Summary: A response letter from SUEPO outlines some of the mischievous claims (if not libelous claims) made by Benoît Battistelli in his private correspondence, sent to French politician Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ (and perhaps to others too)
WE previously wrote about Mr. Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, taking stock of his exchange of letters with the EPO‘s President, Benoît Battistelli [1, 2, 3, 4], who habitually defames his own staff [1, 2, 3]. Some French-speaking readers helped us translate the correspondence when SUEPO did not have any translations (yet). Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ is now including the rebuttals from staff representatives, in the face of extreme accusations from Battistelli himself, citing his mouthpiece of choice, Les Échos (the EPO’s “media partner”).
we have been hoping for a translation of the position paper from SUEPO and it has just been published in fact, in PDF form. We reproduce it below in HTML form:
30 November 2015
su15432cl – 3.2
Position of SUEPO with regard to the letter from Mr. Battistelli sent to Mr. Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, Parliamentary Deputy for French Citizens abroad
The Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) has 3400 members among the 6800 employees agents distributed among the four sites of the EPO. It is the only union which represents a significant proportion of the EPO staff. It is apolitical, financed solely by the contributions from its members, and is affiliated to the Union Syndicale Fédérale and to the EPSU.
“The Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) has 3400 members among the 6800 employees agents…”SUEPO has taken note of the reaction by Mr. Battistelli to the letter from Mr. Pierre-Yves le Borgn’, Parliamentary Deputy for French citizens abroad for the region of Germany and Austria, where two of the EPO sites are based, among them the head office of the Organization. We are sending this letter to Mr. le Borgn’, as parliamentary deputy, in the hope that he will publish it on his Website as he did with the letter from Mr. Battistelli.
Failure to respect confidentiality and presumption of innocence
First, it must be pointed out that Mr. Battistelli is failing to respect the principle of confidentiality of enquiries and disciplinary procedures which are in progress. The information divulged in his letter to Mr. P.-Y. Le Borgn’ easily allows for the alleged culprits to be identified.
“The attitude of the President of the EPO would be shocking if he were only an outside observer. However, at the EPO, the President is likewise judge and jury in matters of sanctions against the personnel, and Mr. Battistelli has already demonstrated that he has in no way availed himself of the opinion or advice of the discipline commission, even when they are unanimous and positive in favour of the staff member concerned.”In Mr. Battistelli’s eyes, the culpability of the representatives of the personnel and union members concerned is already established; they in turn vehemently reject the unfounded accusations made against them. The attitude of the President of the EPO would be shocking if he were only an outside observer. However, at the EPO, the President is likewise judge and jury in matters of sanctions against the personnel, and Mr. Battistelli has already demonstrated that he has in no way availed himself of the opinion or advice of the discipline commission, even when they are unanimous and positive in favour of the staff member concerned. One must therefore anticipate the worst in respect of the colleagues targeted by this new wave of repression.
Failure to respect a matter under judgment – Defamation
Nor does Mr. Battistelli respect the elementary rules of law with regard to our colleague suspended from DG3. He maintains that this colleague is culpable after the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO, the only body qualified to rule on the case, has already concluded that the proceedings were not admissible, the EPO being limited to making general accusations not substantiated by any convincing evidence (the decision by the Extended Board of Appeal is now public, see http://ipkitten.blogspot.de/2015/11/read-it-for-yourself-enlarged-board.html).
“These serious accusations are not only unfounded, they are miserable travesties.”Mr. Battistelli is nevertheless taking it upon himself to make public accusations of “Nazi propaganda” and the “storing of weapons”, among others, even appending to his letter an article from the journal “Les Echos” which portrays SUEPO members as “”enemies” of the interior”. These serious accusations are not only unfounded, they are miserable travesties.
How is one to believe in internal justice at the EPO?
What credibility can now be placed in the process of internal “justice” in view of what is happening, and taking account also of the following facts:
- The enquiry directives introduced by Mr. Battistelli, and the manner in which they are put into effect do not respect the fundamental rights guaranteed by international conventions, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, which is binding on all the Member States of the EPO. Nothing justifies the Administrative Council of the EPO, on which those same Member States sit, from exempting itself from that commitment.
- Mr. Battistelli is simultaneously taking on the roles of investigator, prosecutor, and judge within the framework of internal regulations which he himself has amended or introduced. He has no hesitation in exempting himself from the recommendations of the regulator bodies (which have nothing more than a consultative role) whenever they are favourable to the personnel.
- Mr. Battistelli does not hesitate, however, to violate these rules which he himself has introduced, such as those relating to strikes or the arrangements for sick leave, when it suits him to do so.
- Mr. Battistelli has refused to implement the ruling by the Court of Appeal at The Hague of February 2015 relating to violations of human rights by the EPO.
- The methods used by the investigation unit violate the internal directive which is supposed to establish the framework for its work, as well as violating fundamental rights.
- The suspensions of three personnel representatives in Munich took place 18 months (!) after – according to him – so-called “serious incidents” are alleged to have been incurred within the staff representation body. This suspension occurred in reprisal on the day following a meeting of the personnel representatives.
A strange conception of social dialogue: SUEPO in the first instance.
The representatives of the personnel suspended are, respectively, the President, the former President, and the Treasurer of SUEPO in Munich. In addition to these colleagues, three other representatives of the personnel, likewise SUEPO union representatives, became ill as a result of their treatment by the management within the framework of disgraceful internal enquiries. At the time of writing, the health of a number of them remains a cause for concern.
“The suspensions of three personnel representatives in Munich took place 18 months (!) after – according to him – so-called “serious incidents” are alleged to have been incurred within the staff representation body.”Whatever Mr Battistelli may say, there is no prospect of any framework agreement with SUEPO, and if Mr. Battistelli maintains that this impasse is the responsibility of the union, which has suspended negotiations, he fails to point out that this was only a reaction to the serious acts of pressure exerted on the members of the union during the discussions. How is it possible to re-establish a social dialogue at a time when the pressures being exerted by the management on the most high profile elected union representatives are such that they are now suspended (or have been made ill) and threatened with dismissal? Moreover, what value would such an agreement have if one of the parties has demonstrated that it does not feel itself bound by its own rules?
The “performance” of the EPO – At what price?
The policy adopted by Benoît Battistelli and implemented by the Chief Human Resources Officer Elodie Bergot allows for the appearance of a short-term increase in productivity (according to figures of which the validity is impossible to verify, since
they are not certified by any independent body). We must express the greatest reservations with regard to the consequences of this policy in the middle and long term, particularly with regard to the quality of the work provided (which it will only be possible to appreciate in reality after a period of one to two years, taking account of the specific features of the procedures at the EPO).
“An increasing number of staff members have confided in us that they are coming to work even when ill, since they fear being targeted by reprisal measures.”In addition to this, the very great pressure at work, and the state of health of the staff, visibly under stress, disturb us greatly. The changes introduced in 2015 in the manner in which days taken for sick leave are compensated (downwards) render any comparison with previous years impossible. An increasing number of staff members have confided in us that they are coming to work even when ill, since they fear being targeted by reprisal measures.
It is in this context that we have drawn the attention of the Administrative Council of the EPO to the increase in the number of suicides (5 in 42 months) following the systematic refusal of Mr. Battistelli and of Ms. Bergot (CHRO) to arrange for an independent enquiry into their causes. Moreover, they continue to oppose vehemently an audit of the EPO by the competent local authorities (Labour Inspectorate), despite the fact that the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities (PPI) of the Organization makes such co-operation mandatory in this sector (Article 20 PPI).
“It is propositions such as these which Mr. Battistelli sets forth in his letter, demonstrating the excesses of his actions and the absence of respect of the most elementary principles of law, and seriously damaging the reputation of our Organization.”The conspiracy theory
Who can seriously believe in this day and age that a plot could be hatched by a handful of radical union members lurking in the shadows, with the sole aim of discrediting the management of the EPO and of impeding the introduction of the Unitary Patent, given that a rapprochement with the European Union could only protect the employees of the EPO from the deviations and excesses from which they are presently suffering?
“The Administrative Council of the EPO, which up to now has turned a blind eye to the actions of Mr. Battistelli and his entourage must now act.”Finally, who can seriously believe that the representatives of the personnel and the union would harbour in their midst a concentration of malignant and dangerous beings, whom the personnel had the lack of foresight to elect (on several separate and repeated occasions)?
It is propositions such as these which Mr. Battistelli sets forth in his letter, demonstrating the excesses of his actions and the absence of respect of the most elementary principles of law, and seriously damaging the reputation of our Organization. The EPO has become an object of concern and/or of consternation in the international community which is concerned with matters of patents.
The Administrative Council of the EPO, which up to now has turned a blind eye to the actions of Mr. Battistelli and his entourage must now act. Rapidly.
President, SUEPO Central
Vice-President, SUEPO Central
President SUEPO Munich
Vice-President SUEPO Central
President SUEPO Berlin
Vice-President SUEPO Central
President SUEPO The Hague
Vice-President SUEPO Central
President SUEPO Vienna
cc. Mr. Emmanuel Macron, Ministry of the Economy and Industry
William Bourdon, Liesbeth Zegveld, SUEPO Legal Counsels
As a blogger, I myself am not under great risk because there is not much that the EPO can legally do to me (they tried) and they certainly cannot fire me (or pressure my employer to fire me as Microsoft attempted to do, as he is personally quite supportive of my writings about Microsoft and the EPO).
My utmost concern right now is the safety of staff representatives and by extension all staff. Benoît Battistelli is clearly attempting a 'decapitation' strategy here, mixed with the tactics perfected by Željko Topić. This is just wrong. It’s unjust. It’s outrageous!
Seeing that apathetic (or too scared to protest) staff is being almost outnumbered right now by SUEPO supporters is a sign that things are changing. People have defected away from the brutes and there is nothing that the brutes can pull off to undo this.
Now that those ‘pesky’ or ‘nosy’ politicians get involved in the EPO’s affairs, having already lost the union-busting battle (with external help from Control Risks), the EPO’s management resorts to media distortion, which is in turn being used in a desperate effort to brainwash these politicians. Mr. Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ has already highlighted (in his latest letter) that the EPO is now engaged in a pricey reputation laundering campaign and he is certainty wise enough (and sufficiently well-informed) to know that Les Échos is the EPO’s “media partner”, i.e. Battistelli’s mouthpiece. What the EPO ‘planted’ there (among other places) has as much legitimacy as what’s found in tabloids du jour. █
“He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”
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The factory/manufacturing/production line mentality
Original image in the public domain, edited to highlight greed and privatisation at today’s EPO
Summary: An article translation (from Danish) serves to emphasise why the EPO’s management is very much misguided and disrespectful to staff, not to mention disconnected from the original goals of the European Patent Office (EPO)
THE EPO, and especially the Dane who runs the Administrative Council (AC), has been the focus of this Danish report from George Brock-Nannestad. We have not seen Danish coverage for quite a while, at least not since the protest which targeted the Danish Consulate [1, 2, 3, 4].
SUEPO has just provided a translation of this very detailed article, which is not only unique but also quite broad in terms of scope. We add at the bottom some observations regarding relatively important and unique points.
EPO up the creek – an update
By George Brock-Nannestad 24 Nov 2015 time: 17:12
The European Patent Office (EPO) is facing a number of difficult issues at the moment. Only one of these has risen to the surface in the Danish press: the extremely poor relations between the specialists’ “trade union” SUEPO and the management of the EPO. There is human interest in that. The reason is that the professional staff have a different view of what constitutes responsible administration than does the management, which looks purely on the production figures, i.e. patents issued and earnings. In recent years, “productivity” has been pushed higher and higher, but earnings were already excellent, as case processing was regarded as the primary activity. For many years, this was the result of member states having transferred assessment and approval of European patent applications to this Munich-based institution so that approved applications could become patents in the member states.
“What has happened is that the EPO’s management regards the EPO as being in competition with patent offices in countries such as South Korea or the US.”Unfortunately, this complex controversy between management and professional staff takes the spotlight away from some very worrying developments at the EPO, which are thus allowed to proceed in the shadows. Talk about burying bad news!
In the international press, there has been a much stronger focus on the change in the EPO’s focus that is happening right now, especially under the current President, Benoît Battistelli, former director of the French patent office (INPI), and the Administrative Council (AC), of which the general manager of the Danish Patent and Trademark Office Jesper Kongstad is chairman. The fact that a business journalist from Jyllandsposten magazine is also called Jesper Kongstad makes things a little confusing.
“It is almost commonplace for European patent applications to lie for more than 10 years before a letter is received regarding the start of real case processing.”What has happened is that the EPO’s management regards the EPO as being in competition with patent offices in countries such as South Korea or the US. That is a completely distorted angle for an institution specifically tasked with serving a number of member states, i.e. by processing applications to enable patents to be issued in those states. There is no competition here, except for the patent authorities in the member states, which can of course still receive, process and, if relevant, approve patent applications in their own languages.
When the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) came into being almost simultaneously with the creation of the EPO, a number of PCT states simultaneously made available case-processing capacity to enable fulfilment of the PCT’s promise of giving a provisional assessment of patentability. The US Patent and Trademark Office, the Swedish Patent and Registration Office and the EPO were quickly approved as “International Searching Authorities”. Denmark, Norway and Iceland were late arrivals with what was known as the Nordic Patent Institute. However, South Korea and China’s State Intellectual Property Office have now signed up, and there are approximately 20 patent offices capable of undertaking this work. Thus, there is competition to bring about the best documentation of the familiar technique, and the EPO is frequently chosen by US PCT applicants because the work has been done more thoroughly at the relatively low price it charges. For a while, the EPO was overloaded with these tasks, and case processing suffered as a result; lessons were learnt and improvements made. Recently, however, is it these tasks that have gained renewed focus at the expense of case processing? Because, otherwise, how can there be any “competition” as alleged?
“Here, more of a stick than a carrot has been used, and staff feel that they are not allowed to do their own work in a manner that is professionally satisfactory.”This leaves less time for actual case processing, and has led to an enormous backlog of cases. It is almost commonplace for European patent applications to lie for more than 10 years before a letter is received regarding the start of real case processing. You can chase, and that often results in a bit more activity. To many applicants, this lying-time really does not matter at all, because the patent can have validity with retrospective effect. Besides, the annual fee is frozen at around DKK 12,000 after the tenth year, and that amount is far lower than paying the annual fee in all the countries for which validation is gained.
“Some websites have been blocked so they cannot be accessed from the EPO.”However, the management of the EPO wants to reduce the backlog of cases, and that can only be done by forcing staff to work faster in the time that is left over after the PCT work has been done. Here, more of a stick than a carrot has been used, and staff feel that they are not allowed to do their own work in a manner that is professionally satisfactory. In recent years, this professional approach to the work has led to many major conflicts with the management, which leaves no stone unturned when it comes to putting staff in their place, including disciplinary penalties, temporary suspension and outright attempts to smear people. Some websites have been blocked so they cannot be accessed from the EPO. A security firm is used to undertake internal monitoring of the staff, and keyloggers were deployed on their computers – in addition to those deployed in the public areas, which patent agents and attorneys use during client visits. The latter resulted in a rebellion among attorneys, and it is assumed that they were then removed.
“A security firm is used to undertake internal monitoring of the staff, and keyloggers were deployed on their computers – in addition to those deployed in the public areas, which patent agents and attorneys use during client visits.”Below are references to some websites and blogs where professional users of the EPO express their astonishment and bewilderment at the inklings they are able to glean. The EPO makes use of “preferred communication partners” at several locations in Europe, where smear campaigns against the staff are planted. One such example is “Les Echos” in France.
“The EPO makes use of “preferred communication partners” at several locations in Europe, where smear campaigns against the staff are planted. One such example is “Les Echos” in France.”But that is not the worst, even though the poor quality and the dreadful staff policy should cause a reaction in the responsible members states. According to the European Patent Convention (EPC), the overarching regulations governing the functioning of the EPO, there is the administratively independent Board of Appeal (BoA) which should be able to assess whether case processing and its decisions have been properly carried out. This performs the function of a court – especially in cases where a patent application has been rejected, where it acts as the highest instance. Rules have been laid down as to how members of this court function should be appointed. The BoA has issued rulings that did not suit President Benoît Battistelli; with entirely correct reference to the EPC, it has asserted its independence from the other wing of the EPO. As a result, the administration began to harass the BoA; it began to avoid filling the necessary (and approved) jobs, and one member was placed under house arrest (quarantine). As an act by the EPO’s administration, this is contrary to the EPC. Thus, they wanted to try to get the case formally back on track, but this could not be done without involving the Administrative Council (AC) and its chairman, Jesper Kongstad.
“The BoA has issued rulings that did not suit President Benoît Battistelli; with entirely correct reference to the EPC, it has asserted its independence from the other wing of the EPO. As a result, the administration began to harass the BoA…”The procedure for removing a member of the BoA is expressed very precisely in the EPC, and it is the AC that must demand of the BoA that they deal with a dismissal case. The AC was very obviously not in a position to deal with the situation, because it presented material to the BoA (based on an investigation undertaken by a disciplinary committee in the AC) which was so inadequate that the BoA refused to process the case, but instead pursued the claim of the person put in quarantine that he should be paid for the entire period he had been in quarantine. On some of the websites that have discussed the case, it is claimed that Jesper Kongstad was the one who negotiated with the BoA and was sent away with a flea in his ear. Throughout the entire process, the EPO’s administration with President Benoît Battistelli has been operating with more or less clearly expressed plans to move the entire BoA from Munich to a different location, and this is perceived as an attempt to intimidate the BoA.
“Throughout the entire process, the EPO’s administration with President Benoît Battistelli has been operating with more or less clearly expressed plans to move the entire BoA from Munich to a different location, and this is perceived as an attempt to intimidate the BoA.”These events regarding the Board of Appeal: staff reduction and consequently longer case-processing times and a groundless attack on a member have caused the judiciary throughout Europe to express their consternation and contempt in official letters. But all this has been like water off a duck’s back to President Benoît Battistelli and his team, whose stance is that the EPO has diplomatic immunity, and the laws that apply in the member states do not apply here.
“Neither are there any rules to prevent the EPO from agreeing special treatment with “preferred customers”, which, according to an internal memorandum, has been done (some of our largest transnational companies).”The EPC was constructed very sensibly when the convention was adopted in 1973, but did not take into account the notion that the Administrative Committee and the EPO President could decide to act contrary to the spirit of the EPC. There are simply no rules for ensuring that the EPO remains on track with case processing as its main task. Neither are there any rules to prevent the EPO from agreeing special treatment with “preferred customers”, which, according to an internal memorandum, has been done (some of our largest transnational companies). On the other hand, Article 4a of the EPC says that the ministers responsible in the member states must meet at least once every five years to discuss matters relevant to the EPO and the European patent system. The latest revision of the EPC was signed in 2000, and the relevant ministerial meetings have never taken place.
“That is the formula for a state within a state.”Responsibility for the EPO rests with the Administrative Council (AC), composed of officials, usually the presidents of the patent offices in the individual states. The succession for the position of President of the EPO is normally agreed among the AC members, with the chairman of the AC who has been working closely with the President usually becoming the next President. None of the members wish to change this because they are “rewarded” in the AC’s many minor committees. Therefore, none of the ministers want to intervene because they get their information from their officials, the respective members of the AC. Patents are such a specialised field that politicians find it easier to leave matters to their officials. That is the formula for a state within a state. Thus, the subject of the EPO providing in-service training for the individual states’ case-handlers does not even come up, and they also pay travel expenses, board and lodging for the smaller member states. No one wants to rock the boat with an organisation that benefits them so much.
“The German commercial lawyers’ website occasionally also covers the EPO, especially after the EPO had tried to accuse an attorney before a disciplinary committee for having expressed a negative view of the EPO.”As mentioned, the EPO’s activities are being closely monitored by a number of professional blog groups. The most comprehensive one is run by a group of intellectual property attorneys and patent agents and can be found at:
This particular blog post provides an overview as of 16 June 2015, but a lot has happened over the last five months. The most recent post concerns the unsuccessful attempt at removing a BoA member:
Another, more provocative and more strident, blog is:
This blog was originally created by an attorney who was strongly opposed to software patents. On the one hand, you could say he should have been pleased that the EPO was getting bogged down, but “unfortunately” a number of European patent applications for technical solutions involving software were approved, and accordingly he wishes to assist with discrediting the EPO.
The German commercial lawyers’ website occasionally also covers the EPO, especially after the EPO had tried to accuse an attorney before a disciplinary committee for having expressed a negative view of the EPO.
If we were to attempt to summarise matters, here is what is currently going on at the EPO:
- there is a desire to be a service company in competition with other patent offices at the expense of the quality of case processing for European patent applications – EPO’s raison d’être
- staffing levels are being watered down in the court-like Board of Appeal, causing rulings to be postponed indefinitely
- there appears to be unrestricted surveillance, intimidation and quarantining of ordinary case handlers, shop stewards and a BoA member in order to put pressure on staff
- the AC is trying to bend the European Patent Convention (EPC) to justify the dismissal of the specially protected member of the Board of Appeal who is currently in quarantine
“Unlike the “preferred customers”, they face significant legal uncertainty.”I cannot see how the EPO can be saved, and especially the conditions applicable to smaller businesses that rely on getting fair treatment. As things stand today, they are at risk of inferior case handling and a Board of Appeal that will take a very long time to come up with a ruling. Unlike the “preferred customers”, they face significant legal uncertainty. Ultimately, a patent advisor will no longer be able to justify recommending that a client should use the EPO; instead, the advice will be to select a small number of key countries and have cases processed at national level. And the legal
uncertainty does not bear thinking about from using the federal patent (UPC), which Denmark has signed up to without knowing what we are letting ourselves in for.
One of those last/concluding statements is important. The translation says: “Ultimately, a patent advisor will no longer be able to justify recommending that a client should use the EPO; instead, the advice will be to select a small number of key countries and have cases processed at national level.”
This is why the EPO was so stressed about what I had shown. It was then that it started sending legal threats.
We don’t have much to add except that Brock-Nannestad called me an attorney even though I’m a researcher, campaigner and software engineer (among other things). I’m no big fan of attorneys, as is probably evident from my writings.
The part where Brock-Nannestad speaks about the strategy for destroying the boards is very much reminiscent of what Željko Topić did in Croatia. We covered that a week ago and we encourage board members to learn about what Topić did, leading to criminal allegations in his home country. No wonder a board judge was suspended for allegedly speaking against Topić. █
“It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.”
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Summary: Translation of a recent article from Observador (Portugal) about the latest serious altercations at the European Patent Office (EPO)
MEDIA coverage about the EPO has been rather negative recently, putting aside puff pieces from so-called ‘media partners’ and EPO-friendly sites like IAM ‘magazine’.
One article which we mentioned here last week was this one in Portuguese. SUEPO has just supplied a public translation and it goes as follows:
The shadowy world of the European Patent Organization
Suicides, psychological pressures, violent interrogations, favouritism, and irregularities. The shadowy world of the European Patent Organization needs to have some light cast on it.
“Suicides, psychological pressures, violent interrogations, favouritism, and irregularities.”Benoît Battistelli says that the accusations are a “defamation campaign”, but his name is starting to be associated with nervous breakdowns, suicides, and an atmosphere of intimidation.
“The last dictatorship in Europe”, “out of control”, “a State within a State”; this is how some sources are using the international social media to refer to the European Patent Organization (EPO). The institution is beginning to be synonymous with psychological depressions, nervous breakdowns, and even suicides. And there is one man now under fire – Benoît Battistelli.
“The institution is beginning to be synonymous with psychological depressions, nervous breakdowns, and even suicides.”The European Patent Organization (EPO) came into being under the auspices of the Munich Patent Convention in 1973, with the mission of granting patents to the members of the European Union and a number of other European countries (Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, Albania, and Serbia), and since 2010 it has been presided over by Frenchman Benoît Battistelli.
The President, according to the statutes of the EPO, has wide-sweeping powers, and the sole legal supervision is the Administrative Council, represented by the 38 Member States.
Operating under its own laws and regulations, the EPO has main offices in Munich, The Hague, Berlin, and Vienna.
“According to the same Spanish journal, there are accusations, based on official documents, that tell of big corporations being given preference when it comes to patent examination procedures.”In Munich recently two thousand people gathered to protest against the presidency of Frenchman Battistelli over the organization. Such a shadowy arrangement is unique in this day and age. According to Florian Mueller, a specialist in this field, quoted by El Confidencial, the stories and information which are starting to come to light “are unthinkable anywhere in the civilized world – but the European Patent Organization simply is not part of the civilized world’. These harsh words by the German expert refer to the alleged atmosphere at work shared by the some 7 thousand employees at the EPO. The staff unions have condemned the situation, pointing out that in the past few years at least five people have committed suicide (in 2013, one official threw himself out of a window at the office in The Hague), and many others are suffering intense psychological pressure, with the result that patents are being granted without the technical quality being properly assessed.
And there’s more than just the atmosphere at work which is at issue. According to the same Spanish journal, there are accusations, based on official documents, that tell of big corporations being given preference when it comes to patent examination procedures. The staff themselves, on taking to the streets, accuse the President of favouritism and irregularities. Some sources also imply that what interests him is productivity, and invalidating the patents afterwards.
“One had suffered a major nervous collapse, and the other, for similar reasons, had to be admitted to the hospital.”But things may be closing in on Battistelli. SUEPO, which is the union which represents the employees of the Organization, claims that on 13 November last, Spaniard Jesús Areso and Frenchman Laurent Prunier, both employees of the institution, were forced by the President to give evidence at the office at The Hague before the EPO Investigations Unit. The union speaks of an atmosphere of intimidation, and has revealed that the two officials had to be taken to hospital. One had suffered a major nervous collapse, and the other, for similar reasons, had to be admitted to the hospital.
In the light of all this, some officials have resigned from their positions, and others have made claims before the courts that they are suffering persecution, according to El Confidencial. The situation has already led to a reaction on the part of Socialist Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, parliamentary deputy for French citizens abroad since 2012, who is demanding explanations from the EPO President. Le Borgn’ has also sent an official communication to the French Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel, describing the repression and calling on him to take action. The communication condemns the harsh interrogation methods, which left the officials in a “state of shock”, requiring medical treatment, and he has called on the other Member States to join him in condemning the situation.
In defence of Benoît Battistelli
In response to such serious charges, the EPO boss has publicly rejected the accusations. The Minister of the Economy has received another letter, this time from Battistelli, accusing the staff of orchestrating a “campaign of defamation” against him personally. And the President has taken this opportunity to launch his own accusations. The Frenchman refers to one former official of the Organization who was suspended from duty for leaking confidential documents and having been found with weapons and Nazi propaganda in his office.
The truth is that the name of Benoît Battistelli has already begun to appear in the newspapers, and the matter is starting to create interests among a number of members of the European Parliament.
There is nothing particularly new in this article, but thanks to SUEPO we now have another detailed article in English. This helps raise awareness of the severity of this situation. █
“Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn`t have said.”
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The increasingly-privatised EPO…
Summary: A closer look at FTI Consulting, the company which the EPO has just granted €880,000 for the purpose of reputation laundering
HE EPO decided to waste nearly a million dollars in an effort to “address the media presence of the EPO” (nice euphemism for reputation laundering). FTI, which is based on Washington, received a lot of money from the EPO. Not long beforehand the EPO also contracted Control Risks Group (CRG) for the crushing of EPO unions, having seen CRG doing this successfully in Europe and doing even worse things in battle zones (where people are literally killed for their resistance). We still hope that someone will send us the CRG contract (in the name of transparency inside a public body), but we already wrote a lot of what we know about CRG in posts such as:
Today we turn our attention to the EPO’s latest private liaison, which is a very expensive one. What exactly is FTI? Let’s find out some of its recent activities (recent years).
We are going to emphasise FTI (bold font/face) in order to make faster reading possible, based on textual patterns.
PR Watch‘s Lisa Graves (wonderful researcher by the way, and a follower of mine online) wrote about “Energy In Depth” 3 years ago. It’s a rather shady group, which Graves was able to connect to FTI Consulting. To quote the key part: “They have even had overlapping public relations staff, as with IPAA/EID’s Chris Tucker, a former GOP congressional staffer who has been described as a Senior Vice President at Financial Dynamics, as the “managing director of FTI Consulting and as team lead for Energy In Depth.” For a time, Tucker was publicly listed as handling communications for both IPAA/EID and IER, “using the same phone number for both,” according to DeSmogBlog’s research.”
These groups always cleverly disguise themselves. Recall for example what we discovered about Consumer Watchdog.
An article we found in Climate Investigations Center says more about FTI Consulting: “Energy in Depth (EID) is a “PR operation for the [energy] industry’s multi-billion dollar financial interests in ‘unconventional’ drilling for what is popularly known as ‘natural gas,’” according to an article by PR Watch. Although FTI is almost never associated with EID (instead presenting itself as a “research program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America”), they nonetheless share high-level employees.
“One such person is Steve Everley, FTI‘s senior director. He has published several articles on EID’s website and is called a “team leader for Energy in Depth,” but he does not disclose this position on his LinkedIn profile. However, there was an occasion when Everley used an FTI email in conducting EID business…”
There is even a screenshot there to show it. It seems like a livery fluke. He didn’t hide behind the right proxy.
Here is the FTI page of Chris Tucker and Steve Everley’s LinkedIn page, disclosing that he works for FTI and is “[p]ublic affairs specialist with advanced understanding of the energy industry, including oil and gas (“fracking”)…”
“Pay attention to intersecting dots,” says this older blog post, “FTI Consulting, IPAA, Institute for Energy Research, the revolving door of Congress and more.” There are many details in there. Other blogs point out similar connections.
“These groups always cleverly disguise themselves.”“The Energy-In-Depth Dots led me to delve deeper into FTI Consulting,” one blogger wrote. “The airwaves are already saturated with gas ads, and the endless EID budget is pulsing through various FTI departments as the Gas Industry tries to wrest control of the public conversation.” It’s no secret that FTI works in this area (as well as patents and litigation), but why is it hiding behind liveries and front groups?
A more recent article, published just 8 months ago, said: “Inside Climate News has revealed that a key leader of oil and gas industry front groups that oppose new fracking regulations may have been playing both sides of the issue. In an investigation into the funding of the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) work on oil and gas regulation, Inside Climate News discovered that a key EDF funder had hired FTI Consulting’s David Blackmon to promote fracking regulations. Unbeknownst to his employer, Blackmon is a longtime oil industry consultant who is paid to oppose regulation of the fracking industry. [...] With its public relations efforts conducted by FTI Consulting, EID now serves as a key pro-industry front group promoting unfettered hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to the U.S. public.”
“The post proceeds to showing that FTI reaches into territories that one might expect Control Risks to dip its toes in.”Leaving the area of energy and climate (there is a lot about it implicating FTI), consider this post which says: “FTI Consulting deserves special mention. It is a public listed company, that deals in a number of things, among which PR management. This “PR management” company instructed one of its employees, Maria Jose Tobar, to call me, to find out where I worked, so, presumably, I could be served. When I exposed FTI‘s idiotic attempt, Maria Jose Tobar deleted her LinkedIn profile. But FTI Consulting has been offering similar “PR management” and consultancy services to some of the worse thugs to come out Chavez’s Venezuela: Rafael Sarria, Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, Moris Beracha, Alejandro Andrade, David Osio and the two imbeciles running Derwick Associates, Alejandro Betancourt Lopez and Pedro Trebbau Lopez. The commonality between mentioned names appears to be FTI‘s Frank Holder.”
The post proceeds to showing that FTI reaches into territories that one might expect Control Risks to dip its toes in. To quote a strongly-worded part, “Holder, and FTI Consulting as a result, have been involved, at the very least, in money laundering, racketeering, and aiding and abetting wanted criminals.”
Is this really the type of company/firm EPO wishes to be associated with? █
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“It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous.”
Summary: The pattern of sick leave and sickness-related distortion of statistics serves to show that the EPO’s management is only concerned with making itself look good (and well paid), but not with the wellbeing of staff
Politicians love to game employment statistics in favour of their party or against the opposition. There are craftful tricks for achieving the spin they are all along after and then put out a misleading narrative that can seduce a loyal follower (or media aligned with their agenda, e.g. News Corp. for GOP), not a sceptical outsider. All they need to do is fling a lot of something at the wall and hope something will stick.
The EPO likes to make up all sorts of figures, some of which we debunked here before (e.g. regarding 'production'). These are the classic talking points which EPO managers like to vomit on ‘media partners’ such as Les Échos [1, 2, 3] (for immediate and obedient publication, later to be referenced as ‘proof’ in private letters from Benoît Battistelli to politicians like Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]).
EPO sick leave figures are being made up and manipulated, says an analysis sent to us. Humorously titled “a miraculous recovery”, here is what it says about Battistelli’s poor treatment of the ill:
The DG1 dashboard is worth following. We recommend that you save or print whatever interesting material you find because data sometimes change or disappear at the EPO. In April the DG1 dashboard reported 14.553 days of sick leave for Jan–March 2015, which was 8% over the figure for the same period of last year and 3% above plan. Three months later the figure for Jan-June was 22.812 days, i.e. 5% below the same period in 2014, and 8% below plan. Improvement continues: at the end of September sickness was 13% below the same period in 2014 and 14% below plan. As always we are left wondering whether this is a result of a miraculous improvement in staff health or merely an example of creative statistics.
“Under the new regulations every absence for medical reasons, even of a single hour, counts as a full day sick leave…”There are hints that this apparent miracle may not be in the field of health but rather of accounting. After a few months of worsening figures, the improvement started when the new health regulations were put in place. We know that as from the 1st of April the rules no longer allow for the so-called “reduced productivity”, previously counted as ca. 4500 days of “sickness” in DG1. This alone would explain an “improvement” of 15%. Apart from this, the EPO has also unlocked a number of invalidity procedures. Putting a 100% ill colleague on invalidity (or “inactivity”, or now “incapacity”) removes 250 days of sick leave per year. Therefore the improved statistics do not necessarily mean that there has been an improvement in staff health and well-being.
One thing is certain: for individual staff members the sick-leave calculation applied by the Office has become incomprehensible. Under the new regulations every absence for medical reasons, even of a single hour, counts as a full day sick leave for the purpose of Art. 62(a) ServRegs (see point 7) and brings the person concerned closer to a salary reduction and obligatory medical examinations. This is typical of the double standards applied by the current EPO management. Please contact us when – or preferably before – you become “adversely affected” by the new rules and get a cut in salary for having reached the maximum of 125 “days”.
Given enough bang for the buck from US company FTI Consulting (the EPO pays it almost a million dollars to spread around this kind of nonsense), a lot of the public might actually believe the sordid claims from the EPO. Will they get away with it? █
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Mind the AstroTurfing parallels… and remember that it’s Guillaume Minnoye who is notably concerned about EPO leaks (whistleblowers)
Summary: An analysis of recent trends in EPO coverage and conversations, which seem to be artificially steered (or manipulated) so as to better project authority and disseminate the EPO’s misleading talking points
THE EPO‘s threats against critics (lawyers, national delegates, bloggers, staff representatives, judges etc.) have meant that many participants in the system have opted for self-censorship. But we believe that it goes further than this. There is censorship that we never even hear about, let alone can hear about (gag orders and demands of confidentiality contribute to this).
“There is censorship that we never even hear about, let alone can hear about (gag orders and demands of confidentiality contribute to this).”Now that the EPO pays a lot of money for fake media coverage and media distortion I have begun tracking — a lot more closely than before — anything which relates to the EPO. We ask others to report such things to us as well. EPO AstroTurfing already seems likely given what we saw earlier today. This is familiar to us because we already know Microsoft AstroTurfing and techniques of Microsoft PR agencies, having researched these for over a decade. One way to warp a debate is to inject positive (for the client) comments into typically hostile forums, thereby derailing the discussion.
Particular patent lawyers are weighing in, latching onto anonymous comments which seem likely to be AstroTurfing. They are of course supporting the almighty President Battistelli as if all the abuses can be magically swept aside and the examiners are merely spoiled and paranoid. The following new comment demonstrates what’s wrong (reversal of the forum’s momentum, putting staff on the defensive): “I was tired to read since more than two years only comments about suicides, human rights violated, non-respect of the law, abuses, nepotism, etc.”
“Particular patent lawyers are weighing in, latching onto anonymous comments which seem likely to be AstroTurfing.”Bear in mind that such comments aren’t from regular commenters; these are patent lawyers whose personal blogs attack the staff of the EPO and actively help the management’s relatively dubious narrative, even in recent posts such as this one from “Meldrew” (“Patent Attorney” from London) or this one from “TreatyNotifier” (Dutch male).
Seeing how quickly (especially today) the discussion in IP Kat got derailed, we must at least suspect a subversive hand, perhaps part of the €880,000 media campaign. As one regular pointed out, “lying to the AC and asking them to take an illegal decision would be dismissed by his supervising authority in the outside world.” (and if not above the law)
“The EPO is a truly sick organisation and more people need to get the real facts, not the fictional ‘facts’ which EPO managers paid €880,000 for FTI Consulting to spread around.”Another person, in a separate thread, wrote about PACE (which is being defended by some anonymous commenters) that “the directors can change the priorities of individual files and some are using it as a means to insure the directorate reach its global objectives. Some directors want their bonus as well (or fear to be sent to pension).
“Also: there are instructions not to allow examiners who have a large prio 1 stock to take Christmas leave. As one can only transfer so many days, they will lose their leave. That motivates some to work only on files with “top” priority, which may or may not be PACE files.”
We wrote about this last month. How is this even complying in any way with European laws?
In our next post we are going to focus on how the EPO abuses not just holiday leave but also sick leave. The EPO is a truly sick organisation and more people need to get the real facts, not the fictional ‘facts’ which EPO managers paid €880,000 for FTI Consulting to spread around. It’s like a lobbying campaign by very affluent people, trying to protect their astronomical (secret but very high) salaries. █
“Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.”
–W. Somerset Maugham
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Source: Willy (Guillaume) Minnoye’s Speech
Summary: A reminder of the weird procedures for selecting and appointing highly paid staff at the EPO, courtesy of transparency in the form of meeting minutes
THE EXISTING state of affairs at the EPO is simply not sustainable. Nearly half of all employees are brave enough (in the face of systematic retaliation from management) to go out and protest in front of their employer, breaking if not smashing recent records. The staff has very legitimate reasons to be concerned and more so upset, even angry.
“Meeting in restricted composition, without the observers and the staff and Office representatives (apart from the President and the Vice-President DG 3), the Council unanimously decided to make the following appointments…”
–Summary of AC decisionsQuite a while back we showed how the EPO and the Administrative Council (AC) basically denied there was an issue when obviously there were many issues. Not only did they declare the Topić affair a non-issue two years before Topić lost a court case in Croatia but they also appointed people to positions of power without much transparency, and definitely not accountability. To quote their June 2013 report (Summary of Decisions)
[PDF]: “16. Meeting in restricted composition, without the observers and the staff and Office representatives (apart from the President and the Vice-President DG 3), the Council unanimously decided to make the following appointments…
Notice how small a presence in the room. Things have not exactly improved since then. Two years later a similarly formatted (even similar wording, as if there’s a template/formula, or gross text reuse) shows that chairman Kongstad (of the AC) is acting more like a courier of Battistelli, not like a person who is supposed to oversee Battistelli. Here is extract from the draft minutes of the June 2015 Council concerning the extension of VP1′s and VP5′s contract until 31 December 2018: “Meeting in restricted composition, without the observers and the staff and Office representatives (apart from the President), the Council unanimously decided to extend the contract of Guillaume Minnoye (BE) as vice-president in charge of Directorate General 1 until 31 December 2018. The chairman was mandated to negotiate the terms of this extension, in co-ordination with the President, and to sign the new contract on behalf of the Administrative Council”
Got that? Kongstad is “mandated to negotiate” and then “sign the new contract on behalf of the Administrative Council”. In “co-ordination with” Battistelli, of course! No wonder people like Bergot rose to power so magically [1, 2, 3, 4] and with a supposed (without independent eyewitnesses) unanimous vote…
Welcome to the family business. █
“If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that precede cannon shots.”
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EPO is trying to fit into the severely flawed US patent system and even hires a PR firm from Washington
Summary: The EPO’s obsession with following the footsteps of the USPTO (low patent quality, patent trolls aplenty, corporate sovereignty etc.) brings into question the whole direction of the EPO’s management, which now even hires a firm from Washington (FTI Consulting) for reputational risk and disaster/crisis management in Europe
THE EPO is becoming more like the USPTO. It’s not hypothetical or mere projection. It’s rapidly becoming a reality and that’s no compliment because the latter is renowned (or notorious) for low patent quality.
Watch Apple v. Samsung resulting in a massive payout (it’s all over the media). See the low quality of the patents involved. Battistelli may try to deny this, but the EPO too had granted some of these patents (analogous to US patents), which were invalidated only after Apple took them to the European courts. It caused a huge amount in losses to practicing technology companies like Samsung; only the patent lawyers gained from it.
“Battistelli may try to deny this, but the EPO too had granted some of these patents (analogous to US patents), which were invalidated only after Apple took them to the European courts.”Software patents and their triviality (or shallowness) are demonstrated in an article by Timothy Geigner at TechDirt, published in reference to the EFF’s statement that “The Loading Screen Game Patent Finally Expires”. The EFF explains the background to it (we covered this patent here several years ago): “In 1998, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Patent 5,718,632, on a method for avoiding “unnecessary wastage of time” in video games. What’s transpired in the 17 years since then can best be described as an unnecessary wastage of time.
“Namco’s patent covers “auxiliary games” that a player can enjoy while the main game is loading. The patent expired on November 27, which has generated a lot of excitement in the gaming world, and even inspired a Loading Screen Jam where developers create their own loading screen games.”
According to a lawyers’ site, there is increasing overlap between the EPO and this other system which has a vast number of software patents (maybe approaching a million such patents, depending on definition of software).
“Are USPTO and EPO going to be somewhat of the same any time soon?”“In its effort to increase electronic sharing of information and documents among global IP offices,” the lawyers’ site says, “the USPTO currently participates in the priority document exchange (PDX) program and a program through which USPTO search results for a particular U.S. application are shared with the European Patent Office (EPO) (76 Fed. Reg. 82,279 (Dec. 30, 2011)).”
This is the kind of globalisation of patent systems (covered here extensively several years ago [1, 2, 3]) which mostly serves to expand the scope of patents, the scope of injunctions, etc. Are USPTO and EPO going to be somewhat of the same any time soon? In the name of “harmonisation” or “community”, as was previously done in Europe (in relation to what’s now called — after repeated renames — Unitary Patent)?
What comes after the Unitary Patent? More cross-Atlantic treaties? Remember who benefits from it: the big clients of EPO managers. They’ve always been fighting for it. █
“It requires more courage to suffer than to die.”
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