By recognising both the "social unease" that exists in the EPO and by timetabling the need to address it, this month's Administrative Council Meeting appears to have provided at least a basis for the various interested parties -- the President, Boards of Appeal, management, staff and unions, and also the members of the Administrative Council themselves if truth be told -- to start afresh by building relationships that are founded on respect, on tolerance and understanding, on listening to one another, plus a leavening dose of humility.
The outcome of the Administrative Council Meeting will certainly not be to everyone's liking. For one thing, it approved the controversial healthcare reforms which, viewed from the standpoint of an objective bystander, appear to be one of the most significant causes of the "social unrest" and which will remain a permanent obstacle to its being remedied. Nor will its acceptance of the proposal for a Board of Appeal Committee, in the face of some sensible and constructive criticisms from the Praesidium and Board members, have done much to enhance respect or confidence for the Council itself. However, a door has been opened and a small step has been taken in the right direction. The question to ask now is whether, now that this opportunity has been created, it will be taken and built upon -- or mocked and spurned.
It is easy to be sceptical and to say that something won't work, particularly if you can do it anonymously by penning comments on a blogpost. It's also rather fun to be able to say to anyone who can be bothered to listen "See, it didn't work. I told you so!" It's far harder to swallow one's pride, sit down with people you have not hitherto liked, trusted or respected, and talk through the problems that the EPO has to address, both those which it always has to face and those which it has recently created for itself. But that is what this Kat is calling for.
Essentially, what is needed now is for the President and all the other parties involved to make sure that their first concern is the running of the Office, not the ruining of it. This requires all of them to demonstrate skills of statesmanship, a commodity that has been in short supply of late and a skill that should not be confused for even one moment with bending others to one's will through force. No-one knows the EPO better than those who are involved in its operations at all levels and it is only through them that its salvation will be brought about, not through ideal solutions imposed from outside the Office.
It seems to this Kat that, while the main focus of attention will remain the President, management, unions and employees, the Administrative Council is also on trial. It has finally taken a decisive step but its members should remember that their responsibility does not stop at this juncture. On the contrary, now that they have set the ball rolling, it is incumbent on them to make sure that it continues to do so. If this hard-earned momentum is lost now, it may difficult or impossible to regain. The Administrative Council's members, collectively and individually, cannot now turn their backs on the governance of the EPO and hope that, now that they have had their say, all will be well. They need to know what is happening in the Office, and why it is happening; they need to applaud each step that is taken in the right direction, to offer encouragement and advice where necessary. Some say the Administrative Council is too large to be efficient and that a better, sharper tool is needed for the tasks it faces. Its performance now will be an indicator of whether this is true.
This Kat expects that, unless something very tragic happens, the number of frenetic blogposts on the latest news of the Eponia conflict zone will diminish sharply. She looks forward to being able to report on happier news in the future, though that will only be the case if the warring factions read and take to heart the third paragraph of this missive -- though naturally she will be swift to point to evidence that any of the players in this game are not taking her message to heart. Maybe one day she will be able to write that the EPO has gone from its three 'e's and three 'p's to 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 European Patent Office: a Message from Merpel Reviewed by Merpel on Friday, March 27, 2015 Rating: