12.14.15

Heise Article Tackles EPO ‘Feud’ (Union Busting in Disguise), Techrights’ Remarks Follow

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 2:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There is a clever and nasty new media strategy, aided by evil peripheral firms

Summary: Benoît Battistelli’s EPO is engaged in an information war — a war of spin and deception in the mass media (a new media strategy on the face of it) and we respond to it below because many of the EPO’s arguments are either fictional or defamatory (or both)

AN EPO article which we mentioned here the other day, an article from Heise (largest news source in Germany, at least for IT), has just been translated. An accurate English translation is formally published by SUEPO, the largest EPO union whose existence predates even mine and the EPO’s (almost my parents’ existence too, if SUEPO’s predecessor/previous identity is also considered). SUEPO (SU stands for Staff Union) isn’t some “new union on the block”, it has a very long history and a huge number of members, who make it a legitimate representation of staff’s views. Its members are very well educated; many are doctors from all across Europe. There is a very well-funded (about €73,000 per month) reputation laundering campaign going on (in conjunction with union-busting with outside consultants), so we expected to see some myths making their way into the article. We hereby rebut several such myths, having researched this topic for many hundreds of hours (if not more than a thousand hours).

For completeness and for future reference we decided to make an HTML copy of the translation and highlight the curious (or relatively new) bits — those that add crucial and/or new information. Our response is at the bottom.

European Patent Office: Conflict between Management and Staff rapidly coming to a Head

The European Patent Office has suspended the Staff Union leadership; now the situation threatens to escalate. The Office President has branded the staff representatives as “Mafia”; they speak of “institutional violence”.

The atmosphere between the management cadre and the staff union at the European Patent Office (EPO) is getting more and more toxic. In the dispute over the efficiency drive by Office President, Benoît Battistelli, he has now launched a venomous flood of rhetoric on the international staff union of the institution (SUEPO) and challenged their legitimacy.

Atmosphere of Terror

Frenchman Battistelli is quoted by the online service “Politico” as insisting that the union is not a representative body but a “Mafia-like” organization. At the same time he refutes the allegation that he himself has created an “atmosphere of terror”. One member of staff had anonymously claimed that the staff felt they were being “squeezed like lemons”, which was affecting their health.

Over the past three and a quarter years, five of the around 7000 staff members have committed suicide, the last incident being in August. Suepo are insisting that the deaths should be independently investigated, in the light of the changed working conditions. Battistelli has been the chief executive of the Office since 2010.

An EPO spokesperson has complained to the WIPR service that, on a lower level, leading management and executive personnel have been increasingly confronted with “personal attacks”, excessive references in blogs and leaflets, and even “calls for violence”.

Cheap accusations

Of course, the union is not going to take this lying down. These “cheap accusations” are blatant inventions to arouse sympathy for the Office leadership, now that it is increasingly coming under closer scrutiny by the media. But it is not the managers who are the victims; on the contrary, it is they who are introducing “institutional violence”, in particular against those who have not declared themselves to be in agreement with “certain regulations”. Overall, this tactic is said to be being used to challenge the integrity and worth of honest employees, who have in no way deserved this.

Suepo has again called for a “peaceful demonstration” on Thursday at the Office headquarters in Munich. The protest is aimed in particular at the “sustained attacks” against staff representatives, which are said to have now reached a peak with the suspension and the initiation of disciplinary measures against the union executive.

Last Thursday, and the week before, according to figures from Suepo and the police, some 2000 staff members have already taken part in similar gatherings. The EPO union has support from colleagues at the Office for the Harmonization of the Internal Market (OHIM), the counterpart to the Patent Office in matters relating to Community trademarks. In a press release the staff representatives there expressed their “deep concern” about the situation at the EPO, which needs to be addressed urgently.

Fear of retribution

The Administrative Council of the Office is apparently now being approached, so that union officials can once again address the concerns of the staff members without fear of repercussions. The additional protection of their votes, which are critical to the issue, is said to be essential if an abuse of power is to be prevented. The EPO leadership is accusing the suspended Chair of the Union, Elizabeth Hardon, among other things, of having talked too much, and to have threatened and bullied Union members.

In the local (heise) online “Accusation letter”, the talk is of “sniper” methods, said to have been used against Hardon. As well as that, it seems evident that even the private E-mail accounts of the SUEPO executive have been monitored.

There had already been earlier complaints of a comparatively new “Investigation Unit” of the Office having used keyloggers and cameras and of having worked with somewhat murky service providers such as the British “Control Risk Group”, to spy on staff members. Hardon herself refutes the accusations against her entirely, and has lodged an appeal with the EPO data protection supervisory authority.

Waving patents through in a rush

Battistelli has meanwhile lavished praise in a local (heise) online circular on the ongoing efforts by the employees, which he claims have led to increasing effectiveness and greater productivity. In concordance with the new performance-based assessment system, in 2015 a total of 18.4 million Euro was distributed by way of bonus payments to the workforce. This is said to be 20 percent more than in the previous year. Suepo contends that the remunerations are hardly an issue, and in any event are only a “perverse incentive” not to examine patent applications adequately and wave them through as rapidly as possible. (kbe)

Points that Techrights wishes to make very briefly about this article:

  1. It’s not SUEPO that’s “Mafia”, Battistelli is merely projecting to give an illusion of parity (as if both sides are aggressive and subversive). This seems like the latest PR/media strategy as we’re seeing it quite a lot these days.
  2. The incredibly cliquish Team Battistelli challenges the legitimacy of SUEPO simply because, by Battistelli’s warped standards, opposition is neither warranted nor allowed. He is a spoiled brat from a rich people’s school and it still shows. Contrast that with Alison Brimelow. What a spectacular difference!
  3. Team Battistelli has been trying to paint itself as preventer of suicides and blame such tragedies on SUEPO; what a nerve they have…
  4. The “calls for violence” which Team Battistelli speaks of are fictional. There is no evidence of them. We wrote several articles about this and it is conveniently related to point (1) above. Journalists oughtn’t print such nonsense without fact-checking.
  5. The "sniper" narrative is a shameful personal attack, intended to bias or incite the reader of a poor (and otherwise very narrow/limited) set of accusations against Hardon
  6. With Control Risks Group in the mix, we urge people to encrypt or use Tor. Control Risks Group isn’t just some ordinary company/firm; it’s now a military-grade union busting-service (with reputation for that in Europe).
  7. SUEPO is right to suggest that patent applications are now being examined rather poorly. Staff is put under pressure to grant in bulk or otherwise risk losing the Christmas vacation

The last point suggests to us that the Team Battistelli-led EPO is gradually emulating the notorious USPTO (very deeply involved in and dominated by large corporations, with terrible grant rates).

“We wrote thousands of articles about the USPTO and we have great (and growing) fear that those same disasters (and patent predators) will reach Europe.”This new blog post titled “Another depressing year for patent law?” says a lot about how practitioners in the US view the USPTO. Watch how this US patent lawyer, Lawrence B. Ebert, quoting Larry Downes as saying: “On just one day in November, for example, over 200 new patent lawsuits were filed, as plaintiffs rushed to beat a change in federal procedure that could require more specific claims. Most were from companies that buy up patents of dubious quality and use them to extract nuisance settlements from actual innovators.”

Is this what Europe is hoping to achieve? We wrote thousands of articles about the USPTO and we have great (and growing) fear that those same disasters (and patent predators) will reach Europe. Some already do.

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This post is also available in Gemini over at:

gemini://gemini.techrights.org/2015/12/14/union-busting-in-disguise/

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