Eponia: Land of Suspense and Suspensions

As some readers will know, the European Patent Office (EPO) has been in some turmoil this week following the suspension of several union officials. Events have moved quicker than Merpel’s little paws can type, and with this post, she hopes to outline the facts as she understands them.

Background – fighting on the back seat

The background to this is the fractious relationship between the EPO President Mr Battistelli and the senior EPO management on one side, and the EPO staff on the other side, as represented by their elected representatives and the staff union, SUEPO on the other. The picture is not complete without considering the European Patent Organisation's Adminstrative Council (AC).

"It's all his fault, he started it in the first place!"
"Not true, she started it. she hit me back!"
If Merpel can draw an analogy, imagine two siblings eternally fighting in the back seat of a luxury car. Let’s call them Benny and Sue. The driver is their parent.  Fatigued by volume of work, pressure of time and weight of heavy responsibility, the driver is nodding off at the wheel and can barely keeping the car between the lines: this, in effect, is the Administrative Council. The parent does not intervene in the squabbling, which occasionally turns physical, but occasionally glances distractedly into the rear view mirror to make sure that little Benny still has the upper hand. From time to time the parent utters the imprecation:“Do please try to get along, children”. If Sue starts wailing too loudly at this unfair treatment, Benny demands that Sue be punished and the distracted parent (who secretly thinks Sue whines far too much and doesn’t realise how fortunate she is to be in such a nice car) wearily agrees to let Benny administer a gratuitous extra smack or two.

The car's an AC
In this very manner have Mr Battistelli and SUEPO been in conflict from the beginning -- and the AC, which cannot both focus on the road ahead and see exactly who is provoking whom, and to what extent -- has done little to intervene. The AC has expressed genuine concern at the “social tension” and has facilitated talks aimed at recognition of SUEPO, but those talks broke down very quickly. SUEPO has refused to re-engage on the grounds that key union officials were being targeted and unfairly made the subject of disciplinary investigations.

What’s happened now

Matters came to a head last weekend. The Investigative Unit of the EPO paid an unexpected visit to two officials in the Hague, who were taken away for an interview. On their return, they were badly shaken and required medical treatment and have been on sick leave since. Then two days ago, three or four further SUEPO officials, who knew they were being investigated for alleged disciplinary offences, were suspended from service and banned from EPO premises. The Office says, with a perfectly straight face, that it is not targeting the union. It just so happens that, at a stroke, the union has been decapitated -- but this is simply an unfortunate and entirely incidental side effect, or so we are supposed to believe.

What, Merpel wondered, could these union officials have done that required them to be suspended from duty and banned from the premises? Did they repeatedly set off the fire extinguishers, or vandalise EPO property? Were they intimidating staff from doing their work in peace? It would have to be serious, right?

The accusations

* Two of the officials are accused of having coerced a staff member into having signed an illegal contract three years ago (so hardly representing a clear and present danger). You see, SUEPO has a contract for providing legal support to staff members who are in a legal dispute with the Office. EPO management takes the view that this contract is unfair and even illegal under national laws, because it can require repayment of any financial support if the member breaches the rules attached to the contract, such as by engaging directly with the Office.

* Two of the officials, who include the high-profile Els Hardon, are accused of having breached the first (and second) rule of Investigation Club: You do not talk about the Investigation Club. That’s right. If you’re the subject of a disciplinary investigation and decide to waive your own right to confidentiality, you have automatically exacerbated the situation and have committed a (further) serious breach of staff regulations which can lead to suspension from duties.

* Ms. Hardon is also being investigated for having allegedly assisted “another staff member” – this being the “House Ban” Board of Appeal member suspended last year for allegedly spreading defamatory materials.

Quiz Time

Settle down, boys and girls. Sharpened pencils at the ready, you have as long as you like to answer this question: What national laws apply in Eponia?

As you no doubt noticed, the first two union officials are at fault for having had someone sign a contract that may be illegal under national (German) law ("Such wickedness!", one might exclaim, "staff cannot be allowed to break German law!").

The second two officials are at fault for actions that would be upheld in any human rights court or labour court in any EPC state: union officials letting staff know that management was disciplining them "Even greater wickedness! And how can they think of suggesting that the law protects them when they are in the EPO?!").

So, do national laws apply in Eponia or not? The answer requires a bit of mental agility: the law of the land can simultaneously apply and not apply. Two people can be working in the same office, cheek by jowl, with one benefiting from and being subject to the law of Germany, while the other is entirely deprived of the protections provided by the same law. Or even more bizarrely, one may be doing two things at once, e.g. typing an email and talking to someone. The speech might be deemed to be illegal under national law, but the written word might be immune from any legal considerations. Neat trick.

In legal terms it would appear that Mr Battistelli is the fortunate possessor of a magical artefact (Eponia is after all his domain), such as a Cloak of Immunity and Privilege. When he dons it, the law of the land stops applying to whatever activity he is currently thinking about. When he removes it, the law of the land applies with full rigour to the poor unfortunate on whom his gaze falls. I think we’d all like to have one of them.

The fallout

Be in no doubt.  These suspensions are very damaging to the EPO. They form part of a larger strategy which probably will involve the EPO management scratching its head in feigned confusion some day soon. “Where have all the staff representatives gone?” they will ask after firing the representatives. "It's not right that you are unrepresented. Let’s hold some new elections. Who feels brave enough to stand?"

The targeting of union officials and staff representatives (for an objective appraisal of the available evidence suggests that is what is going on, no matter what denials emerge) may have an unintended backlash. Up until now, many EPO staff have meekly accepted the “difficult social situation” simply because they were afraid to raise their voices in protest. Human nature being what it is, Merpel suspects that the EPO contains thousands of employees who have been looking at the SUEPO leadership over the last few years and thinking: “I’m glad you’re standing up and putting yourself in the firing line. I wouldn’t do that myself.”

It Came From Eponia
But the suspension of the officials this week may have the effect of radicalising the formerly meek. Within two hours of the news of the suspension spreading, some 2,000 employees had organised themselves into a demonstration. The Munich police closed off Erhardstrasse with almost no notice to facilitate this demonstration, and Merpel’s very many eye-witness correspondents tell her that the most remarkable fact of this large attendance was that it contained a lot of new faces, particularly at Director level. These are the guys (and gals) who have had to enforce the relentless increase in production targets on the Examiners below them, and who have largely kept their heads well below the parapet … until now. Radicalising the meek is usually a mistake because they get so very angry, having kept their secret rage tightly bottled in for so long.

STOP PRESS: the Enlarged Board decision on the House Ban has issued and Merpel will follow up with details very shortly.


Further reading on activity in Eponia

A French Member of Parliament writes to his Minister here and here
EPO recruitment advertisement for a new Investigator here
Is there a conspiracy against the President? Handelsblad here

Reminder for commenters: As has been true with Merpel's EPO posts for some time, and as is now the general IPKat policy, comment-posters are required to identify themselves via a pseudonym if they don't want to use their own names, since there are far too many people called "Anonymous" and it can be difficult-to-impossible to work out which Anonymous is which [if any anonymous posts get through, it's by accident -- not a change of policy]. Also, Merpel moderates EPO-related comments quite heavily, knowing that some readers get so exercised that they forget the normal standards of comment etiquette (or even of libel laws).  
Eponia: Land of Suspense and Suspensions Eponia: Land of Suspense and Suspensions Reviewed by Merpel on Thursday, November 19, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. It's not funny, Merpel.

    Not at all.

  2. Assuming that German law applies, the situation should be treated in the same manner as for every German company which has a staff member allegedly breaking national laws. A staff member could not be suspended until at least there was a serious accusation and a case was pending before a German court. It looks like the EPO is acting as prosecutor and judge at the same time. I am not aware of any article in the EPC or seat agreement which would allow the EPO to do so, in particular when it comes to applying German national law.

  3. Re. The 'illegal' contract - is it not just allegedly illegal? The accused 'a lawyer pointed out that the EPO is certainly not competent to decide that issue.
    And the contract wasn't for legal support as such but, rather, continuing financial support for legal fees (somewhere between 2/3 and full). In return the Suepo member had to agree not to go off and negotiate separately. This prevented people selling out their colleagues' interests and kept legal advice confidential. The EPO alleged that this would be illegal in most countries and particularly in DE. Or so Mgt. told staff as it explained how it was acting for their own good.
    Not that national law applies of course. Except when it helps BB.

  4. Concerned Examiner says:

    The other side of the story may be found here:

  5. THE JURY IS OUT quotes…

    There once was a simple rhyme
    that made up the EPO IU's mind.
    They gave it great thought
    for a verdict they sought
    as the clock in the courtroom
    passed time.

    They had to determine
    how true the allegation
    that the man really harmed BB;
    or if he could go free.

    They listened very closely
    their minds made up mostly.
    But their brains Control Risks did sway,
    as they listened and then heard them say,
    "If BB’s glove does fit you have to acquit."
    and "not guilty" became the verdict.

    And that was the rhyme that turned the IU's mind.
    'Twas a shame, and a sham;
    what a crime.

  6. Thank you, Merpel, for a very concise and mostly cogent analysis of what is happening right now.

    Battistelli picks and chooses which laws he wishes to abide by (both internal and external) if he actually abides by any at all.

    The only point at which I depart from your analogy is this: the AC is not exactly the dead-tired dad in the hot seat. They have had an enormous amount of time to consider the issues involved and have chosen to simply sit on their hands.

    Such a dead-tired dad would almost certainly be really dead by now, given that he had already given up the control of the car.

  7. What a nice story, but actually we are missing someone: Daddy Jeppo. He's sitting on the front seat and is telling mommy where to drive and that the GPS is giving the wrong direction. Also, as you may guess, Benny is Jeppo's darling. Benny gets (probably) a lot of money and only Jeppo and Benny know ... mommy doesn't care (actually in the trunk we also have grandpa Ronny who enjoys a great ride in a great car and does nothing).

    However, somewhere along the road mommy didn't want to drive anymore (she now prefers to enjoy her new teeth, a great gift from Benny) and now it's Benny's great time to drive ... the problem is: Benny is a bit irascible and doesn't really know how to drive, in particular not when little Sue tries to point out that he is driving as a wrong-way driver into no-man's land ...

    Mommy, Daddy and Benny tell Sue often that she is driving in a great car and actually Sue knows that. Sue also knows that the car needs some fixing and adjustment to have it run well and long; however, Sue is not that amused that Mommy, Daddy and Benny get all new leather seats with heating, but that hear seat is taken out and replaced by a wooden plank, in particular as her paddeling is the only gear of the car, but well Sue is paddeling stronger since Benny, Mommy and Daddy take out their whip.

    Actually there is a point that two legislations are used: the office is Eponia, but Suepo is an association under national law. For a contact between staff and Suepo national law is in force. However then the office has no right to prosecute any alleged unlawful contracts between a staff member and Suepo ... that is a case for national judges and not Eponia's territory.

  8. what can be the reason for these actions against the UNION

    a) a normal sane reactions of any rganization or company to an aggressive Union ?

    b) revenge for the ruling of an NL court that the EPO does not respect human rights ,
    won by the UNION ,
    possibly diminishing somebodies (political/judicial/other) career prospect after he/she has left the EPO?

    c) the reaction of somebody with the emotional maturity of a 3 year old toddler to a nuisance ?

    d) something entirely different ?

    please vote


  9. Amicus Curiae

    The Kat did a blog on the contract in question, see here:

  10. Concerned examiner, re les echos,
    Ah, it's the old McCarthyite the union is 'the enemy within'. Interesting to see that the union will sign an agreement with the EPO in a couple of weeks and will have a statute. I thought it had one already, but never mind - obviously not the right one. I wonder why he thinks the unions will give up. What could force them to do that??


  11. HvA said:

    Communiqué of the Investigative Unit on the facts of 13.11.2015 in The Hague

    A recent publication by SUEPO entitled "Friday 13th in The Hague", dated 16 November 2015 incorrectly reports certain facts which allegedly occurred last Friday in The Hague, and which involve the Investigative Unit. This publication unfortunately ‎gave a false account of events. While the EPO, for the protection of the parties as well as the integrity of the investigation, is limited regarding the information that can be disclosed, the following presents the facts to the extent possible at this point :
    -On Friday 13.11 morning at ca. 9:10 am, two members of the IU coincidentally met Mr A. in the corridor. Mr A. had been invited with message of Thursday, 12 November to an interview, scheduled for Friday, as a witness in an internal administrative investigation, and in this context had requested clarifications from the IU.
    -The requested clarifications were provided to Mr A., who then went to the interview in a different building on his own, while said members of the IU proceeded with their business elsewhere.
    -The interview of Mr A. with another investigation team was conducted in a cooperative atmosphere, and lasted only 24 minutes to allow Mr A. to attend a meeting of the Central Staff Committee (CSC) at 10:00. Mr A. left the room without any indications of health problems at 9:45 am.
    -At 10:35 am, EPO Occupational Health Service received a call from the CSC and assessed that the health condition of Mr A. allowed him to go home on his own.
    -The other staff member mentioned in the SUEPO publication did not meet with the IU. On Friday the IU sent him an email at 11:47 am inviting him to an interview in the afternoon, which he did not attend.

    Investigative Unit (
    Principal Directorate Internal Audit and Oversight

    19.11.15 | Author: Investigative Unit ( - Principal Directorate Internal Audit and Oversight

    In clear text this means :
    -the IU (nobody signed, who is agent 0611? responsible for this statement and the related acts ? The EPO is fully transparent, yes it is ! ) can intercept any employee at any moment in the corridor within short notice, just to interrogate her/him (as a witness about any unspecified subject) in another building.
    -at least two investigation teams are busy in the Hague, how many in the whole EPO ?
    -the applicable law is German: Berlin, Sector East, 1985: Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung
    Congratulations to any successful candidate for the job as investigator.


  12. my little birds have it that this smokescreen was set up to

    - avoid BB having the painful social audit which the AC now requested (the problem is SUEPO; remover SUEPO and there is no more need for a social audit since there is no opposition)

    - to deviate attention from the decision of the enlarged board of appeal which is a painful one to him

    However one needs to recall that since end of WWII in Germany unions are respected and considered.

    Mr Heiko Maas what the heck are you waiting to finally whistle the end of the sick game ?

  13. Thank you to the concerned examiner for this very objective publication of les Echos.

    "The paper was established as a monthly publication under the name of Les Échos de l’Exportation by the brothers Robert and Émile Servan-Schreiber in 1880.[1] It became a daily newspaper in 1908[2] and was renamed as Les Échos.[1] The newspaper was bought by the British media group Pearson PLC in 1988,[1] and was sold to the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH in November 2007.[3][4][5] The publisher of the paper is Groupe Les Échos."

    "In 2000 Les Échos was the sixth best-selling newspaper in France with a circulation of 728,000 copies.[12] The 2009 circulation of the paper was 127,000 copies.[1] From July 2011 to July 2012 the paper had a circulation of 120,546 copies."

    the astounding success of this publication explain probably why they were the first and probably the only french media ever to be so fond and faithful of BB style.

    But BB is right (according to this article), The EPO staff is an awful bunch of retarded, hostile to any reform and progress.
    "The formal recognition of SUEPO is very advanced at the EPO and should lead in the coming week to the signature of a common agreement. Thanks to my action the unions will then have a status. "it is important to build this transformation on a collegial basis" "Every excessive behaviour is not credible" said BB.

    That's the reason why I have decided to suspend 3 of them in Munich and sent 2 of my question men to prepare for this new era. Unfortunately after a viril interview they had to be sent to the clinic and I promise to wait for their complete recovery before to get rid of their complete suspension process.

  14. Merpel, the title "Is there a conspiracy against the President?" for the NRC Handelsblad link is a correct translation of the first sentence, but an incorrect representation of the article. It reports surprisingly correct and neutrally on the president's position, SUEPO's position, Liesbeth Zegveld's position (legal council of SUEPO, and a well known Dutch lawyer in human rights related issues) and the Dutch Governmental position (regarding the Supreme Court case appealing the The Hague court of appeal decision that SUEPO should be recognized).


  15. les Echos illustrated themselves after having censored the first article written by the journalist covering the inventor of the year in Paris, who dared the fool to mention the passage of Secretary of State Axelle Lemaire complaining about the social mess of the current direction.

    if you wish to read something manipulated and unbalanced this is the right paper indeed !

    The spins of BB can only sell their sad sick soup in cheap press organs since facts are facts

  16. Former EPO propagandist says:

    Maybe the appropriate moment to remind the readers that the French newspaper Les Echos is a "media partner" of the EPO (see the bottom of this page for example: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:2eNzC-MVKc0J:https://www.epo.org/learning-events/european-inventor_fr.html , or already reported on this very blog: http://ipkitten.blogspot.de/2015/06/french-toast-leaves-sour-taste-for.html ). Les Echos is bound by contract with the EPO and whilst Mr. Benoît Battistelli is so boastful on transparency, the contracts with the EPO "media partners", alike his own employement contract, are well kept secrets. Careful observers can only speculate that actual journalism is not part of it since when it happens by accident, it is promptly corrected: http://techrights.org/2015/06/18/les-echos-epo-censorship/ and http://ipkitten.blogspot.de/2015/06/french-toast-leaves-sour-taste-for.html ).

    Anyone having followed the events can only come to the conclusion that the latest report of Les Echos does not depart from this secret contract since the misrepresentation of facts is systematic and the comparison of the EPO with other patent offices, not as local administrative authorities but as competing private entities, is stunning!

  17. 'Les ennemis de l'intérieur" isn't it how dear sweet rightfully concerned USSR or cambodian heads of state once upon the time were calling their lost inside men they sadly had to purge out?

  18. A tyrant (Greek τύραννος, tyrannos), in its modern English usage, is an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution...
    Often described as a cruel character, a tyrant defends his position by oppressive means, tending to control almost everything...
    Plato and Aristotle define a tyrant as "one who rules without law, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others".[4] It is defined further in the Encyclopédie as a usurper of sovereign power who makes his subjects the victims of his passions and unjust desires, which he substitutes for laws...
    In the Enlightenment, thinkers applied the word tyranny to the system of governance that had developed around aristocracy and monarchy...
    “Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to; and this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage.”...

  19. Hellokitty says:

    I was at the demo and this article seems to have forgotten an important fight: the timing.

    In their last meeting, the council instructed the president to renew social dialogue and start a social study. On the very day the board 28 meets, the president suspends 3 elected personal representatives. It cannot be by chance that it happens the very same day. Next, to make sure the council really loses face, he will probably fire all three on the day the council meets in december.

    In the demo, Els Hardon said it looked like a declaration of war from the president to the council. Apparently, it is also not the first time that the president tells members of the council (who are supposed to be his superiors) that they are idiots and that he knows better.

    The president is out of control. He is not following the orders from the council, that is a blatant fact. In the demo, it was asked whether he is actually becoming insane (not by Els hardon, I don't remember by whom, more people spoke).

    Now I have a question: what happens if the president of the office is incapacited (for example, because he is becoming insane)? Is there a provision in that case, something like an interim? I would like an article about that.

  20. After the Board B28 meeting last Wednesday (18 November), a new B28 meeting has been added to the calendar. This will take place on 4 December, prior to the full meeting of the Administrative Council on 16/17 December.

    Presumably they had a lot to talk about on Wednesday, not just receiving and blindly accepting reports from the President.

    Just sayin'

  21. BFC wasn't able to provide any figures for salaries from what i read so they have to wait to get those figures. B28 prepares AC so that and the problem child of DG3 and the suspensions will have advanced by then. Thus a meeting nearer the AC146 meeting is necessary. Don't assume BB is up against it.

  22. Among the increasingly bizarre pronouncements of the President is the one that says he is about to sign an agreement with the unions in a matter of days. How can this be when SUEPO has long declined any further discussions as long as its representatives are under threat?

    The answer is possibly that the President intends to enter into an agreement with FFPE. This is a management-sponsored union set up some years before the arrival of Battistelli, as an opponent of SUEPO. It was accorded privileges never allowed to SUEPO, such as its own office in The Hague. Now there is nothing wrong with any alternative union with different views appealing to staff - that is simple democracy. However, its candidates failed at the time to win election to the staff committee. That is also democracy.

    Up until recently little was heard of it, but it was a party to the talks on Union recognition held earlier this year. I am prepared to bet that Battystelli intends to sign an agreement with it to show how Union-friendly he is. It is normal for such agreements to set a minimum requirement for the percentage of staff belonging to any Union before it is recognized as a negotiation partner. SUEPO membership is around 40-50% of staff. FFPE membership was secret last time I asked, but it was roughly estimated to be around 40 (members, not percentages) in its heyday. This would represent about 0.57% of staff. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on these figures, but the orders of magnitude are correct. It will be interesting to see if Batty ignores these facts.

    By the way, I am NOT the member of the Board of Appeal in disguise (see Batty's latest allegation in his letter to the French minister).

  23. @superann: the figures are approximately correct, although the SUEPO has won quite a few new members.
    FFPE-EPO is not management friendly, but they lack capacity and experience, furthermore they are limited to The Hague only.
    They split from SUEPO due to the overactivity of SUEPO, and because SUEPO did nothing to get the same rights for Dutch employees in The Hague as the "expats" in The Hague enjoy.
    Therefore nearly all FFPE-EPO members are of Dutch nationality, which actually severely limits FFPE-EPO.

    - NotAFanOf1984Anymore

  24. @superann:

    Where can we see the Dear Leader's letter to the Minister?


  25. "Where can we see the Dear Leader's letter to the Minister?"

    Here it is, below the comment of the Minister:


  26. @ Anonymous Friday, 20 November 2015 at 13:58:00 GMT

    you are nice little troll but my little birds say otherwise.

    Of course they are management friendly: they were created and sponsored internally with the one belgian colleague close to VP1 who recently has become PD (and also with the support of the then head of personnel in TH (a Dutch national now in DG3) and PD HR at the time (another Belgian now in Alicante).

    Recently their officials in The Hague travelled with Ms Bergot to have an official meeting in Brussel with the head office of FFPE.

    FFPE is a yellow union.

  27. @concerned
    Superann probably refers to the following letter dated 20 November 2015 addressed by BB to the Member of Parliament who represents the French expats in the national assembly, Pierre-Yves Le Borgn', with copy to the Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron:
    In this letter BB accuses the Member of the Board of Appeal, amongst other misconducts, of having stored arms and nazy propoganda in his room (see page 2, 3rd paragraph). These are the very accusations for which the in its recent decision stated that they were not based on any evidence whatsoever.
    In support of his argumentation, BB also refers to recent press articles annexed to his letter, such as the paid-for article in EPO´s "media partner" Les Echos.

  28. Here: http://www.pyleborgn.eu/2015/11/courrier-a-emmanuel-macron-sur-la-crise-a-loffice-europeen-des-brevets/

    There is a link to Batty's letter at the end

  29. So BB is writing letters to MPs including articles stating that the AC decided to dismiss a BoA member? Unbelievable!

  30. @pompassou

    While I would welcome a second point of view in the on-going discussions, and a second report of how the meetings regarding the rcognition of the unions is proceedings, and thus a second union could be advantageous, I have a few problems with the way the current second union handles current "reforms to ensure the independency of the EPO for the future". My major point of deficiency FFPE-EPO has in my views, that they do not communicate how they see the current discussions.
    Once a year a blue page in the inbox of the emploees doesn't tell us much about what they are doing to address the current topics, nor where they see a possible solution, nor if an how they are in cntct with the administration/other unions/....
    To me it seems a lot like the FFPE-EPO officials "gave up" and do not care about FFPE-EPO anymore, and several of their members I know will leave FFPE-EPO due to their silence...

    - NotAFanOf1984Anymore

  31. @ NotAFanOf1984Anymore

    well if you wish to know the FFPE position read management communication my friend ;o)

    Again FFPE-EPO officials travelled WITH Mrs Bergot to meet their head office in Brussel. How can this be a trustworthy union.

    Say no more

  32. And Munich/Vienna employees are left out completely then? Because this would-be Union is only in The Hague, as far as I understood?


  33. According to a recent article in the german press about the suspensions,

    "The EPO has even lodged a complaint with the Lawyer’s Association in an attempt to initiate proceedings for professional misconduct against a legal colleague who also represents SUEPO. After this latest move even lawyers are starting to feel threatened by the Office."

    Managers at the EPO are completely out of their minds ...

    An english translation is available at techrights:


  34. @Cicero, re: Managers at the EPO are completely out of their minds ...

    They're not mad. They've just dug themselves into a hole, and now they're floundering around trying to find someone else to blame for it.

    The Battistellistas see themselves as resolute champions of change, forging ahead in the face of a sullen workforce and a reactionary staff union. Just imagine what could have been achieved by an enlightened management, able to communicate a clear vision to the staff, working with them instead of against them.

  35. Dan says:

    The only (slightly) reassuring thing is that when the “It’s all a conspiracy!” stage is reached, normally the end is near. Let us hope so.

  36. “It’s all a conspiracy!”

    We should not forget that the Dutch judges who condemned the EPO for breach of Human Rights are also part of the conspiracy!

  37. And the IP-Kat is one of the chief conspurrators, of course. Not to mention being one of the evil "relais extérieurs" which Bashar whinges about in his rather pathetic letter to Pierre-Yves le Borgn'.

  38. In the land of democracy and transparency, VP4 has just banned SUEPO in The Hague from holding a meeting of members on office property because he didn't approve of the agenda - the union and members are not allowed to discuss their own representatives! Not that he's being a censor... As a result the union has booked a building a few minutes walk away.
    Frankly ridiculous that the power mad top mgt think that they are seriously able to prevent a union from discussing internally the suspension of elected reps. Can he be serious that he expects it to be some elephant in the room?? Nobody is supposed to even comment on the absence of colleagues? It's surreal and somewhat spooky - are they now non-people by decree of the EPO? I'm outraged but sadly not surprised.

  39. @AlmostLostForWords:

    another reason VP4 (who is NOT the site manager, which is VP1 for The Hague), are "the experience of violent demonstrations organised in The Hague in the recent past".

    I have yet to see any proof that any of those "violent" actions had anything to do with the staff of the EPO.
    The only "violent demonstrations in The Hague in the recent past" I know of, are the demonstrations in the Schilderswijk, which were political demonstrations, and had nothing to do with the EPO....

    But yeah, sen from Munich, even a demonstration in Groningen because of the earthquakes there, are a considerable security risk for the EPO site in The Hague.


  40. I see that the techrights.org webserver is unresponsive. Could it be under suffering for its unfavourable coverage of the ongoing EPO hoohah?

    What is the opposite of a "media partner", by the way? Whatever it is, maybe the EPO has decided that techrights.org is one, deserving of special treatment.

  41. HvA said:

    In his letter to the French representative Pierre-Yves le Borgn’, President Battistelli wrote that it was easy to prove that the interrogations of staff representatives were not violent because they were recorded. In order to prove this to be correct these recordings should be made available to the addressee by the EPO, a public institution that pretends to be more and more transparent. In fact staff are banned from the EPO premises if they make public that they were submitted to interrogation.
    Mr Battistelli further stated that there was an intense defamation campaign originated by a member of DG3 who was guilty, according to BB, of conspiracy against the EPO. Said member, according to BB, stored weapons (!) and nazi propaganda in his office and wrote racist letters. Battistelli, when he wrote this letter on 20.11.2015 was aware of the EBoA decision Art 23 1/15, which concluded that there was no convincing evidence whatsoever in this respect. Said DG3 member is thus innocent and Lord Schiemmann has been proven to be wrong.
    The “conspirators” are not guilty of any wrongdoing either and Battistelli wilfully misled to the representative, the AC and the general public.
    Further, Battistelli said that EPO staff wants to block the community patent, which is a mere allegation, he has not permitted staff expression on this subject nor on any other and there is no “rich and respectful social dialogue” either.
    Just to put it straight, there are, according to public EPO reports, 6000 candidates for examiner posts at the EPO in 2015, not 20.000. Productivity has increased mainly thanks to window dressing (ECfS).
    Thank you Mr. Le Borgn’

  42. I genuinely can't think why BB can suggest that the staff are trying to block the EU patent. I can't remember the union ever voicing an opinion and, in any case, that's only a few disgruntled staff in hus view so that hardly equates to 'the staff'. Indeed staff would quite happily be closer to the EU in terms of staff rights of association et al, so I think this may just be some form of paranoia about his pet subject. Either way, it's not true.

  43. I was startled to read that BB has accused the EPO staff of trying to sabotage the EU patent. That suggests to me that BB's actions are indeed explained as actions in support of the political imperative of making the Paris-based UPC a popular success, from the get go. When members of BB's management team look through their group prism, why else than to frustrate their management objective is anybody opposing the team? Ergo, any resistance is mounted only by those seeking to sabotage the EU patent.

    How to make the UPC popular from the get go (and thereby please not only France but also Germany)? In an earlier post I suggested how. Reduce the EPO to a registation only office and disable the appeal and post-issue opposition processes. How to do that? Use EPO funds to manipulate opinion at AC level. Elevate staff distress to such high levels that everybody who can takes early retirement. Effectively stop all recruitment. That should do it!

  44. HugosBoot

    I am not clear how HvA manages to conclude that:

    'the EBoA decision Art 23 1/15, which concluded that there was no convincing evidence whatsoever in this respect. Said DG3 member is thus innocent and Lord Schiemmann has been proven to be wrong.'

    I've read the decision and I do not understand the EBA as having reached that conclusion. As I understand it, the EBA didn't come to any conclusion about the innocence of the DG3 member or the findings of the DC, but due to the complete pig's ear the EPO made of presenting the case, ruled it inadmissible. Not nearly the same thing.

  45. http://techrights.org/2015/11/24/epo-censorship-with-slapp/

  46. I see the President is now singing the praises of the PCT Direct scheme. I am not quite sure how this could shorten the overall pendency but never mind. What I am interested in is whether the "hundreds of requests" is a statement which examiners at the EPO would agree with.

    Wrote H. Bosch

  47. Following up from the post of @whatnext, if I were the attorneys of Dr. Schestowitz, in any court proceedings I would be asking for security for costs in view of the immunity of the EPO (and the fact that it is not an EU organisation).


  48. http://www.fosspatents.com/2015/11/shame-on-european-patent-office-for-its.html

  49. Dear colleagues, readers,

    The FFPE-EPO is a union under the Dutch law (just like SUEPO) and has received in the past and now the same privileges as SUEPO, which means currently no facilities at all.

    Due to our limited size (although larger than the numbers circulating on this blog) it has been difficult to generate significant attention. While the elected staff committee members of the EPO have almost always been SUEPO committee members, we have not had a representative talking with management. This not only means that we received information always late (if at all), it makes also clear that we are not responsible for the current mess. We hereby note that we are not sure in how far SUEPO could have prevented the current problems.

    It is true that management is negotiating with the FFPE-EPO on the terms of union-recognition, the SUEPO stepped out of this process. The FFPE (European trade union, to which the FFPE-EPO is connected) is helping out on important issues. The main item that is still debated and probably the only one that could still make it impossible to sign an agreement are the current strike regulations as they are in circular 347. FFPE Central Bureau and the committee, see these regulations as incorrect, authoritarian and not fulfilling the standards of a normal agreement between unions and management. There are various possible solutions to the problem and all of them have been discussed but none of them seems for the time being particularly appealing to the EPO.

    The FFPE-EPO stands for dialogue instead of confrontation.

    Obviously the FFPE-EPO supports the suspended colleagues. Any disciplinary measure should be proportional, which appears not to be the case in the present situation.

    The FFPE-committee

  50. A run-of-the-mill patent attorneyTuesday 24 November 2015 at 17:40:00 GMT

    What I find incredible is that the EPO continues to conduct its internal affairs on external blogs, in advertorials and in public letters to French politicians. What self-respecting management would be pig-headed enough to get itself into this situation?


  51. tell us something FFPE-EPO: how many members do you have of how many nationality ?

  52. @ FFPE-EPO:

    SUEPO is not only an organization under Dutch law, If I am not mistaken. SUEPO also represents staff in Munich, Berlin and Vienna. FFPE-EPO does not seem to be an option for staff at those locations, which is the majority. If I am wrong, please put me right.
    Sad Eporson

  53. A run-of-the-mill patent attorney said...

    "What I find incredible is that the EPO continues to conduct its internal affairs on external blogs, in advertorials and in public letters to French politicians. What self-respecting management would be pig-headed enough to get itself into this situation?"

    I think you kind of answered your own question. Only management that is so arrogant, so blinkered by their own brilliance, and so confident in their ability to do anything they like with impunity, that's the kind of management you're looking at.

    We normal members of staff are perpetually horrified and disgusted by the behaviour of our higher management, and can not believe the total bollocks that they keep coming out with. Every time they do something crass, we think, they can't do anything more stupid, and then they do. It's quite incredible really, and would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

    We are dealing with ever-increasing targets (+10% and rising), which have no basis in reality, whilst at the same time seeing zero improvement in our tools (apart from the enormous amount of money spent with nothing to show for it).

  54. As a Suepo member, Ffpe is a union for primarily Dutch colleagues who do face distinct issues unrelated to their non-Dutch colleagues which do not get a large look in with Suepo. This is almost inevitable and I appreciate that the solution is either to have a dedicated romp within Suepo or a separate parallel union. Ideally they would find a place within Suepo but I don't see them as 'opposition' although they have been played off against Suepo at times for mgt games.
    With regard to mgt fighting blog games, the actions of mgt are barely credible and the PR battle is going against them. For a long time they kept a lofty disregard but as the battles became uncomfortable they have signed up with agencies for tidy sums who are clearly trying for reputation mgt using a different tactic. It looks like a last stand with backs to the wall but maybe that's wishful thinking.

  55. HvA said…


    …it’s very simple, the DG3 member is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The decision made it clear that the material submitted to the EBA was so insufficient in facts and reasoning that they could not admit it, sufficient evidence and explanation why it is relevant being a prerequisite for the case to be admitted.
    b.t.w. the public is waiting for this decision to be published or at least for a public statement from the EBA that the case was not receivable.
    Full transparency would be better: sunlight is the best disinfectant as the saying goes.

  56. Dr. Schestowitz has often expressed misgivings about the UPC. Presumably management at the EPO have concluded that he must be part of the anti-UPC conspiracy and must be crushed using all resources available.

    (apologies for my earlier anonymous post at 16:25)

  57. To Kant, 07:57

    Indeed, Dr Schestowitz has not only expressed misgivings about the UPC - he thinks the UPC is part of a conspiracy in favour of software patents.

    This is as daft as the EPO management's conspiracy theories in the opposite direction.

  58. Hugo'sBoot

    Oh HvA, I really think you're over egging the EBA's findings. As I recall, the EBA concluded that the AC hadn't made out its case and decided, quite rightly in my view, that it was not the EBA's role to work through all of the material on the USB sticks supplied by the AC and make the AC's case for it. That is not nearly the same as finding that the DG3 member is innocent and that the DC was wrong as stated in your first post.

    Of course the DG3 member is innocent until found guilty, but I really don't think that changes things so as to make your comments correct.

  59. That last comment trots out the mantra: Of course "the DG3 member is innocent until found guilty" which we all take for granted as a selbstverständlichkeit. But is it?

    For that we need i) a duly constituted court with ii) a real judge and iii) officers of the court ie lawyers, to prosecute the accused and defend him. In other words, the Rule of Law.

    In some parts of the world, the Rule of Law doesn't exist. They simply don't understand what that means. We like to think that, in Europe, we do. But in the extra-territorial EPO where BB is the absolute ruler and is surrounded by his goons, prosecution is by managers who are not lawyers, not officers of the court, and for whom the accused is guilty as sin even before there is any process. And if the process nevertheless, despite all, delivers the result not wanted, well then BB simply ignores it and goes ahead anyway.

    The AC "must" do something cry many EPO staff members. Why don't they do anything? I'll tell you.

    Those who sit on the AC are mere civil servants, reporting back home to a Minister of a national Government who inevitably has a thousand and one hot political issues on his desk at any one time. He has no time for EPO arcana. He just wants to know how high is this year's dividend from his shareholding in the EPO. As for anything else in the report he gets back from his civil servant on the EPO AC, he just doesn't have the time. Or the inclination.

    Which is particularly regrettable when the minister is the Minister of Justice. If one cannot do anything about corruption in international administrationm of sport, what chance is there of doing anything about international administration of patents? At the political level, sorry, there is no "must" about it.

    I finish on one straw of hope. Thinking about FIFA, there are not thousands of employees involved. That might be one important reason wehy cleaning out the EPO stable is different from FIFA. At the EPO, there are victims.

  60. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew, 5:5)

  61. Cursèd is the suepo leadership, for they shall be cast into the wilderness (Benoît, 11:2015)

  62. Eliot,

    In the words of Sting:

    Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth
    Better to be poor than a fat man in the eye of a needle
    And as these words were spoken I swore I hear
    The old man laughing
    'What good is a used up world and how could it be
    Worth having'

  63. Bringbackalib said...

    Keep this book of the law always on your lips (Lutz 08:15)

  64. Concerned Examiner says:

    A Spanish press report on the events:

  65. Europe is ripping itself and democracy apart.
    Hungary, now Poland too.
    The EPO is just another sign that people are now willing to inform themselves anymore, and democracy does not work when people simply follow masses....
    And seeing what is happening all around, I too am afraid that the AC rpresentatives do see no need, as their expertise regarding law is limited to patent matter, while their views are influenced by lobbyists in their home countries as well as within the EPO.

    We will have to wait for the ILO administrative tribunal, but they cannot repair things, they can just say "what you did was illegal", and offer nothing else.

    IF the governing body of ILO does not throw the EPO out, as the EPO is severely damaging the functionality of the ILO-AT....

    - ALostEuropean

  66. "IF the governing body of ILO does not throw the EPO out, as the EPO is severely damaging the functionality of the ILO-AT....

    What an excellent idea !
    Then Battystelli could boast that he is free not only of external political (ministerial) but also of external judicial oversight.
    All that would remain to be done then would be to move forward with plans to eliminate internal judicial "interference" ... I beg your pardon ... the reform of the Boards of Appeal.

  67. @ALostEuropean: I too am afraid that the AC rpresentatives do see no need, as their expertise regarding law is limited to patent matter...

    What expertise would that be? Our esteemed British AC delegate is a career civil servant (Agriculture and government administration), whose skills and connections were then put to good use as a director of Britain's largest supermarket chain. Upon retirement, instead of receiving the more usual brass carriage clock, she was rewarded with a seat in the House of Lords and a modest portfolio as Minister for Intellectual Property. As far as I know, she has no legal background, let alone any experience of IP.

  68. al-EPO (07:43): The UK AC delegate isn't the Minister for IP, who's main expertise appears to be spouting platitudes. The UK AC delegate is the Chief Executive of the UKIPO, who's main skill expertise appears to be an ability to not rock the boat.

  69. Until Maggie attempted to privatise the UK Patent Office in the late 1980's, the Comptroller-general and his subordinates had pretty well all worked their way up from being "coal face" examiners and thus had an insight from personal experience of what Patents were about. As the IPO was a well-oiled machine with little scope for career development, it was viewed as the Siberian Salt Mines of the DTI by administrators, who were generally reluctant to work there. We then had a comptroller experienced in privatising government departments, followed by one experienced in privatisations. Since then, IP has become "sexy", and, with the notable exception of Ron Marchant, the IPO's higher echelons have been progressively staffed with those with little experience in IP.

  70. BB’s secret diary reveals…

    Well, you know, BB is big in the IP business and he likes to promote himself, so what does a bit of his retrospective thinking reveal:

    “I might as well look as alien as possible to the EPO crowd, because it reinforces a point I am making. My whole thing is that I approach everything as an absolute outsider. It's the only way I can break so many rules. Remember, my background is totally strange - French contemporary comedy. So I was uncertain about coming from that to a medieval EPO comedy. It was just as shocking for me to play French comedy in Munich in Germany. It was another rule I was breaking. You just didn't do that. And I am helped by the fact that French contemporary and medieval comedy, which you would think has no rules at all, is really just as conservative as any other street comedy. So what I do is doubly shocking. The difference is that IP audiences admire that I can shock them. Nothing is sacred to me. “Who is making the rules anyhow?.... I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me and making me believe in my work. “ [The existence of this BB diary extract became so unbearable to keep it to myself].

  71. Reminder: IPkat already published a letter of BB with respect to the allowability of contacting "your" delegate in the AC of the EPO here.

    BB writes:
    "relationships with host and member states, their official authorities and representatives remain exclusive prerogative in which the staff representation, unions or individual staff members have no bearing".

    Anyone having sent a mail or letter to the AC has thus breached the service regulations.

    It does not matter anymore anyway, anyone who did not deliver 120% of the average examiner did fail to meet the minimum expectations anyway.


  72. Those inside the EPO defo remember that a former PD for the HR told us that we leave our nationality at the front door when we go into the EPO, implying that once in, in his opinion, we have no national representative to talk to. This guy's English was good enough that he did not misspeak.

    He was also the person who charged someone with breaking the rule about not talking to people outsde the EPO and bring disrepute - ok it's in the rules, but this guy, his job was to talk to the fire department about safety in the buildings, especially when the plan of the building changed because of building works. Kind of important, but disrepute? So much for duty of care. People get suspended for doing this, never minding that there are great big holes in the side od the EPO Main building.

    This guy also had his permission to take a maximum 3 years of unpaid leave magically extended to 5 years, he is now at OHIM in Alicante - his identity is well known - and thinking that he is very restricted by having to stick by those annoying laws, with an annoing European Court of Justice that makes you stick to them.

    Note to readers - there are lots of people at EPO with studies and degrees in Law, from all over Europe, but really few of them are in upper management or even the law department - as you can see from the make-you-laugh tries of management to sack a DG3 member. Lots of us, know much better - or are much more honest - when talking about the "Rule of Law" which Batistelli talks so much about and comprehensively ignores. Eglish colleagues say "by their deads will you know them". Nealr nobody knows this until you have entered the office. By the way we're hiring but not many strongly criticing patent attorneys applying. Hmmm, strange ...

  73. Freedomdreams says:

    Just came accross the following article.


    It is sometimes good to work in a country which has free speech in the constitution.

  74. Hugo'sBoot

    Dear Anonymous if you expect to be taken seriously, I suggest you drop silly comments like this 'not many strongly criticing [sic] patent attorneys applying'.

  75. An interesting read:


  76. Snowhite says

    The problem at the EPO is the general lack of respect for it employees contrary to the managments professions to the contrary.
    At a meeting of the president with a group of employees, he was questioned on the wisdom of introducing the fully electronic file and paperless office. First of all there are frequent disruptions in the working of the EPOs computer systems at present. This hinders examiners in the processing of files. At present an examiner can pick up on another file, and continue the other file later. With a paperless office the examiner would be fully dependent on the computer systems working. If these were to fail then the examiner would be hindered from working. This would impede production (which would result is a negative personal report) unless the examiner would work overtime to make up for the lost time. Secondly the ergonomics guidelines state that an employee should not work more that 6 hours on a PC (a tool was introduced by the EPO to advise examiners to stop after 6 hours) or risk health issues. Introducing the fully electronic file would mean examiners will be expected to work on a PC for on average 8 hours per day (considering examiners have a fixed 40 hour week). To this Mr Batistelli replied that new computer screens (which do not yet exist) would solve the problem (this would maybe solve eye problems but not RSI risks). He then continued that he would be happy if examiners would really work 8 hours per days. Thank you Mr. Batistelli! So much for respect for employees.
    Furthemore, the Head of the Investigation Unit, during a meeting where the workings of this Unit were introduced, was questioned. First of all he was asked whether it was true that an employee being investigated was not allowed legal council. He stated that this was correct. He was then asked if the information would be used in disciplinary proceedings. To this he stated that it was merely to see if a disciplinary proceedings should be conducted, suggesting that the information would not be used. It was then stated that if the information obtained during the investigation were to be used would this information not be illegally obtained evidence because of the lack of legal representation. To this he replied in an agressive manner that if the employees of the EPO didn´t like it the could leave, at which a large group left the room. This felt a lot like intimidation. Where do you go to request an investigation of the head of the investigation unit for intimidation? So much for respect.
    To then expect EPO employees to treat the managment with respect is maybe a little too much, although it would have maybe been better not to stoop down to come closer to the low level management exemplifies.

  77. The Cat that Walks by HimselfMonday 14 December 2015 at 00:56:00 GMT

    As far as I know, at least in some countries, national law has provisions protecting union leaders from being fired.

    It's quite logical, because, in many cases a union's position will not coincide perfectly with a management's position.

    The EPO unions can try to introduce such provision on "non-dismissal" of union representatives as a part/condition for recognition by the EPO.


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