/her 40’s – but not the president’s. I could give the equivalent figures based on the guideline contract, but I prefer not to give what could be a) wrong and b) personal data although it seems that the salary of supposedly the average EPO examiner has been given out. Actually, A-grades are not only examiners.


Anon 1228 – on a realistic note, there are a number of non-financial reasons which may have more or less of a counter-effect. Those coming to the EPO young are less affected but those older (mid-30s and upwards) face a variety of other factors. Those married or with partners face the issue of the other half’s career and ability to relocate to a non-English speaking country. In effect both rather than just one has to be competent in more than one language. There may also be children with family support and schooling issues. Likewise, out of office interests/hobbies may have taken on more of a fixture. Again this is not to over exaggerate but if one or the other is now spending more time on a semi-professional interest, that is a consideration. And there must be families, particularly if parents/relatives are now becoming less independent and thus more reliant – it’s easier to leave parents in their early 50s, less so in late 60s. Next, there is the security. The EPO involves a longish probationary period and little chance of picking up another job nearby in the event that it doesn’t work out. And what do you do with the house in the UK during this period? And do you want to have a civil service style job?

I’m not saying that it is all doom and gloom – I’d still recommend it – but I can see that the (financial) benefits have a lot of emotional/practical counter-points which must be weighed against the security of a job which may have been held for a number of years and which is a safe background.





Anonymous said...

The language requirement is stupid.

Anonymous said...

Actually there are actually as many former attorneys joining the EPO as examiners leaving to become attorneys. The number of British attorneys is however small compared to the size of the profession in the UK. But then again, there are only 475 British nationals at the EPO out of 6814 employees (see$File/epo_social_report_2013_en.pdf)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Schröder's remarks bring certainly some clarity into the issues discussed in the previous Kat post. However, as always, the devil's in the details.

A fast calculation with the information provided by Mr. Schröder shows that the president earns a basic salary of 31000€, not counting allowances. A conservative estimate including allowances (housing, representation, expatriation, etc…) brings this number to 41000€ per month.

The pay ratio in an organization is not calculated dividing the salary of the highest paid employee by the salary of a conveniently chosen worker (in this case an A3 examiner). Instead it should be calculated as the ratio between the highest and lowest paid employees or the average employee (depending on the method). With the information from the Social Report and the small calculation provided above we have the following pay ratios:

41000€ (President) / 2663€ (lowest paid EPO employee)= 15,4
41000€ (President) / 7862€ (average salary paid in 2013)= 5,2

These pay ratios offer a very different picture from that drawn by Mr. Schröder. They are considerably higher than the 2:1 ratio mentioned by him and clearly out of line with public sector ratios in Europe.

And Mr. Schröder fails to answer to two worrying questions. The document provided is a framework for a contract. The contract remains secret. How can the public know whether the framework has been followed? What extra perks does the contract contain? And finally, how can the President maintain political office in St. Germain when the French electoral code requires residency in order to be eligible for office. The municipal elections were held some months ago when this President was already in office.

Anonymous said...

Back in 1983 I joined as a rookie EPO examiner straight from uni. My salary was about the equivalent of £14000 a year (tax free) plus generous holidays. That was a fortune in those days after surviving on a student grant (yes - remember those?) I lasted four years - despite the money, and a great social life, the job just wasn't for me. Interesting that the majority of my ex-EPO colleagues who still remain there are no longer working as examiners. Money isn't everything although it does help :)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting statistics. In particular, one on page 35. May I ask what happens with female staff after age 36? About 60% of them leave the Office? Or they do not need insurance anymore? In age range 36-52 there is 3 times more men than women.

Anonymous said...

May I apologise for deviating for main subject of the post and continue a bit with the info from attached documents. I've found it quite interesting that the age statistic on page 11 is provided on asymmetric coordinate system. The female part of coordinate is 40 percent shorter. In this way, it seems there is a comparable number of male and female staff , while in fact there is much less women, what would be obvious on symmetric coordinate system.

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