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European Patent Office (EPO) is Not “the Real World” But a Parallel Universe Without Any Regard for the Rule of Law

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: An example of Internet trolls and a reminder that they oughtn’t be fed because it proves to be a waste of effort and a distraction from the important topics (like Topić)

AS an international institution the EPO should, in principle, obey international law. Instead what they have there is nepotism and Putinism (autocracy). Don’t be mistaken. I am personally strongly in favour of the European Union (EU), but the EPO is not part of it. The EPO predates the EU by several decades and unlike the EU or EP (or even the EC), the EPO does not even pretend to be democratic. It doesn’t even obey the EPC. One day we’ll research, further explore, and finally report on the roots of the EPO (one source tells us that the EPO took over a commercial company).

“What happened on Friday was elimination of the heads of unions, who had already been suspended for a couple of months (severely limiting their ability to operate).”Worth noting, in light of what happens in IP Kat right about now, is that people need to focus on the abuses of the management and the innocence of staff representatives whom this management has just fired. Do not feed the trolls (see Wikipedia’s definition). Yes, trolls do exist and they are floating the management’s talking points, whether deliberately or not (and whether financially compensated for it or not). There was no “investigation” of staff representatives; it’s a euphemism for union busting. What happened on Friday was elimination of the heads of unions, who had already been suspended for a couple of months (severely limiting their ability to operate). ILO is far too slow to help the fired representatives and the ‘appeal’ system is internal at the EPO (i.e. sham trial guaranteed). Contact national delegates for possible reprieve (some of them do listen and even respond).

For better or for worse (considering Google’s spotty record on anonymity at Blogspot), IP Kat became a de facto go-to forum for anonymous people to express their grievances regarding the EPO. Yesterday we saw some troll trying to discredit Techrights. “Just sayin`” (that’s the pseudonym) wrote:

Boohoo, cry me a river! Two employees have been fired.
Do you know how many get fired daily in the real world?
And judging from the letters published by Techrights, this was even justified after them harrassing colleagues.
Get real people, also staffreps can make mistakes. And they also get to pay the price.

No, I`m not a management troll, just being realistic.

Yes, “not a management troll”. Well, apparently a troll nonetheless. The above is designed to provoke (“Boohoo, cry me a river!”) and it’s a pattern that’s familiar to us. It’s a troll who distracts and one who derails the discussion, leading to a debate about an entirely different topic, discouraging fruitful participation and turning off readers/audience. We wrote many articles about such trolls over the years (usually in relation to Free/Open Source software).

The letters and rebuttals which we published here show the opposite of what’s claimed by the troll. Notice the troll’s statement, “I`m not a management troll, just being realistic.” If you’re not a troll, you don’t need to state that. As MinceR put it in the #techrights IRC channel last night, “he merely stated that he’s a troll, but not from the management” (recall the FTI Consulting contract).

This isn’t the first time we see such provocation inside IP Kat. We previously covered it in “Suppression of Voices Critical of the European Patent Office (EPO)“. Readers always swallow the bait and a lot of efforts is spent cleaning up the trolls’ vomit. Some people correctly identified this as a troll, but nonetheless, the troll received some rather detailed replies, such as this:

I believe only one was fired for alleged harassment. The other was fired for what were deemed by the EPO to be unfair Ts&Cs in the union legal support contract.

Just being “realistic”? Hmm… I had another word in mind…

You should probably try to get your facts straight before you shoot off your mouth.

Just sayin’ ;-)

Another wrote:

Sure, people get fired.

Yet, the first reason is…. lacking secrecy on your own case? Sure, that publication reflects badly on the EPO, so it does contravene the ServRegs, but does it reflect badly because of the stuff being published, or because of the content? And who is responsible for the conten?

The alleged harrasment? The Disciplinary Committee pointed out that only one of seven witnesses that were “interviewed” (with extremely suggestive questions) was able to confirm the case….

I have sincere issues with how the case was handled.
Also, implementing a harsher punishment than proposed by the DC?

Furthermore: further reforms were put on the tables of the consultative organs, where the staff representation was lacking representatives. I’ll bet that BB will use the votes, which were now 10 pro and 9 no as a proof that the reforms are wanted by the majority of staff, as those will be the first ones where he did not have to break the tie as chairperson in the obligatory consulting…

Anyway, think what you want, you’re able to make your own opinion, and it is your right to point out that most employees are worse off. But those do have access to court decissions in a reasonable time, we do not. Thus we have no means against an unjustified firing.

Some people put a lot of effort into it, responding to the troll with facts:

As extremely sad as this is, the firing of the two and the severe sanctions against the third (she has no hope of ever reaching her former salary again) elected staff representatives and elected union leaders are, unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many more who have been investigated, harassed, intimidated, or quietly forced into retirement. And just imagine the shivers this imparts to the remaining staff: most of them patent judges in search, examination, opposition, and appeals.

On the broader scale, the system of checks and balances, if it ever deserved the name as it has been designed in the EPC (dear authors, I’m sorry having to write this) and the Staff Regulations, has been made an utter mockery by Mr. Battistelli. Administrative Council is being mishandled; anybody who dares to disagree sees her cooperation budget annihilated, not to mention the time allotted to her country in the various committees drop precipitously.

Mr. Battistelli’s “social democracy” has made it much more difficult for staff to voice opinion or raise grievances. A million miles from striving to design a better system, Mr. Battistelli apparently takes particular pleasure at creating conflicts of interest and opportunities for harassment and intimidation. The former General Advisory Committee, a forum for management and staff representatives to discuss proposed changes at the Office that are of importance to staff, has been re-designed into the General Consultative Committee and to the point of irrelevance that Mr. Battistelli has no inhibitions about publishing the list of its members for 2016 with more members from the (top) management than those appointed by the staff representation, then reducing the staff side further by firing the next day.

In addition, the very staff representatives that have now been fired had already been reporting directly to PD HR. Even the rules for election of staff representation – a very important function, separate from the unions, in the social contract in Germany and, formerly, the EPO – have been designed by the administration. These are just a few examples; there are lots more in all important areas of the Office. The internal appeals process has been made much more intimidating to the appellant than it ever was. The system of occupational health and data protection have been all but killed. Small wonder that this has lead to several colleagues taking their lives recently.

Having fired the most courageous staff reps, Mr. Battistelli has reached new heights. No individual in the Office and hardly anybody in the Administrative Council dares to contradict him. It appears that it is only a matter of time before all staff will be afraid to demonstrate.

What’s on the plus side? Production has gone up, possibly at the expense of quality, and most staff still have a job that many of them can hardly afford to leave, having abandoned their careers as engineers and scientists years ago. It’s less secure than before, much less pleasurable, in some aspects becoming shameful.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can afford to voice my opinion openly and that’s why I post my thoughts here anonymously.

This one comment correctly states that “one reason for dismissal was to reveal that they were being investigated, I guess that is also normal? And (allegedly)assisting someone who hasn’t been disciplined for allegedly doing something was a second reason.” Here is the comment in full:

Thanks for that. Since the accused are not allowed to reveal that they are accused, let alone what they are accused of, your insight is useful. Since one reason for dismissal was to reveal that they were being investigated, I guess that is also normal? And (allegedly)assisting someone who hasn’t been disciplined for allegedly doing something was a second reason. Again normal? And the complainant being the one who led the investigation and led the prosecution? Normal again?

I appreciate that sometimes bad things happen, but is that reason to accept it? And when that comes from a body operating in the legal world and with seeming total legal immunity, is that not questionable? I see your point, but I have to politely disagree.

Here is a Dutch irony being pointed out:

The decision came back to my mind after the dismissal of the two SUEPO officials.

Well, I guess we all should thank the Dutch government for having decided not to enforce the decision of an independent court for the latest actions of Mr. Battistelli – after all, the message from the Dutch minister was quite clear: you’re free to do whatever you want, Mr. Battistelli!.
One year later, the consequences are here for all to see – and what an irony that the most prominent victim of Battistelli is a Dutch citizen! (Elisabeth Hardon)

Ah, and many thanks to the Administrative Council of the EPO too, who did not think that having the Office being accused of infringing human rights was so important after all. What happened in the last days, honourable members of the AC of the EPO, are the results of your greed, lack of morals and cowardice.

Here is a response to what we’re interpreting as an opportunistic attack on Techrights, as if we have proven the management right and just:

” And judging from the letters published by Techrights, this was even justified after them harrassing colleagues….

No, I`m not a management troll, just being realistic.”

Thank you for constructively indicating that you are NOT a troll. The reader might have doubts after reading your submission . I suggest you re-reading the corresponding documents on Techright, of course only because you are not a troll!

“Barbi” wrote:

Contrary to the allegations, in the real world not many at all union leaders get fired! It is rather exceptional!

So I fail to see the alledged realism of the annonymous comment of 12.52.00 who assuers of not being a managent troll and of being realistic.

Best thing to do in such cases is not feed the trolls, even when they explicitly say they’re not trolls (didn’t Nixon say he was not a crook?). “Just sayin`” has not even replied since (classic drive-by trolling), which leads one to seeing just what a single short comment (that’s deliberately disruptive and insulting) is able to achieve. If this whole article in its own right feeds the troll, then hopefully the take-home message is that future trolls needn’t and shouldn’t be fed. Next up we have some important new revelations about Topić. This is the kind of topic that people should discuss anonymously in all sorts of forums. There is potential there for imprisonment.

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