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11.25.15

Debunking the EPO’s Latest Marketing Nonsense From Les Échos and More on Benoît Battistelli’s Nastygram to French Politician

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

That’s a Scud by the way…

Battistelli with Scud

Summary: Our detailed remarks about French brainwash from the EPO’s media partner (with Benoît Battistelli extensively quoted) and the concerns increasingly raised by French politicians, who urge for national or even continental intervention

THE management of the EPO is very deep in a crisis, so it is now discouraging criticism if not demanding cessation thereof (similar to nastygrams in the slangy sense). This post will elaborate on what happened last week to a French minister (a longtime critic of the EPO [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]), but first we want to tackle some of the latest French propaganda from the EPO’s ‘media partner’ (euphemism for propaganda rag), Les Échos [1, 2, 3]. That’s because Benoît Battistelli is evidently citing this propaganda rag in private letters, in ‘support’ of his ludicrous, virtually indefensible side. As one commenter put it the other day: “In support of his argumentation, BB [Benoît Battistelli] also refers to recent press articles annexed to his letter, such as the paid-for article in EPO´s “media partner” Les Échos.”

Let’s look at what Les Échos has to say and annotate the text accordingly. “It is a sickening regurgitation of the Benoît Battistelli party line,” a reader told us, but nonetheless this reader translated the EPO-related part of the article:

Home -> Themes -> Transformation : put agility in your organisation Transformation: The “enemies” within

Yes, remember that the “enemy” is the staff. Not the management. The staff. That’s the premise.

Julie Le Bolzer | Le 19/11 à 11:39

Employees, unions and even bosses are sometimes so averse to change that the business transformation process is hindered. Some examples from the EPO, Air France KLM, and PSA.

We have already shown that PSA was altogether ‘airbrushed’ out of this article. The author loses credibility for not even mentioning this. Previously, parts that were critical of the EPO were also ‘airbrushed’ out of Les Échos articles.

As Benoît Battistelli, then director general of the [French] National Institute for Intellectual Property (INPI), took over in 2010 the leadership of the European Patent Office (EPO), his objectives were clearly defined. It was to reinforce and sustain the organisation’s competitiveness against its competitors from America and Asia, and to make it in the international office of record. Fact: the EPO, which had been created in the 1970s, has not evolved in 40 years, or very little. It is therefore necessary to profoundly reform it, at the structural, organisational and managerial levels.

“Competition with other patent offices,” we are told, is “management BS.” It’s not hard to see why given that the EPO enjoys a government-granted and government-protected monopoly inside Europe.

We are going to address and write about the roots of the EPO in some other article on some other day. The full story is rather embarrassing.

In concrete terms, Benoît Battistelli harnesses himself to a multi-pronged task: regulate salary increases (until then automatic), the right to strike and career progression (which are henceforth no longer based only on seniority but on performance), develop teleworking, implement a social agenda, adopt more transparency… And these were just the the internal transformations. On en external front, the EPO should differentiate itself from other international patent office (filing a patent in the United States costs 25% less). Amongst other innovations, the EPO supports the initiative of the countries of the European Union to create a unitary European patent, which is major progress for French and European businesses whose patents represent obvious competitive assets. The unitary patent is currently being ratified by national parliaments and could be implemented as early as next year in 26 different countries.

The thing about automatic “salary increases” is an “outright lies,” a reader told us. “Even in the “good old days” the god-damned production was #1 priority. The difference is that they can LEGALLY stand you up the wall, and they also do.”

Is the “unitary patent (UPC) a good thing? If so, for who? That’s like one of those articles boasting about the greatness of the TPP. A three-letter word on its own does not imply it’s good.

Now comes the worse propaganda:

European Patent Office : An in-house trade union is hostile to change

The problem might not be change itself but the kind of change. Big difference. They’re portraying staff as Luddites.

Here comes propaganda galore, as if Julie just did a copy-paste job without fact-check or research:

As of today, the transformation plan borne by Benoît Battistelli reveals its efficacy: an increase of 10% the productivity of the EPO and of 13% of the number of files handled (270,000 patent applications are received and nearly 70,000 are granted each year), an employer’s brand which has improved its images: more than 20,000 job applications were received for 200 positions to be filled…

As a reader put it:

“10% efficiency increase”? By what measure? Who can verify? How?

“270,000 applications” is the good ol’ pissing contest… This stupid trick was addressed repeatedly over the last few years in different blogs. The real number is about half of that. I don’t want to go in a course on patent law, but in a nutshell a large part of these applications never make it even to the doorstep of the EPO.

“The second part about Air France KLM seems a somewhat more balanced when compared to the first one,” our reader told us. “But should one trust it more than part one?”

Remember that Les Échos quietly remove the entire section about PSA. Completely too! To carry on with this puff piece:

But this process didn’t occur without resistance, nor even without grave disturbances, such as defamation campaigns, anonymous letters, personal attacks against the president and other office staff members. As any events which have left to disciplinary and judicial proceedings, some of which are still underway. The opponents to change, who are the root of opposition: certain SUEPO leaders, the in-house trade union worried by its dwindling influence over the 7000 employees, and which denounces the lack of checks and balances [literally: counter-powers] within the EPO.

Here’s a dictionary for the above paragraph:

Resistance=participation.

Disturbances=feedback.

Defamation=explanation.

Anonymous=afraid of reprisal from management.

Personal attacks=personal accounts.

Disciplinary and judicial proceedings=the EPO’s own Stasi-esque department (or "Gestapo"), the Investigative Unit [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]], bolstered by ‘British Blackwater’, CRG.

SUEPO=staff.

The part that says “worried by its dwindling influence over the 7000 employees” is a lie. SUEPO is empowered by growing support from more EPO employees; it’s only harmed by union-busting actions from EPO management. Julie obviously didn’t pay attention to protests which took place a day before she wrote this article. About 2,000 people attended these, including some Directors (so there are defections to the union’s side even at the top).

Here is the last part:

The formal recognition process of unions at the EPO is well underway, and should lead to the signature of a first agreement in the coming weeks. The trade unions will thus have a status. The social dialogue was opened last April. “The goal is to build transformation in a collegial manner”, emphasises Benoît Battistelli. In such a climate of tension and even of extreme pressure, how could one maintain the course on a reform of such magnitude? “All that is excessive is not credible”, relativises the EPO president; “in particular, I have a strong ability for resistance and my beliefs are just as strong. I am conviced that the transformation of the EPO constitutes an asset for our employees and more widely for the European economy.”

“All that is excessive is not credible,” Battistelli is quoted as saying (by translation). Oh, the hypocrisy! The rest is just window dressing. Why didn’t Julie approach a staff representative for comment? Or even arbitrary staff? See, the purpose of this whole piece is to be one sides and paint a picture where only ‘poor’ rich people are the victims, not those whom they crush.

If this is the kind of puff piece that Battistelli uses as ‘evidence’ (from his media partner, relayed by Julie), then we worry that some politicians might be easy to bamboozle and pacify.

Looking at SUEPO’s Web site, we now see several translations of several items, some of which we translated before. These come from Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ and the parts we don’t yet have are copied below for future reference and permanent retention. Here is the translation of the original blog post from the French MP, who SUEPO says “represents French nationals living in Germany and Austria (among other countries).”

Letter to Emmanuel Macron regarding the crisis at the European Patent Office

18 November 2015

I was informed last week of the actions being undertaken by the management of the European Patent Office (EPO) against a number of executives of the SUEPO staff union and representatives of the personnel. A considerable number of witnesses have also been in touch with me, as recently as yesterday. I find the aims being pursued and the methods of investigation described in these communications profoundly shocking. The state of health of the persons involved concerns me deeply, and likewise the anxiety felt by their families. I cannot accept that, under cover of immunity from outside legal intervention, the individual and collective rights of the staff of an international organization can be trodden underfoot with the aims and practices of another age. The attempts to re-establish and develop social dialogue are not disruptive. For three years I have been following with close attention the social conflict and crisis of management at the EPO. I have talked to all the parties concerned, and I have consciously sent limited reports about my meetings and the initiatives taken to ease the situation and to contribute to the efforts to find a compromise solution. What has occurred in the past few days at a number of EPO facilities, however, has shown me that all such efforts will remain in vain unless radical change is forthcoming.

I am therefore making public the letter which I sent this Wednesday to the Minister of the Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs, Emmanuel Macron, whose area of responsibility in the Government includes intellectual property, to draw his attention to the situation at the EPO and to call our country to action.

Here is the translations of the letter to Minister Macron:

National Assembly
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’
Deputy for French Citizens Abroad

French Republic
Liberty – Equality – Fraternity

Mr. Emmanuel Macron
Minister of the Economy and Industry
Cologne, 18 November 2015

Re: Actions taken against representatives of the personnel of the European Patent Office

Dear Minister,

I am writing to draw your attention to the deterioration in social relations at the European Patent Office (EPO). Over the past few days, a number of EPO employees, among them active members of the EPO staff union (SUEPO) and representatives of the personnel, have been the target of actions initiated by the internal investigation unit. Witnesses who have come forward to me from a number of EPO facilities have been subjected to interrogations of unusual violence, which has left these persons in a state of shock and distress which is extremely detrimental to their well-being, involving medical treatment and leading to stoppages at work. I have received emotional messages from the persons concerned, as well as from their traumatised families and their distressed colleagues. A number of retired EPO staff have likewise approached me to inform me of their alarm and revulsion, feelings which I share. This situation is intolerable.

“Witnesses who have come forward to me from a number of EPO facilities have been subjected to interrogations of unusual violence, which has left these persons in a state of shock and distress which is extremely detrimental to their well-being, involving medical treatment and leading to stoppages at work.”For close to three years I have been consistently involved with the endless issues of social conflict which have been ravaging the EPO, engaging with the staff and the executive management of the organization. I have written to you on a number of occasions, and also to your predecessors. I am well aware of the challenge posed by managing such an important organization, with the numbers of staff involved and the high stakes at issue in the field of intellectual property. Conversely, I cannot in any manner condone the fact that intimidation and management by fear have taken the place of social dialogue. The immunity from outside legal intervention of an international organization cannot be allowed to lead to policies and practices being adopted which labour tribunals would condemn forthwith in any Member State of the Council of Europe, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter.

“More than 1,000 French citizens work at the EPO facilities, falling under my area of responsibility.”Labour law cannot be allowed to stop at the doors of the EPO. It is the responsibility of each Member State to take due note of the crisis of governance which has led the organization into this situation, which it must be clear to all cannot be allowed to shape the future. A social audit must be conducted without further delay, by an independent authority, recognized and chosen by the Administrative Council of the EPO. It is vital that the Administrative Council and therefore the Member States exercise close control over all the policies being applied at the EPO, including the social policy. I am expecting our country to engage with full commitment to this effect. The argument that prudence should be exercised simply because one of our compatriots is presiding over the destiny of the EPO is not pertinent. More than 1,000 French citizens work at the EPO facilities, falling under my area of responsibility. I am their deputy, and I intend to defend them.

“It is high time for France to act, side by side with other Member States, major purveyors of patents, and to make them aware of the situation.”I shall be meeting you next week in the company of other parliamentary colleagues. It is high time for France to act, side by side with other Member States, major purveyors of patents, and to make them aware of the situation. Too much time has been lost in useless discussion since the start of the conflict. The timid reservations and protests occasionally uttered have led to nothing. It is radical change in certain policies at the EPO, and therefore resolute action, which is at issue. An international organization cannot live a life divorced from, and contrary to, that of its Member States, and, likewise, divorced from and contrary to the rights of its personnel. The EPO is in need of the greatest and most urgent attention of those who created it. It is a formidable organization, which should be encouraged and maintained, and of which the staff, with their recognized skills and commitment, must be respected. I am confident in this respect that I can count on your full attention and understanding.

Yours faithfully,

Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’

We already covered the two latter items, beating SUEPO to it by a number of days thanks to our kind French-speaking readers (definitely not EPO staff).

As SUEPO put it, Battistelli “wrote to the Minister of Economy M. Macron to report on the deteriorating situation at EPO following the suspension of 3 union officials in Munich and attacks on a further two representatives in The Hague.

“Read here the exchange of letters which followed publication of this alert: they seem to show Mr Battistelli has lost both his control and his capacity for discernment, all the while accusing SUEPO officials of any number of extravagant and extraordinary crimes.”

Battistelli and his team go not only after SUEPO, their lawyers, and politicians but also after bloggers. These thugs need to be stopped. They evidently think that in EPOnia they’re the judge and the executioner.

“A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.”

Henry Mencken

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4 Comments

  1. katkatkat said,

    November 25, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Gravatar

    Dr Schestowitz, we appreciate your admirable work for truth, transparency and justice in what used to be a model International Organisation, the EPO. Many thanks! We are at your side.
    Inquire about a contract of over 800.000€ with some selected press agencies to refurbish the image of the EPO after the alllegedly “damaging campaign by few employees and mad bloggers”. Someone has seen the signed contract passing from desk to desk atbthe EPO (readers please provide confirmation or evidence). A further misuse of public money.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    If you’re saying that this is how much was paid to CRG, then that’s a big story because it indicates there’s a vast external team working on surveillance and union-busting. I know who signed the contract and who was involved, but if anyone was to pass us a copy of the contract, that would aid on the accountability side. My understanding is that some staff might pursue legal action over the deeds of CRG and the I.U. (already the subject of a Federal probe), so the more evidence becomes available, the better.

  2. katkatkat said,

    November 26, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Gravatar

    I do not know who was the beneficiary of the contract, only that its purpose was to restore the “damaged” reputation of the EPO by way of favourable press articles and media contributions (Les Echoes is just an example). For a favourable coverage, the simple resignation of BB would suffice. This would be very cheap for the EPO.
    I was also told that the EPO might buy an armoured limousine for the safety of President who has already a number of body guards. If true, it would be another useless expenditure of public money.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It would be valuable to have these details out in the public domain, in order to provide concrete proof (all the above is otherwise classified as gossip).

    Maybe Battistelli can get a good deal on a limousine from his right-hand man, Željko Topić. He has reputation with fancy cars in his home country.

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