French toast leaves a sour taste for Battistelli on EPO's big day

The management of the European Patent Office has generally been able to count on public expressions of support and smiling photo opportunities with national politicians when EPO President Benoît Battistelli goes offsite on his travels. What a shock it must have been, therefore, for him to be pointedly reminded of his shortcomings by a member of the French government when visiting his home country.

Minister Lemaire, who rather
spoiled the feel-good vibe 

by calling on the EPO
to respect employee rights 
Readers may be aware that the 2015 Inventor of the Year Awards were announced a few days ago at a glittering ceremony in the beautiful Palais Brongniart in Paris. The showcase event did not go entirely to plan however.

First, the French Minister of Economy, Emmanuel Macron, snubbed the event, declining his invitation. In his place on behalf of the French government was French State Secretary for Digital Economy, Axelle Lemaire.

Second, Ms. Lemaire refused to join in the party mood and used her keynote speech as an opportunity to comment on the social conflict in the EPO and her government’s concerns for the rights of EPO staff. She said:

Innovation is an imperative, an economic imperative. And what’s true for technology is also true for public innovation, modes of governance, and social innovation. Under this heading, while it’s not the object of our meeting this morning, the French government knows of the social difficulties that are expressed within the EPO and in this regard, the Office has an exemplary duty of absolute transparency in the rights of employees working there.

After her speech, Ms. Lemaire reportedly got a dressing down from one of Mr. Battistelli’s associates. However, even this did not go according to script: Merpel understands that the Minister sharply reminded the EPO manager that it was inappropriate to address a representative of the French Government in such a manner.

Third, the French newspaper Les Echos, chosen by the EPO as its media partner, acted like a newspaper rather than a "media partner" and initially released a report of the event including Ms. Lemaire’s criticisms. That quickly changed. The story was pulled and re-released in a more anodyne (and acceptable) form within hours, Ms. Lemaire’s comments disappearing from the edited report. Winston Smith would have counted it as a good day’s work. 

The video of the event hosted on the EU site, shows the full speech en francais (jump to about 1:09:00 for the criticisms) and the stony faced reaction of Mr. Battistelli a few minutes later, as the rest of the room appauds.

When the local parish hall just won't do
Palais Brongniart, 
the former French
 Stock Exchange (Photo by JLPC)
Merpel feels sorry for the EPO management. After all, if you’re spending about €2 million of applicants’ and patentees’ money on a showcase event, you’d expect everyone to know their place and bow the knee, non? More seriously, it is a very welcome sign that one of the major EPO member states is now publicly calling the EPO to account, and is publicly reminding the Office of its duty to uphold the rights of staff. Will other member states be as courageous, she wonders?

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 of the comment itself (for example, start your comment with "Descartes says: You forgot one point ..."). 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.
French toast leaves a sour taste for Battistelli on EPO's big day French toast leaves a sour taste for Battistelli on EPO's big day Reviewed by Merpel on Thursday, June 18, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. In her all speech not a single time the word EPO, not a single time the name Battistelli ....

    A camouflet for Battistelli playing at home (not to mention not a Minister being present....)

    Today is the 200th birthday of the fall of Napoleon : CHEERS !

  2. It is interesting to note that criticism has been publicly uttered.
    One thing should not be forgotten, is that the political colour of the present government is anything but that of BB.
    Let's hope that it the beginning of the end for BB, enough is enough.
    BB made already enough damage to the EPO.
    Even if he goes and his minions withdraw with him, the poisonous atmosphere which has been instilled will take a long time to disappear.
    It is not clear that the situation would get better if Mr Kongstadt would succeed to BB, as rumour has it.

  3. Will the French be more supportive if a proportion of the EPO's income was used to subsidise their inefficient farming industry?

  4. I have to say I am reminded of the minister of Margaret Thatcher who went to prison, but only after the Conservative Party fell from power and the other party moved into 10 Downing Street. Until that happened, the Minister was blithely confident of winning his corruption case against a newspaper. Only with the change of government did British airways find itself obliged to release the ticketing information which proved the minister to be a perjurer. One wonders what was impeding that release, up until the general election caused the change of government.

    Once the Socialist is out of the Elysee Palace and BB's mate Sarkozi is back in residence, there will be no more heckling from France, concerning the way BB runs the Republic of Eponia.

    The Minister's comments were, i suggest, just to stroke her domestic "base". Mission accomplished. I bet that's all we'll hear from her.

  5. FormerExaminer said:
    Merpel should also have noted the few sentences which Mrs. Lemaire uttered after her reference to the social tension at the EPO: her statement on the "collaborative economy" - innovation can also be achieved through open collaboration. An implied "Dinosaurs will not be around forever" directed at the EPO, with a bit of "Look, even INPI is more innovative than the EPO" added on top.

  6. @ Maxdrei

    better these comments than nothing.

    What are the Germans or the Brits saying so far about the shamefull situation endured by EPO staff ?

    2 Big "democracies" always prone to lecture the whole world but which remain mute for what happens at EPO which they know would be illegal on their soil

  7. Look, Merpel! Someone else calling for transparency at the EPO!

    Another voice in the desert?

  8. The script quotes…

    EB: “Never highlight BB’s mistakes. That's bad manners.”

    AL: “Did I cross the river? No problem, Tomorrow I will dry my boots in London”

    EB: "I gladly share out heaping spoons full of nepotism to your French friends if they are looking for a job in the EPO, interested?”

    AL: “By the way did you recently also not increase your pervert salary with another couple of thousand Euro per month with that new HR Roadmap of yours and at the expense of the other EPO employees?”( AL had also something to say about the pervert top management bonuses…but was in a hurry)

    BB: I can't believe my ears! You stand before me waving a piece of paper crying 'Abdicate, abdicate!' I WILL NOT! I WILL NOT, NOT, NOT!

  9. We British are happy for PB to get on with his reforms and to use whatever methods are required to succeed in his task. If you want someone to fight your fight, take a look in the mirror.

  10. A few day later, on the 15-06-2015, BB got a question from Kostas Chrysogonos (European Parliament - Commitee JURI-Legal affairs)'

    See the question at 15:50:25 and the BB misleading answer at 15:59:06.

  11. Thanks Voice from Ajar. Noted. i hadn't realise that life was so bad in Britain that you would align yourself with BB and his cohorts. But perhaps you'll see it differently when you're on the receiving end?

  12. "Anonymous Voice from Ajar said...

    We British are happy for PB to get on with his reforms and to use whatever methods are required to succeed in his task. If you want someone to fight your fight, take a look in the mirror."

    Pefectly understandable. All that money flowing into the coffer of Control Risks must be good for the British economy (or at least its "offshore" appendage).

    And the "soft totalitarianism" of modern Britain fits in perfectly with the BB paradigm:

  13. What Europe needs is to become one big happy family where the Germans get to rule in their own self interest, the French are kept happy by paying off the farmers and subsidizing the country's inefficient tax and benefits system and just enough of the smaller economies are funded to make their important people rich and more powerful. My favourite being the Romanian leader who blanked Cameron. Miss self-important or what! Like Romania have contributed greatly to the European economy.

    Let's not forget that countries like Greece can be sent to the wall when it suits Germany. And of course, it's all Greece's own fault for having a lack of control over taxes and its economy, but then that was the case before they joined the Euro and the great project wasn't going to let minor details get in the way. Change the rules that were designed to ensure the Euro worked so that countries, even France, would meet the criteria. Great idea.

    Yes, life is so bad in Britain that we wish to challenge the "ever-closer integration into a Federal Europe ruled by Germany"

  14. This also looks like settling scores in the French national arena, between PS and UMP.

    Sit back with some Auvergnat sausage and a glas of wine (Pays d'Oc? Some Carignan blend?) - and thumbs up or thumbs down at the end of the fight.


  15. @voice from a car

    please let us not slip into nation-focussed political considerations but keep in mind that anywhere violations of fundamental rights occur, anywhere brutality is used to rule over people, this is not acceptable.

    French officials seem to have now realised that the French team currently ruling the EPO is disfunctioning and they dared to state this publically, in Paris.

    Let us hope that other EU countries will wake up before such methods first tested in an international organisation are melting down on their national structures and affect their citizens.

  16. Dear John,
    You need to speak to Max who chose to criticise the British and some other place. I believe we have given peace chance, but the old European power struggles continue to dominate the EU political landscape.

  17. Hello, Control Risks?

    There's a political risk in our French dependance I'd like you to take care of... Who, er some disobedient local potentate utterly lacking respect. That's your line of "business", isn't it? ... OK, thanks, I'll send you back the signed contract today.

  18. Give peace a chance should NOT be confused for Peace for our time.

  19. Speak softly and carry a big stick should not be confused with whimper softly without a stick at all

  20. Luckily, all this will soon be forgotten in view of this week's major announcement:
    Now that titles in EP applications will be automatically capitalized, the EPO is miles ahead of other patents offices, it has made European patent applications much more attractive for SME's, and all social unrest will be behind us because luckily examiners will save massive amounts of time AND improve quality.

    Thank you, EPO !


  21. "Let us hope that other EU countries will wake up before such methods first tested in an international organisation are melting down on their national structures and affect their citizens."

    Hey John, I think that you're missing the big picture.
    The EPO is the guinea-pig laboratory for larger scale implementation ...

  22. Next AC and a whiff of grapeshot quotes…

    BB: “There are only two forces that should unite you AC delegates — fear and interest.”

    AC: “Interest? …Do you mean that the EPOs money has no motherland? …we are expected to be without patriotism and without decency? … and that our sole object is gain?”

    TU: “From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.”

    BB: “Do not fear the EPO staff; they cry indifferently: "Long live the King, eh that’s me!" and "Long live the TU, eh the bas…!" a proper direction must be given to them, and proper instruments employed to effect it.”

    AC: “We predict, you BB will only make further blunders. As for yourself, dear BB, We may inform you, we will no longer support (obey..) you; You have tasted command, and it seems you cannot give it up.”

    BB: “ I have made up my mind, if I cannot be master I shall leave the EPO; I do not choose to have done so much for it and then hand her over to you JK. A form of new EPO management that is not the result of a long sequence of shared experiences, efforts, and endeavours can never take root!”

    BB: “Whatever shall I do when I am retired “

    JK: “Well, we will write our memoirs. Work is the scythe of time.”

  23. Article 4a EPC, now more than ever and long overdue!

    Article 4a
    Conference of ministers of the Contracting States

    A conference of ministers of the Contracting States responsible for patent matters shall meet at least every five years to discuss issues pertaining to the Organisation and to the European patent system.

  24. How often do you people have to be told:
    "There is no plan to call for a diplomatic conference nor a conference of ministers because there is currently no substance to be really addressed at ministerial level in the view of the Contracting states."

    Are there any plans to host a diplomatic conference of EPC member state ministers (as required every five years under Article 4a EPC)?

    JK: There is no plan to call for a diplomatic conference nor a conference of ministers because there is currently no substance to be really addressed at ministerial level in the view of the Contracting states. This provision was originally thought mainly in the view of two projects which were discussed at that time – the Community Patent and the EPLA – and would have required a modification of the EPC. They have been replaced by the UPP and the UPC whose implementation do not need such exercise.

    MANAGING IP: "Battistelli and Kongstad respond to EPO criticisms "


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