02.28.16

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Problems of Governance in International Organizations: the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Translation of “Problemas de gobernanza en organizaciones internacionales: la EPO”

Author credit: Francisco Moreno

Translator credit: Eduardo Landaveri

Introduction

For some years, one is questioning ever more insistently, if appropriate governance and management control of the EPO and WIPO exist.

Both cases have similarities (immunity, harassment of internal and external critics), but also differences (EPO problems seem more serious and closer to Spain).

In this post I deal with the situation in the EPO, leaving for later WIPO.

The EPO has threatened some people with legal action for allegedly defaming in their blogs about the EPO. I therefore ask the reader to be cautious when analyzing the information and do not take as true what they read. Obviously, the allegations that are brought against the EPO do not come from me. In any case, it is not my intention to defame the EPO, but to gather information about problems that seem to exist. I have tried to include the views involved (including EPO).

EPO

Like any international organization, the EPO and its President enjoy immunity and the national courts have no jurisdiction on its legal conflicts. Like any embassy, EPO buildings are inviolable and the authorities of the countries where the EPO is installed (e.g. Germany and the Netherlands) cannot enter buildings without the authorization of the President of the EPO.

A great power (immunity) brings about great responsibility. The question is, is immunity being used responsibly?

EPOnia

With this pejorative name, EPOnia, we want to get across the concept that the laws, rights and principles that are common in any European Democracy, do NOT apply in the EPO.

The Unions are not recognized and it seems that some of the workers’ representatives are the subject of investigations, without being able to turn to a lawyer, without being able to tell other colleagues who are under investigation and cannot claim the right not to testify against him (obligation to cooperate). Some of these workers, one of them Spanish, allegedly suffered anxiety attacks after interrogation and needed medical care.

As a result of these investigations, two of the workers representatives were fired. In both cases, the President of the EPO decided to impose harder sanctions than those recommended by the Disciplinary Committee. A National French Deputy has criticized the layoffs.

A Netherlands Court determined that the immunity of EPO could not go against the law, recognized in the European Convention on Human Rights to a fair trial within a reasonable time. Labor disputes can be addressed by employees at the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation, but can take more than 10 years to be resolved and can be summarily dismissed.

Another Netherlands Court also pointed out that the EPO has not been respecting the workers right to strike. EPO ignored the ruling. The case is under the Netherlands Supreme Court. In case that this Court confirm the contested judgment, the EPO would seem that it will ignore it again.

EPO installed keyloggers on the computers for anyone to use in the common zones of its building in Munich, to find out who was talking about its highest management. This had quite an impact in Germany, where suspicions regarding espionage are understandable.

As a result, a member of the Board of Appeals, a quasi-court, which handles appeals against decisions of the EPO patent and establish jurisprudence and, in principle, should be independent of the President of the EPO, was suspended by the President of its functions (can not enter the EPO), which only could have agreed by the Board of Appeals itself. The Board of Appeal has determined that it cannot confirm the President’s decision, because it has not been the result of a process with sufficient guarantees. Recall that the Board of Appeal is the only instance to which an applicant may appeal when he is refused a European patent with unitary effect and should therefore have a clear independence of the EPO.

In Ensuring

The EPO President is supervised by the Committee of Administration [Administrative Council] of the EPO, in which representatives of Member States of the EPO, typically the CEOs of their patent offices, sit.

While the Board has maintained a favorable position to the President, it seems that this may change. Thus, the Board may request the President that the dismissal of workers laid off be on hold until there is a review, where investigations are to be regulated, and that the unions be recognized and the Chamber of Resources be reformed formally.

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