From March to September 2016 the team is joined by Guest Kats Emma Perot and Mike Mireles.

From April to September 2016 the team is also joined by InternKats Eleanor Wilson and Nick Smallwood.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The EPO Breaks Silence: "No, we are not violating fundamental human rights"

Merpel was delighted to see that the management of the European Patent Office has finally commented publicly on the issues of the increasingly strained staff relations within the Office, and in particular on the decision of the Dutch Court in favour of SUEPO, the EPO's (internal) announcement that it would ignore this decision, and the subsequent events.  Merpel has commented extensively on the general issues, for example here and here.

Merpel welcomes the fact that the EPO is engaging publicly, and thanks the EPO for this post, which is reproduced here in full.  However, as will be clear from her comments (interspersed in red), she does not agree with much of the substance of the EPO post, and indeed finds the title quite astonishing.


Statement from the management: No, the EPO is not violating fundamental human rights 

18 March 2015 
A strange rumour has recently spread across Europe in some media, political circles and even with national judges: that the EPO has not been respecting fundamental human rights. What an accusation! (It is quite odd to treat a decision of Court of Justice in the Netherlands as "a rumour ... even with some national judges") 
On behalf of a large majority of staff who are proud to work at the EPO and on our own behalf as senior managers with a recognised democratic background at national and international levels, we, the members of EPO's management committee, are profoundly shocked by such an accusation. (To profess shock seems really rather weak - some evidence would be of more probative value)
What is the reality? 
Under the authority of the EPO's Administrative Council, which is composed of delegates nominated by our 38 democratic member states, we have been implementing since 2010 a quality and efficiency strategy whose objectives are to increase our quality and control our costs. Why? The EPO may be widely recognised as one of the best patent offices in the world for the quality of the patents granted, but it is certainly the most expensive one. So if we are to cope with the growing demand and complexity of patent applications by increasing capacity and at the same time improving quality, there are not so many options.  
One easy solution for a patent office would be simply to increase substantially the fees paid by the users: this is not the way which has been chosen as the economic context in Europe is difficult for many enterprises. Another option would be to lower costs by making budgetary cuts, reducing salaries and pensions, postponing replacement of retiring staff, or stopping investments. This route has not been chosen either. (Really? Merpel has seen evidence that all but the last of these has happened already - the Boards of Appeal are down by about 10%, and the new career structure is explicitly designed to slow down career progression and consequent salary increase) 
What has been proposed to and adopted by the Council is to review our processes and to modernize our structures and our management. This strategy is already bearing fruit: in 2014, the EPO achieved all time high results in terms of production, productivity, quality, and attractiveness on the labour market. (Some evidence here would REALLY help)
Of course, such major reforms generate concerns and tensions. The critics concentrate on three issues: collective bargaining, right to strike and circulation of information. (Actually there are a lot more, but let's go with these three for now) Recently a Dutch court has considered that on these three issues the EPO was violating fundamental human rights, whereas in the same week a German court has ruled that the EPO is compliant with these rights. (Merpel is not aware of the German decision - can any readers help?  Were the issues the same?) 
So which law is the EPO supposed to apply and where?
Should we follow the Dutch law or the Dutch interpretation of international principles in the Netherlands and the German law or the German interpretation of international principles in Germany ? Such fragmentation would mean the end of the EPO as an effective international organisation in which more than 30 different nationalities are represented and which is located in 4 different countries (This seems disingenuous - there is no suggestion that the steps required by the Dutch judgment would be regarded as illicit in Germany, so why not just do everywhere what the Dutch court ordered?) 
First, we would like to recall that the principle of immunity enjoyed by the EPO, like any international organisation, does not serve to protect undue privileges but rather aims at safeguarding the integrity of the institution and ensuring its neutral functioning, protected from national interference, and at preserving the equality between member states and also between staff members.  
Secondly, what are the facts on these three issues?
The conditions for a collective bargaining exist at the EPO through statutory bodies and regular meetings between elected staff representatives and senior management where all issues concerning working conditions (salaries, health care, allowances, pensions, changes in organisational structures etc.) are thoroughly discussed.  For the first time in the EPO's history, all staff members (70 % participated in the vote) have directly elected in June 2014 their representatives to these local (one in each of our sites) and central committees. (But it then seems that they are not properly invited to, for example, the Administrative Council meetings) 
Until 2013 the right to strike was not formally recognised at the EPO and erratic practices had developed. Since June 2013 the right to strike is fully recognised (subject to stringent controls and the proviso that the strike ballot is ordered and conducted by the EPO President at his sole discretion) and regulated as a means of last resort in order to facilitate the social dialogue. This is not only a formal right. It has been exercised in reality:  in 2014, there have been 22 days of strike with an average staff participation of 12.3 %. 
Staff representatives and trade unions enjoy freedom of expression and benefit from various communication facilities, including the most up to date ones. They can for instance use a free space on EPO's Intranet with RSS feeds for staff members who wish to receive directly and immediately this information. They can also hold information meetings and distribute documents in EPO premises. (But not apparently use email or use EPO premises, as Merpel understands it) 
Our legal and social framework, our rules and procedures are compliant with international best practices and fundamental principles. They are subject to review by the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation which is EPO's judiciary authority and a jurisdiction well known to take particular care of worker rights. (But whose procedures are so slow that at least one national Court has taken the view that effective access to justice is denied) 
We are well aware that the EPO has a long tradition of conflict in social relations, even on the very first day the EPO opened in 1978 some of the staff were striking. (Is this really relevant?) But we are convinced that it is only through discussions with the staff and their representatives that we can build a positive future for the staff and the Office. We call for a meaningful and respectful dialogue between partners. 
Benoît Battistelli, President Guillaume Minnoye, Vice-President Alberto Casado, Vice-President Zejlko Topic, Vice-President Raimund Lutz, Vice-President  Francisco del Pozo, Principal Director Finance  René Kraft, CIO  Elodie Bergot, Principal Director HR Aidan Kendrick, Principal Director Controlling office 
As ever, Merpel welcomes comments, but begs to remind readers of the following:
Henceforth, in respect of all EPO-related blogposts, no comment will be posted if it is merely ascribed to "Anonymous".  Any reader wishing to conceal his or her identity must adopt a pseudonym (which should not be obscene and should not be the name, or the mis-spelling of the name, of a real person).  The pseudonym need not be an actual login name, as long as it is stated clearly at the beginning and/or end of the comment itself. This way, it will be easier for people who post later comments to identify and remember the earlier comment-poster and to recall the discussion string.  Where, as has already happened on occasion, a string carries over from one blogpost to a later one on the same or a related subject, readers will be encouraged to use the same pseudonym for the sake of continuity.

97 comments:

iudex said...

Nemo iudex in causa sua.
Who is EPO accepting as iudexing?

Mr. Propaganda said...

Dear Merpel,
as long as I know the decision of the German Court only confirmed the immunity of the EPO and did not give any further opinion. Therefore it did not find the EPO compliant with the rights.

Anonymous said...

The Germen Courts did not answer the question askd of them: whether the Human rigts are respected at the EPO. They rather digged their way around it. They were not sure, for example, whether SUEPO is a Union, but they did not say waht would convince them one way or another. And the EPO has immunity after all. So that their reasoning is much less convicing to me than that of the Dutch court.

Barbi

Macavity said...

Up to now, Mr Battistelli was quite fond of proclaiming his ukases under his own signature. After all he is the boss and takes his decisions alone.
But, lo and behold, in one fell swoop, all those pronouncements of the last year or so are now the result of collegiate decisions, taken after due and adequate consultations and discussions with all concerned bodies.
Isn't it one of the trademarks of a bully? When the s**t starts hitting the fan, and hits the fan in your own office, you start disengaging, so someone else will be blamed for the mess?

Aliens in Underpants said...


VP5 Raimund Lutz (signature at end of text above) issued a communique on 27.02.2015 concerning the German courts decision. In it he wrote " In the judgements, the court (Munich Labour Court after referral from the Berlin Labour Court) upheld the EPO's immunity and rejected its jurisdiction without entering into a discussion on the merits. It recalled the portion taken by the German Constitutional Court in previous judgements, that the EPO's system of legal remedies meets the requirements defined as a basis standard for access to justice".

There was no decision, as alleged above, that "that the EPO is compliant with these rights".

The statement from management is clearly meant for the AC digestion next week. I hope they have strong stomachs and something left between their ears.


Sir Humphrey Appleby said...

You can never believe anything is true, not until it has been officially denied, Minister.

Mr Grumpy said...

Rarely have I read such mendacious rubbish. They must be rattled. How can you have a "dialogue" with such people, when to enter into a dialogue would invite an appointment with the investigation unit?

I hope SUEPO "fisk" this statement to pieces, especially for the benefit of the AC delegates next week - it seems that many of the AC delegates need guiding gently through the issues.

Miss Information said...

What exactly has "efficiency" or "quality" to do with giving the staff unequivocal access to justice, granting them the right of legal counsel in case of legal dispute, etc.? What is worth a right to strike if the strike has to be approved by the management first as otherwise staff members risk receiving adhortatory letters? Is there really a freedom of speech when staff members do not dare to voice their concerns under their very identity?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BringbackAliB said...

P oppycock,but written better
R emember last weeks mumbo jumbo letter?
A ttack the best form of defence
V oldemort must think we're dense
D own for the count,but he wants more
A C must show this man the door!!

Golden boy said...

The idea that we will have three more years full of such sh**t is somewhat disheartening.

Old Man of EPO said...

FYI,
The internal version of this had the collegial heading:

"Not respecting fundamental human rights? a reality check"

Irony (and grammar) missing

Apologies for the MAC's dismissal of the Dutch and German authorities and legal profession. I leave the critique of the rest of the article to outsiders. Currently, every colleague I hAve spoken to is disgusted by such a reaction.

PS And apologies to IPKAT readers who are swamped by comments. Of course, the president's missive does not allow for any direct reply - if anyone was brave enough to try - so the only way to let off steam is here. I wonder if he reads it too...

Worried reader said...

I think we will see in the near future a wave of examiners and members of the BoA retiring well before their 65th birthday. How will the EPO cope with that loss of know how? Or is it that staff is not an assett but merely a liability?

Rule of Law? Check! said...

The reaction of the AC next week to all this situation will be the real "reality check" - for everybody.

New at this... said...

Following the post of Alien in underpants above, and with the intent of providing more information to Merpel and the other readers of the blog, please find below the full text of what VP5, one of the signatories of today's message, wrote to EPO employees a few weeks ago:

27.02.2015

Communiqué from VP5 on decisions of the Munich Labour Court

On 13 and 15 January 2015, the Munich Labour Court (the Court) delivered its judgements on two pending proceedings against the EPO.

The first case was originally filed on 9.10.2013 by SUEPO Central and SUEPO Berlin before the Berlin Labour Court. Since the Berlin Labour Court considered that it did not have jurisdiction, it referred the case to the Munich Labour Court on 24.2.2014.

The second case was filed on 11.10.2013 by SUEPO Munich before the Munich Labour Court.

The proceedings challenged the new regulations on strike, unauthorised absence and mass emails and aimed at the acknowledgement of SUEPO as official trade union of EPO employees and as an official interlocutor between staff and the President of the Office.

In the judgements, the Court upheld the EPO's immunity and rejected its jurisdiction without entering into a discussion on the merits.

Indeed, it recalled the position taken by the German Constitutional Court in previous judgements, that the EPO's system of legal remedies meets the requirements defined as basis standard for the access to justice.

In the case SUEPO Munich vs. EPO and Federal Republic of Germany, the Court also found that SUEPO Munich had not established its legal capacity.

Consequently, all claims were rejected by the Court, who ordered the claimant to bear the costs of the proceedings.

Raimond Lutz
Vice-President DG5

I would urge the IPKat to get in touch with Mr Lutz and inquire whether he got the legal analysis so wrong the first time (despite being a former judge) that he needed to sign a document asserting different facts...

surprised said...

Apparently Mr. Lutz is unable to decide whether the German court considered the merits (a necessary condition to decide that there was no violation of human rights) or not (as he orginally stated). I wonder how much he is paid for his excellent legal skills.

The Pensive Quill said...

I say, VP3's signature is missing from this letter as well.
Has he mislaid his pen again?

Interested party said...

Whether those who sign actually believe what is written is open to conjecture. More worrying is the apparent idea that they believe anyone else will believe what they've written. To dismiss a Dutch court ruling as a surprising rumour can only be deemed impressive in its utter audacity. To assert that a German court agrees with you when they've done no such thing is just as bad. And the rest....
Under normal circumstances, you would ask what planet these people are on - and yet, the recent evidence suggests that they will - once again - get away with it. The decisions to be rubber stamped in the coming administrative council are atrocious at best, one only has to mention DG3 and invalidity, but I don't think anyone has any illusions that they will indeed be rubber stamped. Thus the question is not which planet are they on, rather which planet am I on, as this has nothing to do with any form of reality of which I am aware.

Anon alpha said...

Should we follow the Dutch law or the Dutch interpretation of international principles in the Netherlands and the German law or the German interpretation of international principles in Germany ? Such fragmentation would mean the end of the EPO as an effective international organisation in which more than 30 different nationalities are represented and which is located in 4 different countries

It seems that the EPO top management is not aware of the existence of multinational enterprises who have to respect the law in each and every country.

Old Man of EPO said...

The strange thing is that normally BB has utter disdain for any other views , up to an including the national courts and his own President Hollande. And yet now he feels the need to dissemble rather than just be above it. Why?

Anonymous said...

Let us face it. These People have done a many realy bad things, some of which have been proven in a court of law as wrong, and have gotten away with it. Why, on earht, should they think that they would not get away with it this time?
After all laws are there for the little ones.


Barbi

I'm not a robot said...

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Come and get a Patent from an Organisation where the head of the legal department is either unable to understand the decision of a German Court or he understand it according to the desires of his Boss!


Come and get it from "one of the best patent offices in the world"!

Interested party said...

The last comment from "I'm not a robot" says it all. Please can anyone tell me how the EPO should retain it's reputation under these circumstances and/or how it should ever get it back.
Accepting this (these) task(s) as impossible, the next question must be whether the current situation has been deliberately created. And if the answer is "yes", the next question must be, by whom? and/or why?

Anonymous said...

On behalf of a large majority of staff...
Meanwhile they seem to have completely lost any touch with reality. On behalf of a large majority of staff I express my regret for such a statement...

Jefferson said...

Zeljko Topic (VP4) is one of the co-signatories of the public communiqué denying that the EPO violated fundamental human rights despite the judgement of the Dutch Court of Appeal.

Mr Topic is actually familiar with lost court cases. In front of the Municipal Court of Zagreb, he had accused someone of defamation and lost. Techrights just reported on that and provides a full translation of the judgment: http://techrights.org/2015/03/18/full-judgment-against-topic/

Battistelli had announced to EPO staff that the reason for the suspension of a member of the Boards Appeal was an accusation of "anonymous defamation campaign" implicitly linked to Mr Topic. In view of the judgment in Zagreb, could it be that the accusations against that member of the Boards of Appeal are not founded and that he/she was just using "freedom of expression"?

EPO management currently has an interpretation of "freedom of expression" which diverges from that of national judges. It is not a rumour, it is clear from a judgment of a Dutch Court of Appeal.

Mork said...

Heavens above! The language is of the standard of a poor ten-year old's essay and the content is stunning in its wrongness (no need to go into detail, as the other commentators have done that for me).

Could this be mass suicide by the the EPO's highest hierarchy?

Proverbs 12:20
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil.

Wobbly chair said...

@ Barbi 20:00
Just because all of a sudden his chair feels wobbly and uncomfortable.

Hardened Cynic said...

"Could this be mass suicide by the the EPO's highest hierarchy?"

Wishful thinking, I'm afraid.

Watch the AC rubber-stampers in action next week ...

MaxDrei said...

On the issue whether the EPO, an organisation with offices in four countries, should have any regard at all to the Rule of Law, I would mention the Rules of Conduct of the European Patent Institute, ie the patent attorneys qualified to practise before the EPO.

Imagine present EPO management given the task of revising them. The only Rule text that would survive revision would be such word strings (if any) that are found in the national attorney Rules of Conduct of each and every one of the 38 Member States. Any Rule found in only 37 or less of the 38 Member States would be struck out as unusual and vexatious, and therefore burdensome and therefore inapplicable to an international organisation of high repute that is striving to be more aggressive, dynamic, efficient and profitable.

Ye olde person... said...

Jefferson and And now for...
Highlight might be the judge's statement:
"Having analyzed the private plaintiff’s testimony, the court did not accept its veracity in the part where he stated that the defendant was relieved of her duty as Assistant Director of the SIPO due to the expiry of her term of appointment. This testimony is contradictory to the statement of grounds provided in the decision dismissing her (page no. 301a) where it is stated that she is being relieved of duty on the basis of the proposal of the SIPO Director, and it is likewise contrary to the certificate signed by the private plaintiff himself (page no. 303) where it is stated that the defendant had acted as an Assistant Director of the SIPO on a permanent basis."

To be accused of making statements to a court which lacked veracity would normally have repercussions but I guess it's just being shrugged off?

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear says...

So VP3 (Topic) arrives under dubious circumstances at the EPO

A thorough investigation by the president revealed NO problems

A BoA member gets suspended over defaming VP3

And now this national judge rules that Topic lied

Can we roll back the entire transaction, please? To good to be true.

Either they don't understand the world or the world simply doesn't understand them.

Old man of EPO said...

Just to be clear,
Or not to be clear? He's VP4, last time I checked.

Dilbert said...

To the last real anonymous -it's VP4 you are talking about, not VP3.

anakin skywalker said...

It seems that the EPO top management is not aware of the existence of multinational enterprises who have to respect the law in each and every country.

Nice point.

And I'd still like EPO management to explain what they think it is that Art. 20(1) PPI is saying:
The Organisation shall co-operate at all times with the competent authorities of the Contracting States in order to facilitate the proper administration of justice, to ensure the observance of police regulations and regulations concerning public health, labour inspection or other similar national legislation, and to prevent any abuse of the privileges, immunities and facilities provided for in this Protocol.

EPO management is making a big gamble. If the reforms of the working conditions are declared invalid in 5-10 years, the mess will be rather substantial. But before that time national constitutional courts might already have blown the European patent system to pieces by ruling that the boards of appeal, or what's left of them, are not a court. Is the AC at all aware of these risks?

Nobody Special said...

Anon alpha said at 19:48:
It seems that the EPO top management is not aware of the existence of multinational enterprises who have to respect the law in each and every country.

As I understood the Dutch decision, it was based on case law of the ILO AT and the ECHR (from point 4.8 of the decision), not Dutch law:

"the Appeal Court will base its opinion directly on the international standards invoked by VEOB [SUEPO] et al. and not on Dutch law, as manifestly advocated by VEOB et al"

Sir Grantsalot said...

IMMUNITY ╪ IMPUNITY

Article 4a EPC -- Now, more than ever!

Fafnir said...

There is still time to avert the implosion of the EPC based system - but it would require that the AC accepts its responsibilities and takes the necessary steps to exercise supervision of the Office as required by Art. 4 EPC.
More specifically, it must:
> stop now to rubberstamp the president's proposals
> demand full transparency for all financial matters, such as, for example:
>> the president's remuneration
>> the financing of the new building in The Hague
>> all "projects" with the member states financed by the EPO
>> all the president's travel and hospitality expenses
It seems late in the day, but with swift and decisive action the AC could halt the destruction and even restore some semblance of integrity to the Office. I can't see it happen, but would be only too happy to be proved wrong.
And one further thought: it is always said that only Jesper Kongstad knows how much the president earns - but there must be someone in DG4 (Administration) who knows, someone (who, one wonders) to authorise the payment of the president's salary and expenses, and someone who arranges for the payments to be made.

Mork said...

I've heard that Cockneys in the IP world, when speaking in their famous rhyming slang, now prefer the expression "Frenchies" (short from French fries) over the more familiar "porkies".

Sunlight said...

"all the president's travel and hospitality expenses"

Does that include costs for "entertainment" of AC delegates ?

Do you really think that they want that exposed to the glare of public scrutiny ?

Methusalea said...

To worried reader:
indeed the number of employees taking the desparate measure of early retirement is "surprisingly" high.
Many are bailing out of the burning structure.



Methusalea

cyrus said...

New at this said:

Communiqué from VP5 on decisions of the Munich Labour Court

On 13 and 15 January 2015, the Munich Labour Court (the Court) delivered its judgements on two pending proceedings against the EPO.

The first case was originally filed on 9.10.2013 by SUEPO Central and SUEPO Berlin before the Berlin Labour Court. Since the Berlin Labour Court considered that it did not have jurisdiction, it referred the case to the Munich Labour Court on 24.2.2014.

The second case was filed on 11.10.2013 by SUEPO Munich before the Munich Labour Court.

The proceedings challenged the new regulations on strike, unauthorised absence and mass emails and aimed at the acknowledgement of SUEPO as official trade union of EPO employees and as an official interlocutor between staff and the President of the Office.

In the judgements, the Court upheld the EPO's immunity and rejected its jurisdiction without entering into a discussion on the merits.

Indeed, it recalled the position taken by the German Constitutional Court in previous judgements, that the EPO's system of legal remedies meets the requirements defined as basis standard for the access to justice.

In the case SUEPO Munich vs. EPO and Federal Republic of Germany, the Court also found that SUEPO Munich had not established its legal capacity.

Consequently, all claims were rejected by the Court, who ordered the claimant to bear the costs of the proceedings.

Raimond Lutz
Vice-President DG5


******
Thus, the statement by the MAC:

"in the same week a German court has ruled that the EPO is compliant with these rights."

is a lie?

i_am_batti said...

so let me see if I've understood...

1) The Dutch Appeals Court lifted the veil of immunity and found that the EPO was violating Basic Human Rights as enshrined in the European Charter on Human Rights and the case law of the International Labor Organisation's Administrative Tribunal

2) The German Labour Court decided not to lift the veil of immunity (i.e., not to peek behind the dirty shower curtain) and thus did not examine the merits of the case.

And based on 2), the EPO management claims "a German court has ruled that the EPO is compliant with these rights"???

MaxDrei said...

We all know very well that:

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”

but it seems that EPO management know it better than anybody else.

Question is, is there anybody at AC level even starting to get booted up.

Г-н хлеб said...

I would like to remind the readers of this post that one of the signatories of this heinous pamphlet is Raimund Lutz, former President of the German Federal Patent Court and a lawyer himself. Apparently he forgot all his legal knowledge when he entered the EPO or has renounced to apply it and prefers to not speak out against le président.
I would also like to point out that the argument that the EPO employs people from 30 nationalities is also disingenuous. There are companies which employ people far many more nationalities (GE, Shell, Airbus, to name just a few) and they still comply with national regulations.

L'angelo Misterioso said...

When I read this post from our revered leaders yesterday, I was tempted to draw the analogy of the Emperor's New Clothes, but soon realised that it was a poor one: our emperor not only has no clothes, but the sycophants surrounding him are equally naked.

There is a strong sense of whistling in the dark here: do they really believe their own propaganda?

Anonymous said...


There is one single thing in this pathetic management statement which is perfectly true, namely that the EPO is the most expensive patent office in the world. But the full truth is that is also the only patent office in the world to subsidize 38 member states. And this is why there is no meaningfull governance to be expected from the AC.
Battistorytelli

Millipede said...

If they would have put as much time and effort in listening to the staff and the SUEPO as in drafting these kind of statements, the EPO would be a much quieter place now.

PatentOwner said...

A strange rumour has recently spread across Europe in some media, industry circles and even with examiners of the European Patent Office: that our patent would not be valid. What an accusation!

Anonymous said...

Facts? says:

... "which is located in 4 different countries" ...

The EPO does not even seem to get the Facts about themselves right. According to my humble knowledge of geography, it is located in 3 countries only as Munich and Berlin are both in Germany.

NL+AT+DE=3

Anonymous said...

Your are forgetting Riga.

Kind regards,


George Brock-Nannestad

Anonymous said...

Fact? missed out BE:

http://www.epo.org/service-support/contact-us/brussels/epo.html

Wrote H. Bosch

Merpel said...

GBH is of course pulling your leg, "Facts?", but actually the EPO does have an office in Brussels.

Fafnir said...

It is barely believable that the German courts and the German government via its double-headed delegation to the AC are so silent on matters that less than 40 years ago were considered outrageous - SED, Stasi, etc. - by the great majority of Germans, East and West.
To quote from an English translation of Article 27 of the GDR(DDR) Constitution:
"Every citizen has the right to freely and publicly advance his or her opinion in accordance to the principles of the constitution."
"The freedom of press, broadcasting and television is warranted."

We all know the reality behind those words such as, to quote from Wikipedia: One of its [the Stasi's] main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures, including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents (Zersetzung, literally meaning decomposition).
Looks familiar?

Dilbert said...

So, Genosse Ulbricht is alive and well in Munich, it seems.

MaxDrei said...

Who is fooled by these statements ("French Fries"?) from EPO Management? Only the shareholders (the AC members) it seems. Think now Readers. Is it or is it not well-known that shareholders can display wilful blindness when Company Management is making them a nice pile of money.

That's why we have courts and the law, to keep businessmen honest.

But when the businessmen declare themselves out of reach of the courts, what then? Are we perhaps into the territory occupied by FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations, and so on?

What would wilfully blind Sep Blatter or Bernie Ecclestone or Franz (I never saw any slaves) Beckenbauer advise AC Members to do? Tough it out, I would suppose. Sepp and Bernie, fit and proper role models for the EPC Member States. Even "Special Advisers" to them. Now there's a thought.

MaxDrei said...

Four countries or three? What about Austria? Does not the EPO have a branch Office in Vienna? Or did it Close already?

L'angelo Misterioso said...

Funnily enough, back in the days when internal audit was just a department which took a fairly small random sample of, initially, grants then, later, searches as well to check on conformity with the EPC, some of us used to refer to it humorously as 'The Stasi'.

As can be seen from this recently published job ad: http://www.epo.org/about-us/jobs/vacancies/other/EUR-5781.html, the Office is looking for a director for our very own Stasi. The wording of the ad bears analysis:

“The Director Internal Auditing and Investigations will be responsible for internal auditing (the examination and appraisal of the adequacy and effectiveness of the EPO's system of internal control and the quality of performance), as well as for managing administrative, fact-finding investigations carried out under the EPO's investigation guidelines, which follow best practice in international organisations. Investigations are carried out only into received allegations of misconduct (including fraud and harassment)."

"Which follow best practice..."

Who are they trying to convince, exactly?

Old Man said...

There is one thing the upper management of the EPO has always forgotten (even on pre BB times): those working for them and with them have the same level of ability and intellectual strength than themselves. They have all earned academic degrees.
No surprise that anything emanating from the higher spheres will be scrutinised in every detail. After all it is their job to check any statement as to its coherence.
Why did those eminent members of the EPO sitting in the MAC, but at the same time in the new advisory committee, think such waffling will put them in a better light.
Unless the profession reacts BB will continue its destructive adventure at the EPO, as one the bloggers said, he can offer "cooperation" to the national offices. If you do not agree with me, then no cooperation. In this respect BB is not different from any of its predecessors.

Dégouté said...

The sad reality is that this band of half pensioned, so called senior managers are already there since a long time with the same profile.

They remained sleeping quietly and unproductively but the staff ran the house and nobody complained.
They were expensive portions of the EPO landscape but apart from massive internal (private) jokes, nobody really cared.

Then came BB. Violence, pressure, speed and terror. They were forced to say Amen to each part of his illegal packages and pathetically but publicly to voice their opinions.

This was the beginning of the end.

EPAttorney said...

EPAttorney...

And so the damaging war of words continues. The user community is also being damaged by this "fracas" and loss of reputation. Applicants look on in dismay (and even disgust) at these goings-on. The EPO is expensive and our business leaders rightly ask "why bother with this system?". I hope that the likes of CIPA and the equivalent bodies across Europe respond to this statement from the EPO management. They should also be lobbying their national representatives on the AC to educate them about the truth behind the statement, if they're not doing so already. Everyone in IP is being damaged by this issue, not just the staff at the Office...

Anon Beta said...

All the comments on Mr Lutz (VP5) are correct. Under his lead, the only role of his department is just to give legal support to the wrong-doings of BB at the expenses of EPO Staff. Considering his little respect for the law, I cannot imagine he was the president of a court before joining the EPO.

Walk out said...

What about an EPO spring?
Walk all out until they all resign!

Cromwell said...

"which follow best practice in international organisations" = "just in case you would like to apply and heard strange rumours that we do not respect human rights, we tell you that it is not the case. Not just "normal practice": "best practice"! - please,sign here ..."

L'angelo Misterioso said...

@Walk out:

Your comment seems a little lacking in historical perspective.

Have you looked at the various 'Springs' lately?

Egypt - Counter-revolution
Syria - Civil War
Libya - Civil War/anarchy
Bahrein - crushed
Yemen - chairs rearranged slightly

The only success seems to have been Tunisia - but judging by the news they still have a considerable problem with jihadist insurgents.

Anonymous said...

The poor examiners of the EPO are so blind and partially stupid...
They still think that the AC doesn't know, care or want to be involved.
Wake up nerds.
Battistelli is fully politically endorsed. Everyone supports him otherwise they wouldn't be president for 100 years.


An examiner that doesn't give a sh#it

THE US anon said...

To the comment of "The user community is also being damaged by this "fracas" and loss of reputation. Applicants look on in dismay (and even disgust) at these goings-on."

I would add to that this foreign observer, the notion that damage is being done is a given.

The more interesting question is why such extensive damage is being allowed to continue and fester...

Exactly which type of entity is most disadvantaged with having a truly worthwhile and functional patent system in place? Which type of entity is better positioned when ALL sides of the system are engulfed in a quagmire of FUD - with accusations flying about FROM BOTH SIDES vis a vis imminent "poor quality"?

The situation in your backyard has become one of "Heads I win and Tails you lose" to one type of entity.

Take a guess as to that type.

Brat is smelly said...

@Examiner that doesn't give a .....

Why are you still an examiner?
You definitely have management potential.

Walk out said...

@L'angelo misterioso:

Nevertheless...

Dilbert said...

"Walk out ..." - we are talking here of people with children at school, mortgages, and all the other matters of daily life. The only powerful solution would be an all-out strike, but anyone trying to organise that without Battistelli's permission is for the chop; organised with Battistelli's permission it mustn't be longer than a few days and so is ineffective.
The system was set up to keep people to benefit from their growing experience. This has now turned into a trap for those that are neither less than ten years in the office (cash in what you paid into the pension fund, and that's all you get) or those that are near pension age (and of those many are leaving early).

Anonymous said...

Pet de Saint Germaine said:
The management is so pathetic and so low level. All their moves have only one aim: the defense of BB. A squalid scenario. Sad, sad, sad.

MaxDrei said...

Dilbert just made a good point about the EPO having been set up to:

"...keep people to benefit from their growing experience"

Managers move every few years to widen their experience and make them better managers. Even patent attorneys can change firms to make them better attorneys. But the profession of Patent Office Examiner is different.

Any experienced patent attorney knows that newbie Examiners lack judgement. Lacking that, their work product swells the backlog. The only chance of driving down the backlog is to increase the ratio of experienced to tyro examiners.

For EPO management to drive the most experienced Examiners out of the EPO is wanton destruction, a crime and a scandal.

It is trite to say that the most important resource an organisation has is its "people". But lets be clear, of the people at the EPO, the examiners are a more precious resource than its recently imported so-called "Managers".

Walk out said...

@ Dilbert

Guess it should be 'spontaneous'...

Yes, I must be dreaming. Ordnung and Il est interdit de always take precedence.

Pity.

Anonymous said...

Amicus curiae

This statement from EPO management raises an interesting question. How may an interested party obtain a correction and possibly publication of their own statement?

Merpel has already noted that it is quite odd to treat a court decision as a rumour. The comment of "New at this …", 18 March, 18:56, reproduces a statement form Vice-President DG5, stating that the German Court did not enter into a discussion on the merits, contrary to the EPO statement.

Consequently, the official EPO statement seems to be questionable on at least these two points. Suepo (The Hague & Munich) may have an interest in getting a correction published. For a newspaper operating under national law, Suepo may obtain such a correction published in most, if not all European Countries. Suepo may even press damages against the person(s) responsible.

Now, how about the EPO? May they publish want they want on their website, without any consequences, once again referring to immunity?
This statement from EPO management raises an interesting question. How may an interested party obtain a correction and possibly publication of their own statement?

Merpel has already noted that it is quite odd to treat a court decision as a rumour. The comment of "New at this …", 18 March, 18:56, reproduces a statement form Vice-President DG5, stating that the German Court did not enter into a discussion on the merits, contrary to the EPO statement.

Consequently, the official EPO statement seems to be questionable on at least these two points. Suepo (The Hague & Munich) may have an interest in getting a correction published. For a newspaper operating under national law, Suepo may obtain such a correction published in most, if not all European Countries. Suepo may even press damages against the person(s) responsible.

Now, how about the EPO? May they publish want they want on their website, without any consequences, once again referring to immunity?

FormerExaminer said...

@Dilbert

So if you have a family and a mortgage you are married to the EPO ?

When I chose to leave the EPO, I had (and still have) a lovely family, I had (and still have) a mortgage... and we relocated to a country neither me or my wife originate from. We haven't regretted it a single moment.

Have a look on LinkedIn, quite a few EPO examiners took this step... before and after the 10-year mark. I don't think any of them are worse off then they were before at the EPO.

Old man of EPO said...

Amicus c,
Of course in the lawless, sorry immune, EPO, the President accuses a boa member of defamation (wrt a VP whose veracity is doubted by a judge - see above) while there is no avenue for redressing false statements by the same President. Irony anyone?
Of course, in Eponia, if the Pres thinks it's true, it is true!

Anonymous said...

In fact, it is a defamation of the court to describe ist well reasoned judgement as a rumour. It is distributed with the only purpose of harming the image of the court and it is untrue, because, per definition, a judgment of a court is considered true, until it is overturned by another court.


Barbi

Anonymous said...

You sir are the only voice of reason.
All the others just waste time
If it so bad leave the Epo and find something else .
. You make me proof to be examiner which quits in less than a month and going back home at last..

The examiner that doesn't give.a ....

Anonymous said...

Continueing,
so now the Dutch court can take the MAC of the EPO to a court of law and press charges against being defamated by the EPO.
Is it not funy? I am having the best time of my lfie here. Thanks to the AC, for they are the only ones who could make it possible.


Barbi

Dilbert said...

Dear FormerExaminer,
Let me just tell you that you are barking up a very wrong tree - I am not any of who and what you think I am! Nor do your smug comments impress me, because I've been there, done the jigsaw, played the game, got the T-shirt ...
But that does not mean that there aren't many who can't (or feel they can't) do what some of us were lucky enough to achieve, and those are the ones my comments referred to.

FormerAttorney said...

I used to be a Patentanwalt and after having joined the EPO I have canceled my than Private Health Insurance, my Invalidity and Incapability Insurance as well as transfered my accumulated Pension. I have been paying the corresponding insurances for 10 years as part of my EPO sallary. Now, the AC will take this away. At the age close to 50 I am unable to get such insurances on my own. I dont mind working as hard as I did when I was an attorney, but being a Beamte (public servant) I require certain basic predictability as to where I stand.

FormerExaminer said...

@FormerAttorney

Is this a metter of fact, or a matter of choice ? I certainly never read the EPO staff regulations as entitling me to a job for life with the same conditions for life... I certainly did not assume the EPO to be an organization which would exist for the rest of my working life.

Why then would I give an employer so much power over my private life ?

Why did you choose to cancel all these insurances ? Because you had to, or because it was cheaper to do so ?

Anonymous said...

@ FormerExaminer

I cancelled mine too. And I choose not to take an extra one with my mortgage.
Not because I was pampered and intended to remain so.
I simply don't take an invalidity insurance as a lottery ticket, and go buy a second because I feel lucky...
In my mind, it is for covering the essentials, you know, for the worst case: becoming mortgage free and getting an one off summ for settling in the new circumstances.
Once this covered through a compulsory insurance, I don't buy a second ticket.

Results are that now I'll have to start searching ne from scratch, anteriority lost, and 15 years older.

Not life breaking maybe, but perfectly arbitrary and vexatory. I suppose that every step closing on the wonderful principles of the new capitalistic public service is progress. In that spirit, wanna bet that soon the President and VP contracts will include a special extra package of invalidity insurance?

And by the way you know perfectly well that for most people the unspoken deal was to stay indefinitely at the EPO. The internal pay- as-you-go invalidity insurance made definitely sense economically. Incidentally, not so many FormerExaminer was a good deal for both sides; compare with the troubles had not so long ago at the USPTO with their crazy turnover.

Signed: Not Dagny Taggart

Anonymous said...

Proverbs 12 15: "The way of fools seems right to them"

Edrex

Old man of EPO said...

@Former examiner,
You may have forgotten but in days gone by the EPO did indeed recruit on the basis of being in it for the long run. They were trying to get very rare commodities of degrees, languages and willingness to move abroad while seeking people who were willing to do a relatively solitary job. There was a bargain - very good conditions in return for committment to a public service ethos. That does seem to have gone but, unfortunately for management, the ethos of public service and respect for this corner of the law lives on in many.

FormerAttorney said...

Being a German, I have read the service regulation before signing and gave up certain benefits to gain others. I have also always advised my clients based on the predictabilityof the EPO ssystem: manly clear up-front cost. My clients knew how much would an Opposition or Appeal cost. Can you imagine that the Brave new AC decides to cut the cost by providing for the looser of the validity proceedings to cover all the costs of the winning party? Imagine that one of the parties is an American entity and the other party goes for full discovery....

Anonymous said...

Battistorytelli said:
Very interesting report on the EPO website of the recent visit of Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe to President Battistelli
https://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2015/20150319_de.html

Anonymous said...

"The EPO and the IPO signed a co-operation agreement in March 2014, which covers facilitating access to patent information for British businesses and scientists, and also IT services and e-learning tools."
http://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2015/20150319.html

So is that the UK added to the list of obedient AC members?

Wrote H. Bosch

Old man of EPO said...

I wonder if she met anyone other than BB. Staff reps? British staff? I suspect i know the answer but you never know.

Aliens in Underpants said...

@H. Bosch

About 60% of the total annual income of the UK IPO ( see for example annual report 2014) is derived from renewal fees of EP granted patents.
Rock the boat? I don't think so.

Hardened Cynic said...

@ FormerAttorney

What's your problem ?

Just have a word with Mr. Lutz about how you can obtain legal redress for this flagrant breach of contract.

Mr. Lutz will surely be glad to be of assistance to you. He would never tolerate such a breach if fundamental rights.

And don't forget the words of Pastor Niemoller (slightly adapted):

"First they came for the SUEPO activists but I did not object because I was not a SUEPO activist.

Then they came for the staff representative nominees but I did not object because I was not a staff representative nominee.

Then they came for the dissident members of the Boards of Appeal but I did not object because I was a goody-two-shoes who had nothing to worry about.

Then they tried to abolish my invalidity insurance and I started to get my knickers in a serious twist ... but to my great sorrow I discovered that there was nobody left to help me untwist them."


The fact is that EPO management has been robbing staff blind for the past number of years by depriving them of any credible system of legal protection.

After "stealing" the system of legal protection, now they are finally coming for the "money" and some people are finally starting to wake up ...

SADLY TOO LATE ....

FormerAttorney said...

Please, set aside your anglo-saxon view. There is no contract between me and Mr. Lutz. I have been appointed as an international civil servant under the self-contained law codified in the Service Regulations or conditions of employment as stipulated in Article 9(3) EPC.
Clear reference to the employment conditions in the EPC means that the Regulations may be adapted but the substantive modification of these conditions require an amendment of the EPC through a ministerial conference.
It is not Mr. Lutz but Mr. Gabriel.... who should have a say

Hardened Cynic said...

FormerAttorney said...

Please, set aside your anglo-saxon view. There is no contract between me and Mr. Lutz. I have been appointed as an international civil servant under the self-contained law codified in the Service Regulations or conditions of employment as stipulated in Article 9(3) EPC.
Clear reference to the employment conditions in the EPC means that the Regulations may be adapted but the substantive modification of these conditions require an amendment of the EPC through a ministerial conference.
It is not Mr. Lutz but Mr. Gabriel.... who should have a say


Dear FormerAttorney,

What pray tell is "anglo-saxon" about my view ?
I can assure you that my view is not "anglo-saxon" - au contraire.

For your information, Article 9(3) EPC only refers to liabilites of EPO employees toward the Organisation not the other way round.

The AC is clearly competent to amend the Service Regs under Article 33(2)(b) EPC.

[Anyway as Mr. Lutz is known to say "Who gives a **** about the "Beamtenstatut"?"]

So do you expect the ministerial conference to take place before or after your retirement. Or is Sankt Nimmerleins Tag a more likely date ?

And pardon me for asking, but what has that bloated red "Czar" Sigmar Gabriel got to do with EPO matters ?

Isn't it the case that in the Federal Republic of Germany, patent matters come under the remit of the Justice Ministry.

Strange that you should make such an "anglo-saxon" slip by assuming that the Ministry of Economic Affairs was responsible.

Surely your Teutonic Hegelian mindset should have told you that a Patent is a "Rechtsakt" rather than an economic "product"?

Perhaps you yourself have been more infected by the "anglo-saxon view" than you care to admit?

[PS: Don't forget to buy your Bahnsteigkarte in order to be able to protest against the planned abolition of your invalidity insurance next Wednesday.]

Shockedonyourbehalf said...

It is comforting to see that my highest management is "shocked on my behalf".
I was also shocked on their behalf when I read this.

Anonymous said...

Message for the EPO Council “Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”
― Leo Tolstoy, A Confession

Eidibus Martiis said...


Patents! Patents, everybody! Come get Yours!


From "One of the best Patent Offices in the World"! - now with added value: "Human Rights free"!



(Sorry, Merpel, I couldn't resist ... )

Anonymous said...

InsideOut

Another suicide ...

"Plus dramatique encore, fin mars, un Allemand s’est suicidé dans un jardin public de la capitale bavaroise. Il était en arrêt maladie pour une dépression et avait évoqué auprès de proches son appréhension à pouvoir atteindre les objectifs."

http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2015/04/06/un-si-bon-office_4610059_3232.html

Anonymous said...

All boils down to Rambo's sense of injustice of not having loyalty respected.
The examiners just want EPO to love them as much as they love EPO...

http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2015/04/06/un-si-bon-office_4610059_3232.html

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':