Also: the special role played by IAM 'magazine' in this weird kind of predictable spin
Picture from FFII, which really just opposes software patents
Summary: Attempts to characterise legitimate complaints about the EPO’s management as just an effort to derail the patent office itself, or even the patent system (spin courtesy of EPO and its media friends at IAM)
THE management of the EPO has deliberately conflated UPC critics — that’s us [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] — with other critics (we covered this some days ago, linking to a letter from the President, having previously seen this spin used against a suspended judge as well) while doing a lot in recent days to actively promote UPC (warning: link to
epo.org, enabling tracking by EPO spies). As a recent guest post stated, a lot of patent examiners had already been supportive of UPC. To accuse unions such as SUEPO of having an anti-UPC agenda is ludicrous, yet it’s actually happening, usually behind closed doors or in private letters (where there is no chance for anyone to rebut such bogus accusations).
“As a business we have received sponsorship from the agency [European Patent Office] [...] IAM will be accused by some of being a mouthpiece for the EPO”
–IAM ‘magazine’The EPO’s management, which seemingly serves large corporations as a matter of priority (never mind privatisation of the EPO itself), likes the UPC. It has repeatedly lobbied for the UPC. So have some major international corporations, which probably hope that this would trivialise international/global patent actions, such as injunctions (embargoes), irrespective of local laws and domestic interests (e.g. a British company being frivolously sued by a non-British company over patents in Britain). See this new post from IAM which also conflates EPO disputes with “anti-patent campaigners”. This is nonsense. Watch how the post begins: “Full disclosure: IAM has collaborated with the European Patent Office on many occasions. As a business we have received sponsorship from the agency, we have also worked with it as a (non-fee paying) supporting organisation on some of our event [...] we are proud of our relationship with the EPO [...] IAM will be accused by some of being a mouthpiece for the EPO” (the spending of nearly a million dollars in one single year on PR won’t inspire confidence, either).
This reaffirms if not confirms what we wrote earlier today about IAM essentially behind in cahoot or in bed with the EPO. Watch how they’re attacking SUEPO’s credibility.
As IBM’s chief patent guy, Manny Schecter (proponent of software patents, just like his employer and like IAM), put it the other day, the UPC may make a difference. Well, to whose advantage really? Surely it would be desirable for IBM to sue European companies everywhere in Europe in one fell swoop, or demand higher ‘royalties’ (‘damages’ being another euphemism for penalties or fines, maybe taxes).
“More importantly, be very sceptical of IAM. They’re not like a ‘media partner’ of the EPO.”Schecter links to this article, whose author is pretending UPC is already here and cannot be stopped (many patent lawyers do the same thing and the British government prematurely allocated physical resources to it). Here we have a legal blog saying that “we can expect the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) reforms” (as it they’re inevitable, even though they’re not).
Watch out and be wary of patent lawyers’ spin, especially those who are in the business of protecting or attacking on behalf of large multinational corporations. They know where their money comes from. More importantly, be very sceptical of IAM. They’re not like a ‘media partner’ of the EPO. █
“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
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This now-infamous example, as shown below, isn’t an article but an EPO advertisement pretending to be an article (actually a recruitment puff piece)
Summary: With nearly one million dollars dedicated in just one single year to reputation laundering, one can imagine that a lot of media coverage won’t be objective, or just be synthetic EPO promotion, seeded by the EPO or its peripheral PR agents
THE EPO did something very foolish two months ago. It did this secretly, naïvely assuming that the public would never find out. But it did. We broke the story here just before the weekend and we shall see if corporate media, i.e. the target of the EPO’s media campaign, will actually choose to cover it.
“Good reputation can not only be bought these days. It can be demanded.”Techrights has written extensively about the Gates Foundation paying a lot of the world’s media companies (to the tune of, an average, one million dollars per day) to say how wonderful Bill Gates is and promote companies that he is investing in, for profit. He turned a lot of publications into his mouthpiece and many journalists into propagandists for his political agenda. A recent article (a few days old) called it “Bill Chill” effect . Bribed-for coverage became rather normal when it comes to this area of coverage and objections or criticism subsequently marginalised, or drowned aside in a sea of puff pieces. Good reputation can not only be bought these days. It can be demanded. Attacks on opposing voices are possible too, e.g. by paying lousy legal firms to intimidate people.
Let’s face the simple reality that the EPO now has a reputation catastrophe. Thanks to our coverage, even Private Eye is now on the EPO's tail. What the EPO is doing here might not be unusual, especially among corporations that are in a similar crisis. Many large companies disseminate money or ‘soft’ bribes (e.g. gifts) to the media via PR agencies (see our pages about Microsoft PR agencies and AstroTurfing), but the EPO isn’t a private company. Well, it increasingly is, but that’s another big problem.
The New Scientist page from January says “Advertisement” on the right pane (see screenshot above), but it should also say so above the ‘article’ itself as it’s essentially an EPO-funded advertisement. This is clearly not an article, it’s a placement paid for by the EPO. “Even a blind cat would see that it’s only an ad,” wrote this one person in Twitter. “Even with a link at the end…”
“Attacks on opposing voices are possible too, e.g. by paying lousy legal firms to intimidate people.”“Advertisement is on an unrelated link,” wrote this person, “not on the article, which is a regular section (“careers”).”
Is there more coming? With a budget of €880,000? As we noted here before, the Les Échos débâcle [1, 2, 3] (now [cref 86571 Battistelli’s mouthpiece not just ‘media partner’) may be just the edge of a much larger iceberg. La Débâcle is now a better, more suitable name for Les Échos. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Despite its impact, few book-length assessments of the foundation’s work have appeared. Now Linsey McGoey, a sociologist at the University of Essex, is seeking to fill the gap. “Just how efficient is Gates’s philanthropic spending?” she asks in No Such Thing as a Free Gift. “Are the billions he has spent on U.S. primary and secondary schools improving education outcomes? Are global health grants directed at the largest health killers? Is the Gates Foundation improving access to affordable medicines, or are patent rights taking priority over human rights?”
As the title of her book suggests, McGoey answers all of these questions in the negative. The good the foundation has done, she believes, is far outweighed by the harm. In education, she maintains, most of its initiatives have either gone bust or failed to deliver on their promises. The foundation’s first great education initiative focused on creating small schools in place of big ones, on the assumption that doing so would allow students to receive more individualized attention. From 2000 to 2008, it spent $2 billion to establish 2,602 schools across the United States, affecting a total of nearly 800,000 students. Unfortunately, the experiment failed to improve college acceptance rates to the degree that the Gateses had hoped, and so they abruptly terminated it.
Instead, the foundation channeled its resources into a host of other initiatives — increased data collection on teacher effectiveness, the introduction of performance-based teacher pay, more standardized testing for students. The foundation has invested heavily in charter schools and vigorously backed the Common Core, which sets national reading and math standards. These are all key elements of the so-called school reform movement. Arne Duncan, as head of Chicago’s public schools, worked closely with both the Gates and Broad foundations, and as President Obama’s secretary of education he sought to implement many of their ideas.
McGoey (along with many others) is sharply critical of this movement. She cites studies that show that charter schools have performed no better or worse than traditional public schools, and she notes that the Gates Foundation itself has backed away from its once vocal support for assessing teacher performance on the basis of student test scores. While the willingness of the Gateses to change their minds in the face of evidence is admirable, McGoey writes, the reforms they championed “are now entrenched. For many teachers and students, their recent handwringing over the perils of high-stakes testing has come a little too late.”
On one point, however, McGoey is convincing — the need for more analysis of this powerful foundation and the man and woman at its head. Bill and Melinda Gates answer to no electorate, board, or shareholders; they are accountable mainly to themselves. What’s more, the many millions of dollars the foundation has bestowed on nonprofits and news organizations has led to a natural reluctance on their part to criticize it. There’s even a name for it: the “Bill Chill” effect.
That’s not to say that there has been no critical coverage of the foundation’s work. Diane Ravitch has excoriated Gates along with the rest of the school reform movement in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, as well as on her blog. The New York Times and other papers have offered occasional close examinations of Gates’ work. And Joanne Barkan, in a 2011 article in Dissent titled, “Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools,” offered a thoroughgoing critique of the education work of Gates and its fellow foundations. In another Dissent article on “how big philanthropy undermines democracy,” Barkan complained that “the mainstream media are, for the most part, failing miserably in their watchdog duties. They give big philanthropy excessive deference and little scrutiny.”
That may be changing. Alessandra Stanley, writing in the Times in late October, offered a skeptical assessment of the outsized claims made by Sean Parker and other Silicon Valley philanthropists. “Tech entrepreneurs believe their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else — and in many ways it is,” she observed. “But despite their flair for disruption, these philanthropists are no more interested in radical change than their more conservative predecessors. They don’t lobby for the redistribution of wealth; instead, they see poverty and inequality as an engineering problem, and the solution is their own brain power, not a tithe.”
We need more probing accounts of this sort. The power of the new barons of philanthropy is only going to grow. The risks they take and the bets they make will no doubt become bolder. If journalists don’t hold them accountable, who will?
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Reference to Nineteen Eighty-Four
Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) with its dubious attacks on free speech inside Europe further unveiled for the European public to see (as well as the international community, which oughtn’t show any respect to the EPO, a de facto tyranny at the heart of Europe)
HE EPO recently started a nasty war on journalism. To the megalomaniacs who now run the EPO (or serve the megalomaniac in chief) the goal is to saturate the media with bogus 'coverage' favourable to the EPO while silencing EPO critics. This isn’t some fossil fuel company we’re talking about here; it’s a public institution! It is being privatised piecewise.
“This isn’t some fossil fuel company we’re talking about here; it’s a public institution!”Speaking of piecewise, in a piecewise fashion we intend to publish responses to the EPO’s bullies, without revealing their names or even revealing their documents, which they insist are strictly not for publication. If they don’t want their documents published, this certainly does not prevent us from publishing our responses to them.
As stated last night, the EPO’s bullies tried to entrap me just before midnight on a Friday night. I needed to look for a lawyer as soon as possible, past midnight on a Friday night or early on Saturday (which is too hard a task). The first person to respond to me was a lawyer who wrote:
This is not legal advice, and I would speak to a lawyer as a matter of urgency, but it’s worth noting if the European Patent Office wish to sue you, then they ought to be aware of the Derbyshire judgment which makes it hard for public bodies from suing individuals for libel.
“I spoke to a fellow blogger,” I told this lawyer, one “who has been covering these matters for a couple of years and [the blogger] says something similar — that they don’t have the power to bring legal action. Judging the letter itself, a professional said it’s more like a “prank letter” (his words) written in an effort to intimidate (SLAPP), apparently not just me but other people too.
“Libel law was clearly being misused here.”“I believe that some time later this month this will go public; people who have received such threats (not just myself) need help from legal professionals here, as the EPO is clearly misusing its legal immunity (they are exempted from European law) to bully dissent/critics, even outsiders.”
Well, more than a month has passed since then. The lawyer said “these legal aspects are fascinating – and important” (quite unprecedented as some bloggers pointed out last week). This lawyer was eventually not the one representing me (I had contacted only two), but nevertheless their reaction was the same. Libel law was clearly being misused here.
“Something to be prepared for when writing about EPO,” I told the lawyer, “even as an outsider.” They are now bullies who don’t tolerate critics and actually take action against these critics.
“But then the EPO persisted in sending more threatening letters, clearly not walking away, not even relenting.”“They have been spying on me extensively (sources close to the EPO told me) for quite some time. I would LOVE to know if they use against journalists and bloggers the same sorts of tools (maybe intercepts from their mates in government, perhaps via CRG) that they got caught using against staff and visitors at EPO (hidden cameras and keyloggers).”
“This could make the news,” told me a person at the time, “if you don’t think the threat is credible – I could put you in touch with a journalist who would be interested in this story?”
Even back then I made clear to everyone that I’d be able to provide a lot of supportive information, having written about this on an almost daily for over a year. But then the EPO persisted in sending more threatening letters, clearly not walking away, not even relenting. The intention was clear. Chilling effect was quite likely the desired outcome.
“The very fact that the threatening letter was sent so late on a Friday night suggested to me that denial of access to a lawyer was likely the intention.”Even though some English-speaking journalists were at one point preparing to hammer on the EPO pretty hard, I decided to wait, as per advice from close friends of mine. At the same time, around mid October, Battistelli tried to ‘swing’ with journalists and now we know that he had signed a massive contract with a US PR firm. This may very well be related to the war on journalism because of the timing.
“Having read about the subject,” told me the high-profile lawyer who now represents me, “I am very concerned about what the EPO is doing, and I am now going to see if I can take this case on formally on a pro bono basis.”
My lawyer, David Allen Green, basically said (initial assessment) that the EPO’s letter in its form “is bullshit”. At first glance he called the letter “complete bullshit”, but it didn’t exactly shock me since I knew it was totally out of line. As I got it so late at night I was able to arrive at the same conclusion based on my basic knowledge of the relevant laws (it’s not my area, but I know the basics). The very fact that the first threatening letter was sent so late on a Friday night suggested to me that denial of access to a lawyer was likely the intention.
In my mind, Battistelli is a sociopath and it helps explain why the organisation as a whole has become so sociopathic. A fish rots from the head down. █
“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”
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Using sledgehammers or machine guns to tackle what could instead be properly addressed with just a scalpel
Disproportionate showing of force
Summary: A detailed list of facts or observations regarding the EPO’s newfound love for censorship, even imposed on outside entities, including bloggers (part one of several to come)
I AM quite frankly overwhelmed by the amount of public support that I’ve received ever since the EPO‘s bullying against me became public information. I wish to thank everyone who sent kind and encouraging words. Worry not, the EPO won’t succeed at silencing us. They only score an own goal each time they attempt to do so.
“This attitudinal issue evidently comes from the top (rotting from the head downwards).”This morning somebody sent us a link to yet another forum/news site discussing what the EPO had done. The author asks: “How many people out there have been subjected to censorship and/or self-censorship by European Patent Office aggression against the media?”
We are still waiting for more people to speak out. We know about at least one person other than us. The EPO doesn’t like to make polite amendments/corrections/requests for comment. It’s too aggressive for that kind of approach. This attitudinal issue evidently comes from the top (rotting from the head downwards).
There are several observations I have been eager to make (for over a month now). Here they are itemised below.
1. IAM Magazine an EPO Mouthpiece?
A lot of people don’t know this, but our arch-foe IAM (often a tool for proponents of software patents and various patent maximalists) asked us for documents a month ago. These documents relate to the explosive story we covered; it was so explosive in fact that a lot of the European media covered it (citing Techrights) and this was the time that EPO kicked into action… legal action (or at least threats thereof).
“I personally believe that IAM was somehow complicit in helping the EPO here, not just in the ‘damage control’ sense.”I personally believe that IAM was somehow complicit in helping the EPO here, not just in the ‘damage control’ sense. I should probably have been more sceptical because they’re longtime foes of ours and they leaked two original documents that I gave them confidentially while twice telling them to absolutely not publish (they did anyway, potentially compromising my sources).
Take this as a word of warning. The role of IAM, as evident from their article, is to amplify EPO PR officials, helping them make a case against perceived opponents. I’ve asked around in popular legal media about their views of IAM. They don’t view IAM’s negligent (or worse — malicious) behaviour as intentional.
Watch out, EPO staff (e.g. examiners, clerical staff). IAM is not your friend. Worse — it may be your enemy.
2. Patent-centric Lawyers Called BS on EPO’s Tactics
Not only lawyers specialising in free speech were flabbergasted by the EPO’s behaviour (more on that in later posts). I was enormously relieved to speak to some patent lawyers and hear their take on this because it was very evident that even patent people were on my side, not the EPO’s side. The EPO’s management is very rapidly alienating people and eliminating even allies. How terrible is that?
“I rightly predicted at the time that the EPO would repeatedly send threatening letters.”Several people whom I trust have known about what the EPO did for a number of weeks. “Please don’t take this public,” I told them, “at least not yet, for I fear that this is just one among several such threats.”
I rightly predicted at the time that the EPO would repeatedly send threatening letters. That’s just what they did. A week later Capone even wrote a blog post about it. They were playing with fire and thought they would managed to burn down a blog.
“See who the letter is addressed to,” I told one lawyer. “It’s a name that’s not mine and it’s a German name, so I’m thinking either a member of SUEPO, which recently received such threats (e.g. to remove links to FOSS Patents and even Heise News) or some journalist in Germany.”
“At the time I already knew of a war on the media and bloggers; deterrence tactics had been used against a French blogger, who contacted me about it just days in advance.”That name, as we revealed several days ago, was Schneider. We haven’t been able to identify who exactly that was (it’s a very common surname, even inside the EPO).
At the time I already knew of a war on the media and bloggers; deterrence tactics had been used against a French blogger, who contacted me about it just days in advance. We are still hoping that more journalists and bloggers will come out and speak out. We need to understand just to what lengths these thugs will go in an effort to silent prominent critics.
3. Part of a New Campaign From Battistelli
Days before it happened the EPO spent a huge amount of money contracting a firm that specialises in public relation and legal strategies (like threatening legal letters). It’s a massive Washington-based firm called FTI Consulting, whose list of clients is rather revealing. The date on the contract is just about 2 weeks earlier!
“It wasn’t long before the staff representatives came under massive, unprecedented attacks.”Sources told me at the time that next week (the week after these threats) there may be some new Battistelli-led campaign intended to crush dissent in new, unprecedented ways. It wasn’t long before the staff representatives came under massive, unprecedented attacks.
Don’t think for a moment that these crackdowns have no relation to the FTI Consulting contract! It seems improbable and rather unreasonable to call this just a “coincidence”. Notice the timing.
“I don’t assume privacy in my E-mail,” I told a lawyer, “but anonymity tools and sometimes encryption keep the sources safe. Nobody, as far as I’m aware (and I’m checking), came under threats or problems due to communication with me.”
That statement still holds true as far as I am aware. Techrights never (to the best of my knowledge) caused complications for a source. Not even the EPO managed to change this, with help from FTI Consulting and CRG (Control Risks Group). All of them, including the legal firms, have large offices based in London.
“All of them, including the legal firms, have large offices based in London.”“I am still eager to establish, factually,” I said, “whether there is any link (personal, e.g. former employer) between Control Risks Group and GCHQ/CESG.”
I finally added: “I think this story may continue to develop for at least another year to come. I still have some very damning material in my possession — too damning to even publish at this moment.”
Well, that was more than a month ago. We still have stockpiles of material. This is perhaps why the EPO’s management is so panicky.
4. EPO Barks, But Won’t Bite
In articles that we shall publish in the future we are doing to further dissect what the EPO was hoping to achieve and rules that it probably broke in the process. EPO breaking rules?! No way!
“We are going to provide more such opinions in the future. These serve to show that all we have here is SLAPP.”We spoke to fellow journalists about these matters at a very early stage to find out more. “Glad you’ve been able to take legal advice,” one told us. “No-one in my team of writers knows much about defamation, though there is a feeling that an action would be hard-pressed to succeed under UK defamation law given the public interest dimension and the problems that the EPO would face in showing any loss. In addition, the EPO would expose itself to a good deal of unwanted publicity and to the disclosure for the purposes of litigation of information which it has not hitherto been willing to make available. This latter consideration might reasonably lead one to think that the EPO will not want to have its bluff called and face real litigation in England and Wales.”
We are going to provide more such opinions in the future. These serve to show that all we have here is SLAPP.
5. The EPO Has Much to Hide, Much to Fear
It quickly becomes ever more evident that the EPO is afraid because it knows that it has plenty to hide. In social media, at a later stage, I have called for people to leak any threatening letters which they received from the EPO, I.U. or any external legal firm/s. Many anonymous EPO-centric people are following me (although I cannot verify this, it’s just a gut feeling), so I was hoping some of them had something to share with Techrights in the coming week. Information has been pouring in since then and further accelerated (the pace of input) since it became known that the EPO was threatening me. The ban of Techrights inside the EPO had a similar effect. Why is the EPO so tactless? It merely legitimises its critics, insinuating that it is trying to hide something.
6. Techrights Only One of Many Victims
If the EPO was a cave, there would be a big pile of corpses at its entrance (not a reference to suicides but a metaphor in the context of character assassination and witch-hunting).
“Who knows how far the EPO’s attacks on critics go… they send these letters to activists/campaigners like myself, so I reckon to journalists too, not just staff, independent boards and unions. Even lawyers are now in the cross-hairs.”The EPO is intolerant to criticism and it actively work to crush critics. How widespread is this phenomenon really? Inside the institution? Outside of it? Have any MEPs who publicly complained about the EPO’s management (that’s over 100 MEPs) received letters accusing them too of defamation? That’s a question I asked someone more than a month ago, well before Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ made publicly-accessible the rude letter sent to him personally from Benoît Battistelli.
Who knows how far the EPO’s attacks on critics go… they send these letters to activists/campaigners like myself, so I reckon to journalists too, not just staff, independent boards and unions. Even lawyers are now in the cross-hairs.
Recently, Ms Hardon or colleagues (or fellow union leader) made it abundantly clear that the staff representatives are very much in the cross-hairs. This is hardly surprising, but for EPO to start abusing lawyers and journalists is very gross overreach. There is no room for such behaviour in a civilised country. The threatening letters sent to Ms Hardon and her response to it (via a legal firm), accusing the EPO is “institutional harassment”, as per definition of harassment, are really quite telling.
“The thing about legal letters is that it’s hard to properly anonymise such letters, so not many people come out or come forward to make their cases known/publicised.”Ms Hardon is not the only one facing such abuses, but to show evidence of it we’ll need to wait patiently. We know of other such letters. They’re already circulating and there is also a petition coming (we have seen it, but won’t publish it for now).
Going back to journalists, we still try to publicly urge for disclosure of threats, censorship etc. (like censorship by an editor, a phonecall from EPO officials and various acts of self-censorship). The thing about legal letters is that it’s hard to properly anonymise such letters, so not many people come out or come forward to make their cases known/publicised. We wonder how many people surrender and maybe even get manipulated (payment, apology); remember that the letter sent to me still had someone else’s name (a German name). It was clearly a rushed job. Maybe they did this in bulk in preparation for what I was told on Friday — earlier on the very same day — is “a new media strategy of Battistelli” (to start this week).
7. Topić and History of Censorship (or Self-Censorship)
I wish to remind readers that Topić (VP4) probably did what was done to us before, even back in Croatia. A blogger who exposed his alleged corruption (bribes) took down the article and posted an apology. It was very weird; there was almost definitely strong-arming. At the same time, a defamation case in Croatia (over the allegations in this article) was lost by Topić, giving credibility to this story. It was only months later! In the internal EPO site the ‘apology’ (placement) was linked as ‘proof’ of Topić being innocent, yet nothing was said about it shortly after he lost his defamation case in Zagreb.
“The authors in some Croatian media believe that Topić faces something like 6 criminal charges in Croatia, yet Battistelli found it possible to appoint him Vice-President and make him his right-hand man (EPO staff say he’s like the bulldog in the building now, taking down unwanted posters).”The authors in some Croatian media believe that Topić faces something like 6 criminal charges in Croatia, yet Battistelli found it possible to appoint him Vice-President and make him his right-hand man (EPO staff say he’s like the bulldog in the building now, taking down unwanted posters). Having been compelled to review Topić’s record, Battistelli’s people conducted a very bogus ‘internal investigation’ (we wrote about this a long time ago), so we reckon they see nothing wrong with his antics. No wonder they now do in Germany what some deem “Balkan standards”.
Remember that no less than 5 people in the EPO committed suicide in recent years. Given information that we have in our possession but have not published yet (it would cause chaos), we think the above abuse may have something to do with at least some of them. Should the EPO be held accountable for some deaths too?
We have so much more to say, but we shall leave it for another post because this one is already getting quite long. █
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