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06.17.15

SUEPO to SUE Government of the Netherlands for Protecting the EPO’s Thugs

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

de Volkskrant front page

Summary: The EPO’s abuses culminate in another lawsuit, this time a lawsuit against the selfish political system which harbours these abuses

THE EPO cannot seem to manage the media, which has increasingly turned against it in a very vocal way. Last week we wrote about de Volkskrant slamming the EPO, and not for the first time, either.

After much abuse in Netherlands (we last summarised it on the ninth of June) there is a lawsuit from SUEPO.

SUEPO has this translation of the Volkskrant article. Translated into English it states:

The boss of the European Patent Office posing on the organisation’s 40th anniversary in 2013 © EPA

Government in court over malpractice at the Patent Office

SUEPO, the Staff Union of the European Patent Office (EPO) is taking the Dutch government to court. In February, the Court of Appeal ruled that the EPO in Rijswijk is breaching human rights. Despite this, the Dutch government has not intervened, while Suepo is of the opinion that it should.

By: Anneke Stoffelen 9 June 2015, 06:00

At the five EPO offices, each day the patent researchers consider European patent applications for every imaginable kind of invention and product, from diving goggles to rockets. The Dutch office, based in Rijswijk, employs 2,700 staff.

In February the Appeal Court in The Hague ruled that the EPO is acting in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights. © ANP

For some time now a vehement conflict has been raging between the staff and the French president of the organisation, Benoît Battistelli, who according to SUEPO is conducting a reign of terror. Battistelli has been unilaterally implementing changes to working conditions. For example, from now on long-term incapacity for work can only be established by a doctor appointed by Battistelli. Staff who express criticism can expect reprisals.

In February the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that the EPO is acting in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling states that the executives of the organisation may not frustrate the work of the union and must stop blocking e-mails from Suepo to the staff.

Legal immunity

However, the EPO says that it can ignore the ruling because as an international organisation it enjoys legal immunity. ‘The aim of that is to ensure the integrity of the organisation and to protect its neutral position against national interference’, Battistelli stated in an explanatory letter to staff. The EPO has lodged an appeal against the ruling with the Supreme Court.

The Ministry of Justice is also of the opinion that the ruling by the court of Appeal cuts no ice. In response to clarification requested by MPs, Minister Van der Steur (Justice) wrote ‘Enforcement of the ruling would be in conflict with the Kingdom’s obligations under international law’.

Van der Steur did however say that as a host State the Netherlands shall ‘urge dialogue with the EPO in order to resolve the conflict between the staff and the management’.

Financial interest

However, the government also has a financial interest that means it won’t come down too hard on the EPO. The economy does well from the establishment of international organisations on Dutch soil. In Rijswijk, the EPO is currently building a new office for more than 200 million euro.

According to lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld of SUEPO nothing appears to have changed. ‘After the ruling in February we waited a while to see whether anything would improve at the EPO. That has not happened.’ According to Zegveld the government may not look on passively when human rights are being breached on Dutch territory.

Social dialogue

In the meantime the EPO has hired in the controversial British firm of risk consultants Control Risks in order to investigate its own staff.

The management of EPO points out that a ‘social dialogue’ has started in recent months, in which staff representatives can express their opinion about the policy being pursued.
According to SUEPO those discussions are for appearances’ sake only. ‘The staff are not being listened to and all of the deteriorations in the working conditions remain in place’, says a SUEPO member. ‘Battistelli is only organising the meetings so that he can later say to the judge: look, we’re doing our best.’

In the meantime the EPO has hired in the controversial British firm of risk consultants Control Risks in order to investigate its own staff. A spokesperson says that they are only investigating when there is suspicion of misconduct. But according to lawyer Zegveld union representatives and elected staff representatives are being investigated systematically.

French and German translations are also available in this PDF (copied here in case Benoît Battistelli and/or his circle of thugs try to force it offline, as they sometimes do, e.g. in Croatia).

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