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11.21.15

German Media Reveals That Out-of-Control EPO Management is Even Threatening and Abusing Lawyers Now

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“A month after the scandal broke, I tried to go back to work at the pharmaceutical company after a leave of absence. But because of all the publicity and resulting pressure and stress, I finally resigned.”

Donna Rice

Summary: The EPO’s longstanding fight against justice escalates to an unprecedented war on lawyers themselves; “After this latest move,” says a German newspaper, “even lawyers are starting to feel threatened by the Office.”

THE EPO scandals became a mainstream subject again, partly owing to protests and in part due to their root cause, namely the crushing of unions at the very heart of Europe, or the supposedly ‘civilised’ world with famous courts dedicated to human rights (Geneva, Strasbourg, The Hague and so on). I got my cup of coffee ready and tonight I am planning to release as many translation as I am able to, for tomorrow we have many important articles to publish, despite it being a Sunday before US Thanksgiving and shopping holiday (Black Friday). We did, after all, promise to accelerate our coverage of EPO matters in retaliation for the EPO’s shameful attack on staff representatives. There is a very busy week ahead.

The EPO’s management is very stressed at the moment. We have been told so by numerous sources. Symptoms of the nothing-to-lose behaviour are clearly showing right now; that’s pretty much expected. See how Richard Nixon responded to the Watergate scandal as it unfolded. We now have an office (EPO) which ignores any rational analysis of the outcome (or backlash) of following a certain line of action, reacting out of urge because otherwise it might be a lot worse, at least in the short term. We saw that with illegal surveillance, abuse of critics (e.g. trademark-trolling), and so much more. The EPO keeps dancing from one scandal to the next, failing to acknowledge the core issues and actually tackle them, as opposed to the messengers. This waltz cannot last forever and sooner or later it can all implode (or explode) so badly that some people will end up in prison. Remember the Watergate scandal. There are many parables here.

“The EPO keeps dancing from one scandal to the next, failing to acknowledge the core issues and actually tackle them, as opposed to the messengers.”The EPO is intimidating and professionally harming not only internal messengers. Team Battistelli is not only going after staff these days but also journalists. “Don’t know about journalists,” Florian Müller told me some hours ago, “but Münchner Merkur reported the EPO tried to get a union lawyer disbarred.” Here is Münchner Merkur‘s article and its translation into English below. To quote this one comment about the article: “It reveals that even external attorneys who dare to represent the union are subjected to threats and legal procedures by the office administration. When will this terror be stopped?”

If this was a private company that had to make “sales” (or provide services over which it competes with a rival), it would definitely have been boycotted by now and people who were responsible for such reprehensible acts would have long ago been sacked. The EPO is magically different, however, as it is effectively a monopoly inside Europe and without a board of directors, shareholders etc. there is virtually no oversight or supervision which is potent and effective. Immunity, moreover, places Team Battistelli above the law! The only oversight or supervision can be the European public, which is the equivalent of shareholders because of the flow of tax in circulation.

To quote this one new comment about the AC's callous actions (AC is the Administrative Council): “What is extremely worrying is that this bunch of people, the AC and the president are presiding over the fate of a major institution in the world of IP. It is frightening to see the level of self satisfaction this people exude…. In a private company they would have been fired yesterday rather than today.”

Here is the full article translated into English:

ECONOMY
 
 

EPO building
The EPO in Munich is an international organisation with 7000 employees which is not subject to the law of any individual state, and consequently German law does not apply here. © Klaus Haag

Updated: 18.11.15 – 18:33

Public Authorities

Europe’s Patent Office kicks out union officials

Munich – The European Patent Office has suspended three senior officials of the staff union. Three further colleagues are threatened with a similar fate. They are also subject to internal investigations which are supposed to remain confidential.

“Many staff members, however, react with an air of resignation. They have been protesting in vain against Battistelli’s methods for years.”The working atmosphere at the European Patent Office (EPO) has been severely disturbed for quite some time. The ongoing dispute between management and staff representatives has now escalated to a new peak of intensity. Following the Office’s recent unprecedented suspension of a patent judge, three senior staff union officials have now been subjected to the same fate. Those relieved of their duties are the chairperson of the EPO’s own staff union, her predecessor and the treasurer, as confirmed by an EPO spokeperson. The trio is now facing the threat of dismissal.

The allegations vary. In one case, they relate to the disclosure of confidential information and harassment, in another to unlawful provision of legal aid to EPA staff. According to the official statute, the persons concerned are not permitted to make any public statement. Their lawyers reject all of the allegations.

“Battistelli continues to do as he pleases without restraint.”Many of the 7000-strong staff reacted by participating in a spontaneous demonstration in front of the glass facade of the EPO’s Munich headquarters. Their anger is directed towards their supreme boss and chief executive of the EPO, Benoit Battistelli. “This is a blow against all of us, a declaration of war on the workforce,” stated an excited demonstrator. “Battistelli is targeting our figureheads” said a colleague referring to the staff union committee which appears to be almost completely under threat. Many staff members, however, react with an air of resignation. They have been protesting in vain against Battistelli’s methods for years. Appeals to politicians have fizzled out without any visible effect. Battistelli continues to do as he pleases without restraint. “If our Administrative Council fails to intervene in its role as the final supervisory instance, then everything will go down the drain,” is the fear voiced by one staff member. Discussions about wildcat strikes are already doing the rounds. But fears about their job can also be seen in some faces. Following the three suspensions, the Office has threatened three more SUEPO members with disciplinary procedures. Among them is the chairperson of SUEPO in Vienna and, according to staff sources, two staff union officials
in the Hague which is the fourth location of the EPO alongside the headquarters in Munich and the branch offices in Berlin and Vienna.

Lawyers are particularly critical about the manner in which actions have been taken against two staff union officials who are being indicted for their trade union activities. The Office has placed them under investigation because it objects to the manner in which SUEPO provides legal aid to staff involved in employment disputes. This is an attempt to suppress union activities, was the criticism which came from one SUEPO lawyer.

“Discussions about wildcat strikes are already doing the rounds.”Should the international organisation, which is not a EU institution, prevail with the hard line which it is following this would seem to run counter to the instructions of the EPO’s Administrative Council. The Council recently placed the Office under an obligation to officially recognize SUEPO as representatives of the staff. Now the union’s top officials are collectively under attack. “Your behavior is against the law,” writes one SUEPO lawyer in a letter of reply to the EPO Personnel Director, Elodie Bergot. Another lawyer argues that the Office cannot claim confidentiality when union leaders are being subjected to investigation and threatened with disciplinary action. On the contrary, such attempts to administer justice in secret should be made public.

“After this latest move even lawyers are starting to feel threatened by the Office.”Union officials are accused of leaking confidential information because they reported internally about the investigations against them. A third lawyer expresses his views in clear terms: “The Office is trying to eliminate all SUEPO leaders and gag them,” he says. What is happening now is a blatant assault on a trade union which would result in a public outcry if it took place in this form inside a normal company in Germany. The EPO has even lodged a complaint with the Lawyer’s Association in an attempt to initiate proceedings for professional misconduct against a legal colleague who also represents SUEPO. After this latest move even lawyers are starting to feel threatened by the Office.

Thomas Magenheim-Hörmann

We still have many translations to go through and we warmly welcome more translations if anyone masters French, Dutch and/or German. Accuracy is important here because without accuracy nitpicking becomes possible (see the responses to Vice-President Lutz, VP5, in IP Kat‘s English translation, supposedly provided by the EPO itself).

One article that we really want a translation of is this new one in Dutch (it’s hardest for us to find people who are fluent in Dutch because it’s a relatively small population).

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