EPO deal with trade union - not what it seems

The European Patent Office has just announced a "landmark deal" in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with FFPE-EPO, which is a trade union of EPO employees.  It was reported last week in The Register that an MoU was in progress, and at the time it was said:

"According to the EPO, an MoU has almost been finalized and a representative from the Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO), the main union, is prepared to sign it. "

This seemed to Merpel highly unlikely, since SUEPO had continually stated that it would not sign such a document.  There were several reasons for this - one is that there had been no real negotiation over the content of the MoU: counter-proposals from SUEPO had been ignored, and the MoU was expressly subordinate to the Service Regulations, which can be (and are) changed unilaterally by the EPO management.  The other was that officials of SUEPO were under disciplinary investigation, since when two have been fired, one demoted, and others continue to be under sanction: SUEPO officials declined to negotiate under such duress.  Mr Minnoye, EPO Vice President, claimed in a recent interview on Dutch television that disciplinary actions against so many SUEPO officials was mere coincidence, but that is near impossible to believe.  (That interview, and other press coverage, can be seen on the SUEPO website here).

In fact, as today's announcement makes clear, the union that has signed the MoU is FFPE-EPO.  What is the significance of this?  Well, FFPE-EPO exists only in the Hague office of the EPO, and is believed to have about 70 members, whereas SUEPO has about 3400 (about half of the EPO staff, and increasing over recent years).  While any union recognition is to be welcomed, the concern is that the EPO is trying to present this as showing that all is well, when in fact, with the overwhelmingly larger union, the disciplinary sanctions remain against the officials and there is no sign that a dialogue is possible at all.  The social situation remains in a toxic state, and, under the current management, seems likely to stay that way.

The reports of the Board 28 meeting from last month suggested that perhaps the Administrative Council meeting this month on 16/17 March might be a turning point.  Merpel still hopes that it will be, and that today's announcement will not be used to suggest that the social and industrial issues within the EPO's workforce area already being resolved.
EPO deal with trade union - not what it seems EPO deal with trade union - not what it seems Reviewed by Merpel on Wednesday, March 02, 2016 Rating: 5


  1. Indeed the Union is a little unlikely. First it is only open to staff in The Hague (so isn't an 'EPO' Union per se) and was originally set up for Dutch members of staff (they felt unfairly treated with regard to not being eligible for expat benefits so may also include other Hague staff not eligible for expat rights). Secondly, even Dutch colleagues are in the dark and the public pages of their website were last updated in 2008. If the committee hasn't changed in more than 7 years then they must be popular. On the other hand they have no elected staff representatives despite the voting rules having been changed (unilaterally by BB) to prevent block voting of Suepo members. Their support seems minimal.

    Next Tuesday there is an office-wide strike vote. Staff are not allowed to campaign for it and any communication is limited to 50 people (although nobody would dare to send even one - Emails with the word Suepo are blocked too). I guess next Tuesday we and the Administrative Council will see any fruits of this MoU.

  2. It is indeed most pleasing to see that the status of the EPO has finally been recognised by the FFPE.

  3. There was a very critical news story on the Bavarian television this evening on the social conflicts at the EPO:
    Most interestingly, the report starts with an interview of the brother of one staff member who committed suicide after having been subjected to an investigation by the infamous Investigation Unit.
    No later than yesterday, in his public audition by members of the French Parliament Mr. Battistelli had justified the fact that no independent enquiry had been conducted in any of the recent suicides at the EPO with the argument that the families themselves had not claimed that there was any relationship whatsoever between the suicides and the EPO ...

  4. Amicus Curiae

    The President recently dismissed two leading SUEPO officials. I wonder how much commitment is behind the FFPE-EPO signatures, considering these circumstances

    And once again we see the EPO publish information which is incomplete, to say the least. The publication should include the relevant facts - see comment #1: about 70 members, only in The hague. The EPO should not be able to claim immunity for such publications.

    SUEPO and interested third parties should be given the possibility to challenge this and other publications, as is the case for newspaper articles etc. The EPO itself is not shy to place such request, e.g. to Techrights.

  5. The Register published a later story with the memorable sub-headline "Olive branch may be more of a stunned snake", suggesting that SUEPO may not be as keen to sign as they had previously reported. There's now yet another story reporting (like the story here) that FFPE have signed.

  6. FFPE-EPO statute exists only in Dutch. Its Art. 3(1) allows membership only for ambtenaar van EOB bij de vestiging Den Haag. (Employees in The Hague)

  7. A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding is available online.

    Judge by yourself.

  8. Is that the actual MoU? I've never seen anything like it. All very revealing about how the world looks from inside that Battistelli brain. Management is a simple matter of deciding how people are going to behave.

    And how long is the MoU valid for? This memorandum which enters into force on 1st April 2016 shall be valid for a period of three years, i.e. until 28 February 2019. Er... how long is that exactly?

  9. Interested Reader says...

    The MoU will terminate before it actually can come into force because the FPPE can not be considered a union under Article 7, because it limits membership to employees in The Hague by its statutes.

    Interesting fact: The invitation for signing was for February 24th, yet it was only published the day a critical TV report was to be broadcasted. They even forgot to fill in a sensible date over the signatures before publishing it...

  10. Oh oh, Sam, now you have signed your pact with the devil. And there is no getting out before the end of Old Nick's term. Ik heb medelijden met je.

  11. Interested Reader,
    The following article about being a democratic union combining with the President's desire for transparency and openness should of course mean that they will reveal how many members they have and how many actually voted in favour of signing the MoU. My sources suggest less than 30 for the second one.
    Of course, BB does like to dismiss staff opposition to his reforms as being a small minority (which appears to ignore previous overwhelming strike ballots and numerous demonstrations, but never mind...) rather than dealing with the issues. Interesting to see how he portrays the numbers here when he has an agreement with, ahem, a small minority of staff.
    And yes there does seem to be a problem via-a-via the open "to all members of staff " bit. But never mind - his game, his rules. There's only one person to appeal to and that's... Doh! Well I didn't want to join their union anyway.

  12. New at this says...

    FFPE does not qualify as a recognisable union under the MoU also because they do not have elected staff representatives. According to Art. 9.2 they should not even be eligible to sign the MoU.

  13. Bringbackalib says

    S hould the final days of this regime?
    T erminate in chaos for Battistelli's team

    H is support is slipping,and I don't mean the truss
    E ven his top managers are jumping off the bus
    L ovely,delictable Josephine has even taken fright
    E lizabeth II followed his quote 'not to knight'
    N ext stop the job centre in St Germain-en-Laye
    A nd long suffering Eponians live to fight another day


  14. I do not understand how the FFPE-EPO could sign the MoU because they do not have a single elected staff representative, as is clearly required by Article 9.2 of the MoU as a prerequisite for signing.

    Also it should be noted that they were set up in order to defend the interests of dutch staff members in The Hague - nothing wrong about that, but not in line with the spirit of Article 7 of the MoU.

  15. A MoU with a "local" union, having only members in The Hague (exactly how many?) might be a pretext for the President to claim that he has reached the goal set by the AC and its Board 28. It is nothing more than a fig leaf, and it also reminds me of Lenin's words: useful idiots.
    Only if the president comes to terms with a Union having about half the staff as members, that he will be able to say mission accomplished. We are very far from this.
    Board 28 did also ask for an external enquiry on the charges against SUEPO officials and suspension of the sanctions. Where are we there?

    What about the standstill with respect to staffing of DG3? Those are crucial questions which need a quick reply and not some self-laudatory message.

    From the statements given in writing by the EPO to Bavarian television it was made clear that the "Investigation Unit" is merely an administrative fact finding unit, hence there is no need to be assisted by a lawyer. May be this could be right, but does certainly not excuse the massive misuse of this unit against staff especially staff representatives.

    That family members did not want an enquiry which possibly showed a link between the suicide of their relative and the atmosphere at the EPO, has a very simple explanation. Any subsistence, education allowances, medical coverage would have been severed immediately. Can a wife afford this, especially when there are children?

    In the story on Bavarian television excerpts of the interview of VP1 were shown. What is to hold from a "manager" when he says without any hesitation that the Dutch High Court may decide what it wants, it will simply disregard it. He also claims that actions against the head of SUEPO are pure coincidence.

    That things had to change at the EPO is not at stake here. But it did not warrant what happened.

  16. @old man: The relevant request by B28 calls specifically for agreement with both unions, actually present in the EPO and names them as well. So one out of two may be a first step, but certainly not enough. The president will most probably say that he made the gesture, one union has signed and the others - the mafia as he called them - have not and it is not his fault. Impressive was, though that there were several reports in the press about this signing and in all of them the size of FFPE Compared to Suepo was commented upon. It looks like the PR gag did not really work as planned...

  17. http://patentlyo.com/patent/2016/03/patent-applicants-heading.html#comment-331433

    On the US American Patently-O blog, commenter Ned Heller asked me a question about the EPO staff situation. The above Link takes you to it and my answer.

  18. The agreement with FFPE was predictable from the start of the Union recognition talks. In fact, I predicted it in a comment on this blog at the time.

    As sharp-eyed commenters have noticed, FFPE fails two criteria of the agreement, making the so-called "breakthrough" even more absurd. Normally there is also another criterion in Union-employer agreements, namely a minimum percentage of the employees that must be represented by the union (for obvious reasons). Of course it is vastly more than 1%.

    The fact that the President is actually ignoring the text of his own MoU in order to enable FFPE to sign it is a laughable sign of his desperation.

    FFPE-EPO was set up about 9 years ago with management encouragement, with the hope that it would provide a viable and more tractable alternative to SUEPO. It was accorded facilities, such as its own premises in the EPO, always denied to SUEPO. It never attracted much support, even in The Hague, where some of its policies were specifically targetted at Dutch employees. Since then it has been moribund, if not actually dead.

    The management strategy of sponsoring ing a tame union failed then, as it will fail now.


  19. FFPE-EPO did help the EPO in preparing their defense (with the success we know) in front of the Dutch court by submitting them documents which were popping up in the dossier .....

    also an interesting post on Techrights on the matter : http://techrights.org/2016/03/03/ffpe-epo-vs-suepo/

    FFPE finally a union that supports management

  20. Dear all,
    Great to read that everybody knows exactly what happened when the FFPE-EPO was founded. There was no support from management, but if you say otherwise of course you are right. The facilities which were granted were minimal, and taken away when those for SUEPO were taken away.

    The statutes of the FFPE-EPO do allow staff members from other sites to become a member. Please continue reading the statutes (article 20).

    The FFPE-EPO is allowed to sign the MoU, the criteria in article 9 mention "or". Any examiner knows than that the three criteria are not all required.

    A critical reader.

  21. @A critical reader

    (thank you for your comment. psst, tell any member of FFPE that if they really want staff from other sites to join, the real secret is to have one or two of their officials fired by the President with bogus accusations in kangaroo trials - it works like magics ... )

  22. A critical reader,
    Thanks for enlightening since the Web site page about Membership failed to mention that and Article 3 does not refer to Article 20 (maybe it would be useful to clarify that Article 3 isn't complete?).
    Since you are knowledgeable, perhaps you know:
    a) How many members are there in The Hague (working)?
    b) How many elsewhere under Article 20?
    c) How many retired members?
    d) How many members voted to sign the MoU (aiming there was a vote)?

    Thanks in advance

  23. "Great to read that everybody knows exactly what happened when the FFPE-EPO was founded"

    Great to see that FFPE has taken the time to inform its members or anybody else why signing a MoU which allows them to send two - 2 - emails per year to all staff it's really an historical moment - for them, or anybody else.

  24. On the face of it, there do not appear to be many problems with the MoU. That SUEPO does not wish to sign at the present moment is a different matter. I read earlier that one of the objections was that the union membership must be restricted to EPO employees - that does not appear to be the case in the document linked to above since it refers to "former employees". The two e-mail limit refers to "all staff" not just union members who could receive unlimited e-mails through RSS feeds.

  25. http://public.ffpe-epo.org/node/9

    FFPE EPO does enjoy the full support to sign this MoU from one of the largest union federations FFPE represented at the EU commission, the EU council, the council of Europe, Eurocontrol etc.. and the Federal bureau of this Union Federation assisted in drafting and negotiation of the present MoU. A memorandum of Understanding is a very normal gentleman's agreement signed between unions and the management of an International Organisation.

    Many organisations including the ones mentioned above have a MoU. Signing a memorandum of Understanding with EPO management has been a project of FFPE EPO from the start of its existence in 2008. In fact it was even in one of their first publications that they asked for such a memorandum.

    It can therefore not be a surprise that the members of FFPE EPO were with an overwhelming 90% majority very positive about the present MoU even if it is not perfect but a compromise.

  26. "Great to see that FFPE has taken the time to inform its members or anybody else why signing a MoU which allows them to send two - 2 - emails per year to all staff it's really an historical moment - for them, or anybody else."

    It's a bit disappointing to see that there are still highly qualified engineers at the EPO who do not even know how to install an RSS-feed to their Microsoft Outlook.

  27. FFPE was clearly free to sign the agreement. It is up to its members to decide whether it acted in their interest or not. However, they clearly cannot claim to act in the interest of the EPO staff in general given their number.

    Who has some (more) questions to answer is the President of the EPO. The Admin Council may ask him to explain why he signed an agreement with an organisation that represents only a negligeable minority of the staff and does not seem to fulfill the conditions of the agreement itself (only the staff of the Hague are entitled to adhere while the others may only be allowed on the basis of a discretionary decision of the committee under art.20 of the statute, no regular elections seem to be hold from their info page).

    Maybe to clarify this issue some informed reader should finally tell us:
    1)how many members the FFPE has;
    2) how many of them are not dutch nationals;
    3) how many of them are not based in Den Haag;
    4) when were the last elections hold.

    A more critical reader

  28. "..does not seem to fulfill the conditions of the agreement itself (only the staff of the Hague are entitled to adhere while the others may only be allowed on the basis of a discretionary decision of the committee under art.20 of the statute, no regular elections seem to be hold from their info page)."

    This statement is incorrect. Membership is, as always under Dutch association law, to the discretion of the committee of the association. Any employee of the EPO can become a member. Regular elections are held every 2 to 3 years in conformity with the statutes. FFPE EPO does not register nationality of its members and neither should it. However candidates to the committee can of their own volition tell the members their nationality. Up to now FFPE had committee members of Dutch, Romanian and English nationality in the 4 successive committees that have been elected over the past 8 years. FFPE EPO already has members in various sites of the EPO. Last elections were held in 2013 and new elections are planned in April 2016. As the NRC handelsblad stated in its press article of 2 March 2016 FFPE EPO had 75 members on that day. The reason for the exceptional article 20 is that FFPE EPO is of the opinion that it would be better if members of FFPE EPO in other sites than The Hague set up their own FFPE section and elect their own committee. This is for practical reasons because it is not very easy to have general assemblies reaching a quorum when the members are spread over 4 different locations. Nobody is going to take a plane from Munich to The Hague to attend the annual general assembly of the members or vice versa.

    I hope this answers most of the questions posed here.

    Samuel van der Bijl
    Chairman FFPE EPO

    PS: If you have so many questions about FFPE why don't you ask them at work? I am not hiding from anyone and nearly always there to answer any questions. Alternatively email can be used. A meeting especially for Munich staff is currently being planned at the request of our colleagues there.

  29. Well, well, well says....

    BB has now his private FFPE union, after all... he may need some protection as well for negotiating his redundancy package! I heard that there are plenty of managers signing up with the FFPE, or is this just another rumour?

  30. Et sinon, je reprenderais bien de croquettesFriday 4 March 2016 at 18:52:00 GMT

    Dear Mr. van der Bijl,

    you may be a decent person, and the idea of signing a MoU is in itself not wrong at all.

    But doing it in a moment in which Battistelli clearly needs to feed to the AC the narrative that progress is made on the social side in what will be a very difficult meeting for him on the 16 of March, seems totally inappropriate. I'm surprised you don't realize you seem to be only used for Propaganda reasons.

    Btw, someone above writes that "FFPE EPO does enjoy the full support to sign this MoU from one of the largest union federations FFPE represented at the EU commission, the EU council, the council of Europe, Eurocontrol etc.. and the Federal bureau of this Union Federation assisted in drafting and negotiation of the present MoU".

    Is this true?

  31. Congratulations on the bold move of reaching an understanding with BB who is someone with whome nobody els, not even the AC managed to reach an understanding!

    At the same time, chances are that BB will go sooner rather than later and in the worst case, the MoU may be terminated. But, a bold move stays a bold move.

    Clever, isn´t it? Congratulations!


  32. "Btw, someone above writes that "FFPE EPO does enjoy the full support to sign this MoU from one of the largest union federations FFPE represented at the EU commission, the EU council, the council of Europe, Eurocontrol etc.. and the Federal bureau of this Union Federation assisted in drafting and negotiation of the present MoU".

    Is this true?"

    Yes this is true. The communiqué de presse on the ffpe-epo website referred to above was approved by the federal bureau of FFPE on the morning before the signature. At the signature event in the afternoon, the federal president of FFPE, mr. John Parsons was present as well as the presidents of the FFPE sections at the European Commission (Pierre Philippe Bacri) and the EU council (Simon Coates).

    Samuel van der Bijl
    Chairman FFPE EPO

  33. I see some here are mixing the issues of investigations and reognition of unions. I would be curious to know which of the two unions was negotiating the current "investigation guidelines" with the EPO in 2012? And which of the two unions at the time was publishing internally an intensive criticism of these same guidelines? Archives can be very interesting sometimes especially since it was all printed on paper at the time.


  34. Dear Mr van der Bijl can you explain how some documents of FFPE-EPO landed into the defense file of the EPO vs. SUEPO in front of the Court of Appeal of The Hague ?

    Is firing on SUEPO your line of work ?

  35. I bed my printed version of ECLA (may God send the CPC to hell) and my EPC bible, that as soon as Terminator is fallen, the so obedient guys of the FFPE-EPO will quickly turncoat and declare urbi et orbi that the pressure exerted on them for signing was irresistible.


  36. http://techrights.org/2016/03/04/epo-succession-plan/

  37. In Anonymous's haste to justify the unjustifiable, he unwittingly only confirms the suspicions that most of us are expressing:

    "FFPE EPO does enjoy the full support to sign this MoU from one of the largest union federations FFPE represented at the EU commission, the EU council, the council of Europe, Eurocontrol etc.. and the Federal bureau of this Union Federation assisted in drafting and negotiation of the present MoU. A memorandum of Understanding is a very normal gentleman's agreement signed between unions and the management of an International Organisation."

    First of all, apparently the Federal Bureau of FFPE assisted in the drafting and negotiation of this MoU. Really? That will be news to most EPO staff, and must therefore have happened clandestinely. Were even the putative members on FFPE-EPO consulted during these negotiations? This claim is all the more surprising as the President has notoriously resisted any requests for external involvement in any staff matter, both from SUEPO and from Board 28. But in this case no doubt it must have suited him.

    Moreover, the claim that this text is a "very normal gentleman's agreement signed between unions and management of an international organisation" gives the lie to the President's claims that the EPO's is in fact unprecedented! Speaking of its "normality" could someone from FFPE provide the texts of the other cited agreements, for comparison? I venture to speculate that they will be rather different and probably more like the drafts submitted by SUEPO based on best practice, but ignored by the management.

  38. "Dear Mr van der Bijl can you explain how some documents of FFPE-EPO landed into the defense file of the EPO vs. SUEPO in front of the Court of Appeal of The Hague ?

    Is firing on SUEPO your line of work ?"

    We do not know of any of our public documents being used for any case whatsoever. Please prove your argument please. Then complaining about public documents being used publicly is a bit strange to say the least. A better defense would be to prove that there is anything inaccurate in these documents. After all, the truth shall set you free, doesn't it? Since the FFPE EPO committee has never in 8 years received any complaints about the inaccuracy of any one of our communications and therefore also never issued any correction, which we of course would have if this was the case, we have to assume that they were correct unless proven otherwise.

    Finally I could return your argument of course. Is firing on FFPE EPO your line of work? FFPE EPO has been fired upon continuously and relentlessly for many years now, mostly under the cover of anonimity of course and often publicly outside of the EPO because that is how this seems to work. Are we now also forbidden to defend ourselves against negative stereotypes and outright lies?

    Samuel van der Bijl

    PS: This is my last reply on this thread, I think everything that needed to be said has been said and people interested in the truth should adress the FFPE EPO committee internally and not under the cover of anonimity.

  39. "This is my last reply on this thread"

    Well, that's it, your fifteen minutes of fame are over.

  40. 1% of EPO staff is with FFPE
    40% of EPO staff is with SUEPO
    59% of EPO staff have decided that they do NOT want to join UNIONs

    There are staff representatives to represent the staff, whatever any UNION does is a matter for them only.

    So solving "problems" with the unions is still not solving the issue with the 59% of staff, whatever FFPE and SUEPO do they cannot represent the whole staff.

    Most of the staff is supportive to SUEPO actions nowadays, while FFPE historically is there because the dutch are jealous of the non-dutch staff (e.g. British School), they never called a Strike and they were not part of recent actions, I dunno even why they are there since the staff couldn't care more about them.

  41. Dear Samuel,

    Anonymity today at the EPO is not a game. It's a question of survival.
    Some elected staff rep. acting as such have been fired for alleged harassment where the alleged victim (another staff rep.) was even not complaining.

    Everybody looks happy on the official picture. The neckties and smiles are perfect. But don't forget that these people are dark and without mercy. Their behavior and their methods have ruined the life of several colleagues and our reputation.

    Now the ashtrays are full, the bottles empty, the band is tired and the party is over. Having signed a MOU with such people looks already like a very bad dream and may be not such a brillant move.


  42. Here an interview of Battistelli on brc.nl dated 4 March:


    A Google tranlsated extract:

    "This Friday Battistelli has a conversation with State Secretary Van Dam, he said stimulated light during the press conference. "I have a lot of questions for him," he says of Van Dam. "Especially if he realizes that the Netherlands benefits from the patent office. We invest 250 million euros in a new building. We put 1 billion euros to the Dutch economy. So I'm going to ask him whether he is aware of these elements. But I will be happy to fully inform him about the situation at the patent office. "

    Way to go, Mr, Battistelli.

  43. In another passage, Battistelli refuses any external review of the disciplinary decisions:


    "One of the elements that is apparently important to some, external intervention in penalties. Why not? I'm open to it. When we introduced it, it can. But before that time, this is not possible. "

  44. To anonymous 6.34.
    The Dutch also have access to the British and European school.
    Just setting the facts straight.

  45. “Something went wrong with BB’s white-wash!” says…

    From SUEPO (XXL) ---39% shrinkage ---> FFPE-EPO (S)


  46. Reading carefully Article 9 of the MoU on "Representativeness of the unions", one can notice the presence of an "or" between the second and third bullet:

    1. Subject to meeting the requirements set out in Article 7, the EPO shall recognise as representative the unions which meet the following criteria:
    - they elect their officials in democratic and transparent elections;
    - they present candidates in official elections with the purpose of having elected staff representatives OR
    - they have elected staff representatives.

    Yes, presenting candidates in official EPO elections (even if they fail to be elected, as was the case of the FFPE-EPO candidates during last elections in June 2014) is good enough to be representative, and to sign this MoU.

    A tailor made criterion?

  47. @the party's over:

    You took my comment away and I couldn't have put it better!

    @Sam van der Bijl. How can one be so naïf to even think of expressing an opinion on a network controlled by BB?! As soon as someone would dare addressing the FFPE-EPO Nomenklatura with "I don't agree", the BB-thugs will be carrying that someone away with the accusation of harassment. Mr Sam "BB" van der Bijl, I wonder if you are really believing in what you are doing, in the way you are doing it, or you are just happy to be in the grace of the tyrant. In both cases, that disqualifies you to represent me in any form of negotiation.

    With regard to the affiliation and representation of FFPE-EPO at European level, maybe the readers would like to have a look at the affiliation of some branches of SUEPO at European as well as at international level, e.g. USF and EPSU

  48. "Most of the staff is supportive to SUEPO actions nowadays, while FFPE historically is there because the dutch are jealous of the non-dutch staff (e.g. British School), they never called a Strike and they were not part of recent actions, I dunno even why they are there since the staff couldn't care more about them."

    They are not there because of the British and other international schools that non-Dutch staff unlike Dutch staff can send their children to at no cost (but at rather significant costs to the EPO) whereas in Munich all staff can send their children to the European school. That system was in place in The Hague long before FFPE was founded.

    They are also not there because of expat allowance for non-Dutch staff. Unlike the majority of German staff in Munich, Dutch staff in The Hague generally do not answer "please abolish the expat allowance" when asked what would make them happiest.

    They are there because of the seat agreement signed by Pompidou in 2005 (the agreement that Kober wisely did not wish to sign in that form) and the way Suepo The Hague dealt with Dutch staff's concerns at that time. The seat agreement significantly extended the privileges of non-Dutch staff. Note that no such privileges or special treatment regimes for non-German staff exist in Munich. With about half of Munich staff being German the Office knows better than to accept such measures that would split staff in two camps, like the seat agreement did in The Hague but with one camp being too small and too unrepresented to be heard.

    That said, I simply cannot understand why FFPE chose to sign this MoU at this time. It is historically bad judgment. Whether BB survives the next weeks or not, FFPE will remain tainted by this.

  49. I find the current FFPE bashing problematic.
    While I dofind their general quietness problematic, and the timing of having agreed to the MoU at this time even more so, they did publish several opinions on the questionably legality of the different new guidelines, investigation guidelines,...
    Nobody really cared reading about them.
    And yes, FFPE did call for supporting the strikes, but refused to support "flexi strikes".
    I am not a member, nor do I intend to switch to "the other" union, but we do notneed to bash them in this way.

    They are a lot smaller, and as such have a lot less ressources available, also less experience.

    We will see how Mr. BB will use the MoU.
    Since the opinion of SR was already ignored, he now has another hurdle: the documents need to be slightly earlier on the table, so that the union can discuss it before it goes to the committees with SR representatives.
    Thay may, if well coordinated,. give SR more time to prepare for their meetings.

    We'll see how it plays out. but I fear that the administration introduced by Miss Brimelow with their "here is our proposal, you have 48 hours until GAC/GCC meeting to give us your opinion" will not change...

  50. Dear Mr. Van der Bijl.
    Even your Article 20 allows you to accept members (at your discretion) from Munich. FFPE made it clear that the membership is not open to all duty stations. Because FFPE is Brussels based, Article 20 does not allow you to accept members from the EPO Brussels duty station.

  51. @ One of those... said...

    if only ! FFPE consistently shot on SUEPO in their few rather pathetic publications, pilling their venoms around on order of EPO top management.

    See the last one they had hanging on walls at EPO where FFPE says in a nutshell (without knowing anything about the substance) that if SUEPO officials have been sanctioned, they must have done something....

    Again FFPE is a union that supports the EPO management. nothing more nothing less.

    And yes Mr van der Bijl some documents have been forwarded by FFPE officials in the defense file of the EPO vs SUEPO.

    This shows your pathetic level and the blatant abuse of the word union for your activities

  52. @One of those... said...

    "We will see how Mr. BB will use the MoU.
    Since the opinion of SR was already ignored, he now has another hurdle: the documents need to be slightly earlier on the table, so that the union can discuss it before it goes to the committees with SR representatives."

    This should not be problem since FFPE-EPO has only one opinion that of the ruler who feed them .....

  53. The accusation that the staff from all other EPO locations (Berlin, Brussels, Munich, Vienna) cannot join the FFPE is very serious.

    Because the memorandum has been made public here, the chairman of FFPE-EPO should in good faith make his Articles of Association public.

    If any such limitation is indeed mentioned therein, the President has to act. He is deemed to have taken notice of such discrimination, because these Articles of Association are provided to him in compliance with the Art. 5 of the MOU. The criteria of Art. 7 of the MOU (representation of members of staff without any discrimination based on any ground) is unambiguous and by virtue of Art. 9 of the MOU, the Administration has to suspend the memorandum.

  54. I think that the saddest provision of the MoU is “Article 13, 6. In case agreement is reached,........................................ The signatory unions shall in this case not support or encourage individual litigation actions.”

    Litigation must be seen as a last resort action (well, there does not seem to be any other) that a wronged employee can take, and this is when such a person needs all support possible from colleagues. But now such a person is turned into a pariah. How very inhuman! Shame on those representatives who sell out on such an important matter.

    George Brock-Nannestad

  55. From the Article published in Le Monde, 7 April 2015:

    "He even agreed to show Le Monde his employment contract and disclose his salary, “about 250,000 Euros a year.”

    From the Article in nrc.nl, 3 March 2015

    "Ik verdien 300.000 euro per jaar."

    Now, which is it Mr. Battistelli?

    Did your salary increase of 20% in less that one year? With the mess you are putting the office in? And who approved such an increase?

    Or is it rather that these are just random values fed to the press to calm them down?

    Interestingly, the fact that these values increase with the time - and the pressure you are subject to -, suggests that we are far from the real value ...

    The web does not forget - and forgive - anything, Mr. Battistelli.

  56. A stiff lesson in trade unionism says…

    JK : If I went to work for the EPO, the first thing I'd do would be to join a trade union.

    AC: As can be seen in our history, the only answer to a powerful EPO President is a powerful trade union. BB always tells you that he got the EPO more efficient through hard work, ask him whose?

    Press: Every AC delegation can consider themselves dishonest who only lives upon the labour of the EPO staff and don’t care who occupies the throne.

    BB: One of these days you'll see the light and we'll have the trade unions in. Just a matter of time they will sign the MoU.

    EB: The Brussels office is the most effective place to preach the gospel of unionism.

    VP1: The problem with the EPO unions today is that there aren't enough of them. The FFPE-EPO could come in useful.

    SUEPO: We have come too far, struggled too long, sacrificed too much and have too much left to do, to allow that which we have achieved for the good of all to be swept away without a fight. And we have not forgotten how to fight.

    Press: The only effective answer to prevent for organized greed is organized labour.

    FFPE-EPO: A trade union is not a fee-for-service organization, it is a family.

    SUEPO: There are two kinds of trade unions, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.

    EPO staff: We don’t want a trade union or a democratic election without freedom of speech, freedom of association and assembly. Without a democratic election, whereby people choose and remove their leader, there is no method of securing human rights against the EPO. No democracy without human rights, no human rights without democracy, and no trade union rights without either. That is our belief; that is our creed.

  57. I really don´t know what the confusion is about. There already has been a union leader who turned to management and became an infamous PD at the EPO. Much better paid on that side of the table.

    Mr. Van der Bijl and the other "leaders" of FFPE-EPO will have to share 30 pieces of silver and that´s about it.

  58. From the NRC article, this speaks for itself:

    This week, you signed an agreement with a small union. A step, but not a solution for your conflict with SUEPO, which represents half of the staff.

    "You should not judge the patent office with Dutch eyes. We are not Dutch, German or French. We are European, with different cultures and traditions. (...) We will continue the dialogue and the recognition of unions that accept our legal framework. I sincerely hope that SUEPO realize that their "empty seat" is not to the advantage of employees or of the patent office. "

  59. Any decent union leader would not have signed such a MoU. And any decent union leader would have chosen a better time to sign a MoU (were the said MoU one that one could sign without loosing ones face).

    It is a disgrace.

  60. @Pinocchio:
    7 April 2015 was before and 3 March 2016 after his extension. If both numbers are true, we now know what raise he got from JK.

    @Batty's Telly:
    I think I have never read a more powerful argument against "the European idea". Like communism, it simply does not work but it can take 70 years to find out.

  61. Dear Merpel,

    What you see here is union-bashing....exactly what Suepo accuses the EPO management of. The message seems to be clear: if you do not agree with Suepo you are wrong. This is what happened to the independent staffreps, they were bullied away.
    Samuel, you have my respect for trying to fing a solution to the current situation!
    EPO staff, if you want to be represented by bullies, vote Suepo again next elections.
    After all, they have been very successful so far.

    Sadly, anonymous.

  62. Independent reader says...

    @ sadly, anonymous

    "What you see here is union-bashing...." Just the opposite, as an EPO outsider I find the comments very factual and informative. I doubt it very much that the information is coming from a sole source, or SUEPO as your posting suggests. FFPE-EPO is a new actor on the scene, so it is normal that they get scrutinized at the beginning and have to face some wisdom of the crowds. As Mr van der Bijl as a chairman of the FFPE-EPO is about to resign, it may be an opportunity for you to shape the EPO future differently and put your candidacy forward. Good luck!

  63. "What you see here is union-bashing....exactly what Suepo accuses the EPO management of."

    Nonsense. What you see is valid criticism of both the content of the MoU and the timing. Given the present situation, the timing is unfortunate at best and downright suspicious at worst. The fact that half the membership of FFPE-EPO were against the signing of the MoU, and some members have even left the union precisely because of this, speaks volumes.

  64. Dear Samuel van der Bijl,
    While all EPO staff (including staff representatives and SUEPO elected members) have to remain anonymous on the Web, I´m happy to see that you enjoy a privileged status and you can sign your comments with your name.

    As you know, it is prohibited to express outside opinions without a previous authorization from the EPO administration. Then my question: Did you get the authorization from the president to comment on IPKAT, and then you act as a EPO spokesman? Or next Monday will you be investigated by our investigation unit and probably dismissed?

  65. Firing elected unions members.

    The AC asked for revision.
    It's illegal in most of the European countries.
    It's not only legally but also morally indefensible.

    FFPE signs a MOU with people claiming the indefensible and furthermore proud to do so (see TV reports, interviews, etc, etc.).

    FFPE complains to be a victim.

  66. Sadly Anonymous,
    If I understand rightly, disagreeing with FFPE-EPO is considered Union-bashing? You and the union are free to make whatever decisions you like. But not to allow criticism or comment is setting the bar a little low. Abuse or threats or intimidation should be deplored and not permitted. But to point out the folly of only 24 people voting for a MoU which will have knock-on consequences affecting 6500+ staff is hardly unallowable, surely?

  67. "What you see here is union-bashing....exactly what Suepo accuses the EPO management of."

    What I've seen for quite some time is an irresistible force (Battistelli) coming up against an immovable object (SUEPO). The inevitable result is the present train wreck.

    What is needed is flexibility on both sides. We haven't seen it from either side.

    SUEPO has been an immovable object since before Battistelli arrived. Because of Battistelli's inflexibility, SUEPO is even less likely to be flexible now. They are so deeply entrenched in their position that there is no way for them to change. And they criticise anybody on the staff side who isn't equally immovable.

    It appears the Admin Council has privately been telling Battistelli to be more flexible, even though supporting him in public. But he has ignored them. As a result, he might lose their support at the March AC meeting. Maybe they will force him to be more flexible, or maybe they will replace him.

    But that would still leave a problem. If the management does become more flexible, when will SUEPO become more flexible? I don't see it happening. They are still the same old immovable object.

  68. Mosquito on the Wall says..

    @ Battys Telly

    About BB’s statement in the Dutch press: “…I sincerely hope that SUEPO realize that their "empty seat" is not to the advantage of employees or of the patent office. "

    Does the reader observe here that BB is missing SUEPO? …maybe putting a pair of empty boots near the “empty seat” to remind him that there is still an important invisible party in the room.


  69. Shame on you Mr van der Bijl and FFEP : this is the regime that you now support

    BR “Kontrovers" program on Youtube with English subtitles:

    part 1: https://youtu.be/0NGV3m2G5Qg

    part 2: https://youtu.be/RfgA_5Z5KLw

  70. @Pinocchio:
    Wasn't the new salary scale introduction in-between?
    Isn't a President's salary negotiated as a percentage of the old A7 scale?
    If his salary is a percentage of A7-xx, then the new bigger salaries of "management" gives an even worse impression...
    Anyway, our "managers" have a lot less responsibilities and risks than those in the industry, where they have more responsibilites regarding budget. With the EPO I see no real risks which would allow those differences as now proposed...
    That may be my jealousy, though.... ;)

    @Devil is in the Detail:
    . Subject to meeting the requirements set out in Article 7, the EPO shall recognise as representative the unions which meet the following criteria:
    - they elect their officials in democratic and transparent elections;
    - they present candidates in official elections with the purpose of having elected staff representatives OR
    - they have elected staff representatives.

    Every examiner should see a major clarity issue here!
    1 OR 2 OR 3?
    1 AND (2 OR 3)?

    Democratic election not being a requisite does not seem so surprising in the current situation...

    But much worse: since the SUEPO candidates were successful, and there is not an "AND/OR", the SUEPO is not even eligible to sign the MoU as currently negotiated....

  71. The only reason to sign such a pamphlet is opportunism. It doesn't give any rights except to send twice a year a management approved email to all staff. Compared to the "aquired rights" from the preBB era, this is just a joke.
    If BB & Co would be geniunly interested in staff, they would respect the elected representatives - at least what they have to say (play the ball and not the person ...).
    I guess FFPE will learn the hard way what it means to have a phyrric victory.

  72. Former SUEPO official says

    I must confess to be deeply disturb by the current trend of these comments. Whilst I do not appreciate the move of the FFPE, I appreciate even less the aggressive tone and the words used against FFPE members and Samuel van der Bijl, presumably from many embittered SUEPO supporters.

    My opinion is that they are doing a pretty bad job at trying to defend the interests of staff: the document they signed is not helping to solve any of the problems affecting staff and they have apparently not even realised that with the pressure on the president they could have amended the document to something potentially useful. That looks pretty bad for wannabe staff representatives.

    But this is nothing more than my opinion. And everyone must respect diverging opinions. I understand that the perspective of being recognised officially as a representative union despite systematically failing to have FFPE candidates elected as staff representatives (even with a tailored-made elections rules unknown in Europe and in the democratic world) overweighted all the other aspects. This step matches well my opinion of the strategic thinking of the successive FFPE leaders until now.

    Regardless how pitiful it looks, FFPE has the right to choose this path. Their opinion can be properly challenged and battled against. But some of the posts above target the FFPE as a whole or its head. I fear their authors have forgotten through their emotions that the FFPE is neither responsible for the current situation nor the stupid rat race into which examiners are forced to enrol. The office will not last very long this way, the public and the service we are supposed to provide are blatantly ignored, the applicants will soon feel the unwanted consequences of these mad policies, and the staff will be left with nothing.

    If we want to change to course of destruction set by the president, all the staff must be united. FFPE members, SUEPO members, ethical managers that still believe in the office if any are left, non union members, and even former staff members or families! Infighting is a luxury we cannot afford if we still want to have a chance. And whilst the signature of FFPE on this document is not the smartest idea of the year, we have all made mistakes. Past cannot be changed but we should all (at least try) to make things better in the future!

    For instance, FFPE and SUEPO could both call clearly to massively vote in favour of the strike on Tuesday. Individually, you can all participate to the strike! For those you have never participated to a day of strike, sometimes cowardly taking a day off or faked strike participation, change it NOW! Please show that you are worth serving the European public and have values!

  73. My total support for "former SUEPO official" above!

    On Tuesday, we'll have the most important vote in EPO history. If there is a poor turnout, BB will claim victory in front of the March Council. A poor turnout could potentially make the difference that allows him to survive in office.

    To all EPO staff - PLEASE VOTE ON TUESDAY !!!

  74. I totally agree with with "former SUEPO official".

  75. The disciplinary committee did not recommend dismissal for Ion Brumme because he has five children - one is just a baby - and a loan to pay on his house. ONLY Batistelli took this cruel decision to dismiss him. I do not understand a person still having ANY confidence in Batistelli. I see NOTHING positive in him. Continuing with him is the end of the EPO and a lot of problems for the people working there. There is only one vote: STRIKE. To all EPO staff - PLEASE VOTE ON TUESDAY for STRIKE!!!

  76. Bringbackalib...

    S uper Tuesday,tick the box
    T hen,bless his little cotton socks
    R uler Supreme will have another nail
    I n his Presidential coffin,epic fail
    K ick him out!Our French cockerel
    E mancipate long-suffering Eponians from this doggerel

  77. "Cavalry on its way" says...

    @ former SUEPO official

    I would welcome if the FFPE-EPO could also mobilise some support from Brussels and walk side by side with EPO staff during the upcoming strikes! Thereby giving Europe and its institutions hope through united trade unions against abuse of human rights, injustice and declining democratic principles.

  78. What kind of deals should staff actually expect from a union which signs an agreement with a person of which they know that he lied to his "superior" (eg BoA reform documents), lied to the public (eg reports on majority of staff supporting his actions), protects highly suspecious people (eg see trials in Croatia), promotes nepotism (have a look at the "inner circle" map of Suepo), enjoys revenge on the weak (eg more severe punishments than proposed by the disciplinary commitee; press campaign against BoA member) ... where the union takes one hand, knowing that the second has the knife to backstab at any convenient moment.
    What powers does such an union have, where any non-pleasing movement may be rewarded with the investigative unit ... why should staff have confidence in such a union ..? Why should anybody expect them to work in staff's interest?

  79. Munich examiner
    As examiner in the EPO Munich since over 10 years I have barely heard of FFPE. Never have I received a document, publication, communication, invitation from this union.
    So when they were being reported upon in the press, I rushed to their website to see who they were and what they were up to. Maybe I would consider joining a second union too, why not, the more opposition the better. Imagine my surprise when I found out the website was frozen at 2008.
    What have they been doing all this time? What do they stand for? What do they stand against?
    How can a group of people claim to be a union, when staff do not know what they are up to?
    Then I was told by some older colleagues that FFPE was created in The Hague for Dutch colleagues. Fair enough, then it's not for me I conclude.

    Again, not the end of the story, when on this blog the Chairman of FFPE insists that they have more nationalities among their members and are open for membership at all places of employment.
    They have never informed me of that. Interesting they should use a public platform to broadcast this important information.

    This seems a very unusual way of representing staff's interests. How can they know what my interests are if they never sought contact with me? Not once since 2002, when I joined the office.
    On the other hand I was very quickly informed by Suepo on how to join Suepo, what their views were and how to find their publications. Also, which union official to ask for help in different cases. I had all the information to make a choice.

    Very, very unusual "union" this FFPE.

  80. Did anyone notice Art 12 of the MoU :
    "The parties have to agree on the subject matters that will be subject to negotiations" then it is easy for the President to discard an important topic by saying that the management does not agree to discuss it.
    Furthermore, a time limit for negociating will be fixed at the beginning; 1 month with a single meeting for example may be called negociations.
    No good faith from the EPO clearly in this MoU.

  81. Result of ballot: 55% of ask staff voted for strike. Far more than membership of both unions combined.

  82. If someone is interested about the results of the ballot at the EPO:

    4062 voters (60%), of which 3701 in favor of the strike (91%).

    I notice that none of the above values is a "minority".

  83. Congratulations EPO


  84. Focusing on the reasons for this strike, it shows the bad side of unions and why they can be so despised by people on the other side of the divide.

    I think unions fill a very important role in addressing the huge power imbalance that can often exist between employees employers. Unfortunately, this can (and all too often does) result in unions becoming unreasonable bullies.

    After all, what was being proposed?

    Recognition based on performance rather than pure longevity. While allowing for the fact that such a system can people rewarded for toeing the line and having the right connections (rather than their actual performance), I have worked for and with organisations that determine pay and promotions primarily on longevity and it's not great. The people who are energetic and hard-working tend to either get jaded or simply leave to to find a job where their effort will be rewarded, while those who are promoted tend to be the ones who simply stuck around and didn't make waves or go out of their way to really do anything.

    This change was of course strongly opposed by the union and did so, it seems, in a rather nasty manner.

    Which then prompted a retaliation and here we are.

    It's not a unique story.

  85. Insider says:


    This is pure nonsense. The old system had seniority and performance in it. With high performance you could bypass the seniority ranks, whereas with low performace you would only progress slowly. However, your career was still predictable because if you decided for the quick path (and committed to excellent performance) the steps necessary were public and controlled/observed by both management & staff representation.

    The new system removes the automatic seniority progress completely and - more important - is removes control & predicability. This is what hurts most. Progress is no longer dependent on your performance - it is only a "maybe" if you perform good enough.

  86. Dan1980,
    Firstly, to be clear, this strike was not sought for career reasons but only for treatment of representatives.
    Secondly, the ballot was open to all members of staff, up to and invoicing president Battistelli. Thus even soro had to get more votes than members of it wants to get a stoke voted through. FFPE-EPO with 75 members actually needs about 600 non members to even get a ballot organised and about 2750 non members to support it to reach the worm level of about 2700 voters. Technically they could be successful with 1350 votes but that relies on opponents voting no to bring the total votes up to 2700.

  87. Regarding Dan1980 and the 'well they started it' argumentation, a couple of points of clarification.

    The old system, which was unilaterally changed, did involve a combination of years of service and ability. Earlier or later promotion depended on performance so that salary and grade was not independent of performance. Now there is a dividing line whereby technical skills are down graded Gelston to administrative skills. Thus the new scales produced by HR resulted in salary increases for... (I'll let you fill in the dots).

    Those of is who had performed above average and are peonies sooner are now outside the new scale system and cannot rise at all. Strangely my future performance is immaterial in the new system. My salary hadn't been cut but can't advance. But I'm not striking for that. My younger colleagues will find that their average performance colleagues (average being a purely relative term) can expect to earn 1/3 less (while certain managers...).

    There can be arguments for and against this off course. And staff are reticent about acting with regard to lots of potential future earnings, even if our terms and conditions of employment have been unilaterally amended (and pension as well).

    The reality is that we haven't struck to demand moire or even to demand that the less should not be so great. As the B28 have identified, agreeing with the staff request here, the issue is about basic human rights of fair treatment. I suggest you catch up with the German TV video (suepo.org had English subtitles if you don't speak German).

  88. I see that Dan 1980 has swallowed whole the propaganda lies about promotion being based on seniority rather than merit. I am sorry to use such strong language, but really nothing else will do. Before BB promotion was based on seniority (yes, it is usual in most organisations and reflects experience) AND merit, as evidenced by biennial reports covering productivity, quality, aptitude and attitide. Yearly reports were also made on anyone failing to perform well. Those with very good or excellent markings were promoted fast, those with good reports slower, those with less than good reports were not promoted at all
    and persistent poor reports could lead to dismissal. The rules were clear, the criteria fairly objective, and the Promotion Boards had staff representatives on them to ensure fair play as much as possible. BB's changes did not introduce rewards for performance so much as arbitrariness, such that it was impossible to have a clear view of how the system worked, even for managers. As a result it is a field day for unfairness, favouritism and lack of transparency.

    Of course the President takes every opportunity to claim that he has done away with time-serving, etc etc, just as we also see false claims of three months paid holiday, etcetc.

    Moreover, if the new system is so great for the "energetic" why is there an unprecedented outflow of both older staff taking early retirement and newly-recuited staff who see no prospects in such an opaque system.

  89. Apologies for all the typos. Auto correct may be grounds for the next strike!

  90. Hellokitty said:

    Quite simply, Unions are supposed to be democratic. If 91% of the employees prefer recognition based on longevity, the Union will fight in favour of longevity. They are not "unreasonable bullies", they simply follow the democratic view of the majority of their members.

  91. Pass me the popcorn, pleaseWednesday 9 March 2016 at 17:15:00 GMT

    According to an article in the SDZ


    "Battistelli is said to be prepared to compromise on four out of six issues [of the letter of Board 28], but significantly not with regard to disciplinary procedures and external monitoring - the key points."

    It's a lose-lose situation for him: either straightforward reject any request of review and risk dismissal by the AC now, or accept an independent review that will show the disgraceful way in which the staff reps were dismissed, and suffer a public umiliation AND dismissal later.

    And we have not yet heard about the fate of the DG3 member: a second failure in obtaining his dismissal would only add to the embarassement of the AC that was misled by the president ...

    Grab the popcorns and a beer, sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the next AC ...

  92. @dan1980
    Letting aside the fact that none of the grounds of the last voted strike mention salary or remuneration, I would like to point you to this article: http://patentlyo.com/patent/2016/03/patent-applicants-heading.html

    Asking more from examiners in terms of performance, basically amounts to pushing them to do more grants for anything that can be put into a claim, without looking further.

    Which grants in turn are easier to invalidate in member countries if so desired.
    No wonder that many companies now choose to go only national with their applications, in order to get more examination for their money.

  93. Et sinon, je reprenderais bien de croquettesWednesday 9 March 2016 at 21:17:00 GMT


    Furthermore, a time limit for negociating will be fixed at the beginning; 1 month with a single meeting for example may be called negociations. No good faith from the EPO clearly in this MoU.

    shhht! the chairman and members of FFPE may not be aware of that ...

  94. Techrights has leaked a copy of the Summary of Conclusions of the last meeting of Board 28:

    Orig.: en
    Munich, 09.03.2016


    of the

    71st meeting of


    Munich, 17 February 2016

    SUBMITTED BY: Council Secretariat

    ADDRESSEES: Administrative Council (for information

    This document has been issued in electronic form only.

    1. The Board of the Administrative Council (“the Board”) held its 71st meeting in Munich on 17 February 2016, with Mr Kongstad in the chair.
    Ms Erlingsdóttir, Mr Asan and Mr Kratochvíl had informed the Chairman that they were not able to attend.

    2. The Board adopted the provisional agenda set out in B28/3/16 e.

    3. The Board presented the President with a paper, drawn up by the members shortly before the present meeting, which listed the Board’s very precise expectations from the Office management regarding the items on today’s agenda – in particular on the social and disciplinary issues.

    4. The President considered that there was no major issue with four of the five topics which were addressed in this draft but asked for clarification regarding the legal basis for the direct instructions given to the President for individual procedures under his competence. He drew attention to the potentially huge risks in terms of governance.

    5. The Board members considered the document to be self-explanatory. They stressed that it should not have come as a surprise, taking into account the numerous signals given by the Administrative Council over a significant period of time. The document is simply meant to achieve clarity. It is deemed necessary as it appears that there are no other means of conveying the Council’s recurring concerns expressed over the past months. Beyond the formal (undisputed) issue of Article 10 EPC, the Board has to deplore an obvious lack of willingness from the part of the President to embark on an overdue open discussion with the Council on contentious issues — foremost the social dialogue.

    6. The President disagreed and reminded his letter sent to the AC delegations on 15 February explaining the possible ways forward but has to maintain his position for legal reasons concerning the instructions related to the disciplinary cases.

    7. The meeting was adjourned before the other issues on the agenda could be examined.

  95. If this alleged leak is genuine, it's pretty clear how frustrated the AC are getting. Very undiplomatic language indeed!

    Caveat: the leak is on the "Techrights" blog and so far there is no scan of the document, only a text reproduction:


  96. This seems to show what will be the line of defense of battistelli will be: disciplinary authority is my prerogative, there is no legal basis for an external/independent review.

    This guy does not seem to understand the pressure under which the AC - and the ministers at home (see the answer of Haas in the BR report) - find itself as a result of the intense media coverage about the EPO.

    He may get away with his stupid arguments, but this will make the things only worse because the question will continue to linger:

    if the disciplinary action were taken following the law - as they continue to repeat -, WHY IS IT THAT THE PRESIDENT DOES NOT WANT ANYBODY TO HAVE A LOOK AT IT?

    If battistelli does not agree with the requests of the AC, he may always file an appeal at the ILO ...

  97. "The President ... has to maintain his position for legal reasons concerning the instructions related to the disciplinary cases."

    The President has dug himself into a hole, despite warnings and instructions to the contrary from the AC, and now he can't get out of it without presenting SUEPO a major victory. A more diplomatic president would have heeded the warnings earlier: when in a hole it's usually best to stop digging.

    This presents the AC with a problem. What's needed at the present time is conciliation, not a major victory for one side or the other. But the President is making conciliation impossible.

  98. Ministry of even sillier walksThursday 10 March 2016 at 11:55:00 GMT

    If battistelli does not agree with the requests of the AC, he may always file an appeal at the ILO ...

    He won't need to do that.

    Look at Article 10 of the Rules of Procedure of the Administrative Council:
    "Article 18 - Specific provisions concerning the review and appeal procedures for Council decisions
    (1) The President of the European Patent Office shall draft an opinion for the Council on the request for review.
    (2) Taking into account the opinion referred to in paragraph 1, the Council, in accordance with Article 109 of the Service Regulations for permanent employees of the European
    (a) shall decide whether the request for review is receivable and, if so,
    (b) shall take a decision on the merits of the request for review."


    In other words all he has to do is to file a request for review.
    He then gets to draft the opinion on the basis of which the Council decides on his request.

  99. In other words all he has to do is to file a request for review.
    He then gets to draft the opinion on the basis of which the Council decides on his request.

    Oh, c'mon. Seriously?

  100. Damn. I missed being the 100th comment.

  101. Minister of silly walks,
    I think you'll find that is the practice whereby BB acts as a barrier to the AC. Interestingly there seems to be points on the B28 agenda about governance and the AC secretariat, which is provided by the office i.e. under BB's general control. Don't know why that is now an issuebut clearly is.

  102. Cynic, you may have read here or on Techrights the story of the "independent social study commisionned by the AC in close cooperation with the President". The staff representation nominated someone to follow the process. Nothing happened for a while. Then, one evening, the staff representative received >100 pages of the tender that was to be published tomorrow at noon. The staff representation publicly withdraw its support to this masquarade.

    And here comes the good part: Reportedly, the represntative of the AC got the same treatment as the staff rep! He only had a few hours to go through the whole tender for what had become "the social study of the President, the AC being informed".
    Board28 was not amused.

    The clash may appear to be about mishandling of the staff representation/union crushing. But BB really began to lose support last year because of his crusade against a DG3 member and of his attempt to "reform" the Boards of appeal. And the central issue is now that of power: Who is the supreme ruler of the EPO? The President or the Council? There can only be one...

  103. @ Cynic 18:16
    Probably because the AC finally realized that there are few common points between what they discussed and voted during the sessions, and what is published -after adjustments by BB- in the official communique.

  104. Having read some of the above comments I keep on wondering (no, in fact, I was pretty sure about this since my very first days in the EPO) how many people have absolutely no sense of reality whatsoever. Those who know some of the SUEPO 'grey cardinals' would under no circumstances support them. Yes, I'm talking now about those so-called 'full time' staff reps, who in my 10+ years at the EPO haven't negotiated a penny with the EPO management. A continuous 100% failure! Apart from hanging around and being involved in endless and meaningless polemics those people appear to 'suffer' only for the sake of their own interests. In other words - an absolutely useless group of people with some corrupt ideas on their agenda. Show me the fruits of your labour guys...?! What a surprise, there's nothing.
    I also wonder, how easily get the majority of the EPO staff manipulated by such a low-quality propaganda spread by the SUEPO!
    The amount of disparaging information about our organization in the Internet is yet another 'feature' of the allleged profesionalism of the talented SUEPO staff. It seems therefore that the notion of corporate culture is something unkown to these guys. I'm pretty sure that in a private business setting such a thing as SUEPO would find itself behind the entrance door in no time after a disclosure of the very first poece of internal correspondence.
    I'm pretty sure, EPO-wide there're still enough people who are able to adequaltely response to the reality. Those people are even amongst those SUEPO members! Al this will change much sooner than the SUEPO can imagine.

  105. Disliking the FFPE even more now... the AC is not impressed either...Saturday 19 March 2016 at 11:50:00 GMT

    @Anonymous, 06:17:00 GMT:
    Why would you think so?
    The current inflow of SUEPO memberships seems to tell otherwise.

    I was not that happy with the way the SU-EPO screamed in their publications, but I know some of the Staff Reps / Union Reps personally.
    I've not been that happy with some of their call for actions, but seeing how they're niw treated by the administration, and how they've been treated in the obligatory "negotiations", I will support them with a chunk of my salary, if need be well past their pension age.

    You could've gone for their posts, if you're as "communicative" as you claim to be (your post tells otherwise), you would've been elected and could have formed union policy.

    I know of at least three persons who lef the FFPE because they allowed themselves being taken as PR hostages by the current administration heads.
    But examiners are engineers, coming time they'll start switching over in minor numbers, especially if the new committee (if they'll ever get one elected-the current election failed due to a lack of candidates) will find out, that the administration sees a PR in them "Look, we consulted with the union and this was the result of that consultation. You Staff Reps have no say anymore, and we will ignore your comments even more."

    Also, the utter lack of support for appeals by the FFPE has sent me away, I am terribly dissapointed by the "a fresh start".


  106. "Fifty Shades of Nonsense" says...

    @anonymus 19/03/2016 06:17

    "Those who know some of the SUEPO 'grey cardinals". Yes, especially the ones that re-ratted and became 'grey management cardinals' and making now career with union bashing. Don't need to spell out those names as you are very likely one of them. By the way I am not a SUEPO member, but one of those that respond to reality.

  107. The amount of disparaging information about our organization in the Internet is yet another 'feature' of the allleged profesionalism of the talented SUEPO staff.

    Well said, Anonymous, you tell'em!

    Also, I totally agree with you that the Apollo moon landings were staged in a Hollywood movie studio and never actually took place.

  108. Anon 0617,
    And what inspired that? As a Suepo member, I have been able to elect my representatives and would be happy to see any suitable candidates stand. The committee isn't a self-selecting cabal. Munich seems to have re-elected the three recently sanctioned members by a significant number so I guess that may have raised your ire.
    It may well be that you are wiser than the rest of us, or at least less fooled, but I think your comment about never negotiating a penny is unfair. Staff, including Suepo members, have never sought extra money by means of industrial action in any form. They have tried to protect acquired rights or to defend staff against illegal or unfair actions.
    Perhaps if you feel that a union is required to struggle for more money, then you could form your own Union, stand for Suepo or join the FFPE which has signed the MoU with the EPO. I'm not sure that deriding more than 50% of staff who choose to do otherwise is productive. But I do respect my own representatives who I d know and who are unfairly categorised by you as the grey cardinals. I also know personally some of the top management and I am clear who I am happier to acknowledge as working with my interests at heart.

  109. @Anonymous with 10+ years

    I totally miss what this `reality` is your are talking about and what an adequate response to this/your reality might be.

    Maybe you should consider running as candidate for 'full time' staff rep yourself if you want to change/influence that reality? Did you vote in staff rep elections in any of those 10+ years of service of yours?

    Note, that the staff representation has no mandate to negotiate with the EPO management. They have a consultatory status at best.

    Corporate culture ... sounds good ... but not the one in VW, FIFA, Siemens, ..., please.

    What is this 'reality' you are in and others are not?

  110. Has anyone heard of the disciplinary procedure against the suspended DG3 member?

    I've not seen any decision of the AdminCouncil how to continue, or to stop the disciplinary procedure.

    If the AdminCouncil wants the President's decisions to be perceived as fair, how about the disciplinary procedure falling under their authority?

  111. Returning to the original subject of this post, the Union Syndicale Federale (USF) has some harsh (french) words about FFPE signing the MoU with the EPO.

  112. One of those EPO examiners...Wednesday 23 March 2016 at 14:48:00 GMT

    @What the F...FPE? :
    the reply of the FFPE is rather hilarious, stating that there is only one difference between the accord cadre of the EU-commission and the MoU of the EPO.

    They tend to forget Article 9 of the "accord cadre", which is about "Representativeness of the organisations". The EPO-management could not have insisted on such an element, as otherwise they would've lost anything they could have shown and bragged about.

    Pity the unions start to bicker against each other.
    We're all in the same boat, and shooting at each other will not help in our desire to get the EPO back on track, and the recognition of human rights.

  113. @One of those EPO Examiners:
    Thanks for the link.
    The last page (page 16) is very informative.

    So, according to the EU "accord cadre", SUEPO would be a recgnised representative organisation which has not yet signed, but would've gotten full access to rooms, union leave, and emails?
    FFPE-EPO would've been a recognised organisation at best and not eligible to sign.

    And FFPE-EPO sells the MoU as being the same as the EU commission accord cadre? (the only difference they acknowledge are the atrike elements in the "accord cadre")

    They are not making it easy to recognise them as professionals...

    Anyway, this bashing against each other must stop.


  114. @What the F ... FPE? said...

    words of USF are not harsh but they call a spade a spade: no true union would do what FFPE-EPO did whilst spending its time criticising SUEPO for years, falling in the back of SUEPO by submitting documents to the defense position of the EPO in the Office court case in TH and now signing this appaling MoU.

    FFPE is known everywhere to be a yellow union. They are pro management at the EU too. At least they should assume they positions !

  115. I see that following the President's allegations that members of the BoA are plotting to overthrow him through violent activity, he now believes that authorized representatives may seek to smuggle illicit material into the office:

  116. Attorney-client evidentiary privilegeThursday 31 March 2016 at 15:14:00 GMT+1

    I am wondering whether these back checks are in compliance with Rule 153 EPC provided that the "visitor" is a professional representative.

  117. CA/26/16 is out.

    "The AC, [...] having repeatedly expressed its deep concerns about the social unrest within the EPOffice;
    having repeatedly urged the EPOffice President and the trade unions to reach a consensus on an MOU which would establish a framework for negotiation between social partners;
    noting that disciplinary sanctions and proceedings against staff or trade union
    representatives have, among other reasons, made it more difficult to reach such a consensus;
    noting that these disciplinary sanctions and proceedings are widely being questioned in the public opinion;
    recalling the importance and the urgency of the structural reform of the BOA;
    recognizing the important institutional role of the AC and its dependence on a well-resourced and independent secretariat;
    Calls on both parties to the social dialogue to recognize their responsibilities and to work diligently and in good faith to find a way forward, and:
    Requests the EPOffice President - to ensure that disciplinary sanctions and proceedings are not only fair but also seen to be so, and to consider the possibility of involvement of an external reviewer or of arbitration or mediation pending the outcome of this process and before further decisions in disciplinary cases are taken, to inform the AC in appropriate detail and make proposals that enhance confidence in fair and reasonable proceedings and sanctions;
    to submit to the AC a draft revision of the Staff Regulations which incorporates investigation guidelines (including the investigation unit) and disciplinary procedures which have been reviewed and amended;
    to achieve, within the framework of the tripartite negotiations, an MOU simultaneously with both trade unions, which would have no pre-conditions or exclude any topics from future discussions;
    to submit proposals to the AC at its June 2016 meeting, after discussion in B28, for immediate implementation of the structural reform of the BOA, on the lines of the 5 points agreed by the AC at its December 2015 meeting and of the legal advice given by Prof. Sarooshi, and taking into account comments from the Presidium of the BOA;
    to submit proposals to the AC at its June 2016 meeting, after discussion in B28, for reinforcement of the AC secretariat and a clarification of its position in terms of governance.
    Requests the staff representation and the Trade Unions – to acknowledge the importance
    of firm and fair disciplinary procedures; and to respond constructively to the initiatives set out above, in particular to work rapidly to an agreement on Union recognition without preconditions."

    Sounds like the AC did not have a clue of what was going on, did they? Supervisory body? European model institution? Frightening ...

    Yours, AC-DC

  118. The solution of the EPO-problem seems to me very simple. Battistelli should start to sign the The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms).That is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe,[1] the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953. All Council of Europe member states are party to the Convention and new members are expected to ratify the convention at the earliest opportunity.[2] . The right in the EPO should be equal to the right in European countries. Can Battistelli tell us why not??

    The Convention established the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Any person who feels his or her rights have been violated under the Convention by a state party can take a case to the Court. Judgments finding violations are binding on the States concerned and they are obliged to execute them. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe monitors the execution of judgements, particularly to ensure payment of the amounts awarded by the Court to the applicants in compensation for the damage they have sustained.[3] The establishment of a Court to protect individuals from human rights violations is an innovative feature for an international convention on human rights, as it gives the individual an active role on the international arena (traditionally, only states are considered actors in international law). The European Convention is still the only international human rights agreement providing such a high degree of individual protection. State parties can also take cases against other state parties to the Court, although this power is rarely used.

  119. The Board B28 of the Admin Council has just indicated an extra meeting on 13.04 (see EPO.org). Couldn't wait to next planned meeting on 24.05 it seems. Strike on 07.04. Will make for an interesting '(lack of) progress' report? Certainly no news internally of any discussions/meetings/proposals on social matters. No doubt staff committees and unions will be portrayed as refusing to cooperate.

  120. @IPKAT

    Any more recent news of the EPO?
    We are keen to hear what happened yesterday, and have few good, reputable sources of information.

    Many Thanks

  121. More news here:

  122. A newspaper boy says…

    These days and in any online media the feeling of EPO’s absurdity can strike anybody in the face. EPO Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.

  123. Is the Techrights server down?


    Are you there?
    Your reasoned reporting on events at EPO is missed.


  125. Latest news? Well B28 met today and yesterday President and entourage had their first meeting under the MoU with represenatives of FFPE-EPO. Tick.

  126. And FFPE-EPO, the signatory of the MoU, has just elected a new committee. 5 candidates for 5 posts. And the winner, and new chairman, got 9 (nine) votes in total.
    And Battistelli seriously considers them a partner?? Laughable. 30 votes were cast. And yet BB insists that other unions must have 40% of ca. 7000 staff voting in strike ballots?? FFPE can barely muster a morning coffee round let alone a credible claim to representativeness.

  127. Upside down SUEPO flag says...


    "FFPE can barely muster a morning coffee round ...." Maybe some female candidates could help or have they learned something from SUEPO.


  128. Nobbi says: Don't be distracted by the "SocialDemocracy/MoU/SocialStudy/SocialConference" manoeuvre.

    1. Reduce the salay-mass and thereby the contributions to the pension fund. Motivate staff close to (early) retirement to leave, improving staff demography and creating a pension fund problem requiring further reforms. Over-recruit examiners at the lower end of the salary scale, if possible on limited contract. Does not help the pension fund problem created. It is not supposed to. Bonuses to management.

    2. On top of the usual ever-increasing targets for production, add personal "quality-is-timeliness" targets for first and/or further communications in examination (Early Certainty from Advanced Examination sooner than you expected (ECfAE)) and implement the Paris Criteria. More bonuses to management.

    Result: Oh!?! Too many examiners ... too few files ... less renewal fees for the EPOrg ... more for the national offices.

    3. Get rid of the examiners on contract and of the more experienced yet still to costly examiners left. Push them to ridiculous production. You can always leave if you dont't like it! Bonuses ...

    Result: Less costly examiners, less contributions to the pension fund. Oh! A pension fund problem.

    4. Comes in the PriceworthyConsultant and says: Increase the retirement age and the contribution rate to the pension fund for the (meanwhile rubber-stamping) examiners still left. Bonuses for the consultant and ...

    5. Comes in another PriceworthyConsultant and says: Outsource search and examination to finally get rid of in-house examiners. Dissolve the pension fund and use the cash for ... bonuses...

    6. The AI-oracle generates fully automated zero-day search and just-in-time on-demand as-you-wish examination and says: Get rid of all non-management and lower-management staff. No need for a pension fund as we have bonuses for ...

    "Die Rente ist sicher" (Norbert Blüm)

  129. "Die Rente ist sicher" - Norbert Blüm

    Sure it is. For those who will still be employees of "the office". In your scenario: the president and the vice presidents.

  130. Boaty Mc Boatyface says...

    Staff reps


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