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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

BREAKING NEWS: UK Government issues statement on EPO

The IPKat has just received a communication from a spokesman for the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) which he has been asked to draw to the attention of the readers of this weblog. This communication refers to Merpel's Katpost yesterday entitled "EPO, SUEPO and a question of governance: why a word from the Baroness would be welcome" (here) and it reads as follows:

"The UK Government takes its responsibilities in relation to the EPO very seriously.

We are well aware of the social unrest at EPO and the views which some users have expressed about the operation of the Office. This comes at a time of significant reform to support the long-term future of the Organisation.

We regularly hold meetings with UK staff based at the EPO where their concerns are aired and continue to discuss these issues with stakeholders to ensure their views are taken into account.

It is in the interest of all UK stakeholders for UK representatives to play an active role in the governance of the EPO, and we will continue to do so. The UK Intellectual Property Office is in regular contact with relevant stakeholder organisations and is always willing to answer any questions that attorney firms and other users have about UK oversight of the EPO as a member of the Administrative Council.”
On behalf of Merpel and all the readers of this weblog, the IPKat wishes to thank the IPO for what, he believes, is the first public response of any national office to the current unrest. He also thanks the IPO for its willingness to answer questions from those concerned about the present situation and what he hopes will be its future resolution.

It is very much hoped that other national offices will express their willingness to do the same, whether through the medium of this weblog or through channels more appropriate to the nations concerned.

TO CONTACT THE IPO, the best person initially is James Thomson (Head of Stakeholder Engagement), whose office number is +44 207 034 2847 and whose email address is James.Thomson@ipo.gov.uk. If James can't deal with your enquiry, he will know who can. The IPKat and Merpel both urge readers to treat this facility with respect -- and are sure they will.

87 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good to see the UK govt so concerned over the social events at the EPO. It must be painful to watch the EPO staff be subject to such stringent working conditions and performance assessment requirements.

I suggest that UK govt lobbies the EPO to match the employment rights given to UK workers.

Anonymous said...

Can anonymous @ q 15:30 understand that the issue is no longer simple working conditions. Giving the EPO employees the same conditions as employes in the Uk might these days be welcome as it would give them access to independent courts. But some continue to fall for the public face of BB and his smooth manner.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the read that the UK delegation admits that it meets regularly staff of the EPO.

However, in the letter of 20.02.2015 addressed to the Chairwoman of the Staff Union and published by IPKat here, Mr Battistelli writes that "relationships with host and member states, their official authorities and representatives remain exclusive prerogative in which the staff representation, unions or individual staff members have no bearing".

Therefore, those staff members who talked to the UK delegation breached the service regulations according to Mr Battistelli and will feel the consequences if they are identified.

By the way, I was informed that the UK delegation indeed met staff members recently. Some staff members were so disgusted by the answers of the UK delegates that they left the room afer 10 minutes.

The next invalidity reform introduces house arrests for invalid staff within 100 km around the place of employment. And in the last Budget and Finance Committee meeting, the UK delegation said that the reform was not going too far in the implementation. The UK-IPO should stop being so hypocritical and stakeholders should also address questions to the Baroness directly in person.

Anonymous said...

Question to the UK government: How can breaching fundamental rights support the long-term future of an organisation ?

Anonymous said...

"We regularly hold meetings with UK staff based at the EPO where their concerns are aired......"

Well they're for the high jump then.

Anonymous said...

The "response" is a non-response - there is nothing of substance present.

So quite literally, Thanks for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Regular meetings with British examiners, when was that? Certainly not in the last decade. However I am very pleased to see my government isn't rolling over and playing dead any more.

Anonymous said...

My God! So much buffering in that statement!
The issues are well known. It is time to act not to take time with vague statements.
For example, Battistelli has publicly declare thst he will not follow a judgement of a court. This is a serious violation of the Rules of law. It deserves a straight answer, not just statements like "we are aware..." "we listen..." etc.
Wake up, delegates!

Anonymous said...

Do I detect a hint of sarcasm in the first comment in this thread?

I'm certain that most EPO staff would agree that it is legitimate for an employer to seek efficiency and the best value for money from his staff.

BUT there are laws in place across Europe that say how far an employer may go and what is forbidden. The goal of these laws is to create a level playing field for the parties concerned and ensure that staff, through their unions, have a reasonable chance of stopping extreme behaviour.

At the EPO, it is possible, as the NL judgment has shown, for the management to breach even fundamental laws. On the other hand, staff have no immediate protection against suspension or dismissal if they are accused of even the slightest misdemeanour, and must wait years for the ILOAT to decide.

This distortion of power is at the core of the tensions.

It would be possible, for example, for the UK delegation at the Administrative Council to vote in favour of something that would be illegal in the UK.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I can't accept this as a public response, perhaps at most a public acknowledgement of the topic, but I'm missing any kind of statement of intent. Bearing in mind that the UK delegation gives few illusions of their view that EPO examiners are over-paid and under-worked, and bearing in mind that they too are looking for the UK towards "harmonisation" towards those "qualities" statistically proven to be successful (and they would be much further on if those irritating labour laws didn't get in the way), it doesn't bode well. Is there anyone out there prepared to say what a high quality examination actually is? (please don't mention ISO9000) And then is there anyone out there prepared to say what is actually needed to get it? - if indeed anyone ever says in concrete terms that they actually want it, rather than being seriously committed to investigating the possibility of thinking about....
Or is there at least someone prepared to organise some kind of event involving people who know what they're talking about to find out what a high quality examination might be?
Perhaps this is just an allergy to titles such as "Head of Stakeholder Engagement"

Anonymous said...

I am not so sure that the UK government wants to be dragged in the dispute between staff of the EPO and their President.
The statement seems no more than paying minimal lip service to the feelings developed by UK practitioners.
The day the UK government will support Mr Justice Jacob and the other European high-ranking IP judges, or the statement of Mr Boff in the name of CIPA, then I will believe that the UK government is truly concerned.
Acts have to follow words.

Anonymous said...

"This comes at a time of significant reform to support the long-term future of the Organisation."

Could the IPO kindly state which reforms are necessary at the EPO, and why?

No one seems to have done that yet. Maybe that is one reason for all the furore. What seems to happen is that Battistelli has an idea and implements it. There is no trace of a clear strategy or a stated need for reform that I can find.

Anonymous said...

The statement of the IPO is very vague and completely ignores how many times Mr Battistelli has infringed the labor law of the EPO (with the help of the legal department headed by Mr Lutz) and how many times he has already harrassed staff, including a few senior managers.
Fall these acts under the definition of reforms?

Anonymous said...

Well, that says nothing.
PS Regular meetings with staff? I must be very lacking in awareness. I'll ask around...

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Mr Thomson,
this is the same kind of justification that we are getting from Mr B. since he has started at the EPO.

Who can believe that:

The punishment of elected staff representative
Banishment of BoA member
Banishment of elected staff rep. from Council G.A.
non respect of national laws and judgements.
prohibition of staff peaceful demo
Permanent threatening of staff and staff rep.
Downgrading of elected staff rep.
Free grant of our medical insurance to all A.C. members
Meteoric career for selected friends, Mrs Bergot, etc.
Nomination of french army intelligence officer with experience in Afghanistan and Irak
Setting of investigation unit
Suppression of our invalidity insurance
Destruction of all staff careers

Are significant reforms to support the long-term future of the Organization?

Anonymous said...

I was at the last meeting,the big cheeses were not available so we dealt with a couple of minions.They were only interested in the financial health of the office.On being asked why as a control body they had let BB get out of control and NEVER vote against him they just looked sheepish.

Anonymous said...

16:17:00
" Giving the EPO employees the same conditions as employes in the Uk might these days be welcome..."

Poppycock.

You clearly know nothing AT ALL of UK employment rights, or rather the lack thereof.

Be careful what you wish for.

It would be extremely hypocritical for the UK govt (whichever party is in power at the time) to argue against the EPO's planned reforms.

Anonymous said...

Dutch appeals court finds human rights violations at the EPO.
Battistelli refuses to follow orders of court, calling them "legally inadmissible".
Battistelli suspends an EPO judge, calling into question the judicial independence of the EPO Boards of Appeal and, thereby, causing some to call into question the very legitimacy of the EPO itself.
External audit done away with by Battistelli.
No one, but no one, except Battistelli and Kongstad know what's in Battistelli's contract.
No Conference of Ministers in over 7 years despite a legal requirement to have one _at least_ every 5 years (Art. 4a EPC).
Staff complaining of reforms that violate their basic rights and a draconian worsening of their working conditions for no apparent reason.
Battistelli alleges reforms necessary to support long-term future of EPO, yet gave staff a €28M bonus in 2012, despite their protests against it.
A public service organisation with the transparency of a dirty shower curtain.

Anonymous said...

At first IPKat's headline gave me hope - having read the statement of the IPO this has now turned to despair - the statement simply says NOTHING!
And Bully Benoit must be laughing all the way to the next AC meeting.

Anonymous said...

if the statement that the UK delegation regularly meets with EPO staff paying attention to their problems is true, the subsequent behaviour in the AC is quite remarkable. Until now one has never heard of a no-vote to one of BBs proposals !

Anonymous said...

"A public service organisation with the transparency of a dirty shower curtain."

Poetry, sheer poetry. But where is Norman Bates when he's needed?

Anonymous said...

Dear British Colleagues,

is it true what the IPO says above?

That they "regularly hold meetings with UK staff based at the EPO where their concerns are aired"?

And if this is the case, did they ever show any concern for what is happening at the EPO and/or promised to do something?

Or did they just told you that, maybe, it would have been more effective to go to a Dutch court?

Anonymous said...

Merpel has rightly expressed the hope that other national offices intervene in this discussion.
However, if their contribution is of the same depth as the one by IPO, I suggest that they spare their time.

Anonymous said...

As stated above, in the letter of 20.02.2015 addressed to the Chairwoman of the Staff Union and published by IPKat here, Mr Battistelli writes that "relationships with host and member states, their official authorities and representatives remain exclusive prerogative in which the staff representation, unions or individual staff members have no bearing".
Thus, the British delegation when meeting British staff members made them violate the code of conduct recently introduced by Battistelli for EPO staff.

Anonymous said...

Dear British Colleagues,

is it true what the IPO says above?

That they "regularly hold meetings with UK staff based at the EPO" thus creating a relationships "in which the staff representation, unions or individual staff members have no bearing"?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1530,
If you mean as explained at https://www.gov.uk/industrial-action-strikes/your-employment-rights-during-industrial-action , then I think EPO staff would be grateful. Since Suepo is not allowed to hold a ballot at all and a ballot is only held if BB agrees (and sometimes he doesn't) and BB refuses any form of mediation, then these rules would be a far better security. We even had to ask his agreement to him holding a ballot about strike action on a motion opposing having no right to hold a ballot. And even then he balloted non-Union members (who fortunately agreed overwhelmingly).
I'm sure the IPO is paying attention to that too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 17:23: "It would be possible, for example, for the UK delegation at the Administrative Council to vote in favour of something that would be illegal in the UK." They actually did, when voting in favour of the investigation guidelines and the strike regulation.

Anonymous said...

As jobs in public service go,Newport ranks just above getting a post in the embassy in Kabul.The BPO downsizing plan worked back then and now acts as a blueprint for the BoA move to Berlin.

Anonymous said...

Under the new internal rules of Mr Battistelli (undoubtedly a necessary reform supported also by the British delegation!) the investigation unit, having read the reports of some British staff members meeting regularly with the UK delegates, will have to start an inquiry. In that case, the UK delegates will have to provide names of the organisers and participants for disciplinary action.
Isn't that wonderful? Democracy at its best.

Anonymous said...

Paradoxical!
By providing now a phone number and an e-mail address, the Brits induce now the staff members to commit a "crime". Do not call or write! It's a trap.

Anonymous said...

There is an Association of British Employees at the EPO (see abeepo.org). It's new and as far as I know has only met with the UK IPO once. So, it may be a bit premature to speak of "regular" meetings. Nevertheless, it is surely a positive development.

It is important to bear in mind that UK staff at the office are in a certain sense working for the UK, as it is a member state and the UK wants its citizens to work at the EPO. The expression I believe is "designated service". As such, UK staff at the EPO have a reasonable expectation that the UK will protect them in times of trouble.

Anonymous said...

is it true what the IPO says above?

That they "regularly hold meetings with UK staff based at the EPO" thus creating a relationships "in which the staff representation, unions or individual staff members have no bearing"?


I do not know if that is true, but if it is, then that seems rather questionable to me. The employees of the EPO, like those of any international organisation, are obliged to exercise their functions without taking instructions from their countries of origin. Regular informal meetings with national delegations do not fit into that very well.

I do not see a problem with national delegations discussing working conditions with staff, but that should be done more or less in the open and not on the basis of nationality.

Anonymous said...

It is very clear what is the only interest of the member states in the EPO, namely to receive as many renewal fees as possible, without any own effort. It's a shame that they show no respect for those actually earning "their" money. Instead cynical statements.

Anonymous said...

So does The danish delegation; meet with staff, and the Turkish and the and the.... Wonder how many staff members should be dismissed for accepting the invitations, and that in premises of the Epo. And it has been going on for many years who is BB to tell his superior that it is forbidden to meet with staff? In a normal company the director will have to follow instructions from the board, here it seems to be opposite. Time for a proper external Public made available Review?

Anonymous said...

So far the only ones who have tried to remember Mr. B. that we are not leaving anymore in the Vichy Republic are SUEPO, the Dutch judges and the BoA (on others aspects).

So far the AC has approved everything and even the toxic future health reform.

Mr. B. is the dirty job maker they have always dream to be without having the courage to go further.

They have found the mirror of their civil servant pettiness and they hate and/or envy the opposite values of the ancient EPO.

At the end, Mr. B. is happy, the collaborationist around him are happy, the AC is happy, and apart from a production collapse and/or repetitive (human) disasters, they will say YES to everything.

Anonymous said...

Leaving aside for one moment the staff issues, the suspension of a Board member and the inherent difficulties in separation of the Executive (the President) and the Judiciary (the Board) because of the arrangements within the EP itself (eloquently put by Mr Boff of CIPA),.........

what do fellow commentators think will happen to business's views and usage of the EP patent system in the months years to come?

What effect, if any, will that have on invention and innovation in EP countries?

What effect, if any, will any of the above have on growth and wealth creation?

Anonymous said...

CIPA's comment was informative, constructive and provided a practical way forward.

Regrettably this statement by UK IPO says nothing to comfort stakeholders.

However, it is helpful, they have provided a point of contact.

Anonymous said...

Who is this frenchman, who mocks the judicial system in a founding member state and host country? Who violates basic rights of his staff and their union? Who has a BoA judge escorted off the premises by security and places a house ban on him, despite that authority clearly resting with the AC?

Battistelli in his own words:
« Je n'ai jamais été aussi libre, insiste-t-il. Je n'ai pas de ministère de tutelle, de Parlement, de gouvernement. C'est nous qui fixons les règles... »
(http://www.usinenouvelle.com/article/le-stratege-du-brevet-europeen.N182255)

Translated:
"I have never been so free," he insisted. "I have no minister, no parliament, no government. It is we that fix the rules..."

Also from Battistelli:
“We are not here trying to build a reform which is compatible with each of your nation’s, with each of your state’s law. We are trying to build something which is useful for the Office, for the Organisation. So, if in some cases, it is not compatible with the German law, or the UK law, or the French law, this is not the issue. The issue is: is it useful for the Organisation?”
(http://techrights.org/2014/12/08/epo-staff-is-demonstrating/)

So if the reforms of the EPO are incompatible with the laws of its founding member states, who cares? All that matters is that it is good for the organisation.

Whoa! How far can you take that line of reasoning?

Would , for example, child labour in the mail room be OK?

Well, they could appeal to the ILO, but by the time their case is heard they'd be adults anyway.

It may sound like hyperbole, but seriously think about it for a minute.

If the appellate court of a founding member state host country finds human rights violations and Battistelli ignores their orders because they are not, according to him, "legally admissible", I mean, really, how far can you take that?

Battistelli's power is apparently limited only by his moral conscience.

And the Administrative Council can not or will not intervene.

Everyone has surely heard by now the infamous audio clip of Battistelli berating the Slovenian delegation when they dared to suggest that the EPO is not a corporation; if not, it's here:(http://techrights.org/2014/12/07/battistelli-audio/)

But sometimes it's the subtler, unsaid stuff that can be the most insightful...

Just have a look at the media links on the EPO page to see how the Office (read Battistelli) views the relative importance of Battistelli and the AC.

Most all companies and international organisations provide a picture and short bio of their CEO/president/DG.

But if you go to the EPO website, you will be treated to not one. Not two. Not five. Not ten. But 25 full-color photos of Mr Battistelli in 25 alluring poses!

There's even a slideshow!

Just press play and prepare to be bedazzled!

http://www.epo.org/news-issues/press/photos/president.html

Even Larry Ellison, arguably the vainest CEO in the world, has only one photo on his bio page:
http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/executives/ellison/index.html

Now check out the _one_ photo of the AC:

http://www.epo.org/news-issues/press/photos/administrative-council.html

A room of empty chairs. Literally!

Ok, now for a riddle:
What's the difference between God and benoit battistelli?


----


God doesn't think he's benoit battistelli.

Anonymous said...

The one thing that I see coming through from the UK IPO is that they are primarily concerned about the financial viability of the EPO - see the statement from the UK IPO

"This comes at a time of significant reform to support the long-term future of the Organisation."

and the comment from Anonymous 24 Feb @ 19:05:00

"They were only interested in the financial health of the office."

There is a question of the long-term EPO finances and the EPO pension burden.

If the EPO fails financially then the member states are responsible i.e. taxpayers in the member states pay. That would be a political disaster for national governments.

So perhaps the main concern of the UK IPO is to ensure the financial future of the EPO and not the future of EPO employees.

If UK Gov funds are spent on funding the EPO will the UK IPO budget be cut?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1000,
I thought the AC had, possibly illegally, rid themselves years ago of the standing as ultimate guarantor of EPO pensions. At the time the office transferred money to the pension reserve fund and the rules were changed so that there was no longer a potential cap on staff contribution to the pension reserve fund (and indeed staff contributions now exceed the original limit). Thus the IPO does not, if I am remembering correctly, face such liabilities.

Anonymous said...

transparency now! How is the money spend? Will the EPO save money from the new Salary scheme? Will some might even benefit from the new Salary Scheme? And who?
How is money spend in that organisation, even though Patent fee´s are not regarded a direct tax, it should be calculated so, therefore the expenses of that office should be monitored in dept, not just in some overall figures. There is a rumour somewhere that 1.5 million Euro was spent to CNN for publicity. Why?
How much money is spend on travels? There is even a rumour that the president only travels 1. class is that true? Let see the bills!
Building plans? How much will be spent on new buildings? Is this a realistic budget compared to other office buildings for public organisations?
All the rumours should be investigated by newspapers and the public should get to know the truth. Maybe half of all rumours are not correct? In that case the EPO should be cleared. It seems severe damage to the EPO has already been done.
And do not forget; If less money is spent, more money flies off to the national countries. It is public interest and it should catch the eyes of some serious newspapers and politicians now. Lets us have see the Money coming back to national countries, Spain, Italy and Greece could for sure use any penny that comes back from that organisation.

And do not forget; Some pay for this circus....if you are one of them, or represent one of them; Get out of your chair and demand open books now!

Anonymous said...

I have heard that 3 suicides occurred at EPO during the past 2 years for which working conditions played a role. One even at the desk during working hours. The UK delegation is thus right : current administration is modernizing the EPO back to the 19th century !

Anonymous said...

Anon 1114,
I have read that the EPO has significant cash funds (greater than 1bn euros) so that the new building in Rijswijk could be paid comfortably (a number of times over) out of cash. There was also a report recently that the French government had transferred money from inpi to central general funds as the money, primarily from renewal fees, was not being spent and was simply accruing. I think it was 10s of millions of euros.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1139,
While EPO staff understand clearly that the subject is off limits, it is also worth noting that all such cases are never simple and that speculation may be unnecessarily painful. This may sound as if I'm warning you off but honestly I'm just trying to prevent wild rumours becoming 'fact' since it is such a serious topic.

Anonymous said...

Re. 1224,
http://m.lesechos.fr/redirect_article.php?id=0204078692865&fw=1
gives the actual report about inpi (in French)

Anonymous said...

There is a question of the long-term EPO finances and the EPO pension burden.

Well, why not an independent audit then?

See, the problem I have with such statements is that they fly in the face of budget surpluses on the order of hundreds of millions of euros that are the used to give bonuses to staff and fund multi-million euro cooperation projects with the contracting states.

It is almost cliché to use such statements to justify cuts to staff while rewarding management and others.

Why not put the surplus into the pension reserve fund?

I guess it's easier to break promises made to the staff...

In any event, an independent audit is what is needed.

As US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of going through the inefficiency and bureaucracy of responding to each person individually, Mr. Thompson can engage with his stakeholders through some communiqué or website detailing the concrete actions related to the "significant reform to support the long-term future of the Organisation" including their implications for UK stakeholders (industry, patent attorneys, society).

But my guess is that this would not fit the Newspeak definition of "Stakeholder Engagement".

Anonymous said...

Before (if) the unitary patent comes to fruition the question of the costs involved in setting up the UPC will have to be clarified. As far as I have understood the Member States are expected to contribute. Maybe the rest of the costs will be contributed by the EPO out of all the savings they will make through BBs reforms? Last quango in Paris anyone?

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 12.39
you may not realise that after some staff accepted one bonus a few years ago, staff then considered the matter, found that bonuses have no place in a public service and collectively said 'NO!' to further bonus payments. Not being able to buy the staff must have irritated BB so much that he now made de facto bonuses part of the new salary system.

Anonymous said...

Bonuses are common in industry and commercial firms. They can be a good idea if they are linked to performance (either of the individual employee or of the company as a whole), as long as they are not excessive.

The problem with the EPO's bonus a few years ago was that it was an unexpected windfall, not a reward for performance, and the money could have been used in much better ways.

I do respect the staff who have said that the previous unexpected windfall was inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

Re. Bonuses. The BoA refused in principle while Suepo spoke for the staff in that accepting a bonus would lead to pay per product. While BB always claims that Suepo is only a handful of the enemy within, he saw his chance to withdraw the offer and to blame it on Suepo, a form of divide and conquer. Now he has a new salary scheme with an unexplained possible bonus element. Targets have risen 20%+ so not many will be in line for one other than those in the successful project teams at the top. Result! (Cynical moi...)

Anonymous said...

In the industry, the bonuses of the managers are transparent. We can read in the newspapers the amount of their salary and the amount of their bonus.

At the EPO, nobody will never know the salary and the bonus of the president.
What do you think if the EPO president takes 10 millions Euro bonus for 2015 ? or maybe 50 millions, or 100 millions. Why not ? Nobody know... and will never know.

Before the implementation of a system of bonus, it's mandatory to have a high level of transparency... To avoid fraude at the top level of the organisation.
Also this system of bonus must be supervised by an independent autority.
What's not the case for the moment at the EPO.

Anonymous said...

Many of the details of the new career system still need to be revealed, but the biggest problem already apparent is the lack of transparency and the introduction of a bonus-culture to a public service organisation.

This approach completely ignores the work of the Nobel prize winning french economist, Jean Tirole, whose latest research has found that "a bonus culture takes over the workplace, generating distorted decisions and significant efficiency losses, particularly in the long run".

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/oct/13/jean-tirole-nobel-prize-economics

Is this what the user community wants?

Anonymous said...

In one of the parallel blogs an examiner from the EPO said he has changed his search strategy as a result of the production targets. I can think of three reasons for sacking him. 1) admitting the EPO now produces rubbish and thus bringing the Office into disrepute, 2) either searching sloppily now or 3) being lazy in the past. As soon as a bonus decides whether a patent is grantable or not, then you do not have a reliable system. If a reliable system cannot be created, then you can only shut down, not only the EPO, but also the national patent offices. Jefferson was right in 1813 (ish) when he said that patents are not a God-given-right, but must serve society. If they only serve the examiner, or the offices, then forget it.

Anonymous said...

Many of the details of the new career system still need to be revealed, but the biggest problem already apparent is the lack of transparency and the introduction of a bonus-culture to a public service organisation.

This approach completely ignores the work of the Nobel prize winning french economist, Jean Tirole, whose latest research has found that "a bonus culture takes over the workplace, generating distorted decisions and significant efficiency losses, particularly in the long run".

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/oct/13/jean-tirole-nobel-prize-economics

Is this what the user community wants?

Anonymous said...

"Also this system of bonus must be supervised by an independent autority."

At the EPO everything is supervised by the ultimate independent authority:
« Je n'ai jamais été aussi libre, insiste-t-il. Je n'ai pas de ministère de tutelle, de Parlement, de gouvernement.»
http://www.usinenouvelle.com/article/le-stratege-du-brevet-europeen.N182255

He even thumbs his nose at the interfering busybodies of the national judiciaries.

How can you get more independent than that ?

Anonymous said...

There are two very recent statements that seem to express the same idea:

“Besides, the interests of the examiners are not the only interests to take into account. The IP community also has an interest in affordable and expedious [rather, ‘expeditious’, GBN note] examination of patent applications.” (1)

and

"It is in the interest of all UK stakeholders for UK representatives to play an active role in the governance of the EPO, and we will continue to do so." (2)

The first is from the IP community itself, and the second is from the public servant layer.

Both seem to say that we must balance the cost/benefit of a patent system, but the timing is all wrong. It is a timing that inherently expresses support for what is going on at the EPO at present. Let me say this as clearly as I can: it is definitely not up to the head of a patent office, nor of public servants overseeing that patent office to decide these issues and to take corresponding measures!

At any other time it would have appeared quite reasonable and a sign of good governance to discuss the scope of patenting. It is entirely wrong to address these matters at a time when it seems the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater. We need both emergency measures to save the baby and a long-term policy, because the present one has been sabotaged.

It is exclusively the remit of the lawmaker, and it requires public debate before major changes in law are made to a system that has been reliable until production goals became the centre of focus.

We hence need public debate, input from stakeholders, that beautiful managerial term. There are two kinds of end users of the patent system, and then there is society at large. Identifying the stakeholders is important, because then we can ask them what they need to have, and what is nice to have.

But that is for another thread!

Kind regards,


George Brock-Nannestad

____________________
(1) Wouter Pors (Bird & Bird), AIPPI member (Monday, 23 February 2015 at 23:10:00 GMT on a different thread). I take exception to part of his comment. First of all, it is completely unreasonable to classify the protests from the professional examiners as “interests”, because it invariably carries connotations that there is somehow a conflict of interests. I would rather call the protests “professional warnings” that the idea of European examination enshrined in the EPC is under threat.

Secondly, it is not the IP community that has this interest, it is the end user. The IP community, like all attorneys, will benefit whichever way the rules point.

(2) UKIPO spokesperson (Tuesday, 24 February 2015 at 15:23:00 GMT, this thread). I am sad that the UKIPO statement is so empty of content.

Anonymous said...

The vast majority of the EPO staff are expatriates. They are living far away from their home country, from their family and from their friends.
Most of the expatriates EPO staff are not really integrated. It´s hard to meet with local people and to understand the local culture.
Also The Netherlands and Germany are not really sunny place.
A lot of the EPO staff feels already depressed by the expatriation.

The president Battistelli (and the AC) never take in account this specific situation.
The EPO staff is more fragile, than for example the staff of a local factory.
When an expat faces problems, he cannot get the support from friends and from his family who are living far away.

The violation of Human Rights at the EPO, the new production target, the investigation unit, the lack of justice, etc. creates additional stress.
The social cost (depression) will be very high.

Anonymous said...

> a bonus-culture to a public service organisation.

This approach completely ignores the work of the Nobel prize winning french economist, Jean Tirole, whose latest research has found that "a bonus culture takes over the workplace, generating distorted decisions and significant efficiency losses, particularly in the long run".

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/oct/13/jean-tirole-nobel-prize-economics

Is this what the user community wants?


This is a very very good point. EPO is a combination of a public service organisation and an international organisation. Question is how these two quite polar capacity should coexist.

I have an impression that most of traditional specialised international organisation do not have such emphasised public service function as EPO. Therefore, immunities and independence seems to be in balance there.

On the other hand, when there is a clear public service function, a control and public discussion on policies seems to be appropriate.

It is a question whether the international character and the public service function are in legal balance at EPO.

Therefore, a bonus scheme seems to be a quite controversial solution, given that supervision of the bonus system would be quite limited due to presently existing immunities of EPO.

Anonymous said...

At anon 25 Feb 23:10,

Munich is a lovely place with a recongized quality of life standard higher than nearly anywhere else in Europe!
I suggest you go and visit some of the member state countries (eg. ES, PT, IR, GR and IT+ all Eastern European coutnries) to see how they feel about moving to DE/NL. let alone the lovely city of Munich, particularly under the generous employment conditions of the EPO

Anonymous said...

Re: new career system (1/2)

The previous career system had its flaws but was relatively transparent and mostly based on objective criteria (productivity). There were regular step-in-grade increases and quasi-regular promotions, with a fast-track for high producers. Directors drafted performance reports, a Promotion Board decided on promotions based on objective criteria, and there was a relatively objective means to seek redress if you believed that you were unfairly passed over for promotion. There were small automatic annual steps-in-grade, which became biennial later in the grade, and if you were a low performer you could get parked at the end of a grade. That system worked well for 40 years and contributed to the success of the EPO that the president likes to tout.

At the same time, like any system, there was room for improvement. For example, by leveraging off the fact that S&E have been collocated, the tasks of S&E could now be separated again. But this time not with the old "toss it over the fence to Munich" model, but with the search role tightly integrated into the role of the division (2nd examiner: search; 1st exam: substantive; chairman: procedure and quality control). BEST may have been good for quality at the time it was introduced, but Henry Ford demonstrated over a century ago that division of labor yields efficiency. And by considering the various human factors, so that, for example, the chairman role be assigned to the oldest and most experienced substantive examiners (who at 55+ begin to no longer perform with the same clerical speed and accuracy) and search assigned to the newer guys (who are closer to the technical field having just come from academia or industry and know nothing yet of substantive examination) further efficiencies could be realised. You could also have well-defined career paths in both: search - for those with a technical penchant (leading e.g., to senior search examiner and classification gérant) - and substantive examination - for those who prefer substantive examination (leading e.g., to chairman role).

Anonymous said...

Re: new career system (2/2)
But sadly the new system is no improvement. It has been unilaterally put in place by HR people who do not know the job, without consulting with those who do and without regard to the human factors. It is a hamster wheel of increased production until retirement, death or dismissal. And it lacks transparency in the way promotions and "rewards" are handed out.

Under the new system, all discretion passes to the director. No more promotion board. Directors typically manage 30-50 examiners. I understand that it is envisioned that this number will increase to 60-80. At the end of the year, your director receives an "envelope". The envelope contains an amount of bonus money and a certain number of step-in-grade increases that can be doled out. From this envelope he may reward his examiners as he sees fit. Obviously not everyone will get something. A difficult task for an honest director. But with 30-80 examiners it also doesn't take a Sicilian businessman to realise that there is a real potential here for corruption (no offence intended to Sicilians, it's just that I have come to appreciate your sharp business sense). Disputes raised by troublemakers will be resolved by Principal Director in consultation with HR. Oh, yeah, and there are no more time deductions for "special duties", like cooperation projects and grading EQE papers, but you can get paid extra now for these if done on your own time (not unlike Amazon's Mechanical Turks).

Now I hear some of you already with your welcome-to-the-"real world" comments. And before you start in on me, let me say this. I worked in the "real world" too. And if I wasn't getting enough corporate love I could always go elsewhere. To a competitor, for example. Well, there is no elsewhere for examiners. At least not those of us that have been here a while: too long away to return to industry and too old to begin the path to patent attorney. That is why a fair and transparent career system is so important to us.

I recall one commenter making reference to a Faustian bargain. Fair enough. But I didn't bargain for such an opaque career system that resembles more a lower paid version of a wall street job than a public service job. More importantly, I believe the public deserves better from their European institutions. Oh, my mistake, I forgot, the European Patent Office is not a European institution. Perhaps that is part of the problem?

MaxDrei said...

I feel it necessary at this point to shoot down a canard that my own Government keeps on running, (whether in ignorance or mischief I don't know), namely, that the Be All and End All of "quality" is "expedious" (or even expeditious) grant. That, my dear civil servants, is tosh, and irrelevant. Grant Quality IS important though.

How so? Well, in fast-moving engineering, innovators need from me a Freedom to Operate opinion as soon as the patent applications of their competitors emerge 18 months after their priority filing dates ie long before grant, even an expedious one. Frankly, the opinion on obviousness of a little man in an ivory tower is for me not definitive. Better that this little man concentrates on a thoroughly good search and that his manager publishes the results as early as possible. Then, with strict application of Art 123(2) and (3) EPC, I can tell my client whether she is free to operate or not.

And how about chem/bio/pharma? Well in those fields the FTO work comes much much later, after clinical trials. The grant process can take all the time it needs.

Let's give priority to what's important shall we? Top quality searches and, from DG3, holding fast to a firm but fair line on Art 123(2) EPC (however much that firmness upsets individual EPO customers, or indeed, EPO management).

Anonymous said...

MaxDrei, please no need for pejorative terms like, "little man". Judging by the general quality of your comments, including this one - aside from the aforementioned term - you're too intelligent for that. And it may cause some to recoil from your otherwise very insightful remark.

Anonymous said...

Max says "And how about chem/bio/pharma? Well in those fields the FTO work comes much much later, after clinical trials."

I wish you'd posted this earlier max, it would have saved me a lot of work, but then I would have been unemployed for many years.

In spite of the self-interest in not doing so, I am going to advise my employer today that it is okay to spend another £100 million on the next phase of development and we a run that little FTO search once we've proven the stuff works.

MaxDrei said...

Thanks for the reactions to my posting. Not myself being in-house pharma, I particularly welcome being put straight on why in-house pharma must have grant and have it NOW.

As to my mention of the thought Experiment of the less than human "Little Man in the Machine", beloved of discussions of patent eligibility" sorry if it really does offend anybody. I wonder, though, where I got hold of the idea of the "Little Man". I think it must have been the incessant comparisons between Napoleon and the individual at the very top of the Ivory Tower

MaxDrei said...

One more thought on "expedious" granting, perhaps for the commentator from inside pharma to give a reaction?

All the expedition in the world cannot prevent applicants keeping something pending at the EPO till the end of the 20 year term, if they are willing to keep filing divisionals. The event of grant of the Grand-Daddy in the patent family is just the first grant event in an effectively endless sequence of prosecutions at the EPO, the outcome of which is only as predictable as practice of Art 123(2) determines.

Anonymous said...

"Frankly, the opinion on obviousness of a little man in an ivory tower is for me not definitive. Better that this little man concentrates on a thoroughly good search and that his manager publishes the results as early as possible. Then, with strict application of Art 123(2) and (3) EPC, I can tell my client whether she is free to operate or not."

Ah MaxDrei,

has the little man refused your application for lack of inventive step?

Surely you can ignore that.

In any case, as many EPOnians have posted here and elsewhere the undergoing (career-)reforms at the EPO might decrease the overall quality of the examiners´ work and this would include the "thoroughly good search" you want the "little man in the ivory tower" to concentrate on.

Anonymous said...

MaxDrei's pejorative is further ill-constructed.

"Ivory Tower" is a term for academics - not examiners. An examiner's work has the fires of post-grant litigation while an academics work suffers no "correcting" influences. It is the lack of correcting influences that leads to the pejorative of the associated disconnect from reality that plagues the academic community.

That being noted, at least the attention is on the right item: Doing the [examining] job right the first time through.

However - he also flags a MAJOR issue (that Anonymous @ 11:10 is quick to pick up): these applications in chem/bio/pharma should ALL be rejected for failing to possess the invention at the time of filing.

The patent system is not an invitation to investigate - and only after years of additional work ascertain that you actually have the utility as claimed. You MUST have that utility (as in ALL other art fields) at the time of filing.

Quite in fact, this pernicious warping of the patent system is most deleterious in these particular art fields, as the delay and extended protection (end of life term) is especially preyed upon in these industries. Other art fields advance more quickly and thus are less likely to suffer the abuse entailed by such "time shifting."

So much attention these days is focused on "bad patents" in other areas (i.e., software and computational areas), and yet, the largest elephant of abuse goes unattended.

Anonymous said...

To go back to the core subject of this thread, I would have just two questions to Messrs Alty and Dennehey:

1. What, for the UK, are the big issues at the EPO that you see, especially in terms of the staff's working conditions, as being a risk for the long-term future of the Office?

2. What aspects of the issues in your answer to the first question made it worth taking the risk of breaching international law (such as the European Convention on Human Rights) when you voted in the Council?

I apologise if these questions sound a bit loaded, that's not my intention. My hope is that we can have some openness on the Council delegations' thinking, so we can understand better the steps they have taken.

Anonymous said...

Excellent questions, Anonymous @ 17:09. I sincerely hope that an answer is forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

"1. What, for the UK, are the big issues at the EPO that you see, especially in terms of the staff's working conditions, as being a risk for the long-term future of the Office?

2. What aspects of the issues in your answer to the first question made it worth taking the risk of breaching international law (such as the European Convention on Human Rights) when you voted in the Council?"


This is purely anecdotal and nothing more than hearsay but there was a rumour doing the rounds a while ago that the UK delegation had been listening to examiners' gripes back around 2011 or so and was lending an apparently not totally unsympathetic ear.

Then one fine day - so it is rumoured - one of the delegates mentioned something about a nice little "cooperation project" and let it be understood that this meant that it was unlikely that they would be mounting any serious opposition to the President's "reform plans".

As I say, nothing more than anecdote and hearsay. Perhaps someone else knows something more concrete ?

Anonymous said...

Max,
a supercilious attitude can be embarrassing when you are wrong.

I referred to FTO, as you did. FTO means freedom to operate (did you know that), which involves assessing third party patents (did you know that?). It has nothing to do with obtaining rapid grant of one's own patents (I know you didn't know that). I would explain the the importance of performing an FTO assessment prior to spending many millions of dollars on clinical trials, but I'm afraid Im not so good at dumbing things down.

To anon at 12:42, you are talking nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Anon 22:03,
While Max might be along later, I will comment in the meantime. His point was not really about obtaining rapid grant of his patents. In performing his FTO work (in the mechanical arts, mainly) he wishes to use the results of a good search report to assess what the likely patent might look like. The attached commentary from the examiner is largely useless. Accordingly, in order to provide a service to both the applicant and the public, a high quality search is of paramount interest.

Anonymous said...

9:25, it is very good of you to stand in for Max while we wait for him to wake/sober up. However, he needs a better attorney.

Max stated that FTO work in pharma comes after clinical trials. This is simply incorrect. I work in pharma and know it to be incorrect. I stated so. Max chose to attack in such a vicious way that I felt insulted and wondered how I'd managed to waste 30 years of my life. I lie awake at night wondering if I should go on or admit to being a fraud. His use of "NOW" was so hurtful I am thinking the worst of thoughts. I have even been to my doctor and advised him that I'm thinking of applying to be an EPO examiner.

Anonymous said...

p.s. In pharma we have our own searches conducted and make our own assessment of what may be granted on a pending case. We even come to our own position on the validity of a granted patent. A view of an examiner may be helpful because they have done some of the preliminary legwork, but it is not relied upon.

Anonymous said...

Must have been a heavy session last for Professor Dry.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 25 Feb 20:31 said:

This approach completely ignores the work of the Nobel prize winning french economist, Jean Tirole, whose latest research has found that "a bonus culture takes over the workplace, generating distorted decisions and significant efficiency losses, particularly in the long run".


It is indeed a terrible shame to see such a huge disconnect between what science knows and what the organisation does, particularly in a public service organisation whose purported purpose is to promote technical innovation.

To anyone who still believes that bonuses improve performance should have a look at this TED talk:

TED talk: The Puzzle of Motivation

MaxDrei said...

This in reply to those who have kindly responded to my earlier postings on the issue of how important early grant is, in a world where divisionals are kept pending throughout the 20 year term.

As I see it, FTO is an ongoing process. I assess the WO publication, then monitor the progress of those divisionals. What do you do?

In stent patents, for example, I see cases going to fourth and fifth generations of divisionals. This was the background to my comment about pharma, where the time frames are longer. Does my interlocutor monitor the progress of the divisionals, I wonder. If so, why?

Anonymous said...

Jean Tirole, whose latest research has found that "a bonus culture takes over the workplace, generating distorted decisions and significant efficiency losses, particularly in the long run".

Earlier there was a link to the Guardian newspaper about this. The Guardian provided a link to Tirole's published paper, from which this quote comes.

It's a highly technical paper, and I'm not an economist. But my impression is that Tirole is not saying that all bonus systems lead to distorted decisions and significant efficiency losses.

Rather, he is examining the case where there is intense competition between different employers, who then use bonus systems to attract and retain talented staff. The topical example would be bankers' bonuses.

I may have misunderstood the technical argument, but I think Tirole is saying that in such a situation, the bonus systems may overheat. It is that overheating which leads to a "bonus culture", and to distorted decisions and significant efficiency losses. Not the basic concept of bonuses.

I don't think the EPO is in the same competitive situation to attract and retain staff. Indeed, some of the examiners here explain their fear that if Battistelli fires them, then they have nowhere else to go.

Anonymous said...

Great post by Anonymous @ 12:32.

Insightful and pleasant, yet strongly disputes a point being used by others to create an emotional argument.

Well stated. Very professional. Very compelling.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Anon Sunday 10:11 for the TED link.
Quote:
If you want people to perform better, you reward them, right? Bonuses, commissions, their own reality show. Incentivize them. … But that’s not happening here. You’ve got an incentive designed to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity, and it does just the opposite. It dulls thinking and blocks creativity.

BB is doing exactly the contrary with the blessing of the AC.

By the way, the ex French army intelligence officer hired by the Human Resources department is responsible of the conflict resolution unit :)
One of her last move has been to prohibit the staff rep. advisers to be present and assist the staff during any line manager meeting.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 12:32,

Very good points.

I agree, the paper does not seem to be arguing either against bonuses or for them, per se.

The paper's states that it attempts is to to resolve the "puzzle" of ostensibly poorer actual performance despite a greater and greater bonus component to compensation, which is "typically said" to be required in order to attract top talent.

The model uses agents that perform two different tasks: 1) an easily measured task (e.g., total sales, unit production) that is rewarded by a performance component (bonus); and 2) a not so easily measured one that is not rewarded and relies entirely on intrinsic motivation (e.g., cooperation among individuals).

As the bonus component becomes greater and greater -as a result of competition for top talent- as you said, the system overheats and leads to a bonus culture, with all of its ensuing problems.

It probably wouldn't be to hard to argue that it is precisely because the bonus component on the rewardable task becomes greater and greater - to the detriment of the unrewarded task - that a bonus culture is created, independent of whether this is due to competition for top talent or otherwise; but, that is not what is specifically modelled in the paper.

However, have a look at the short TED talk on the motivation puzzle, which describes a fair amount of much simpler and easier-to-understand research that clearly demonstrates that on tasks requiring any real cognitive ability, bonuses have a markedly detrimental effect on performance.

A transcript of the talk is here

Anonymous said...

It probably wouldn't be to hard to argue that it is precisely because the bonus component on the rewardable task becomes greater and greater - to the detriment of the unrewarded task - that a bonus culture is created, independent of whether this is due to competition for top talent or otherwise;

You mean like a performance based pay system that puts an ever increasing emphasis on the easily measured, rewarded tasks (eg, production) over harder to measure, unrewarded tasks (eg, patent search/grant quality)? Particularly, when the rewards for production are not just bonuses, but also, as I understand it, steps-in-grades, and promotions. Basically, all prospects for advancement. Combine this with having nowhere else to go as previous Anonymous pointed out, and wouldn't this create the same overheating?

And so the quote serves equally well as an admonition to those that would put a performance based pay system in place: Beware not to place too much emphasis on the easily measured, rewardable task. Otherwise, the same distorted decision-making will result.

But let's not forget that the paper is just an economic model.

For how real people actually perform on cognitive tasks with a bonus component, the Daniel Pink TED talk (thanks above for the link!) describes the research of, among others, Sam Glucksberg at Princeton University, which demonstrated how, on the so-called candle problem, performance actually drops in response to a bonus component!

Mr Pink also discusses another study performed by researchers from MIT, the Chicago School of Business, and Carnegie Mellon University and funded by the Federal Reserve Bank's Research Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision‐Making. Their results demonstrated that for cognitive tasks, higher incentives lead to worse performance.

Link here

Finally, one more quote from the talk:
"Economists at the London School of Economics looked at 51 studies of pay-for-performance plans, inside of companies. Here's what they said: 'We find that financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.'"

Link here

Let's face it, the research is clear: PRP that focuses on increased production is an outdated 20th century management dogma that works for manufactured products for which quality is easily assessed. It is unsuitable for highly-skilled, self-motivated knowledge-workers in the 21st century whose quality is not as easily assessed . There are more effective ways to achieve the same objectives. One just needs to read the research. Cutting-edge high-tech companies are already coming to this realisation. It's a shame that the EPO now moves in the opposite direction.

Anonymous said...

Great post by Anonymous @ 14:12

Insightful and pleasant, yet strongly disputes a point being used by others to create an emotional argument.

Well stated. Very professional. Very compelling.

Anonymous said...

Of course the idea of PRP must be seen against the background of BB's view of the world vis-a-vis technicians. Examining is seen as akin to normal office paperwork where applications are processed and decisions are taken. The rest is just a waste of time. Ideally am examiner would just have 2 stamps - oui and non. Any ideas of intellectual input is illusory. The real work is done by the bureaucrats at the top - the enatecs! Thus examiners are just a production line to be cranked up. Over time look for outsourcing and 'simplified' procedures.

Anonymous said...

Ideally am examiner would just have 2 stamps - oui and non.

This is quite literally the way the INPI functions!

In fact, for a long time, the INPI wouldn't even use a stamp or check a box on a form to suggest that the applicant should take a stand on the EPO-issued search report, as this would have been akin to examination, which isn't foreseen in the CPI.

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