03.24.15

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Benoît Battistelli’s EPO is Under Attack From French Politicians Yet Again

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: More EPO interventions — this time from France — target Benoît Battistelli over his abuses and take it up to Eurocrats for political actions

Benoît Battistelli is French and he is well-connected not only within the EPO's management but also in Ecole Nationale d’Administration at his home country (never mind INPI in particular), yet it doesn’t mean that he is immune to criticism from French politicians.

Several months ago the French Senator Jean-Yves Leconte wrote a letter to the French Ministry in charge of the INPI [1, 2].

A new kind of intervention from Philip Cordery and Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ has been flagged to us. There are two separate actions. See the PDFs below (provided to us anonymously):

  1. PYLB-EPO-CRISIS (in French with English translation, German translation, and Dutch translation)
  2. CORDERY-ILO (in French with English translation and German translation)
  3. CORDERY-EU (in French with translations)
  4. CORDERY-EPO (in French with translations)

These 4 PDFs show that opposition to the scandalous tyranny of Battistelli keeps growing. Here is the English translation of (1) above:

European Patent Office: When will the Crisis end?

English translation

4 March 2015

It will soon be a year since I posted on my site (click here) the numerous initiatives I had come up with in response to the requests and appeals from a substantial number of members of the European Patent Office relating to the disturbing deterioration of social relationships within their organization. I have not expressed myself more elaborately in public since then, but I have nevertheless been keeping in touch by mails, telephone conferences, meetings, and other visits to the French Government as well as the presidency of the EPO, with the aim of contributing to the search for a solution which will bring an end to the crisis which is besetting the organization. Last month, when I went to Munich, I had a meeting lasting close on two hours face to face with the President Benoît Battistelli, whom I would like to thank. I also met with a number of members of the staff, at their request, together or individually. These persons, as well as those who have written to me, have told me of the risk they were taking in communicating with me, and immediately asked me not to reveal their identity for fear of disciplinary sanctions against them.

I cannot conceive, and cannot accept, that communicating with a member of parliament could result in threats, sanctions, and even a wrecked career. Behind the member of staff I see a citizen. All this is symptomatic, unfortunately, of a deleterious social climate. I am familiar with the commercial world, having spent more than 20 years of my life in it. I know that social relations can sometimes be difficult. As well as that, I also know that getting out of a crisis requires from all parties concerned a common willingness to understand the difficulties being encountered, and to find together the means to get back on track. The key is there. I am convinced that an organization operating in an atmosphere which has deteriorated to this extent, characterized by fear and suspicion, and without any prospects other than one bloc against another, in the hope that one of them will end up giving way, is an organization which is doomed not to achieve its aims. This prospect cannot be allowed to be the future of the EPO, of which the role for the European economy, innovation, and employment, is essential, now more than ever.

On my return from Munich I contacted the Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, and told him how I felt, as well as presenting a series of proposals. I had not originally envisaged making a public statement. It was the ruling by the Court of Appeal at The Hague of 17 February last, and the developments which followed, which caused me to change my mind. It is in fact unknown, or almost so, that the immunity of an international organization should be impugned by a court. How can one not be shaken when a court as important and prestigious as this takes the view that the failure of the system for the resolution of conflicts within the EPO is interpreted as an unacceptable infringement of the fundamental rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore leading to the suspension of the immunity of the organization? Such a judgment would merit, at the very least, with regard both to its expectations and its consequences, a debate between the Member States within the Administrative Council. Nothing of the kind. I was amazed to learn that the President of the EPO had announced to the staff that the organization would not be submitting to the ruling by the Court.

It is time for the Member States to get back in control. The legitimacy of an international organization, and the EPO is no exception, rests on them. When one has lost immunity from jurisdiction, it is futile to invoke despairingly immunity from enforcement. The EPO has been suffering for years from a lack of governance, attributable to the increasing lack of interest by the Member States in any relevant subject, more or less, relating to the separation of power from the elementary rules of checks and balances, in particular with regard to the matter of internal monitoring and control. It has been 15 years since the last meeting of the inter-ministerial conference which is provided for in the statutes of the organization. The present situation means that the holding of such a meeting in the near future is a matter of urgency. That notwithstanding, it should be possible for such a meeting to be held every two years. The conference would establish the framework of action of the EPO, and confer control on the Administrative Council. The power of the major States which are the purveyors of patents should also be enhanced, breaking with the rule of one State – one vote, and moving towards a weighting arrangement of the votes. And in order for the Administrative Council to play its role in a truly active way, a system of incompatibility should be put in place such that the exercise of the Presidency of the Administrative Council becomes incompatible with candidature for the Presidency of the EPO.

To emerge from the present crisis, an independent social audit is required. It is up to the Member States to define the scope, and to assess the content of the decisions which it would be appropriate to adopt in accordance with the recommendations of the auditors. The future of the EPO depends upon this. This is not a matter of personages, or of a referendum on the pertinence of social democracy. An organization, in order to survive, needs concord, dialogue, and decisions agreed, shared, and accepted. Such are, pending the meeting of the Administrative Council of the EPO on 25-26 March, the positions and suggestions which I, as a member of parliament, am taking the liberty of drawing to the attention of the Government of France.

See the original PDF for the original French version as well as the German translation and Dutch translation.

The next file contains an English translation of the letter from Philip Cordery. Here it is in full and in English:

National Assembly

French Republic
Liberty – Equality – Fraternity

Philip Cordery
Deputy for the French of Benelux
Secretary of the Commission for European Affairs
Member of the Commission for Social Affairs
President of the Study Group for Cross-border Zones and Workers

Paris, 20 February 2015

Ref.: PC/AF/61

To the Director General, Dear Guy,

I am writing to draw your attention to the extremely deleterious social climate which has prevailed for some months at the European Patent Office (EPO).

This inter-governmental organization has more than 7000 personnel, recruited from 38 Member States, who carry out remarkable work and make a major contribution to innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth in Europe.

This excellent success is, however, being undermined by the social policy being applied within the organization. In effect, since 2012 the management body has, little by little, been introducing a large number of repressive measures which do not respect the fundamental rights of the employees

I was alerted to this matter by the trade union of the European Patent Office and by a number of members of staff, who expressly asked me to preserve their anonymity for fear of reprisals. A number of press articles have likewise been reporting on the situation in the local newspapers.

The facts speak for themselves. The exercise of the right to strike has been blocked, and threats of disciplinary sanctions have been abusively used to limit the rights of expression of the personnel.

The union has been muzzled, and disciplinary sanctions have been inflicted on close to a dozen union representatives. Certain employees have also been subjected to suspension and reduction in status for abusive and fallacious reasons.
As well as this, there have been three deplorable cases of suicide in the past 24 months, one at the workplace during working hours.

The management of the EPO is diverting the immunity of the international organization from its main purpose, and is using it as a lead weight, to crush without moral or legal consideration the fundamental rights of the employees, who are, as a result, particularly vulnerable, since they do not enjoy any national judicial protection in matters of labour law.

This social situation incurs a major risk in terms of affecting the role and the very effectiveness itself of the institution in its mission of public service, in Europe and internationally.

I would therefore be grateful if you, in your capacity of Director General of the International Labour Organization, would take action in order to facilitate a return to social dialogue and, for example, press for an external examination of the governance of the EPO.

I take the liberty of emphasising the urgency of the situation, given that the working conditions have become a matter of great concern to the vast majority of the 7000 employees of the EPO.

I am at your disposal to exchange views on the matter, and remain,

With best regards

Philip Cordery

Mr. Guy Ryder
Director General of the International Labour Organization
International Labour Bureau
4, Route des Morillons
CH-1211 Geneva 22
Switzerland

More translations and original text are in the PDF.

Another letter from Cordery addresses a Commissioner at the European Union and says:

National Assembly

French Republic
Liberty – Equality – Fraternity

Philip Cordery
Deputy for the French of Benelux
Secretary of the Commission for European Affairs
Member of the Commission for Social Affairs
President of the Study Group for Cross-border Zones and Workers

Paris, 20 February 2015

Ref.: PC/AF/62

I am writing to draw your attention to the extremely deleterious social climate which has prevailed for some months at the European Patent Office (EPO), the executive body of the European Patent Organization, the structural elements of which are based in The Hague, Brussels, Vienna, Munich, and Berlin.

I have been approached by the trade union of the European Patent Office and by a number of members of staff, who expressly asked me to preserve their anonymity for fear of reprisals. A number of press articles have likewise been reporting on the situation in the local newspapers.

Since 2012 the management of the EPO, under the aegis of the President, has been instituting a system of management which is authoritarian and repressive.
Communications from the union and the exercise of the right to strike have been drastically curtailed. Pressure, threats, and disciplinary procedures have been abusively used to restrain the expression of opinions by the staff and the union representatives. Certain employees have likewise been subjected to suspension and reduction in status for abusive and fallacious reasons.
As well as this, three cases of suicide by staff members of the EPO have occurred in the last 18 months, one at The Hague at the workplace and during working hours.

The majority of the measures taken by the management do not respect the letter of European law, which is totally unacceptable for an international organization based on the territory of the European Union.

Moreover, the 7000 staff members who work within the intergovernmental organization are particularly vulnerable, since they do not enjoy any national judicial protection in matters of labour law.

This social situation incurs a major risk in terms of affecting the role and the very effectiveness itself of the institution in its mission of public service, in Europe and internationally. The role of the EPO is preponderant within the framework of the reform of the unitary patent being conducted by the Commission, as well as in the context of innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth in Europe.

I would therefore ask you, in your capacity of European Commissioner, to intervene with the management of the EPO, to remind them of their legal and moral obligations to act with full respecting of European labour law.

I am at your disposal to exchange views on the matter, and remain,

With best regards

Philip Cordery

Ms. Elzbieta Bienkowska
European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SME’s
European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200
1049 Brussels
Belgium

CC Ms. Margrethe Vestager
European Commissioner for Competition
European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200
1049 Brussels
Belgium

The German translation and original French text are in the PDF.

Finally, here is the press release targeting the EPO itself:

National Assembly

Press Release – 4 March 2015

Philip Cordery
Deputy for the French of Benelux
Secretary of the Commission for European Affairs
Member of the Commission for Social Affairs
President of the Study Group for Cross-border Zones and Workers

Antisocial policy of the EPO condemned by Court at The Hague

The European Patent Office (EPO) has been taken to court in the Netherlands by the EPO union, which is charging the Office with having introduced repressive social measures which contravene the fundamental rights of the staff. The Court of Appeal at The Hague, in its judgment of 17 February 2015, held the view that the rights of the union have been infringed, and has therefore ordered the EPO to amend its internal regulations.

Philip Cordery, Deputy for the French of Benelux, is pleased with the court judgment, which shows that the managerial policy adopted by the EPO directorate constitutes a genuine repression of union rights and is contrary to the laws in force in the Netherlands. The Hague Court in effect ruled that the procedures are illegal which relate to the exercise of the right to strike, and the conditions limiting the nature and duration of strikes, and has ordered that these be suspended immediately. The EPO is likewise required to guarantee union representatives free access to the EPO electronic messaging system, and no longer to issue threats of disciplinary measures for the sending of general communications to EPO staff. Finally, the Court has ordered the EPO to admit the union to collective negotiations.

Once again, the President has distinguished himself by rejecting a court decision from a democratic State, on the pretext that this would be contrary to the principle of immunity which the EPO enjoys. It is now a matter of urgency for the management to realise that the EPO cannot be an area where law does not prevail, and that it must respect international working standards and the European Charter on fundamental rights. It is in this spirit that Philip Cordery has recently called upon the Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, and the European Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, to intervene.

The Deputy reiterates his support for the unions and for all the personnel at the EPO, and calls on the management to respect the decisions pronounced by the court, with the aim of re-establishing a calm social climate and restoring confidence among all the staff members.

Press contact:
Laure Delcroix
presse@philipcordery.fr
Mobile: +33 7 86 02 77 29

There is a lot more in the original PDF and there is a big load of material relating to the Dutch court which we shall cover in the future along with English translations of original texts (in Dutch).

MEPs from many countries are now openly complaining about the EPO and putting the feet of management to the fire. So the momentum is there and we do, by all means, expect justice to be attained and for Benoît Battistelli to be ousted (unless he pro-actively steps down). We are now coming to the point where Battistelli is more afraid of staff rather than the staff being afraid of Battistelli. It’s a tipping point. See the new article titled “European patent office under fire over ‘reign of terror’”; it was published in a major news site two days ago.

The next post will delve deeper into broader responses to Battistelli’s abuses.

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