|Examiner by day, novelist by night|
The European Patent Office has spotted this human urge to be profitably occupied. To this end it has circulated the following missive, reproduced below in full:
New approach being put in place
DG1 is facing challenging production plans. Examiner capacity for search, examination and opposition is being maximised to achieve these goals. Besides other initiatives to increase core time, all investments where examiners are involved in so-called "section Ill" activities, for support of projects or other DG plans, were revisited and rationalised. The "section lll" envelope covers the time budgets for projects and activities outside our normal operational business in DG1.
The goal is that those projects or departments needing examiner support will publish "work packages" which indicate what needs to be done, by when and within which monetary budget. The work packages will not cover recurring activities which form part of normal operational examiner business.
Interested examiners can apply for those work packages and a selection among the candidate examiners will be made by the project or budget holder concerned together with the examiners' line management.
Participation is subject to the achievement of performance levels in accordance with the examiner objectives (search, examination, opposition production and quality) set up front. The individual contribution to these extra activities should be organised such that the normal performance in terms of products and the normal working pattern is not impacted.
The selected person will consequently be rewarded for his/her contribution by a bonus defined in the work package at the end of each quarter in accordance with the work done and under the condition that the core performance has remained the same during the period.
Each employee remains fully responsible for the effective and prompt performance of his duties. However to safeguard the employees well-being, the selected person should ensure that he/she remains within the framework of Art. 55(2) ServRegs as well as in the guidelines on arrangement of working hours in contribution to those extra activities.
This new mechanism to reward extra activities will enable the Office to achieve its operational commitments, in combination with the work done on projects for other departments in the Office.
Guillaume MinnoyeThe text might be a bit opaque in places, but the overall sentiment is clear. The EPO is seeking to discharge its multifarious functions without increasing its staff head-count and establishment costs (and without therefore needing to set aside further sums for staff pensions). It seems, therefore, that examiners are being invited to perform non-examining functions in additional to a normal examining workload, for additional financial reward, rather than replacing any examining workload.
Vice President DG1
Such a system may have merit and benefit when there is trust between examiners and the management of the administration. When that trust is diminished, as it seems it is today, some examiners may be concerned that the system lacks transparency and seems open to manipulation. It is also not clear how the adherence to arrangements for overall working hours is to be expected.
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