The IPKat received a curious email yesterday, which read as follows:

European civil servants strike on 15 January 2004 over danger to Community Trade Mark system

Employees of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante are on strike because they consider the Community Trade Mark system to be in danger due to bad management and staff policies.

The staff of the EU’s largest agency, OHIM, voted almost unanimously to go on strike as a further measure to protest against the policies of OHIM’s management.

Despite rapidly growing numbers of Community Trade Mark (CTM) applications (from 46,000 in 2002 to over 58,000 in 2003 - which is the highest figure registered in the history of the Office), the Management of the OHIM is of the opinion that 30% of the staff need to leave the Agency, where in fact the Office’s needs require it to hire additional staff to carry out its tasks as required by the law and expected by its users.

The resulting drain in highly skilled staff, combined with a reorganization of the OHIM itself, has led to a dramatic decrease in quality and a sharp increase in the time taken to carry out its core tasks.

The employees of the OHIM, through their staff representatives, have repeatedly sought to redress this situation in discussions with the management. However, although some members of management acknowledge the existence of serious problems off the record, management is not prepared to change its approach, thus having made today’s strike inevitable. It is the hope of the employees of the Office that this will finally cause Management to rethink the situation and to enter into meaningful negotiations about staffing levels and management policies required to fulfil the expectations of the users of OHIM”.

This press release purports to come from the Secretariat of the Staff Committee of the OHIM. The IPKat has published it because (i) he doesn’t normally receive press releases, so this one has novelty value and because (ii) although he is a cat, he is highly sensitive to the needs of the underdog. Nonetheless he considers the press release to be an elaborate hoax for the following reasons:

• no contact name is given for further enquiries
• nor was publication embargoed until any specific time or date
• there was no mention of any strike on the OHIM website or on any other IP organisational website
• no reference to such a strike could be found on a Google search

Judging by comments made privately to the IPKat over the past few years, there must be many users of the CTM system who believe that the strike is quite unnecessary because there is little or no discernible difference between OHIM employees working normally and not working at all. Other users of the CTM system whose experiences have been thoroughly positive, may be feeling that OHIM is quite well resourced right now as it stands; they wonder what this dispute is all about.

If this press release is genuine, the IPKat will be pleased to use this blog as a means of allowing each side to state its case -- though it would be appreciated if, for the sake of transparency, all people doing so would identify themselves by name and status or job description. In addition, the IPKat asks bloggers who file CTMs (or who act for businesses that do) to express their opinions as to whether OHIM is inadequately resourced or overstaffed.

More on strikes here, here and here
Some distinguished strikers here, here and here
The Great Speckled Bird strike page here
Pickets here, here and here


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