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02.26.16

Member States Are Turning Against “Tyrannical” Chief of European Patent Office (Benoît Battistelli)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

De Morgen

Summary: Another new article translation from this week’s Dutch newspapers

Having just published a translation of this article about Dutch EPO protests, we also got another translation from Petra Kramer. It’s this Dutch article (just republished in the Belgian media).

Here is the full text:

Member states are turning against “tyrannical” chief of European Patent Office

The days of the controversial president of the European Patent Office, Benoît Battistelli, appear to be numbered. Employees have been complaining for some time that Battistelli behaves like a tyrant and a Sun King. But now for the first the Member States are against the Frenchman.

The European Patent Office (EPO) gives patents to all kinds of conceivable inventions, ranging from thermos bottle to computer chip. Rijswijk is one of the five offices, where 2,700 people work. The 38 participating countries act as principals and supervisors of the EPO.

Thus far they still supported the rule of President Battistelli who took office in 2010. He is very controversial among the staff because he deteriorated all kinds of working conditions and he took harsh reprisals against trade union representatives who express criticism. Meanwhile two union directors have been laid off at its headquarters in Munich. Two union representatives at the Rijswijk office are on sick leave after they were subjected to what they call intimidating integrity investigations. Colleagues set up a ‘bread’ fund last month to provide one of them of income, because management has suspended his salary.

According to the top of the EPO, it’s pure coincidence that the punished staff are all trade unionists. Member States up until now have let Battistelli plot his course. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, according to a letter from Jesper Kongstad, the Danish president of the Administrative Council, a sort of supervisory board in which the 38 countries participating in EPO are represented.

Kongstad asks Battistelli to examine all disciplinary measures taken against members of the union by an independent external committee. The layoffs and other sanctions should be suspended until the results of this examination are made public.

“Unfortunately we can not hold any significant conversation with the president,” Kongstad writes in his letter. Battistelli has immediately rejected the proposal and questioned the legal basis of it. “There is no legal obstacle for the council to make requests to the EPO president,” Kongstad writes however. “It is up to the president to respond positively to such requests.”

Kongstad’s flip-flopping is remarkable, because he was regarded as one of the ‘friends’ of Battistelli. Their personal connection, according to trade union Suepo, caused the festering of the conflicts within the organization.

Healthy organization

At the next meeting of the Administrative Council on March 16, delegates from the 38 participating countries will officially cast their votes on the proposal of Kongstad. Battistelli now lobbies with Member States to move them to shoot down the independent investigation. According to a letter from Battistelli, his organization “healthier than ever”.

It is not very likely that the supervisory countries will vote against the proposals of their own president Kongstad. That will leave Battistelli with two options: resign or accept to have his controversial actions examined by an independent commission. “It’s not so much the question whether Battistelli will have to resign, but how many millions he will receive as a severage package, claims lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld representing the trade union Suepo.

She booked last year’s success at the Hague Court of Appeal, which concluded that the EPO violates human rights because it hinders the work of the union. A remarkable verdict, because the EPO as an international organization enjoys legal immunity. The court ruled that human rights in this case outweigh those legal immunity. EPO nevertheless rejected the verdict and got support from the Dutch government in doing so. At present, the case is in the Supreme Court.

Endless gratitude goes out to Petra Kramer for her work on this translation.

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