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11.24.15

United They Stand: FFPE-EPO Supports Suspended Staff Representatives From SUEPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

FFPE-EPOGeorge Bush-like attacks on unions has merely united these unions, making them even stronger and more widely supported by staff

“You don`t know what you can get away with until you try.”

Colin Powell

Summary: An obscure union from the Dutch side of things at the EPO is expressing support for the suspended colleagues from SUEPO (more German than Dutch)

THE EPO‘s representatives aren’t only SUEPO. Concerns are being expressed by other groups too, as we shall show in days to come. As comments in IP Kat serve to show, not everyone trusts FFPE (see official public site) and some comments about it are too offensive for us to gently quote here. Having said that, what appears to be an official Blogspot account of FFPE has just posted the following statement:

Dear colleagues, readers,

The FFPE-EPO is a union under the Dutch law (just like SUEPO) and has received in the past and now the same privileges as SUEPO, which means currently no facilities at all.

Due to our limited size (although larger than the numbers circulating on this blog) it has been difficult to generate significant attention. While the elected staff committee members of the EPO have almost always been SUEPO committee members, we have not had a representative talking with management. This not only means that we received information always late (if at all), it makes also clear that we are not responsible for the current mess. We hereby note that we are not sure in how far SUEPO could have prevented the current problems.

It is true that management is negotiating with the FFPE-EPO on the terms of union-recognition, the SUEPO stepped out of this process. The FFPE (European trade union, to which the FFPE-EPO is connected) is helping out on important issues. The main item that is still debated and probably the only one that could still make it impossible to sign an agreement are the current strike regulations as they are in circular 347. FFPE Central Bureau and the committee, see these regulations as incorrect, authoritarian and not fulfilling the standards of a normal agreement between unions and management. There are various possible solutions to the problem and all of them have been discussed but none of them seems for the time being particularly appealing to the EPO.

The FFPE-EPO stands for dialogue instead of confrontation.

Obviously the FFPE-EPO supports the suspended colleagues. Any disciplinary measure should be proportional, which appears not to be the case in the present situation.

The FFPE-committee

Irrespective of one’s opinion of FFPE (one might view it as ‘competition’ to SUEPO), we think everyone can commend FFPE for the latter parts of the statement, which also reveal solidarity not with EPO management but with those whom it is witch-hunting. The managers from the EPO have successfully united several unions, binding them closer together by showing their true faces.

Censoring WIPR Article About Censorship by EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A testament to how terrified journalists have become when it comes to EPO coverage, to the point of deleting entire paragraphs

TTHE COMBATIVE EPO has certainly got what it wanted. It made journalists so scared to criticise the EPO that they would even delete their own words, without even being asked to.

I asked WIPR for clarifications after they had removed their article about Techrights. “We’ve not had contact with the EPO. We made an internal edit and have republished the story,” they told me on Twitter. (WIPR tweets linking to the article about it were also deleted by both the author and the publisher)

Upon return of the article, WIPR removed an entire paragraph (at least) from its article, then republished. This is, based on WIPR, certainly not due to threats from EPO.

Here is the original article:

EPO article before purge

Here it is after it had been taken down and then re-published (with a paragraph removed):

EPO article after purge

This is already becoming the subject of interest in some patent-centric blogs, with bloggers who express support for Techrights.

“What the Heck?” wrote Patent Buddy, “First Gene Quinn Is Threatened by WIPO, Now Dr. Roy Schestowitz Is Receiving Threats from EPO” (not only Gene Quinn was threatened by WIPO, but that’s a subject we may cover another day).

The above is clearly an act of self-censorship. It has just done a lot to reinforce what I repeatedly claimed and had written about just hours ago. This is censorship that’s more or less like Les Échos censorship [1, 2, 3] (where entire paragraphs get silently removed).

“Well, the same atmosphere of fear is now working quite effectively against too ‘outspoken’ an act of — gasp! — journalism.”Days ago we wrote about the EPO creating an atmosphere of fear for lawyers. To quote a translation of the Germany media: “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.”

Well, the same atmosphere of fear is now working quite effectively against too ‘outspoken’ an act of — gasp! — journalism.

The only analogy I can think of here is the Mafia in Italy. People are not only afraid of writing about it in the media; people are also afraid to actually talk to the police about it (for fear of retribution, possibly fatal).

“If you are gonna kick society in the teeth, you might as well use both feet.”

Keith Richards

Censorship at the EPO Escalates: Now We Have Threats to Sue Publishers

Posted in Europe, Patents, Site News at 9:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“First They Ignore You, Then They Ridicule You, Then They Fight You.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Summary: Having already blocked Techrights, the EPO’s management proceeds to further suppressions of speech, impeding its staff’s access to independently-distributed information (neither ordinary staff nor management)

THIS is a multi-part series regarding the highly abusive behaviour of the EPO, which decided to become confrontational not just against its own staff but also journalists. This is not a case of one person versus Techrights but a case of institutional harassment from a body which isn’t even complying with the law in doing so.

Techrights did not wish to publicise this, but last week there were rumours about it and journalists reached out for a comment, eventually publishing details about this whole situation. The article from WIPR has just been published (that was just moments ago), probably necessitating a response from us. There is too much to say considering the limited space of a blog, so we will do this in several parts. We want to make our side of the story known, so anyone who can blog about this or mention it publicly in social media, mass media etc. would help our cause, which is basically similar if not overlapping to the cause of EPO staff (the highly-skilled staff, such as examiners, not the managers). Anyone who has spent some time learning about the EPO scandals can easily see who’s right and who’s wrong. There are hardly even “two sides” here, except perhaps the “truth” side and the “spin” (or “damage control”) side. I have voluntarily — not for any personal gain — spent well over a year examining documents night and day, so I have a fairly good grasp or total awareness of all these scandals. I also know documents which I cannot publish.

“Anyone who has spent some time learning about the EPO scandals can easily see who’s right and who’s wrong.”I have been writing critically about companies (private companies) for over a decade, but never before has anyone responded like the EPO’s thugs did. We never received legal letters, even after writing close to 20,000 blog posts! The EPO, you see, is ‘special’. It has a history of trademark-trolling against critics. This whole thing does not exactly surprise me, having observed the aggressive ways of the EPO. I was only a little surprised to have discovered that they invoked the Streisand Effect by blocking (blacklisting or book-burning) my analyses and even more surprised that they declared a war on journalists. Who advised them on this? It’s truly misguided as it always backfires. It sounds as though they try to personify the EPO, in the form of Battistelli. I don’t think their lawyers even realise what kind of “blowback” (from EPO staff) their client is stepping into. Battistelli is probably the most hated person, even among his own staff.

“Always remember,” one person told me in Twitter. “Government has unlimited resources to destroy targets, unlike companies…”

When I first received a letter from EPO lawyers I assumed that there were trolling me. It clearly seemed as though they were sending template letters to a lot of people with threats, with the clear goal of censoring unwanted publicity. How did I know? The letter was addressed to the wrong person. They used the wrong name (see screenshot below). Template fail?

“This is quite likely a widespread campaign intended to chill and suppress journalists.”In every such circumstance, one has the right to know who is the accuser is, but the lawyers didn’t make it clear. They even refuted themselves therein. We have already seen the same kind of bullying used against Elizabeth Hardon, where there are efforts to exploit lack of awareness of the laws (no lawyers are allowed to be present) and therefore bring allegations against a person from a total vacuum, not a person.

Encircled below is proof or likely evidence that this is a widespread campaign, targeting people other than myself and subjecting them to gags, which my lawyer says are not legally-binding or potent (I never consented to these gags anyway).

Legal letter mistake
A section of the first legal letter (among 4) sent to me

We kindly ask Mr. Schneider — whoever that may be — to consider coming out and telling us if he too was subjected to this kind of treatment from the EPO. This is quite likely a widespread campaign intended to chill and suppress journalists. This way, only ‘media partners’ such as Les Échos [1, 2, 3] or journalists who are complicit with EPO management (e.g. in defaming staff) will have their say. Others will self-censor or altogether refrain from coverage (either because of direct pressure from EPO or from a pressured/nervous editor/publisher). I personally experienced this kind of pressure when working as a journalist around 8 years ago. Techrights helped me combat self-censorship or editorial censorship. Everything was fine until I started ‘daring’ to write about the EPO.

In a future articles we will tackle the EPO’s accusations and also show why proper legal procedures were not even followed.

Response to Bogus Accusations That EPO Staff Protests Are Really an Attempt to Derail UPC

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

False portrayals of an internal conflict

Snowden and China

Summary: Common myths about staff protests in the European Patent Office (EPO) debunked, with some additional background and general perspective on recent events, the unitary patent (UPC) and so on

TECHRIGHTS has been against the UPC in all its previous incarnations (and names) for nearly 8 years because it increases injunctions, damages, and serves as a vehicle through which to expand the scope of patents, e.g. to software.

“It looks like an effort to paint SUEPO as an external enemy — the same tactic which right-wing politicians and media attempted against Edward Snowden shortly after he had unmasked himself in Hong Kong.”We have never, however (not even once!), heard from a source of ours regarding the UPC. We therefore conclude that our views on such matters are ours alone. SUEPO never expressed an opinion on the matter, neither publicly nor in person (as far as we are aware). So Where does such a fictional allegation come from? As our previous article made apparent, some say that “Battistelli said that EPO staff wants to block the community patent.” It looks like an effort to paint SUEPO as an external enemy — the same tactic which right-wing politicians and media attempted against Edward Snowden shortly after he had unmasked himself in Hong Kong. We cannot verify the claim that “Battistelli said that EPO staff wants to block the community patent,” but let’s assume we can take it at face value. A response to that has just been posted and it says: “I genuinely can’t think why BB can suggest that the staff are trying to block the EU patent. I can’t remember the union ever voicing an opinion and, in any case, that’s only a few disgruntled staff in hus view so that hardly equates to ‘the staff’. Indeed staff would quite happily be closer to the EU in terms of staff rights of association et al, so I think this may just be some form of paranoia about his pet subject. Either way, it’s not true.”

MaxDrei wrote about the French angle (remember that the main proponent of the UPC was a French commissioner): “I was startled to read that BB has accused the EPO staff of trying to sabotage the EU patent. That suggests to me that BB’s [Battistelli] actions are indeed explained as actions in support of the political imperative of making the Paris-based UPC a popular success, from the get go. When members of BB’s management team look through their group prism, why else than to frustrate their management objective is anybody opposing the team? Ergo, any resistance is mounted only by those seeking to sabotage the EU patent.”

“That suggests to me that BB’s [Battistelli] actions are indeed explained as actions in support of the political imperative of making the Paris-based UPC a popular success, from the get go.”
      –MaxDrei
“How to make the UPC popular from the get go (and thereby please not only France but also Germany)? In an earlier post I suggested how. Reduce the EPO to a registation only office and disable the appeal and post-issue opposition processes. How to do that? Use EPO funds to manipulate opinion at AC level. Elevate staff distress to such high levels that everybody who can takes early retirement. Effectively stop all recruitment. That should do it! ”

One classic way to discredit a movement is to mischaracterise its goals, which in turn confuses the public and makes the movement less popular, due to poorer comprehension of motivations and aims. When it comes to the EPO, the management is either framing it as a personal attack, a witch-hunt against a single person (“Sun King” Battistelli), or an attack on the office itself (if not Europe itself), attributing it all to just a few disgruntled individuals. This is another pattern of EPO deception. They try to present it all (e.g. to the media) as a few militant people (pointing the finger at SUEPO) who are simply trying to crush the Office or its management (because of a personal vendetta).

“The last time there was a strike ballot, the ‘few’ turned out to be about 90% – which meant even more than just all union members had voted for the strike…”
      –Anonymous
As this new response makes clear: “The last time there was a strike ballot, the ‘few’ turned out to be about 90% – which meant even more than just all union members had voted for the strike (BB only allows himself to organise the union strike ballots and he chooses who can vote in order to try to scupper the vote – it was touch and go whether he would insist that he got a vote himself…). Either he forgets or he misspeaks.”

“Sun King” is fighting a losing battle here. Trying to misrepresent staff intent and mischaracterise staff protests would achieve nothing except reinforce that perception that he lies habitually.

“Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

New Heise Article Makes It Clear That ‘Nazi’-Themed Accusations Against the Suspended Board Judge Were Insufficiently Substantiated

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Emile Zola's article
Context

Summary: The personal attacks on a judge who was illegally suspended (a so-called ‘house ban’) increasingly look like the management’s own campaign of defamation, mostly intended to marginalise and punish a judge who spoke about serious charges against VP4 (Željko Topić)

READERS are advised to recall that the EPO’s media strategy right now is to frame its dissenting staff as armed and violent Nazis or Jihadists. It’s a pretext for attacking such staff, denying staff the right to free speech. Yesterday we published 7 articles about the EPO’s many abuses. In the 7th article we mentioned this new article from Heise journalist Stefan Krempl, whose previous article had a translation of (translation into English, as posted here). This time too we have a quick translation (approximately 12 hours after publication). Here it is:

European Patent Office throws out union leaders

heise online

23.11.2015 18:33 Stefan Krempl

The European Patent Office opened disciplinary proceedings against three trade unionists and suspended them. They are accused of having unlawfully counseled employees and to have blabbered too much.

“They are accused of having unlawfully counseled employees and to have blabbered too much.”The domestic bliss at the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich remains troubled. The newest unrest is mainly caused by the agency’s harsh treatment of three leading representatives of the institution’s international trade union (SUEPO): the chairwoman of the staff representation, Elizabeth Hardon, her predecessor, as well as the treasurer have been ordered to stay away from work since last week. The EPO opened disciplinary proceedings against them and suspended them as well. They are threatened with a swift dismissal.

The unionists are accused among other things of having unlawfully counseled fellow employees as well as a recently suspended patent judge, in addition to having threatened or bullied other union members, and to have informed third parties of the ongoing internal investigations against them. An EPO-spokesman confirmed the procedure to the Münchner Merkur and the Juve professional information service.

Confidential information betrayed?

“A labour law expert having knowledge of the case declared to “Juve” that in view of the latest escalation, the legal protection of the concerned parties was reduced to a joke.”Hardon had already been threatened last September with legal measures. She was most notably inculpated of having divulged that she had been summoned before the office’s relatively recent “Investigation Unit”. Through her lawyer, the unionist had resolutely rejected the accusations in a letter to the EPO Administrative Council. The matter at stake was allegedly a single sentence in a private and confidential discussion amongst the Staff Representation, as a part of an “opinion finding process”.

“Even if the disciplinary commission were to clear Hardon and her comrades of any wrongdoings, the president of the EPO wouldn’t be bound by its conclusions and nevertheless dismiss or otherwise sanction them.”A labour law expert having knowledge of the case declared to “Juve” that in view of the latest escalation, the legal protection of the concerned parties was reduced to a joke. Even if the disciplinary commission were to clear Hardon and her comrades of any wrongdoings, the president of the EPO wouldn’t be bound by its conclusions and nevertheless dismiss or otherwise sanction them. Only at that point would the concerned parties be able to involve the International Labor Organisation’s Administrative Tribunal. But many years could pass until a final decision is pronounced, and no one can verify whether the judgement is implemented.

The Patent Office’s “Sun King”

“The Frenchman has been accused for quite a while of running the institution as if he were the Sun King.”According to some reports, about 2000 EPO-employees spontaneously gathered for a demo before the Munich seat of the organisation, which has around 7000 employees in several locations. The demonstrators’ anger was particularly directed against the organisation’s chief Benoît Battistelli. The Frenchman has been accused for quite a while of running the institution as if he were the Sun King. Even though there were strikes and demos protesting against the working conditions within the EPO before Battistelli’s time, the protest have been markedly exacerbated since his 2010 inauguration as president.

“It stated that the accusations against the jurist were insufficiently substantiated.”The EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeals meanwhile rejected a request of the Administrative Council for removing a patent judge from his office, who had been the target of an other disciplinary procedure, in addition to having been counseled by Hardon. This emerged from the decision which the IPKat blog published. It stated that the accusations against the jurist were insufficiently substantiated. This raised the suspicion that the real intent was to get rid of a “bothersome judge”. The Administrative Council nevertheless initiated around mid-October a procedure for removing him from office. The highest instance of the judicial branch of the administration will have to deal with this affair anew.

“This raised the suspicion that the real intent was to get rid of a “bothersome judge”.”The Administrative council, which is composed of the representatives of the 38 member states of the European Patent Organisation (EPOrg), is the supervisory instance of the administration. It has supported Battistelli up to now. The EPO as an international administration is not subject to the law of any particular country, and thus frequently floats in a difficult to control gray area. (axk)

There is a link inside the article to the letter from Hardon, who complains about institutional harassment by "Sun King" and his team. It’s a link to Techrights. Unfortunately, the flow of information inside the EPO is greatly impeded by such institutional harassment. As one person put it, “the fact that no one dared to forward [material] in electronic form to the staff representation speaks volumes about the atmosphere of fear of retaliation that currently prevails in the Office, and the total lack of trust of staff in any meaningful form of data protection in the Office” (the EPO just arrogantly ignores European laws).

“The president stated several times that the opponents to his plans are just a few disgruntled examiners,” as this person points out, yet this president is attacking every employee. “I see that the techrights.org webserver is unresponsive,” wrote another person last night. “Could it be under suffering for its unfavourable coverage of the ongoing EPO hoohah?”

“I see that the techrights.org webserver is unresponsive. Could it be under suffering for its unfavourable coverage of the ongoing EPO hoohah?”
      –Anonymous
“What is the opposite of a “media partner”, by the way? Whatever it is, maybe the EPO has decided that techrights.org is one, deserving of special treatment.”

Actually, a massive surge in the number of cracking attempts to about 5 per second is partly to blame for accessibility or uptime issues. We don’t know who’s being such frequent attacks; we can only hypothetise. There is another new comment there, which says: “In his letter to the French representative Pierre-Yves le Borgn’, President Battistelli wrote that it was easy to prove that the interrogations of staff representatives were not violent because they were recorded. In order to prove this to be correct these recordings should be made available to the addressee by the EPO, a public institution that pretends to be more and more transparent. In fact staff are banned from the EPO premises if they make public that they were submitted to interrogation.

“The “conspirators” are not guilty of any wrongdoing either and Battistelli wilfully misled to the representative, the AC and the general public.”
      –Anonymous
“Mr Battistelli further stated that there was an intense defamation campaign originated by a member of DG3 who was guilty, according to BB, of conspiracy against the EPO. Said member, according to BB, stored weapons (!) and nazi propaganda in his office and wrote racist letters. Battistelli, when he wrote this letter on 20.11.2015 was aware of the EBoA decision Art 23 1/15, which concluded that there was no convincing evidence whatsoever in this respect. Said DG3 member is thus innocent and Lord Schiemmann has been proven to be wrong.”

“The “conspirators” are not guilty of any wrongdoing either and Battistelli wilfully misled to the representative, the AC and the general public.

“Further, Battistelli said that EPO staff wants to block the community patent, which is a mere allegation, he has not permitted staff expression on this subject nor on any other and there is no “rich and respectful social dialogue” either.

“Further, Battistelli said that EPO staff wants to block the community patent, which is a mere allegation, he has not permitted staff expression on this subject nor on any other and there is no “rich and respectful social dialogue” either.”
      –Anonymous
“Just to put it straight, there are, according to public EPO reports, 6000 candidates for examiner posts at the EPO in 2015, not 20.000. Productivity has increased mainly thanks to window dressing (ECfS).

“Thank you Mr. Le Borgn’.”

We are still hoping to publish a translation (from French to English) of the EPO’s puff pieces in its “media partner” — the same pieces which Battistelli is so eager to pass around to people like Pierre-Yves.

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