"Peace for our time", or another wasted trip to Munich?

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From the European Patent Office yesterday came the news item that is reproduced in its entirety below, both for the benefit of those readers who may not have seen it and for the benefit of those readers who, having seen it, have not yet emailed it to this moggy on the basis that it might have escaped her attention. The subject matter is Wednesday's visit of the UK Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, to the EPO.

This moggy is aware that a lot of readers had pinned their hopes on the Baroness being able to use this visit as an opportunity for her to express her Government's concern at the level of disquiet -- a disquiet which is not rumoured to exist but which is clearly in evidence -- at both the governance of the EPO and the anxieties of its staff members, many of whom are rumoured to be British.  Failing that, some hoped that the Baroness would at least take the opportunity to speak with, or just listen to, some of the union and staff representatives who have no clear route to take in their long and arduous journey to seek redress for what they plainly perceive, with some reason, to be serious grievances.

Others have been less optimistic. With the UK Government's five-year term hurtling towards its close and with Parliamentary business being speedily wound up ahead of the Easter break and the following General Election, this was not an opportunity for a visiting Minister to do anything more significant than pose for photographs, shake hands and, when called upon, to kiss the occasional baby.  In any event, like most ministerial visits, this one would have been scheduled months if not years ahead of its taking place so there was no reason to suspect that it was in any way connected with the current turmoil -- for that is what it appears to be -- in the EPO.

From the text of the report below, one might be led to suspect that the visit of the Baroness achieved nothing from the point of view of either the UK Government or the many people who hoped that it might indicate that the UK Government was taking a more active role, or at least an active interest, in the current situation. The sole beneficiary of the visit so far has been the EPO and its President, which not unnaturally made the most of a gifted opportunity to put out some cheerful information about itself, its achievements and the fact that its President and the UK Minister "shared common views on recent developments in intellectual property".

Kats have short memories, but some things stick in the mind. One is that the Minister is not the first Neville to have paid a wasted visit to Munich.  Back in September 1938 the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, returning from a meeting with a notable dictator, was able to declare that he had achieved "Peace for our time".  Sadly, despite the Prime Minister's best intentions and most sincere hopes, this turned out not to be the case. This moggy sincerely hoped that the visit of the Baroness would have done something to bring about peace, but there is little indication as yet that this will be so.

European patent reform in focus of talks with UK intellectual property minister

UK Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe and EPO President Benoît Battistelli
19 March 2015
The UK's Minister for Intellectual Property, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe and EPO President Benoît Battistelli met on 18 March 2015 at the EPO headquarters in Munich to discuss recent developments in the patent system in Europe and globally. The Minister was accompanied by John Alty, Chief Executive and Comptroller General of the UK Intellectual Property Office. "I am delighted to welcome the Minister and use this opportunity to take stock of a number of issues of common interest," said EPO President Battistelli. "We are clearly on the same page about our top priorities: improving the quality and efficiency of the patent system as a driver of innovation, economic growth and employment."
Mr Battistelli and Baroness Neville-Rolfe shared common views on recent developments in intellectual property including the first positive results of the recent reforms implemented at the EPO, promising perspective concerning international harmonisation and the advanced level of preparation for setting up the new unitary patent system.
The meeting was also a good opportunity for the Minister to be updated about recent achievements at the EPO to further improve the patent examination process and patent information dissemination, including New EPOQUE, Patent Translate and Cooperative Patent Classification.
Also on the agenda were joint activities between the EPO and the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). 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. Companies from the UK filed more than 6 800 patents at the EPO last year. This was up +4.8% over 2013, and the highest growth rate for the UK since 2011, and well above the 1.2% average increase of the EPO member states. The UK is a founding member of the European Patent Organisation, which has grown from 7 countries in 1977 to 38 member states today.

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"Peace for our time", or another wasted trip to Munich? "Peace for our time", or another wasted trip to Munich? Reviewed by Merpel on Friday, March 20, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. Pet de Saint Germain comments:
    What a waste if time ! There is not much to be expected from these people. Battistelli has been able to occupy key post either friends or with incompetent people. He can now fool anyone, even more a naive baroness.
    All issues have been discussed in details and the problems are very clear: lack of transparency, lack of governance, abuses of all kinds, arbitrary reforms, violation of basic rules of law, violation of basic human rights, lack of respect for institutions and for the staff, abuse of the immunity. No one seems to care enough to take a decisive action against such a dusgusting regime. Shame on the politicians, shame on the host countries!

  2. To be honest/fair, we don't know what was said behind closed doors or what the minister did think after her meeting. She may have decided to formulate her approach after the meeting, as most people do rather going off on one' while being a guest. That is, if she is at all disturbed by what is happening.
    With a general election coming within 7 weeks in the UK and UKIP to fight off, picking a fight with 'Europe' may not be high on her party's agenda, particularly if she won't be around to sort it out?

  3. Comparing Mr Battistelli to Hitler - which is the implication, intended or not, of the piece - is unfortunate, to say the least. It may indicate that some members of the IP Kat team have become a little too emotionally invested in one side of the story.

    An Observer

  4. This puff-piece tells you nothing one way or the other about what actually happened at the meeting.

    Yes, it's quite possible that nothing was achieved. But if there was a significant outcome, do you honestly think that you would learn about it from a press release issued by President Battistelli?

    I've no idea whether the Minister achieved anything, but if she did then it would probably just be the start of a process. Both sides would keep it behind the scenes until there was a more positive development.

  5. Congratulations. You have successfully managed to invoke Godwin's law on the very first post of a string.

    Studiously offending everyone in sight and attempting to indulge in megaphone diplomacy risks devaluing your own reputation and thwarting anything you hope to achieve.

    Regardless of what Baroness Neville-Rolfe may or may not have said in private to M. Battistelli (press releases do not have the status of minutes), you have scarcely made friends of her.

    And looking to that other Neville, a policy of "pursuing a policy of appeasement and containment .... while increasing the strength of Britain's armed forces" does not look so stupid in hindsight.

    Perhaps a period of thinking before writing might uphold the standing of IPKAt, which with one strike of the pen you risk throwing away.

  6. Pet de Saint Germain replies to the Observer:
    touché, Monsieur Battistelli! He immediately sends one of his knights to the blog! The communication dept is investing a lot of time in this.

  7. To An Observer: the comparison was made between one British minister and another. As to whether the president of the EPO is a dictator, the following definition appears on dictionary.com at
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dictator - "a person exercising absolute power, especially a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession." Fits quite well, but I would guess that Merpel would be happy to eat any quantity of humble pie if the Administrative Council proved this to be wrong.

  8. The latest Managing IP newsletter, issued yesterday, contains an interview with the Baroness which touches on her visit to Munich. In it, she studiously avoids any mention of the staff unrest.

    Some quotations:

    "Regarding Battistelli, she said: ‘He’s been re-elected and we are part of the Board that supports him. The thing is to find a positive way forward in this incredibly important area.”"

    "Asked about the independence of the Boards of Appeal, she added: ‘You need to have a Board with the right culture and the right objectives and agreement on a modern governance.
    That would always be our approach from Britain, but we recognise we work with other member states. There is a lot of work going on anyway.”"

    As you see, largely content-free politico waffle

    Crisis? What crisis?

  9. Can anyone tell me why the baroness went to Munich in the first place? Since I am a fully paid-up UK taxpayer, I guess I must have paid for her to go there on my behalf.

  10. I am an EPO Production RobotFriday 20 March 2015 at 12:09:00 GMT

    The EPO President has been described in the Dutch press as a "French despot".

    In view of the fact that he never appears to have taken any action to contest such a description, I hereby submit that it must be allowed to stand.



  11. There are parallels with this and the government's relationship with the UK IPO. For some years, its staff have been less than happy about their lot, but you would have difficulty in determining the extent of this from the recent annual reports and press releases. A better idea of the situation is however obtainable form the Steering Committee Minutes that are now more difficult to find than ever since the IPO web site was migrated to the awful government web site. I just hope she didn't go there to get some hints!

  12. tout va très bien Madame la Marquise ... could become the official hymn of the EPO !

  13. Lady Kaga says:
    The hope of a mediation by the baroness was just a silly illusion. It is clear that the steps taken by Battistelli have been agreed by some delagations at the AC. Among them the UK delegation. "Bat, you do the dirty work and then leave with a huge bonus!" After Bat, the host country will try to get a second round of Presidency. A disgusting game played at the costs of staff and users to satisfy the ego of a few bureaucrats. The good old days of the EPO have gone. Mr Braendli had predicted all this and now it happens.

  14. Mind you that this is an official press release and it would be very strange if it would have mentioned that the Baroness and the President would have opposing views on many occasions.
    Having said that, the quote of the Baroness from MIP as posted by L'angelo Misterioso that we have to fiend a way forward is the wording of a crisis manager who does not look at who is guilty for a specific situation, but who is looking to do the best for the situation taking into account the interets of both sides (and in these case also the interest of the public, the users). In that sense, in these words lies a recognition that things have gone wrong at the EPO and should be solved.

  15. Unfortunately, this is one of the more disingenious blog posts of IPKAT. Likely more useless as the visit about which it purports to report (as nobody knows what has been discussed behind closed doors).

  16. I'm with Millipede. If there were anything going on, behind the scenes, you are not going to learn what it is from mere Press releases.

    If you are optimistic though, you can read between the lines which say, inter alia:

    ...."find a way forward"...

    ..."agreement on a modern governance"......

    but most especially:

    ..."there is a lot going on"....

    and take a soupcon of comfort from that.

  17. And now for something completely differentFriday 20 March 2015 at 14:07:00 GMT

    You may be interested in this:

    ‘Behavior of Benoît Battistelli is bad for the EPO’s reputation’

    By Kluwer UPC News blogger


  18. I would point out to both Meldrew and An Observer that you have actually engaged in the anti-Godwin's law fallacy.

    This is a case in particular where the analogy of "appeasement" in a political setting can be seen to be a short sighted poorly made decision.

    Just because the notion involved a rather notorious German regime, does not make the notion any less applicable to those instances of lack of political backbone.

    Instead, by the attempt to label, you are engaging in an attempt to NOT discuss what should be discussed.

  19. This Communiqué is the one published by the EPO on their own website. It is not even a joint Communiqué.
    So it reflects only the EPO's version of the meeting (with a not so subtle reminder that the EPO "helped" the IPO in 2014).
    By now, I have my own opinion of the accuracy and veracity of EPO Communiqués.

  20. US Anon ......................... 1
    Meldrew/An Observer ..... 0

  21. Well spoken US anon.

    There's an unhealthy tendency to overdo this Godwin business.

    Under the given circumstances it appears quite permissible to draw a historical analogy based on the general concept of "appeasement of a despot".

    The analogy may appear whimsical to some but surely it can be fairly said that "whimsicality" is a paw-mark of the IPKat.

  22. The Neville+Munich association just begged for the "Peace for our time" quip, and is in my opinion entirely appropriate.

    This type of allusion to Chamberlain is also rather commonplace in the British media. A recent example came from the Independent's cartoonist Dave Brown. He represented PM Cameron standing before a microphone in the same pose as his predecessor 77 years ago and uttering "plaice in [sic] our time". The subject was... fishing quotas, of all things.

    The coincidence also didn't escape a very prescient commenter in a particularly brilliant piece of doggerel: Neville and Munich not a good fit

    I was myself skeptical as to the outcome of the meeting, but kept it to myself. As Merpel notes, Britain is heading for a general election, and the meltdown at the EPO is clearly a matter for the executive. I can't see a mere Baroness make trouble for her camp.

    Furthermore, if the issue is framed as a simple labour relation problem between an omniscient president and unruly overprivileged loafers, rather than a severe issue of governance, accountability and the rule of law, then I would be extremely surprised to see Mrs. Neville-Rolfe to be of any assistance in this matter.

    Back in 2009, before she was made a peer, Mrs. Neville-Rolfe had been invited to give testimony before a joint committee of parliament investigating on the matter of the respect of human rights by British companies.

    Tesco's foreign operations had attracted quite a bit attention, to the point that US presidential candidate Barack O. wrote their CEO to urge him to accept to meet with their subsidiary's union representatives.

    Nothing came out of it, and a US Union called UFCW submitted a memorandum to the parliamentary committee recapitulating their " attempts to engage with Tesco". (One should readily find all statements and counter-statements on the parliament's web site.)

    A passage of the document sounds eerily familiar:

    In this note, I would like to put on record our disagreement with some of the statements made by the Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs, Ms Lucy Neville-Rolfe in the oral hearing. Ms Neville-Rolfe stated several times that the complaints made in the UNI reports were untrue, but provided no evidence to support her allegation. She also said:

    "The trade unions in the United States haven't come along in a collaborative and constructive way in quite the way that I described for Usdaw."

    Seeing that, I would be have been extremely surprised that Monsieur B. and Madame la Baronnesse wouldn't be able to find common ground... But I had a still a faint scintilla of hope, and refrained from making any prediction. Now I can say: I should have told you so...

  23. The EPO President sees many high-ranking officials, but surprisingly this visit is given much attention on the EPO website, merely a few weeks after the IPKat insinuated that this visit might bring a turn of events at the EPO ?

    Could it be that Battistelli has politely extended a "bras d'honneur" to the Kat ?

  24. Lady Kaga,
    please tell me what Mr Braendli predicted and when. I have not heard of it.

  25. As my previous post was pulled by a Kat with sensitive ears, I submit a bowdlerised version for the sensitive.

    THE US anon..

    Interesting, I could either:-

    - respond that confusing movement with action, and confusing loud words with effective deed, is an approach that is typical of our American cousins; or

    - suggest that you are an ************ ***** with your ***** up your *** and your ***** in neutral.

    Which is the more effective argument?

    The latter is more satisfying to my spleen but spoilt because an ************ ***** by definition has no *****.

    The former is more effective, both through being smugly patronising and reinforcing the point that loud and offensive words do not necessarily get the intended results, and indeed can be counter-productive.

    Which approach do you recommend?

    PS "Anonymous I'm not a cat's paw" - You find Hitler whimsical?

  26. My dear friend Meldrew,

    You can do whatever it is that pleases you in the privacy of your own abode.

    I care not the least.

    However, if you do attempt to hold a conversation, or failing that, a legal discussion, your choice of such things as "- suggest that you are an ************ ***** with your ***** up your *** and your ***** in neutral." is decidedly a rather poor choice.

    Not surprisingly, you list your other option as if that option is any different.

    It is not.

    Ad hominem under the guise of politeness reamians ad hominem, and sinc eyou have not advanced any legally sound position, all that you yourself have done is flap your gums with no effect.

    It is not I that confuses movement with action, nor I that has confused loud (or gentle) words with effective words.

    I recommend that you expand your options and choose neither of what you present.

  27. The two quotations from Managing IP's interview with the Baroness selected by L'angelo Misterioso puzzle me. In the first she refers to the Administrative Council as "the Board". In the second she again uses the term "Board":

    "Regarding Battistelli, she said: ‘He’s been re-elected and we are part of the Board that supports him. The thing is to find a positive way forward in this incredibly important area.”"

    "Asked about the independence of the Boards of Appeal, she added: ‘You need to have a Board with the right culture and the right objectives and agreement on a modern governance.
    That would always be our approach from Britain, but we recognise we work with other member states. There is a lot of work going on anyway.”"

    Maybe it's just the context that is missing here, but I'm afraid the two "Boards" she is referring to are, in her mind, one and the same. In any case it makes no sense to suggest that the Boards of Appeal should have "the right culture and the right objectives and agreement on a modern governance".

  28. Lady Kaga replies to Zazie:
    Mr Braendli predicted that once the EPO reached the dimension of over 3500 employees it would be dominated by gridy stupid bureaucrats. Isn't is so?

  29. The U.S. Anon,

    I assure you there was no guise of politeness.

    I do not appease.

  30. Well Meldrew,

    Your post then was only all the more bereft of value.

    May I suggest you work on that?

  31. Meldrew asked at 21:45:

    You find Hitler whimsical?

    Meldrew, seriously? Have you never seen Mel Brook's History of the World Part I (1981)? Check out the Hilter on Ice scene.

    Yellow card for "bowdlerised" ad hominem attack

    US Anon ......................... 2
    Meldrew/An Observer ..... 0

  32. Meldrew old chap referring to you question about finding Hitler whimsical, I never stated or suggested that "Hitler is whimsical".

    In fact what I indicated was that the comparison between Neville Chamberlain's trip to Munich to meet the Austrian despot and Baroness "Neville's" trip to Munich to meet the French despot could be perceived as a whimsical analogy.

    Quite how you managed to reduce that to "you find Hitler whimisical ?" I cannot understand.

    Do you by any chance work for the EPO investigation unit ? If not, you should consider applying.
    I hear that they need people with your kind of skills.

  33. So the Minister has heard about boards, councils, whatever you call them, that are supposed to be independent, but are not, and they appear to disagree on something that your average person hardly can follow. To make things wors, some Dutch court has gotten mixed up in the whole thing. Thus, she sent a strong message by coming to the EPO that, whatever the UK delegation votes for, has her full support, until she expressly denies it. The option to deny is important for a politician, because, nothing is true until officially denied.
    She got nice red book, which looks just fine on the picture so she is smiling. The President is not smiling, perhaps, because, he does not really want to part with this fine red book, or maybe because, she shared not only the common views with him. But all that is just reading from tea leaves in the wind of change.


  34. No doubt the visit was nothing more than reciprocating Mr Batistelli's visit to the UKIPO a year ago as reported in the IPO's Steering Board Minutes of the March 2014 meeting:

    5.2 The visit of President of the European Patent Organisation (EPO), Mr Battistelli had been successful. Mr Gilbert had also attended the dinner. The EPO was very important for British business and internationally in terms of how well the global patent system worked. The visit had provided the opportunity for lots of detailed discussions which had given the IPO a better understanding of approach taken by the EPO. It had also allowed Mr Battistelli to have a fuller understanding of the full range of IPO activity. The visit had also included a tour of the House of Lords.

  35. The timing of the visit appears to suggest that it may be more than mere reciprocating of the visit by the President. She might have signaled to the President, for example, that the UK Delegation might not be able to avoid entirely any discussion on the Dutch court decision in the AC, despite the announcement of the President that the thing will be ignored.

    I think that such might wipe the smile away.


  36. "She might have signaled to the President, for example, that the UK Delegation might not be able to avoid entirely any discussion on the Dutch court decision in the AC, ..."

    Unless of course sufficent Wads of Wonga were forthcoming ...

  37. The EPO stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the EPO.

  38. I am not a cats Paw said "Do you by any chance work for the EPO investigation unit ? If not, you should consider applying.
    I hear that they need people with your kind of skills."

    What sort of skills are those?

    See my blog for a clue as to whether I am in the investigation unit. If I am, I need to investigate myself.


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