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11.28.15

What Everyone Needs to Know About the EPO’s New War on Journalism

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Using sledgehammers or machine guns to tackle what could instead be properly addressed with just a scalpel

EPO War on Journalism
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?”

EPO logo smallWe 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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