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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Demonstrations at EPO continue: SUEPO organises protest

The IPKat welcomed the news from the meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Office (EPO), following its meeting in March, that members of the Administrative Council and the President of the EPO were going to meet with the EPO unions (SUEPO and FFPE), with a view to establishing formal recognition and improving social dialogue.  Merpel further called upon the parties to work together to achieve the three 'o's: optimism for the future, organisational fairness and transparency, and overall contentment for all who commit their careers and their endeavours to the EPO cause.

The meeting took place on 22 April, and was reported by the IPKat here.

SUEPO's report (see news here on 23 April) was cautious, pointing out that

union recognition means little if it is not accompanied by meaningful involvement in practical matters that affect staff, like the recent reforms on the Career & Performance, Sick leave & Incapacity, and the reforms that still remain to be designed in the framework of the HR roadmap.
What we all want!
Thinking about the EPO's controversial health reforms, something has struck Merpel.  Employees of the European Patent Office are not the only inhabitants of international or regional IP offices to fall sick and have health issues, whether they live locally or are living abroad.  People who work for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO), the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) and the good folk whose job it is in the European Commission to make life difficult for us by thinking up new IP policies, must all have the occasional health issue too, and presumably WIPO, OHIM, the CPVO, BOIP and the Commission must have schemes that govern the health and welfare of their own employees -- none of whom, so far as Merpel is aware, have publicly complained about the health provisions that apply to them.

While she is no expert on healthcare provisions this moggy thinks that, if much the same sort of highly educated, skilled employees suffer from much the same health issues irrespective of the institution for which they work, there is no obvious reason why they should be treated differently.  She wonders: can some kind reader compile a comparative table of sickness-related provisions and benefits that apply for each of the organisations mentioned above, and any others she may have overlooked, so that she can publish it here and readers of this weblog can see for themselves whether the EPO staff have a genuine grievance or are merely in training for the Marathon Moan event at the next Olympics?

In the meantime, the protests in Munich continue, and SUEPO now plans a demonstration on  Thursday 30 April 2015 in the form of a march from the PschorrHöfe complex to the Dutch consulate.  As SUEPO puts it (see news here on 27 April):
Why the Dutch consulate?  By imposing draconian restrictions on colleagues who are sick or invalid, the latest health reform offends staff fundamental rights such as freedom of movement and right to a private life. As a host country, the Netherlands has a special duty of care towards the 3,000 staff members residing in The Hague.
The Dutch delegation nevertheless voted in favour of these reforms. A Dutch court recently agreed with SUEPO’s claim that the strike regulations introduced by Mr Battistelli infringe fundamental rights. Mr Battistelli reacted with fury and was quick to announce that the judgment was “neither legally admissible nor practically enforceable”.
The (then) Dutch Minister of Justice, Mr Opstelten, backed the President and blocked the implementation of the judgment. Last week Mr Battistelli informed us that the Dutch government will join the EPO in its attempt to overturn the judgment in the next instance (“cassation”). If so then the Dutch government makes itself complicit in violating fundamental rights.
With this demonstration, we wish to protest against the attitude of the EPO and the Dutch government and remind them of their duty of care towards staff in the EPO.
Merpel regrets that further actions are necessary, and hopes that genuine engagement by the EPO administration with the unions, accompanied by revisiting some of the reforms that have already been implemented prior to any possible union recognition, may make this the last.

A further point that strikes Merpel is that, while the EPO administration insists that substantial increases in examination productivity are necessary, it has been not explained, either apparently to the EPO employees, and certainly not to EPO users, what is the nature of this necessity.  It is certainly not apparent from the published accounts of the EPO (which Merpel attempted to examine here).

In the meantime, the cartoon is a venerable tool of political protest, and Merpel was struck by SUEPO's latest offering.

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.


Anonymous said...

There is a quite interesting letter from the Bavarian Chamber of Doctors to be read on SUEPO´s homepage
( see the entry dated 22/04/15). According to this professional organisation, both externally appointed and office employed doctors would infringe fundamental rules of German law and of the professional code of the medical association (independence, confidentiality, collegiality, relations between colleagues, etc.), should they actively participate in the implementation of new EPO health system.
Dr. Mabuse

Anonymous said...


Merpel asks what the nature of this necessity is?

Well, the world had changed, and the Office had to move with the times. The Office has to catch up with social realities in the 21st century. The job of an examiner at the EPO today is far more demanding than it once was and career paths are now unpredictable. But the real issue is: is it useful for the Organisation? Rest assure, examiners not only embrace, but can drive change from within the organisation. Soon we will be amalgamated into a bright future. We only need to be flexible and to adapt in a positive way, to sustain performance when the situation changes, workload increases, tensions rise, ambiguity mounts or priorities shift. Right?

Anonymous said...

Tri- lateral meeting aftermath, a cat on a hot tin roof quotes…

JK: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

BB: "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"

JK: "The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from the blogs."

BB: "My God, this is a hell of a job! I have no trouble with my enemies . . . but my damn friends, they're the ones that keep me walking the floor at nights."

JK: "Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office seeking."

UXY said...

SUEPO really does not seem to understand that they only vindicate Battistelli - discussing with SUEPO is clearly a waste of time, they will strike anyway. Just by mere coincidence the strike is on 30 April, before 1 May on Friday (EPO closed). How convenient.

statistix said...

Regarding said necessity, it seems that it is proclaimed mainly for boosting a one time effect. Filing figures (EP+PCT) have been relatively stable (140k-150k per year) in recent years. Only a part of these searches come back in examination, which limits the long term output to maybe 200k products per year, or maybe 250k.

A number as high as 320k products per year seems to be possible due to the reduction of the backlog:
on the basis of searches filed, there are 35 to 40 searches per examiner in average. Most of the examiners have higher search targets, a factor of two higher search target is not uncommon.

There may be a time, when the office output is limited rather by the number of filed searches, and not by too few examiners with too low efficiency.

The story of Battistelli, that the office is a profit generating company, with the examiners productivity as bottleneck, will break down as soon as the backlogs are diminished.

Dilbert said...

Get your facts right - what happens on 30 April is not a strike, but merely a demonstration taking place around lunch time. So it is not "How convenient"

Fafnir said...

Q: What do applicants want?
A: strong, thoroughly examined patents which are likely to survive litigation
Q: what is in the interest of the Europan economy, loads of hurriedly examined patents or fewer patents that have been well examined?
A: any sensible answer must be "well examined patents".
Q:what do the contracting states want?
A: as many patent grants as possible because of the income from renewal fees.

Q: In whose interest is BB acting?
A: work it out for yourself

Old man of EPO said...

'Accompanied by revisiting some of the reforms that have already been implemented'?
News to me. I thought that what is done, is done and there is no intention to look at them again. The AC has voted them in although there may be some question about whether all will finally be ratified if BB loses more support. The consultations with the unions may well just be tactical face saving with no concrete results. BB has a habit of listening but having no intention to hear. Thus, I consult, you are ignored, we do what I said originally.

Cynic said...

Strange, isn't it, that while the EPO trumpets record figures of 274K filings, the current figures for EP and PCT entering EPO in 1st quarter 2015 were 36-37K, about 2% down on 2014 and 2% below the numbers budget for 2015. That doesn't add up to 274K , this year or last.
There are lies, damned lies and EPO stats, it seems.

Sad EPO Staff said...

Dear Merpel how can you I quote you "The IPKat welcomed the news from the meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Office (EPO), following its meeting in March, that members of the Administrative Council and the President of the EPO were going to meet with the EPO unions (SUEPO and FFPE), with a view to establishing formal recognition and improving social dialogue. Merpel further called upon the parties to work together to achieve the three 'o's: optimism for the future, organisational fairness and transparency, and overall contentment for all who commit their careers and their endeavours to the EPO cause" ?

You should now perhaps that Mr Battistelli has hired the service of a prestigious communication agency in Paris (another questionable expense of public money) only to produce soporific story telling aiming at improving his image.

The reality behind the scene is a little less sexy : concrete threats of disciplinary measures on staff representatives continue as they dared to state that the HR policies designed and implemented by PD 43 (Mrs Bergot) are very dangerous ones likely to produce suicides and social casualties.

I see nothing positive in this fabricated talk but gaining time in discussion which allows them to pass their bills using the destructive momentum created

Be prepare for more social casualties, hence suicides. EPO Staff are really suffering.

Examinix said...

There appears to be one thing that everybody is forgetting concerning the productivity of examiners in the EPO: they work according to the EPC and the corresponding procedure following the guidelines and other (too many) internal regulations. There's no way to honestly compare the productivity of an EPO examiner with the productivity of examiners in any other big office (USPTO, JPO, KIPO, etc...).
Another thing is that since Mr. Minnoye is VP1, the rhythm of introduction of new electronic tools has decupled as compared to the previous era. If some tools, despite the bugs, add real value to the work in terms of efficiency, many off them do all the contrary. Even without talking about bugs, they are simply conceptual failures who will never help the examiner improve his speed compared to the ways of working before their introduction (just to cite one saddly famous example: eDrex).
Finally, examiner productivity is at its best ever if we believe EPO stats, but there's no way it will improve further without a fundamental change in procedures; another way, which is already happening, is too force examiners to stop believing in their work, and start rubber stamping as much as possible. The EPO management might still score some improvements in productivity in the coming few years (and if they don't they just need to say they do), but the scorched earth policy they are implementing at full throttle will bring it's fruits sooner or later, and I suspect they will not be sweet...

hoffnungslos said...

I agree with EXAMINIX

I just read that production target for senior examiners have been increased by 50 %;
it seems that you can be demoted for not reaching targets;
thus what is the aim of this unreasonable targets ?

a) examiner is asked to produce lots of rubbish ?
b) examiner produces lots of rubbish and then is demoted or fired for producing rubbish ?
c) examiner leaves EPO as soon as possible?
d) any idea ?
when will the EPO have a noticable lack of experienced and/or motivated personal , before or after BB leaves ?

The Pigs said...

I would think it would be an absolute given that any increase in production could not be achieved by a mere rubber stamping.

Is the increase concomitant with such a relaxing of standards, or is this yet another FUD attempt at portraying a parade of horribles?

Is there any chance that an official might be asked this question and put this horrendous tactic to rest?

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