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06.09.15

EPO Surveillance, Threats, and Patronisation of Dutch Legal System Covered in Dutch Article From De Volkskrant

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Another European article covering the spying scandal at the EPO, adding new bits of information about the practice

IN our previous post we mentioned an article from De Volkskrant, for which a translation had been provided. We present it below in full; it’s intended for future reference and permanent record. Among the topics covered is the Hague ruling which we recalled earlier today.

Siemens and Battistelli

Benoît Battistelli (r.) in 2011, presenting a certificate to Siemens’ CEO. © EPA

Patent agency hires detectives to investigate own staff

The European Patent Organisation (EPOrg) in Rijswijk has hired a controversial British agency to investigate staff representing unions. According to employees, the investigations are the latest weapon to be added to EPOrg president Benoît Battistelli’s reign of terror.

By: Anneke Stoffelen. 5 June 2015, 02:00

The EPOrg has five offices and evaluates and issues European patents for all imaginable products. The Rijswijk office has 2,700 highly educated employees from all over Europe.

A conflict has been mounting between employees and the top of the organisation for a while now. EPOrg president Benoît Battistelli has been implementing changes to labour conditions without employees having any say. Anyone offering criticism may expect to suffer reprisals.

Human rights violation

In March, EPOrg employees told de Volkskrant how a system administrator who forwarded a union e-mail to colleagues was removed from his desk by security guards and taken outside.

In February, The Hague Court of Appeal judged that the EPOrg violates human rights as it thwarts access to unions. The EPOrg pays no attention to the decree and as an international organisation, claims its judicial immunity.

For the same reason, the Ministry of Justice has likewise dismissed the Court of Appeal’s decree. The government also has a financial interest in making it easy on the EPOrg: the Rijswijk office yields the Dutch economy an estimated €855 million per year.

Investigation

The EPOrg has hired British agency Control Risks to investigate its own staff. An EPOrg spokesperson has stated that Control Risks has only been flown in for extra support, as its internal investigative unit cannot handle the workload alone.

But according to lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld of the EPO’s staff union SUEPO, systematic investigations are being carried out on employees known to be active within unions or those who have been chosen as staff representatives. The Rijswijk office has multiple cases at the moment.

An employee who wishes to remain anonymous says the Control Risks investigation is only intended to gather information with which to either fire critical colleagues or to drive them to the desperate point of resigning.

These claims were denied by the EPOrg spokesperson: ‘I cannot make any statements on individual cases. But in general, employees are only investigated after a report of misconduct, in cases of suspicions of fraud or intimidation, for example.’

A few years ago, Control Risks garnered attention in Germany when Deutsche Telekom hired the company to spy on a journalist. Deutsche Telekom’s top management wanted to find out which employee was leaking confidential information to the press.

SUEPO fears that a similar situation is going on at the EPOrg. A Rijswijk employee shows us a warning he received this week from his mail server stating that his private account was accessed by an unfamiliar person. ‘I can’t prove that this has anything to do with the EPOrg, but I am quite concerned.’

Read that last paragraph again. Sounds like the work of a cracker or a government-employed cracker (which is the same but more “professional”, often shielded by Orwellian NDAs). The EPO sure has gotten itself into more of a scandal. It’s clear for all to see who has the moral high ground here.

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