From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Breakdown in management-staff relations at the European Patent Office

Merpel has received a very sad communication from the European Patent Office (EPO)  Described as "Open Letter from the representatives of the management during the GCC on 27.02.2015" it appears to describe a complete breakdown in relations and communications between management and staff representatives at the EPO.  Written by the management, it blames the staff representatives for this sorry state of affairs, but one might wonder whether the fact that trust has been eroded to this point suggests that it is surely not solely the responsibility of the employees.

The meeting was apparently to discuss amendments to the sick leave and invalidity provisions of the EPO.  As Merpel understands it, by working for the EPO, employees place themselves outside of national welfare provisions, so the EPO's own provisions represent the only safety net that employees have.  It would therefore be understandable that amendments to these provisions would cause some concern.  Merpel does not at this stage know what the precise proposed changes are, but has heard these amendments among the list of stated concerns of EPO employees (along with such issues as the Investigation Guidelines, the changes in career structure and evaluation of productivity).

The full letter, in which Merpel has interpolated some comments of her own, reads as follows.
Dear Colleagues, 
After long and careful reflection [actually not that long since the meeting was on Friday 27 February and the letter is dated Tuesday 3 March -- with just one clear working day in between], it is with a great deal of regret that we, the undersigned, are writing this letter to inform the staff concerning several serious incidents which occurred during the last General Consultative Committee on 27 February 2015. This session was mainly dedicated to discuss the sick leave and invalidity reform. A full day was booked for this purpose. Sadly, we have to report our concerns about serious obstruction to the consultative process from the side of the staff representation. 
First, despite the fact that all those full and alternate members elected by the staff and still in place after the series of recent resignations had received in due time an invitation to participate in the meeting, only 9 staff representatives [out of how many?] attended it. It became obvious that there had been a choice to come in such reduced composition to pretend that the consultation was flawed and to request its postponement, although no quorum is needed following the rules of procedures of the GCC [Was this really the reason? Merpel has heard reports of intimidation of staff representatives: might this have had a role to play?]. Elected members from The Hague threatened to leave the room if the meeting was not postponed but they finally stayed. Only after 1.30 hour of procedural debates, the discussions on the main purpose of the meeting, i.e., the sick leave and invalidity reform could really start. 
Not the GCC Manual ...
A CSC [Central Staff Committee] member from Vienna presented to the meeting the list of staff concerns on this reform, which was then completed by a CSC member from Berlin. However when PD [Principal Director] Human Resources and PD Legal Services started to address the various points raised by the staff representation, the representatives from The Hague and a representative from Munich disrupted violently the debate with shouts, protests, cries and insulting comments at the two management representatives, who nevertheless went on to answer the questions. Unfortunately, their answers were only turned into twisted interpretations and excessive comments, aiming at provoking incidents. When she was trying to present the points on which the management could, after the various consultations (COHSEC, BFC), propose some changes in the texts, PD 4.3 was once again violently interrupted and was prevented from presenting the modifications which the Management envisaged to introduce in the final document to be presented to the March Council. At 13:00, the staff representatives had no further question or comments, despite several encouragements from the chairman to take the floor, and the GCC meeting was closed. [This paragraph is full of obfuscation - there must have been some reason for the outbursts and there is no indication of what they concerned.
Such misbehaviour and personal attacks are an affront to the dignity of the representatives of the Management, which are as well members of the EPO staff, that cannot be ignored. Remaining silent would be tantamount to condoning this as acceptable. It is not. As managers, we all well understand that there can be differing opinions, even lively discussions, on topics that are so important to the future of all of our colleagues at the Office and the GCC is the highest forum for such discussions. It is expected, even required under their mandates, that staff representatives raise all the concerns the staff may have about management proposals and that we debate these concerns. However, repeated and malicious personal attacks on other staff members regarding their professional competence, sleights against their intentions and even direct attacks as to their integrity are unacceptable. We simply cannot and will not accept that these attacks continue and go unaddressed. 
Good behaviour: is it
best when reciprocated?
Therefore, we have decided that we have no other choice than to inform the staff about such misbehaviours of its representatives. Well-founded opinions and clear arguments do not need such tricks, misinformation of colleagues and outrageous comments, in order to defend the interests of the staff. Respect of the rules and the individuals are core values of the EPO and a pre-requirement to a constructive social dialogue. Finally, such misconducts and repetitive violations of the minimal and basic principles to be respected by any international civil servant constitute a clear abuse of the freedom of speech, which is granted to the staff representatives, with the purpose of defending the interests of the staff. They do not serve the purpose for which such freedom is intended and are detrimental to the image of the Office. 
Signed: all management members present on 27.02.2015
Merpel is interested to note that the letter appears to presuppose that ordinary EPO employees will share the indignation of the management present at the behaviour of the staff representatives.  From what Merpel has seen in the comments on the IPKat blog, such support seems highly unlikely and it seems far more likely, by contrast, that many EPO staff will endorse the behaviour of their representatives, even though at this stage it is not clear what that was, or why it was felt necessary or appropriate.

Merpel would welcome further information about what took place at this meeting, and what it is about the reforms to the sick leave provisions that is causing concern.


Anonymous said...

The President should join the Kats and blog his viewpoint. Sure he'll get lots of support.

Anonymous said...

Weak attempt by management to control the narrative.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is 9 out of 10 staff representatives?

Anonymous said...

A point of concern is that management may overrule a doctor's opinion. Ebpven now It has already happened that someone on sick leave has been ordered back to work. It has also happened that someone who had been declared unfit for work by three doctors, one of which appointed by the EPO, was ordered to work. A further point of concern is that someone declared unfit for work is not allowed to move home during ten years. Those are the detIls I ha overheard until now. I'll inform Merpel as soon as I hear more.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that the problem with the sick leave provisions is that if an examiner needs to take a day off sick, they must present themselves to a doctor before 10am on the day that sick leave is required, because they must be under "house arrest" in their homes between 10-12 and 14:00-17:00. This is checked by random 'phone calls.

Not complying with this protocol leads to disciplinary proceedings.

How can a sick person be at a doctor before 10am, if they really are sick? Even in the private sector, absences of a few days are self-reported.

Treating people as prisoners in this way is sickening, surely even to people who work in the private sector.

Anonymous said...

I really wonder how many of the manager signing this open letter endorse its content. Even the form is not reasonable (no real facts, obfuscation, ...)

Anonymous said...

The narrative is controlled by censorship and self-posting in disguise and monitoring of IP addresses to track those who disagree. Probably why the president will join the team.

Anonymous said...

The staff representatives apparently have learned from the president ("je m'en fous") how to behave in meetings...

Anonymous said...

I agree this is all very sad. Whatever the faults of the leadership at the EPO, there must be numerous decent and fair minded managers who are just trying to do their jobs - trying to satisfy their bosses and the employees at the same time. If there are numerous employees with grievances then it is not surprising that some of the passion that this generates will be misdirected to management generally rather than to those truly at fault. The result is more stress for all.

Anonymous said...

You may wish to read the CSC reply which shows evidence that the mgt letter had at least a major falsity since the alternate members were not invited at all. We await a correction/apology.

Anonymous said...

I was about to vomit, when I read this communiqué on the Intranet. "Respect of the rules and the individuals are core values of the EPO": how can this gang of thugs write this phrase only a few days after the president tells the staff he doesn´t give a damn about a ruling by an appellate court of a sovereign State???
The staff's patience is running out.
Time to rise and stop these criminals.

Anonymous said...

Last paragraph
"Respect of the rules and the individuals are core values of the EPO and a pre-requirement to a constructive social dialogue"

Do they not think that this may come across as being ever so slightly hypocritical?
Management appears to be completely decoupled from the atmosphere amongst the majority of staff.

Anonymous said...

freedom of speech, which is granted to the staff representatives, with the purpose of defending the interests of the staff. They do not serve the purpose for which such freedom is intended and are detrimental to the image of the Office.

How very dare they use freedom of speech for a purpose other than that intended by those who give it.

Anonymous said...

From what i've heard, Battistelli has stated that the reform is necessary to move the EPO from a "disability culture" to a "re-integration culture".

Some highlights as I understand it:

Sick leave:
-Reduction of uncertified sick leave from 12 days/yr to 3 days/yr

Invalidity insurance:
-Abolishes invalidity lump-sum benefit
-Requires invalid staff to remain near place of employment until age 55 so as to maximise potential for re-integration

Anonymous said...

The line "Well-founded opinions and clear arguments do not need such tricks, misinformation of colleagues and outrageous comments..." cuts both ways, doesn't it...

Anonymous said...

The use of the catch-all accusation "detrimental to the image of the office", is clearly meant to intimidate the staff representatives and silence them once and for all.


Anonymous said...

Since I saw how management accused a perfectly decent group of people of having used bad language and insults during a very civilized meeting where I myself was present and absolutely nothing had happened, I simply do not believe a word of what they say anymore. This story reeks of the same lying accusations as I saw before. It is part of the intimidation and threats habitually used against staff, an excuse to get rid of those brave people who dare to stand up against the destructors of the EPO.

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh when I saw the letter. Why on earth would a vice-president send that kind of letter to the staff? Nobody in the Office could possibly be fooled by such a writ. So why?

My best guess: having received so many letters bearing a great many signatures (by members of the Enlarged Board, the AMBA, European judges, etc.) recently, our managers felt the need to show that they master this literary genre, too.

I wonder whether this is desperate or worrisome. Perhaps both. Meltdown ahead?

Anonymous said...

At the EPO, it´s usual.
After a GCC meeting, the staff get 2 versions totally different of the same meeting.
One version from the management (to denigrate the staff representatives, with a lot of bla bla bla, no legal basis and no evidence - the letter you published today) and one version from the staff Committee (with reference to the legal basis and with proof of evidence - you will probably get it soon and I hope you will publish it too).
You will discover that the sick leave and invalidity reform contains new violation of fundamental rights. This reform will bring EPO staff down to one of the lowest standards of protection amongst International Organisations.
Also, as usual at the EPO, the consultation has not been conducted in good faith.

Anonymous said...

I heard that some staff reps tried to talk about the judgment of the Dutch Court of Appeal (now translated in English here) with management. By the way, Battistelli decided to trash the judgment without informing the Administrative Council. In a normal company, a CEO would be instantly dismissed for that.

PD Legal Services maintained in front of the staff reps that the "strike regulations" of the EPO are perfectly legal. The current management of the Office has seriously damaged the reputation of the EPO and continues to deny it.

By the way, it's the same legal team which is in charge of reforming the "judicial independence of the Boards of Appeal"...

Anonymous said...

The EPO is the slowest and most expensive of the world's major patent offices. As a user, I strongly believe that it needs reform. BB has a reform agenda.

A good leader would bring about reform by motivating the staff to work more effectively.

But I get the strong impression that BB is not exactly a motivational leader. On the contrary, his style is highly confrontational: he cracks the whip. He believes in sticks, not carrots. As a result, he excels at demotivating his staff.

I think it is well understood by good HR directors that when staff throw a high level of sickies, this is a sure sign that they are demotivated.

So how does BB deal with this? By motivational leadership? No, by cracking the whip harder. By introducing a sickness scheme that attacks the symptoms of the problem instead of the cause. And thus demotivating the staff even more.

Sad, very sad.

But I can't support the staff representatives either. It appears they lost control at this meeting. Yes, I'm sure there are two sides to the story, and we've only heard one. But however provocative the management, two wrongs don't make a right.

Sad indeed.

Anonymous said...

Here is a challenge to all readers and bloggers: who can write the best punch line to the question "What is the difference between the EPO and Dante's "Inferno?".

Anonymous said...


Dante's Inferno is out of copyright protection.

Derek Freyberg said...

To Anonymous at 00:41:00:
And I assume the answer is not "You can move into management".

I look forward to hearing the staff side of the story of the meeting from the CSC (could not find it posted as yet).

As an outsider to all of this (I'm a US patent attorney, user - secondhand - of the EPO), I find this all deeply depressing. Staff-management relations at the USPTO, as far as I can tell, while they have been up-and-down, have focused on productivity, never on such things as sick leave (or staying close by while on such), but then USPTO employees are Federal civil servants and protected by all the rules applicable to that class.
I find it hard to understand why the AC is not more openly addressing the problems: there seems to be a conspiracy of silence - the AC says nothing (but why not?: if the independence of the Boards of Appeal is compromised, I understand that this will raise significant constitutional issues in some of their home states even if they don't care about the treatment of their nationals who join the EPO staff); BB denounces the staff who fail to treat his ideas with suitable deference; and the staff (for good reason, no doubt) are careful of what they say because BB and his henchman are keeping track of comments and their sources. Yet a number of groups far closer than I to the problem (CIPA, etc. - all mentioned on the IPKat earlier) have challenged this situation.

What/who will it take to move this on?

Anonymous said...

I will give the benefit of the doubt to the 3 British managers misconducts as the letter was so badly drafted that they couldn't have read it.
I will plead for their innocence when The Bastille is finally stormed.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 00:38 said:
But I can't support the staff representatives either. It appears they lost control at this meeting. Yes, I'm sure there are two sides to the story, and we've only heard one.

The staff committee has sent a letter to the president explaining their side of the story. It is much more compelling than the management's.

With regard to the accusations of misbehaviour it states:
"While the debate was at times animated, and this on both sides, we firmly deny that insulting comments were made or that any CSC member went beyond the boundaries of civil discourse."

It also strongly refutes management's implication that the staff committee tried to stonewall the meeting by showing up with only 9 representatives by providing facts (including copies of emails) and arguments based on Battistelli's own reformed regulations.

Given the character and integrity of those involved, I would be very wary of giving much weight at all to the letter of management.

The office has not complied with the order of the Dutch court to unblock emails from the suepo.

The management letter is clearly an attempt to control the narrative and discredit the staff committee by taking advantage of the fact that their voices have been muted by the president's actions.

Propaganda. Pure and simple.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at 21:58 said:

I really wonder how many of the manager signing this open letter endorse its content.

All of them! You cannot sign a letter and then claim you do not endorse its contents!

Btw, their had been a rumour circulating that the Director of Internal Communications - who left almost immediately after joining- left after refusing to sign a letter of a similar nature... Does anyone know anything about that?

Anonymous said...

This is what you get when putting too much pressure on staff representation. The reasonable people disappear and only the hardliners remain. The next President will have trouble restoring normal human relationships.

Anonymous said...

There may well not be a next president - by the time BB retires the EPO will be finished (this may well be his intention, to demonstrate to himself and the world what in the 21st century can still be achieved by a ruthless leader in full view of the public).

Anonymous said...

"All of them! You cannot sign a letter and then claim you do not endorse its contents!"

That's very true.

If they disagreed with its contents they could have followed the example of VP3 and witheld their signatures.

PS: I heard that the meeting was not chaired by the President himself but by one of his more controversial Vice-Presidents.

Anonymous said...

The last AC meeting had many comments from delegations about concerns over the working relationships and whether this was an appropriate time for large scale reform. The staff committee and pensioners association have both made written comments and suggestions. The management response above is to play the man, not the ball. The innocence of'they don't want to participate' appears disingenuous to say the least. Has management conceded any single point of contention? The answer appears to be no which given the size of the reform seems incredible.
Meanwhile career reforms were introduced on 01.01.15 without any documentation or clarity. They hope to have some info in april as to where stag fit in the new structure while currently targets for the year are being set even though the criteria for performance aren't defined and managers cannot proceed. While all is rosy in the PD HR garden, jet project is chaotic for the users at all levels. Trust me is hardly likely to workas i don't know my next salary amount, don't know my work requirements for the year and don't know how my performance will be assessed. Maybe delaying reforms for 6 or 12 months might have been sensible??

Anonymous said...

i am sure that anyone refusing to sign the letter would have been singled out by the president for a personal reward.

Anonymous said...

I am in my 30's. If I get run down by a car today and paralysed then I would for the next 20 YEARS have to stay in a country where I have no support system and have to stay home between 10-12 and 14-16 every single work day. If anyone from the office came to my house it would be a breach of my terms of contract to refuse them access.

That is, of course supposing that even if my doctor and the office's doctor agreed that I was paralysed, that the president - medical expert that he is - didn't just decide that I was fit and well.

Should any part of this not seem fair, I can appeal internally to the president then go to the ILO - having 7 - 10 years of daily house arrest before the case is heard.

I used to be proud to work for the EPO.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the European Convention on Human Rights essentially establishes an agreed moral code that should be respected by all organisations in Europe.

Thus, if the EPO's management ignores that Convention (and court rulings finding them in breach of that Convention), does that make them "immoral"?

I doubt it would worry BB too much even if I am right on this point. However, I'm not so sure about the political ramifications for Member States whose patent offices could (if I am right) potentially be accused of receiving funds from an organisation involved in immoral activities.

Anonymous said...

And I assume the answer is not "You can move into management"


Anonymous said...

can you clarify the make, model, colour and plate number of the car? I'm still on the fence as to take your side or not.

Anonymous said...

Employees at the EPO has a far higher dependency to their workplace than employees outside this model. Say you received too much of an allowance from the Dutch or German system, you would have to pay them back, but at least you would not get fired from your job. Any mistake an employee at the EPO may make in relation to his benefits can lead to diciplinary procedures.
Now do not misunderstand me, I am not trying to suggest that it would be OK to try to cheat with allowances, but mistakes can happen and the intepretation of rules are not easy since the serv. reg is not always clear.

The fear for making a mistake is huge amongst colleagues these days.

Another difference to a job outside this model is the sick leave. If you have to go the doctor you are bound to inform the office (not the doctors at the office but HR) where you go. However HR in a normal company has no right to know which doctor or hospital you visited and for how long, respect for privacy does no longer exist.

I think it would be much healthier if Social Benefits and Salary were to be split and Social Benefits outsourced to an external part who could act on the benefits alone but not on your job as so.

EPO has become a nightmare to work for, yes you are dependent on the job and the salary and your children are in the school provided by your job, so you Can´t just quit, largest impact is not on you but affects more the whole family. However you fear everyday what can happen, even if you do not step over any boundaries by means.

Make patents not war!
And for mangement:
Manage people, do not make war!

Anonymous said...

For the first 10 (ten) years of employment, an EPO employee acquires no pension rights (s/he'll get back what they paid in). If an employee leaves after 10 years, the pension rights apparently can't be transfered to another employer (I would be happy to be corrected on this point).
Also, someone who has been examining patent applications for 10 years will not have had the professional development of those outside, making the prospect for a decent job outside the EPO pretty bleak.
Things will improve with the new employment regulations in place as the average time of emloyment will plummet. There will be many who are attracted by the good starting salaries (which BB cunningly has left untouched), but if they have any sense they will leave again after a couple of years once they have seen through the web of lies about how wonderful it is to work for the EPO. As always, it will be the good ones who will move on first, leaving the lesser ones behind. What a vision the great leader is implementig here!

Anonymous said...

The letter was received with a healthy portion of disbelief at the EPO, since it is generally known that PD Human Resources is the person skilled in the art of shouting and crying out loud.
According to some, that was even the reason she was appointed for the job.

Anonymous said...

Let's have a short (and most likely incomplete) recap of the achievements of the Battistelli regime:

- kicking staff union out of the office
- being judged to violate European Convention on Human Rights
- bullying of staff representation (SR) in General Consultative Committee by president: several ("On s'en fout de votre opinion")
- lies: various, but at least one made in public by Kongsted in the Managing IP interview stating that staff representatives attend the Administrative Council meetings (they are no longer welcome)
- disciplinary actions against SR: more than a handful
- suspensions: 3 (at least, including a DG 3 member)
- body count: 3 (one of which after being suspended).

Now who is bringing the EPO in disrepute, one wonders.

Anonymous said...

this is sooooo saaaaddd .....EPO top managers accused of incompetence ....

The contrary would be novel and inventive !!

Anonymous said...

I confess that I do not understand much of what is written on this matter, nor of what is going on. There is a lot of in-house jargon, most of it in atrocious English, even when we are presented with purported officalese. Responses appear and disappear without any reason given (for instance, Thursday, 5 March 2015 at 23:14:00 GMT ). Most of all, it seems this thread is the worst example yet of anonymosities, and it is only comprehensible to those involved. Fair enough, there are issues here that are related to policies, but we are neither given the expressed policies, nor the justifications given for them.

It would probably be a help to have an organisational diagram identifying the actors in this play.

Why do I care? If I am to recommend a route to the protection of an invention, I also take into consideration the quality of work and the working conditions of those who perform the examination. At present it seems the EPO is sinking into a bog. Although it is slightly more complex, a national route looks relatively more and more reliable.

The reason is that I am a concerned citizen, and for instance I avoid buying fake Rolexes, fake Guccis, and I try to avoid products that have been manufactured through child labour or workers that do not appear to have minimum standard working conditions.

Is there really no-one who is capable of a) presenting a truthful picture of the situation, and b) declaring a will to something credible about it? If the EPO is a rogue international organisation, there has to be international cooperation to ensure its functioning and to bring it back on track. Otherwise, the promises of Commisioner Barnier (for which he wanted to be remembered) of a functioning UPC/UP system have been proven to be empty.

George Brock-Nannestad

Anonymous said...

Under normal circumstances the alledged miscondcut by the staff reps, if it happend (and that is a big if) would not be acceptable. However, the circumstances are as far away from normal as it gets.

They are denied Human rights.
They have been threatened with disciplinary action numerous times. Some of them have been punished already and more severely than the disciplinary committee considered as appropriate.
And now the executive that carries out these abuses on behalf of the EPO complains that the staff reps were not nice to them ?
It seems to me that it is another case of psychological abuse. Somewhat akine to that when prison guard says to an abused prisoner, you better be nice to me and show some gratitude for that you were abused only so hard and not harder, for you know there is nobody to stop me.
And this all happening in the middle of Europe, in the model public service organization.
This is more than worrisome, this is scary!
To those entrusted with power, who monitor the situation with high interest it should be the last wakeup call. The time for monitoring is clearly over. It is not a match of the Wrestling Federation where you can sit back with popcorn and monitor how it plays out.
It is time to put a stop to it!

Anonymous said...

Is the "Dear colleagues" introduction meant as a supplemental insult?

I understand that amongst the colorful (?) figures on the "management" side, there is a recently hired senior French army officer whose major qualification in IP is apparently being a bosom buddy of another BB protégé.

Management manifestly doesn't like the staff representation (SR) that got elected despite its "new improved" voting rules.

Like ol' Bertie Brecht famously wrote in his Poem "Die Lösung" (translation):

After the uprising [...]
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Any resemblance with the above letter is purely fortuitous... Many are heading to the emergency exits, if/while they can.

Fear and intimidation at the EPO shows no sign of abating. Is it normal that since a couple of years any communication from SR is collectively signed by all members to prevent any one of them to be singled out for retribution?

And even if the incident really was the result of excessive leniency towards the whining spoiled SR brats, why would any half-brained dim witted staff member welcome the newest garbage that is being pushed through?

AFAIK, EPO sick leave figures aren't (or rather: "weren't") out of line with those of the Dutch or German civil services. (Comparisons are difficult, as the statistics vary within a very wide margin depending on the job qualification but we're talking about 6-12 d/year for senior ministerial positions, which I believe are the best match). At the EPO, like elsewhere, sickness absence goes hand in hand with job status (In a nutshell: BoA members miss left often than examiners who miss less often that formalities offices. BTW, the President's office doesn't look good, but is the data statistically significant?), confirming an important result observed the Whitehall study.

There used to be a GAC, ("A" standing for advisory) where SR generally produced thoroughly argued written positions, that were increasingly duly ignored. BB "reformed" this institution and renamed it "GCC" ("C" as in "consultative", which is a notch weaker, at least in my book). Now they don't even need to pretend to listen, and it seems to me that the meetings are more akin to reading the terms of capitulation to the vanquished. Why should the King discuss or negotiate with his subjects?

Like all the other stuff, it's not "take it or leave it", but "take it and shut up". Final versions of regulations are put out without any shred of analysis or justification, or even a plausible excuse, and the overworked and harassed SR is left out trying to guess the motivation behind the "reforms" and finding arguments to counter them.

No wonder that several SR threw in the towel. It takes a lot of courage and determination to stay on. The newest chicanery is that elected SR members were unilaterally transfered "administratively" from their examining directorates to the personel department. Does it mean that they won't have a job to go back to when they step down? That their "performance" report will be drafted by those who the "negotiate" with? They tried to attend HR meetings, since they now belonged to that department, but were rudely sent away. SR are also convinced that every single office communication is monitored and recorded (and used), even more than for normal staff.

Anonymous said...

How can people who live in such fear of their management to even take part in an authorised demonstration be expected to take unbiased and fair decisions in the face of personal yearly grant targets? This applies to both first instance and second instance.

Anonymous said...

Today a member of the management told his examiners that human rights applied to them because they were not physically tortured, meaning " waterdoarding", etc. ... Dear member states PLEASE react! It is this kind of management that you want?

Anonymous said...

Today is the end of "Search Matters" in the EPO, in which searchers from outside the EPO got together with searchers from within the EPO to see how things are going. It was an incredibly productive sharing of views, with those that want saying what they want, and those that can saying what they can. The impression is that all benefited and it is indeed good so. You really cannot have enough communication between the different interests in the IP system since communication helps understanding.
Interestingly, the impression was that all concerned were indeed concerned, and all, from both "sides" were of the opinion that it would all work very well if not actively prevented from doing so. Clearly the presenters were "politically correct", but not all the participants felt this need, and if there was a finger pointed, it was universally at the upper management of the EPO, and that with an almost overwhelming lack of understanding. Such communications as the subject of this blog are indicative of the problem.
All concerned were interested in a system in which patents were granted with a high probability of validity, and all agreed that the upper management of the EPO a) didn't understand the concept, and b) were not helping to the extent of actively hindering.
So it would seem that we have the situation that all "users" of the system, no matter which side, are agreed how things should work, but all are being overruled by those that actually decide. This must inevitably beg the question, who decides what those who decide should decide?

Anonymous said...

I would like to draw the attention of those interested that as of lately the French emperrors tendwd to end up having thier heads off, or similar.

Anonymous said...

Derek Freyberg at 3:52 asked:
What/who will it take to move this on?

Anonymous at 17:43 said:
Many are heading to the emergency exits, if/while they can.

Maybe what it takes is for those that are headed to the emergency exits to stop and help those that are still trapped in the burning building.

Divided there is little hope, but collectively the staff are more powerful than the president and the AC put together.

DG1Director said...

I`m director in DG1.

We the directors are stuck between a rock and a hard place. SUEPO and staffrep exagerate, they want more and more and protect non-performing staff. They do not understand that we are all paying for those underperformers. Top management equally exagerates, they want to reduce all salaries (except their own!) and pretend that all staff are underperforming.

We know better, but the top only listens to those who agree with them. And that means they do not listen to the directors, since there are no directors that agree anymore.

We just wait for the Council to take their responsibilty and remove BB and calls new staffrep elections. We have to restart the communication, so hopefully staff will elect different representatives next time. Not only Suepo committee members.

Anonymous said...

"How can people who live in such fear of their management to even take part in an authorised demonstration be expected to take unbiased and fair decisions in the face of personal yearly grant targets? This applies to both first instance and second instance.

Friday, 6 March 2015 at 18:58:00 GMT"

Answer: go and ask Battistelli, I am sure he will patiently try explain it to you.

Anonymous said...

There is a procedure for non-performing staff and dismissing them with 3 consecutive unsatisfactory report.

Why are directors not applying it and blaming staffreps instead ?

Because it means WORK, and they would rather spend their time at the EPO's Wine club, Petrolheads club or at the Golf club than managing the underperformers.

You will demonize me for saying this, but I invite you to go to the Delfland golf club on an average afternoon to count the number of directors present...

Anonymous said...

Dear Director DG1 did you bother to read the staff rep explanation or is it that you did not understood it ?

How can you shoot on SUEPO when you Director in DG1 are the most passive of all, knowing perfectly well that the workplace at EPO is becoming a nightmare, but prudently looking somewhere else and waiting until BB's retirement....

you are pathetic

Anonymous said...

A brave statement on the face of it and vile at the same time. If this is your opinion you should voice it, possibly under your name, not necessarily here but to your superior to your staff, during a staff union assembly and resign or not resign and await the consequences and appeal them, make prevail your rights in the right place. You are not working for a company but for the people the public.

While loss of human rights such as right to strike, access to a lawyer right to remain silent under accusation, presumptuon of innosence, freedom of residence, inviolability of ones home are something which ultimatly needs to be discussed in public underperformance of some of your underlings is something which you have to dicuss with them, not here. Gratuituous unreasoned attacks at the union are totally out of place. Be a man or a woman and stand by your guts without ranting at the colleagues who you are responsible for without ranting at the collegues in the union and staff representation who have the guts to show their faces and provide their names and face the consequences.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know several years ago directors have established their own representation of interests; as until now no single critical comment concerning BBs absurd HR measures (target setting, new staff reporting policy, abolishment of the promotion board and performance related pay, just to name a few of the recently introduced motivation measures) was heard from this group, one could assume that they either agree or just don't dare to defend "their" staff !
So you better don't ask for a staff representation other than SUEPO members, at least they have the guts to take responsibility, middle management never did and doesn't now !

Anonymous said...

Dear director DG1,
instead of parroting all that business mumbo jumbo introduced by HR and overpaid consultants you should rather listen to your examiners. You would most likely come to the conclusion that the majority of staff fully supports the goals and activities of SUEPO and their representatives !

Anonymous said...

Dear coward DG1 director,
If the council should really remove the president, also the directors having implemented these absurdities, their bosses and the Vice Presidents all of whom aubmitted to this terror and have become part of it must be preretired. they deserve no better and cannot have a role in getting the office back on track.

Anonymous said...

Plain for all here to see. One balanced voice (but still extremely critical of top management) and before you know it the staff extremists are all over him or her and showing their real (anonymised) faces. The majority of reasonable EPO employees are being terrorised from two sides.

The staff reps forgot a long time ago that they are there to represent the interests of staff. It is not in the interest of staff to play silly games with the sole aim of obstructing the EPO's internal processes as much as possible. Do you guys really think that the AC will let you win your personal dirty war with BB? Of course they won't. Wake up and start to act like adults.

An outside observer said...

I'm seeing two problems here.

One is President Battistelli.

The other is evidenced in the last few wild rants against someone who was also seeing Battistelli as a problem.

Those rants lend credence to the management's assertion that the staff reps were at fault in the meeting last week. (And no doubt the management team were equally at fault.)

A plague on both your houses.

Anonymous said...

Anon 22:18,

At least you thought about your post and tried to present a reasoned argument. Unfortunately your more impulsive colleagues beat you to it and showed where a major part of the problem lies.

Anonymous said...

Anon 22:18 implores DG1 Director to defend his examiners. He obviously didn't read what DG1 Director said:-

...the top only listens to those who agree with them. And that means they do not listen to the directors, since there are no directors that agree anymore."

Anonymous said...

Dear Staff Rep.

I see you and I must say that I admire your courage.

The managers and half of the EPO are already dead. Or they are like zombies dis-humanized by the Batistelli's disease.

How can a man create such a chaos?

He had gold in hands, he transformed it in a disaster.

I loved my job, my colleagues, the contact with the public. I was proud to work here. All this is gone.

I am now afraid. But I also think there are possibilities to resist to him. Very small things. Everyday asking myself: what can I do against him. Small drops. But at the end a tsunami that will swallow him.

Staff Rep. my friends, your courage is an example a motivation, let's unify our drops of resistance against this plague.

Keep courage because your fight is fair and the light of justice already visible.

All the Best.

Anonymous said...

One outsider to another: the best hope now is for the implosion to happen as quickly as possible.

Seriously folks, from the animosity in the views, there is ZERO hope for the situation to improve itself.


You would be better off burning everything to the ground and starting over.

DG1Director said...

Some information for outsiders:
until this year, an examiner received a salary increase every year, whatever his performance. Only when he was on the same salary scale for more than about 7 years it became an increase every 2 years, but still automatic. Only when reaching the end of the scale the salary would stop to increase. Only the worst underperformers would reach this.

Now it has changed. Examiners are expected to do performance according to grade and experience, and they will get an increase if they meet the expectations. They must have the competence and quality, and production.

Nobody doubts the competence and quality, so production will be the most important factor.

This means that many examiners are asked to produce more this year. Those who are afraid to lose their salary increase, are angry. I have just had review and planning meetings with all my examiners. Half are happy, they always performed better than expected. A third is realistic and will do more this year. He rest is disappointed or angry, they will not get the salary increase they expected. But nobody has a lower salary in 2015 than in 2014.

To the anonymous staff representative: thank you, we need more balanced information like this.
To the anonymous angry examiners: I assume you have a good reason to be angry. Why don`t you tell us how you were personally effected by the changes so far?

Anonymous said...

The real problem with the so-called low producers is that actually their production is acceptable according to the objective criteria set. This is why they cannot be fired. However their production level is such that it endangers the ambitious targets that the management is faced with and hence bonuses. This is why they are such nuisance.

Anonymous said...

Reading the many blogs on the topic "EPO", it strikes me that forcing the Office to lay open its books so Everyone can see can see how the applicants' money is spent is all it needs to put an end to this sad story..In other words, let's have FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY!

Anonymous said...

Healtg care is a serious issue. I am Irish and my wife has a serious disease (metastatic malign condition) and her medical treatment and medicines cost 20.000 p.a.. Upon returning to Ireland , such preexisting condition is not eligible for reimbursements by the Irish insurers. Hence my hands are bound.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonyomous DG1 director,

Thank you for disclosing what definitely is considered confidential information by the service regulations: not only the reporting and financial criteria but also the information provided to you in confidential colloquia provided to you by "your" examiners. If half of your examiners have expressed their happiness and not their anger , it simply means they do not trust you, fear you and would not dare to express their true feelings to you. Theire is also the possibilty you are flatly lying. From what you are posting here I must admit I would also have a hard time to trust you.

Somebody not so secretly hopng that the president is destituted by the council but at the same time continuing to play his game is - I struggle for non diffamatory words - out of place. Disloyal to both "his" or "her" examiners and to managment. Whoever wins this struggle, you will be on the loosing side.

I wish you good luck in the upcoming disciplinary action against you. I am afraid you will have a hard time to find a staff representative to help you in your case

Anonymous said...

Dear DG1director!

I guess you were smart enough to post what you have posted NOT from your office computer. Had you, two gentlemen would have come to your office within five minutes, taken your phone and access card from you and accompanied you to the door. Do you really defend the people who with their terror also prevent you from expressing your convictions, or even living them? You want to increase production for them? What is in for you? Also a bonus or just not being fired?

More meritable people than you and others higher in the hierarchy than you have been literally sat on the sidewalk.

Do we read tomorrow that you have resigned in mutual aggreemenr as we had before? Or will we not read about it as in the case of the successor to the mutual aggreer just weeks after his taking of office leaving again probably because Munich was to sunny for his taste?

Ipkitten is friendly enough to serve as a anonymous platforn for intimidated EPO employees. Whatever there reasons are EPO employees have to be grateful.

You, however , are part of the managment. You can write your wisdom on the intranet, the internet, issue instructions to "your" examiners.

The impression you give here is that of an intimidated intimidator

Anonymous said...

"the representatives from The Hague and a representative from Munich disrupted violently the debate with shouts, protests, cries and insulting comments at the two management representatives, who nevertheless went on to answer the questions. Unfortunately, their answers were only turned into twisted interpretations and excessive comments, aiming at provoking incidents."

This description of the GCC meeting sounds very much like certain oral proceedings that I have attended before examining divisions in recent years. In particular, answers being "turned into twisted interpretations and excessive comments" is something that EPO examiners have turned into an art form.

As a professional representative, I have no sympathy for either side in this debate. For many years the EPO management has empowered examiners to believe that they are always right, even when evidence, arguments and the EPC itself prove otherwise. The result is a generation of examiners with too much arrogance and hubris to accept when they are wrong. This is now coming home to roost for the EPO management. The EPO staff and EPO management deserve each other.

Anonymous said...

The old career was transparent and based on fair principles. Who produces objectively acceptable, about average levels follows average career. Who produces significantly more follows the fast career. Who produces less than acceptable has to improve or leave. (One can always fine tune the system, that would not be such an issue.) The problem from the point of view of management was that an examiner did not need to please management in all possible (and impossible) ways. The promotions were decided essentially by a promotion board and not by the mangers. This level of independence of examiners from the whishes of managers is appropriate, because, according to Art. 18 EPC, it is the examining division consisting essentially of examiners and not of managers, who is responsible for the entire examination. A manager has in essentially the status of a third party, who only can provide observations and the division decides. In the new career this is management and management only who decides on promotions. Thus, this freedom to operate for the examining division is eroded.

Anonymous said...

Dear DG director,

what we are experiencing at the moment is a lesson in totalitarian systems. No more and no less.
We see the big leader acting, but we also see most of the managers following, not daring to stand up against him. By the way, paying lip-service in forums doesn't relieve you from your responsibility.

Those systems are able to function as long as the resistance is inexistent or low. If you want to abolish the system you have to show resistance. Just waiting for somebody else (the AC?) to change things is not enough. And the higher a staff member's position is, the higher is his responsibility to act. This whole system would not be possible without the managers actively or passively supporting it.

And please, in case this terror is all over one day: Don't tell us you were a firm opponent from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

To the DG1 director 06:50 (part 1).

My staff reports were always between good and very good (and most often very good than good).
I´m very scared of the new carrier system because it was implemented in a context of violation of human rights, and was imposed to the staff without any dialogue with the staff representatives & trade union.
The new carrier system will of course destroy the carrier of the staff called “underperformers”. But nobody really believes this story, because under the previous carrier system, it was already possible to fire an “underperformers”.
The new carrier system has of course other purposes:

1) The first purpose of this new carrier system is to break down the carrier of the opponents, and to scare the staff. For example, someone who complains about the violation of Human rights, someone who strikes, someone who organizes/participates to a demonstration will get his carrier blocked (even if his production is very good).
At the EPO, all the means of redress are controlled by the president. The investigation unit, called KGB (or STASI), is the president police. The 5 members of the internal appeal committee are currently nominates by the president (none of them is anymore nominated by the staff representatives – this is a violation of the status), a decision at ILOAT takes at least 7 years.

2) The second purpose is to slow the carrier of all the staff (also to slow the carrier of the staff who are good & very good performers). The EPO will spare money by paying less the normal staff. It will not reduce the fees for the applicants, because this new carrier system will increase the salary of the directors and the top managers.
Also, the EPO top managers will be allowed to transfer big amount of money (called bonus) directly from the EPO bank account to their private bank account. Of course those transfers of money will not be transparent; nobody will never know the amount of the president & vice-presidents bonus.

Conclusion: In a context of violation of Human rights, the automatic step was a safeguard for the normal staff.
Of course, a new carrier system negotiated with the staff representative & with the trade union could be welcome at the EPO, but only after the restoration of the Human rights, the implementation of transparent processes and the creation of real means of redress.

Anonymous said...

"Some information for outsiders:
until this year, an examiner received a salary increase every year, whatever his performance. Only when he was on the same salary scale for more than about 7 years it became an increase every 2 years, but still automatic. Only when reaching the end of the scale the salary would stop to increase. Only the worst underperformers would reach this."

And now tell us how exactly was the system for directors ... all strictly "performance-based" ?

LOL ...

Anonymous said...

PD Legal Services maintained in front of the staff reps that the "strike regulations" of the EPO are perfectly legal.

Not only that.

If you study the minutes of the June 2013 AC meeting you will see that VP5 and the President assured the AC the new regulations were fine.

Seven delegations abstained.

The rest voted in favour. It seems that many of the "yes" votes were based on the assurances given by VP5 and the President.

Anonymous said...

To the representative who appears to think that intervention from management would imrpve the quality of examination. I think that he is in for big surprise. The examiners have always been under a degree of production pressure. Now the pressiure will be even greater so that they will take the shortest possible path to the decision. Not more but less time to consider the arguments and arrive at a decision. The Promotion/bouns comes with higher quantity and not higher quality now.

Anonymous said...

Dear DirectorDG1,

"They do not understand that we are all paying for those underperformers." ... this is called solidarity and a fundament of most European countries. There need to be underperformers in order to have overperformers.

There may be a lot of reasons of "underperformance", eg health (should be taken into account during target setting), loosing in details of applications (better training needed, directions of the line managers needed), slow working (perhaps the examiner just cannot work faster ... clearly a fault of the recruitment process) ... these examples are actually not fault of the examiner but more of "the office" ... then there may be some who just do not want to work: but they still have to sit bored in the office (which in itself is a punishment by itself) ... they could be controlled by eg watching working hours, internet use etc ...

The new system will definitly not motivate the underperformers to do more (why should they; there appears to be no reward). The overperformers ... well promotion is not clearly regulated and is dependent on the line managers and "budget": a reward for the efforts is not granted so why should I do more than necesarry? ... The system changed in that way that now everything is "paid" for ... the essential moment of self motivation is lost completely.

A further point to the StaffReps: the people are still the same as in the last 15 to 20 years, so new faces; "in the old times" dialogue with the managment worked more or less (always friction, but that's what both sides are for). What changed was the top management; and this change brought up the current crises.

It is easy to request that StaffReps are completely exchanged: the problem: the knowledge and legal expertise is lost. StaffReps may not be accompanied by experts, whereas the manamgement can select them from wherever they like. It is therefore decisive that the StaffReps are experienced people having high knowledge of EPO interna and legal function.

Anonymous said...

It is manifestly apparent that PD Legal Services understands under "legal" something different than the rest of the world. For the rest of the world, if a court of law says it is illegal, than it is illegal, even if they consider that it should not have been illegal, but it is.

Anonymous said...

I suggest to replace the whole useless gang of managers, president, AC by an app.

Anonymous said...

....heard that to the question by a DG1 Director to VP1 during this week "grande-messe" in The Hague (VP1 gathering The Hague DG1 directors) "why does the EPO do not disclose the tapes of the meetings so that every one can make its own opinion?" VP1 answered with his usual friendly inspiring tone that "a document signed by 10 top managers is sufficient to make clear what happened". full stop

The staff reps provided this week a clear and substantiated answer, a reasoned answer, demonstrating once more that the appaling propaganda of the EPO top management is nothing else than a mere smokescreen to hide their abyssal incompetence.

We should all be thankful to our staff reps to stand in the current circumstances to represent us staff

Anonymous said...

Asking for an exchange of staff reps is outrageous and shows the total lack of respect of would like to be managers not only for the staff reps but all staff. Attacking the representatives for no good reason you attack those whom they represent.
A director having to post here to attack his staff and their representatives is a failure and hence and underperformer himself.
His advice is not needed.
This is indeed Berthold Brecht mentality who wanted to change the people rather than the government in 53. Like BB he was not ironic. Let's just hope that BB is not there to stay around for 40 more years and somebody tears down the walls of immunity which has become impunity long before.

Anonymous said...

I am not an examiner, but an outsider (a US patent attorney with a three-fold background in technical, managerial and legal experience).

Perhaps the discussion would benefit from the introduction of an easy to understand visual that might help each of the different players understand an immutable truism: you cannot have it all.

Consider then the project management triangle and the aspects of Cost, Time and Scope (with Quality as the central core).

The directives as have been laid out by the Director is to change not one of the legs of the triangle, but two.

Scope (the law) and Quality (the inner core) are to remain the same. The two legs then to move are Cost and Time.

The project management angle is to effectively lower time with an associated rise in cost (for higher wages to those that perform under the effective lower time constraint).

This is in accord with Project Management theory and the parade of horribles of poor quality can be seen to be a smokescreen.

At least per theory, and at least on the surface.

But let's dig a layer deeper. The pay for performance angle carries an assumption that should be made manifest. That assumption is that those poor performers released because they cannot meet the requirements can be readily replaced by workers that can meet the requirements and that the system overall will stay on track.

Being an outsider, I do not know if this assumption is valid. But I can tell you this: the discord and rancor evident on these threads at the very least tell me that recruitment of new people to come into the system to replace the underperformers is NOT likely.

It is unfortunate (for the EPO) that the transition to a better meritocracy (from a bureaucracy) is quite evidently marred (and to my mind, fatally so) by such a heavy (even dictatorial) hand.

The Project Management theory cannot be faulted here.
Moving to a meritocracy cannot be faulted here.
Execution of the theory, though, MUST be faulted.

Anonymous said...

@13:34 should remember that these discussion forums attract those with the most extreme views in matters such as these. The EPO employ many thousands of people and it is impossible to say whether they are represented by those that comment so forcefully.

I don't believe for one moment that current wranglings will put off even a single person from seeking employment at the Office.

You also need to be aware that this blog is very much a supporter of the anti-EPO President brigade and has a policy of approving comments before they are posted, so we are neither hearing a balanced view of the story and we cannot be sure that the comments are representative even of those that are submitted for posting. The contradiction of attacks on a president for censorship and being undemocratic should not be lost on anyone.

Anonymous said...


"This is in accord with Project Management theory and the parade of horribles of poor quality can be seen to be a smokescreen."

The New carrer system reduces two legs of the triangle at the same time: cost & time, hence the area (quality) consequently has to drop.

Examiners get paid less and less time to produce

Anonymous said...

@ 13:50

I think that's rubbish, because the blog owners have repeatedly sought alternative, pro-management points of view, and have said that they want to publish them. They have explicitly said that they would like to understand the situation better. I'm a long-time reader, and our hosts here are reasonable.

I think that any comment supportive of BB and the management would get published, provided that it was free from personal insult and profanity.

If you don't like the way moderation is done, go and start your own "pro BB" blog. Let's see how dynamic the discussion is on that.

There just don't seem to be very many pro-management comments forthcoming from people, do there?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 13:50,

Your admonition about these threads attracting extreme views is a fair warning.

That being said, I think your response is unwarranted.

I see NO possible way for you to reasonably hold the view that "I don't believe for one moment that current wranglings will put off even a single person from seeking employment at the Office."

The logical conclusion follows: that which is not reasonable is unreasonable.

We can agree to disagree on this matter, but even discounting the extremes of one side cannot discount the extremes engaged in by the other. I think instead, that your viewpoint is tainted by your own proximity in the ongoing battle.

As I made clear, I have no such bias working against my views. I am truly a neutral observer. I also happen to be a knowledgeable observer - and understand extremely well the dynamics involved from multiple angles of technical, managerial and legal viewpoints.

And I know FULL well the propensity of the blog to shall we say "approve" comments, as I have had many comments omitted for such lack of approval. I take that FULLY into consideration, and such does not change the direction not severity of my post. Once again, I would (strongly) suggest that your own bias is in play - your view that not a single person would be dissuaded from seeking employment is simply way too far on one side of the debate - you reveal too much, and thus hurt your own message.

Anonymous said...

Not seeing any swear words here, i can assure you they are not representative

Anonymous said...

Article 31 in conjunction with Article 14 of the Vienna convention only provides immunity from criminal, civil and administrative jurisdiction of the receiving state to respective heads of mission.

In view of the possibility of ultimately (criminal) charges being pressed, it appears advisable for all staff that do not have the status of heads of mission, that possibly execute potentially illegal instructions/orders received from respective heads of mission, to seek legal advice as they might be accused of being accomplices when executing such orders.

Press charges against oneself, maybe?

What about the legal standing of members of the so-called investigation unit, that appear to even exercise functions interfering with the executive of sovereign countries?

Anonymous said...

Do you consider your view as balanced by stating without prove "...these discussion forums attract those with the most extreme views in matters such as these" and "...this blog is very much a supporter of the anti-EPO President brigade and has a policy of approving comments before they are posted"?

Furthermore you write "I don't believe for one moment that current wranglings will put off even a single person from seeking employment at the Office."
You can start to believe from now on because I know such people.

Maybe what you call "wranglings" is just the tip of the iceberg.

Did you really think anyone is going to believe you while writing your comment?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1350,
Really? Perhaps you could provide some evidence please? Who would you like to speak for staff? The people they elected perhaps? Or the 85+% who voted for a strike?
Do tell.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 14:49,

Like you, I initially thought that the two legs were being changed in an aligning manner that would violate the project management triangle.

Upon further reflection though, one can see that this is NOT the case.

The Time leg is being shortened yes - but this is accompanied by an increase (not decrease) in the Cost leg. The theory is that MORE pay goes to those that produce in LESS time.

If you can pause the examiner-centric viewpoint for a moment, you too can realize that the theory is sound.

The execution is quite a different matter.

Anonymous said...

Anon said
"All concerned were interested in a system in which patents were granted with a high probability of validity, and all agreed that the upper management of the EPO a) didn't understand the concept, and b) were not helping to the extent of actively hindering.
So it would seem that we have the situation that all "users" of the system, no matter which side, are agreed how things should work, but all are being overruled by those that actually decide. This must inevitably beg the question, who decides what those who decide should decide?

Friday, 6 March 2015 at 19:20:00"

This is really the core issue and gets lost in the shouting on these blogs.
There needs to be a proper indication from the users as to quality requirements.

The EPO is the most expensive patent office and has/had a reputation for delivering a relatively high quality of search and high legal certainty for granted patents in general. Having adequate time to do a proper search and examination plays a big role in defining job satisfaction at the EPO. Over the years the time for these tasks has gotten less and less as productivity has steadily increased. This is happening in the face of ever increasing amounts of prior art and accessibility to more information sources. These developments mean more possibly relevant prior art has to be analysed in less time to maintain a certain level of quality. Improvements in computer tools can only help to a limited extent. Prior art analysis is still a intensive human task especially when sifting through Asian documentation.

In this regard, the AC effectively decide on quality. Unreasonable productivity targets will eventually, if not already, have a detrimental effect on quality. The national offices profit from higher numbers of granted patents, they have a conflict of interest.

Some details to make the picture clearer.
The productivity targets have been locked into a increasing spiral in the following manner. The lowest individual productivity targets are set to a minimum of 80% of the average productivity in a particular technical area (underachievement has serious consequences). The more experienced examiners are expected to achieve between 105-125% of the average productivity. You don´t need to be a mathematical genius to appreciate the potential snowballing annual effect here. The goalposts shift and accelerate into the distance.

The trolls are smacking their lips.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 13:50
You write “these discussion forums attract those with the most extreme views in matters such as these. The EPO employ many thousands of people and it is impossible to say whether they are represented by those that comment so forcefully.”
Don´t forget that +/- half of the EPO staff are SUEPO members (SUEPO = EPO trade union).
During the last staff committee election, the SUEPO candidates were elected by a very large majority of the staff. (More than 90% of the elected members of the staff committee are the SUEPO candidates). As you see, the whole EPO staff follows and supports the EPO trade union.

Why do you think that the EPO president never organized surveys at the EPO?
He knows very well that more than 90% of his staff hate him, and reject all his reforms.
At the EPO, the Battistelli reforms are only possible because the fundamental rights are violated, and because the president (the employer) abuses of his immunity (impunity).
If an employer had done the same things in one of the EPO member state, this employer would already be severely condemned by a court.

Anonymous said...

"« 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, les discutons, les négocions. »"

Anonymous said...

There is a pro-President blog:

For some reason it doesn't appear to attract any comments.

Seems like the President's fans are not to keen to out themselves ...

Anonymous said...

I am anon at 13:50

The criticism of me based on bias has no basis. the fact I have an opposite view does not make it so. What is my proximity to the battle? Do you know who I am or my position or anything else other than a small part of my view?

Enlighten everyone as to who I am.

We know the comments are censored as it was announced that they would be. W also know that the vast number of comments are very much anti-EPO management and their proposed changes. It may well be the case that this is a majority-held view that is being represented. The fact that the odd comment supporting the opposite view is posted does not mean their is bias in the censorship. There are many things published in countries such as China, but we know there is censorship and we believe that is not right.

We also know that many libelous comments have been allowed through when posted by one side so I don't believe the censorship is being conducted equally. If I mention the post concerned this comment will not get through the censor either, based on experience.

Anonymous said...

To arrive at a balanced picture you just need to look at the Intranet pages of the EPO. There are negative comments about managment there.

Anonymous said...

"We know the comments are censored as it was announced that they would be."

So let me see if I understood that correctly: the blog owner moderates the blog ... and this qualifies as "censorship" in your book ?

Well cry me a river ...

"We also know that many libelous comments have been allowed through when posted by one side ..."

Let us hope that those who have been libeled will be taking appropriate legal action.

"There are many things published in countries such as China, but we know there is censorship and we believe that is not right."

I'm sure that the IPKat and Merpel are feeling suitably chastened after that ...


Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous of 7 March 2015 at 17:33:00 GMT
Don't you think your accusations of bias against those that run the blog may in itself be defamatory (to use one of the English language words the president recently learnt)

Anonymous said...

Could anon at 18:07 kindly inform me how I as a complete outsider can view those negative comments?

Anonymous said...

The anon at 13:50,

Your own posts provide the basis of bias.

This is the Anonymous at 13:34 and 15:01 (and 16:49) - I have identified my impartiality, and instead of identifying your own, you wish to play an impossible game of "prove it."

Why the game? Why not simply state the basis of your impartiality?

That you are prone to such games - and to such overwhelmingly improbable statements as your post at 13:50 - indicates that you react more to emotion than to reason.

It's just not all that difficult sometimes to connect the dots - even on anonymous blogs.

If you want to be more effective, play less games, use less emotion and rely more on reason. As it is, I suggest you read again my posts and absorb the reason without letting your emotions get the better of you.

Anonymous said...

"The Time leg is being shortened yes - but this is accompanied by an increase (not decrease) in the Cost leg. The theory is that MORE pay goes to those that produce in LESS time."

Utter nonsense. What is being done at the Office is: cutting costs by all means in order to be able to have relatively low UP renewal fees, making the UP route attractive, especially for US and Chinese applicants. There is not more pay to be expected, even for good producers. Productivity must rise, but salaries and benefits have to be reduced. That is the story.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 19:26,

All I see is a comment still mired in emotion and not using reason to understand the straight forward paradigm of the project management triangle.

I'm sorry, but the rest of your comment simply does not carry any sense of conviction. Perhaps if you took a step back, took a deep breadth, and composed a post that carefully steps through reasoning, you might be able to make and carry a point in the discussion.

And before you go off, please remember that my posts discuss the theory of the project management triangle and do point out that the evident execution of that theory is flawed.

Now mind you, there can be a "going forward" reduction in the "automatic" increases, but if there is truth that those increases occurred regardless of the central core of quality and did NOT already carry a shortening of another leg of the triangle, then that system already violated the project management triangle, and was a flawed system to begin with. If your complaint is that you no longer have that "cushy" flawed system, we are not discussing the same concepts.

Anonymous said...

Interesting indeed, the three leg mumbo jumbo.But the conflict between management and staff is not about how can you make even more than 300 million/a of profit. Actually profit is not an issue at all. It is even embaressing that an office generates profit, at least in a civilised world

The president would not know what to do with this money and as no money flows from the EPO to the national offices and never will as they will never be able to agree on a profit sharing model between them, the council does not have to care either.

This conflict is about human rights. Freedom of association, speech, access to courts, lawyers, protection from Stasi, inviolabilty of your appartment.

The motivation not being money, is compromising the office into disfunction so the national offices again can take control of patenting.

The next would like to be president comes from a national office, DK, with a would like to be patent examination office and there are others. There have always been plans to raise national patents to european level.

The motivation of the present president, at the end of his professional life, is just ego. Angry old man without future, living his neoliberal socialist hating wet dream. He was cynical enough to call the reform "Social Democracy". Probably thinks this is funny.

The late president Brimelow said something smart. Even though she might not own thr copyright, very smart:
Conspiracy theories are only there to create the illusion that someone's in control

Be assured noone is in control any longer.

Anonymous said...

The UPC simply will not happen. Noone wants it. The attorneys, in particular the German ones, don't as they lose validation fees and litigation fees before national courts, the national offices don't because they'd be closed, national courts dont' want it because their judges would have to deal with chicken thieves for the rest of their professional ilves. The patentees would like it? There are a lot more lawyers in national and the EU parliaments than CEOs of multinationals.
NL does not want foreigners juges to issue injunctions on stuff coming through Rotterdam. A port where mobile phones and pharmceuticals worth millions are confiscated every day does not have a competitive edge.

Anonymous said...

Here is much more the matter than a fight between staff and management. The current breakdown of quality in granting, the sabotage of the work of the boards of appeal, this is a serious attempt at destroying 40 years of a well working patent system. The examiners are put under ever more pressure to "produce" more, with incentives in place to grant quickly. That goes directly at the cost of quality and one can already see it. I see more and more patents pass by that do not deserve that name, where even at a first glance the claims are so flawed that I do not understand why the patentee agreed to that text. In the boards, recruitment has completely stopped, with the consequence that many posts are vacant already. Many lawyers are simply not there, two chairmen not there, soon to become more, many technical members not there. By the end of the year 30% of the legal member posts will vacant, the vacancies of the boards as a whole will be about 15%. That is expertise lost forever. Yet the boards should become more "efficient", so there, too, pressure to produce. The overall picture is one of a massive destruction of 40 years of carefully developed expertise and case law. The consequence will be that the patentees and opponents will be confronted with an unpredictable result of their cases. And isn't it the basic principle of a functioning legal system that one understands and can predict, to a certain extent, the outcome of cases? It is the users of the patent system who will suffer. As they already do with the random results in trademark cases. This is what you get when you let "managers" loose on things of which they don't know a thing, with their utter contempt of highly educated, highly experienced people. But this is, what politicians apparently want because not only do they not put a stop to it but they support it actively. There is more to it than just a president gone off the rails. There is a willingness to destroy the EPO. And who wins by that? The national offices. And who sits on the administrative council? The representatives of those very national offices. Don't make a mistake: what happens here is wanted and mr. Batistelli has the order to do it. So if the parties want a secure patent future, they should do something about it. If not, well, then so be it.

MaxDrei said...

As I have said all along, the politicians have decided that from now on, in patents in Europe, the watchword is "UPC Rules - OK?"

If the EPO has to go, to get out of the way of the UPC, to give the UPC free rein and free reign, so be it, say the politicians. It is a small price to pay, they say.

And as for the CEO's of the multinationals, they don't care either, so why should the politicians?

Macavity said...

"... abuse of the freedom of speech, which is granted to the staff representatives, with the purpose of defending the interests of the staff."

I thought freedom of speech was a basic human right in Europe, not a privilege granted to a very few individuals amongst a 7 000 workforce, and stingingly granted at that, as these ten managers put clear restrictions on the matters to be addressed with this "freedom" of speech.

Nimby said...

So there is a consultation procedure, but half those being consulted consist of top management on temporary contracts working directly under the command of the president, and include the person directly responsible for drafting and defending the proposal?

What is the point of consulting yourself?

Anonymous said...

Well at least there is some freedom of speech in the European Parliament:


Question for written answer to the Commission
Rule 130

Dennis de Jong (GUE/NGL)

Rights of staff and ethical standards at the European Patent Office

Reports are emerging of an unpleasant working environment and staff intimidation at the European Patent Office (EPO). Further information can be found on the EPO Staff Union website . Because of the importance of the EPO for EU patents legislation, the Commission cannot afford to ignore the problem.

1. Does the Commission still intend to work together with the EPO on the single European patent?

2. If so, what guarantees have been or will be given to the Commission regarding respect for the trade union and other rights of EPO staff?

In addition to the rights of staff members, a number of ethical issues are also arising within the EPO, including the recruitment and dismissal of senior officials. For example EPO President, Benoît Battistelli, has succeeded in dissolving the Audit Committee and replacing a number of executives with a team of his own choice that is suspected of corruption.

3. What guarantees has the Commission obtained to satisfy it regarding the integrity of the EPO?

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