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11.18.15

Meltdown at the EPO, Massive Staff Protests This Afternoon

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Photos via Florian Müller [1, 2]

EPO protest

EPO protest

Summary: Unrest at the EPO is reaching what seems like unprecedented levels and the EPO’s management, instead of recognising these issues, prepares for additional repressions

THE EPO’s management just doesn’t get it, does it? The harder it cracks down on staff, the more “blowback” it will suffer (not a reference to the events in Hanover but the CIA term).

As we noted earlier today, staff protests were set to take place and based on photographs these were massive, despite the short preparation time (given enough notice, the EPO's management intimidates protesters and manipulates them too).

“Battistelli has successfully destroyed the EPO. Congratulations.”
      –Anonymous
Merpel at IP Kat is disturbed by a torrent of mails and she wrote that she “has been reading, with some alarm, the emails that have been reaching her with increasing frequency over the past couple of days with regard to some recent developments at the European Patent Office (EPO).”

We are particularly interested in anonymous comments posted in response to this short blog post. One such comment shows that the notorious I.U., or the Stasi which may be the cause of some suicides (its tactics were the subject of a recent series [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], is hiring (warning: direct link to epo.org so tracking is possible). This means that either someone has resigned or they’re expanding the 'gestapo' (internal name or joke).

What the EPO needs is new management because the ‘low’ level staff (i.e. the most technically-qualified staff, not a bunch of bulldogs) cannot co-exist with Battistelli and its ilk anymore. These protests are a living testament and this is far from the first such outcry from employees. To quote some noteworthy comments from IP Kat:

Some weeks ago, the EPO Central staff Committee (hereafter CSC) published on its intranet site a document “Questions on the European Patent Office – a discussion paper”
This document presents 23 questions based on cases which all have a background in real life. I suppose that Merpel will get soon (or later) a copy of this document.
Personally I like the question 13:

The entrusted member has placed a report in the internal post to be sent to the applicant. After reading through the report, the superior, known as the Director, is of the opinion that the arguments presented therein are incorrect because the closest prior art is document D1 and not – as stated in the report – document D2. He asks the entrusted member to revise the report accordingly.
a) What is the legal position?
b) When and how does the public find out about this occurrence?

Continuation:
The entrusted member then consults with the other members of the Examining Division. Following this consultation, the Examining Division decides that the report should be sent out unchanged. The Director refuses to approve the report for sending out to the applicant. Instead, he instructs the entrusted member in writing to revise the report in accordance with his stipulation (D1 instead of D2 as closest prior art) and to sign it in the name of the entrusted member. The entrusted member fears a disciplinary penalty and revises the report as requested, but does not sign off on it.
The Director approves the revised report for sending out. The report is provided with the authentications of the Examining Division and of the entrusted member and is sent to the applicant as a report pursuant to Article 94(3) EPC.
c) What is the legal position?
d) When and how does the public/the applicant find out about this occurrence?
e) What options do the members of the Examining Division have for defending themselves against the Director’s actions, if desired?

Variation:
The Examining Division would like to place its decision regarding the originally compiled report and the written instruction of the Director to the entrusted member in the electronic file as an internal file note that is excluded from public inspection of the files. The Director issues an instruction that this must not be done, and so no one plucks up the courage to place the file note in the electronic file.
f) How does the public/the applicant find out about this occurrence?

The CSC document doesn´t indicate if the director is a DG1 director in direct contact with the ten major applicants.

If anyone can send us “Questions on the European Patent Office – a discussion paper”, that would be enormously helpful. These matters probably merit a public — not just private — discussion. With sensible redactions anonymity can be assured.

Here is another comment:

To fair play : this looks like a batant violation of the EPC;
What would happen if the BoA would have to deal with such a case (and some little birdy would tell them ?

A similar comment states:

The fathers of the EPC envisaged that EPO will be run by reasonable peaple who have interest in everything other than profit. To ensure this the fathers of the EPC provided for that the budget of the EPO must be ballanced. How naive of them!

Here is how the EPO’s management tries to ‘soften’ its actions:

Three members of the Staff Committee are suspended and this splendid piece of literature is published:

“Each staff member deserves to benefit from the duty of care of the Office
The EPO is deeply grateful for the hard work, commitment and loyalty of its 7,000 strong workforce who
have helped make us the leading IP office in the world for both quality of patents issued and the level of
service offered.
Unfortunately, the EPO has recently uncovered instances of anti-social and unlawful misconduct
concerning few employees. These matters are being investigated and dealt with according to a set of
publicly available mles, designed to ensure the fair treatment and protection of employees (Code of
Conduct; Circular 342).
In some cases, those under investigation have attempted to disrupt this proper process through the
making of false allegations and personal attacks against EPO colleagues. Such conduct constitutes a
breach of both our Service Regulations and our Public Service Values.
The EPO – like any other responsible employer – will not tolerate any form of harassment by any of its
employees, regardless of their status, against their colleagues and is taking these matters very seriously
Each staff member deserves to benefit from the duty of care of the Office. It is for this reason that
disciplinary procedures are being launched.
The Office is convinced that these incidents will not overshadow our common good: our reputation of
excellence due to the dedication of the staff. Together. we can continue to make the EPO the successful
organisation to which we are proud to belong.”

It’s so outrageous that I am missing words … and NO I am not anymore proud to belong to this organisation which apparently only serves to nurse the egomania of a psychotic and his acolytes.

This short comment says it all really:

Battistelli has successfully destroyed the EPO. Congratulations.

Finally, we agree with the following comment:

What else must happen before the EPO host countries (Germany, Holland) finally take action to stop these people?
Shame on them!

As we stated over an hour ago, failure to take action may result in more (but still preventable) suicides.

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