Summary: Strike action at the EPO is imminent despite attempts to ban strikes and new efforts to suppress/prevent them from taking place
We recently posted images with information about the strike which is planned for later in the month. Someone has done OCR of the “call for strike” documents. Here is the first one:
Notification of a strike vote
The Office has been notified of a call for a strike on 10 February 2016 signed by 754 staff members in accordance with the Service Regulations, in particular Article 30a, and Circular No. 347, the Office will now organise the required secret ballot to determine whether the strike can start.
The call for strike may be consulted by following this link.
The list of signatories may be consulted through the Supervisory Committee, which will comprise the following four members of staff:
Designated by the President
Ms N. Lefèvre
Mr L. DeKock
Designated by the Central Staff Committee
Mr. S. Écolivet
Mr. A. Wansing
Voting is open to all staff in active service1 on 8 March 2016.
The list of voters may be consulted by following this link.
Voting will be conducted online and will take place on 8 March until 17:00 on that day. Further background information on the voting process can be found by following this link.
Employees who are entitled to vote will receive an invitation by e-mail on the morning of 8 March 2016.
Employees who are entitled to vote but are unable to do so in person have the option of voting by proxy through another voter at their site. In order to do so, send an e-mail to email@example.com before 17:00 on 3 March 2016 giving the name of the employee who is to vote on your behalf.
Proxy holders will receive an additional e-mail invitation to exercise their proxy vote.
Each proxy holder may hold a single proxy only. If a proxy holder is identified as holding more than one proxy then only the first proxy received will be accepted. All further proxies held by that proxy holder will be disregarded. You should therefore make sure that your chosen proxy holder is not acting as a proxy for anyone else.
The vote is organised by the Office and will be managed by a Vote Manager reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org
PD Human Resources
1 Staff on full time parental or family leave, secondment or unpaid leave on the day of the vote are not on active service and do not appear in the list of voters.
Here is the second document:
Call for strike in accordance with Circular 347 “Lawfulness at the EPO”
The undersigned, noting:
• the dismissal of two elected staff representatives on 15 January 2016 and the severe downgrading of a third
• their lack of confidence that the procedure conducted against these colleagues complied with sound European legal principles based on Human Rights
• the sustained deterioration of the legal framework under which EPO staff work since the current President took office
• the immediate suspension of the disciplinary measures against the three staff representatives
• a truly independent review of the cases against the staff representatives by a body that enjoys the full trust of both the management and the staff of the EPO
• the revocation of all recent changes to the Service Regulations and their implementing texts concerning the legal framework, Including:
• Social Democracy
• Strike regulations
• Internal Appeals Reform
• Health and sick-leave regulations
• Investigation guidelines
• Reform on invalidity
• the Initiation of open and fair negotiations between management and staff representatives, led by an internationally recognised mediator/conciliator
For the above reasons, the undersigned call for the organisation of a ballot among all staff at the EPO on the question of a single day of office-wide strike during the month of March 2016. The contact person representing the undersigned is:
Rechtsanwalt Tobias Kirchgessner, Pettenkoferstraße 37, 80336 Munchen.
We shall publish some new material in the morning. █
Two birds, one stone: pretending (to the media) there’s peace while crushing imminent strikes contractually
Key part of the MoU, whose real purpose is to crush SUEPO (representing nearly half of all EPO staff)
Summary: Benoît Battistelli and his ‘circle’ are growing nervous because of an upcoming strike (organised by the staff union which is supported financially by thousands of employees) and it uses famous union-busting methods — presumably yellow unions too — in an effort to deal SUEPO (already decapitated with controversial dismissals) a death blow, just before Battistelli et al are themselves ousted by the Organisation’s Council (and the union dismissals reversed pending an external investigation)
Battistelli is, metaphorically speaking, “dead man walking.” He is running out of time as a lot of European media turns against him right now.
The MoU, which is internally referred to as “the Memorandum of MisUnderstanding,” is a sham. Petra Kramer, a Dutch activist (nothing to do with the EPO), wrote to us with some analysis of the situation implicating the Dutch secretive group (hard to retrieve information), FFPE-EPO.
“Court documents prove that FFPE-EPO only represents the Dutch office,” she wrote, enclosing the image below.
“Proof that FFPE-EPO has a bigger grudge against SUEPO than EPO,” she wrote, adding the image below.
“Proof that SUEPO feared FFPE-EPO was out to dethrone them as leading union,” she wrote, adding the image below. “Which has happened,” she added, “because EPO now recognizes FFPE-EPO while SUEPO is still in legal limbo.”
That’s why it's called a "yellow union" here. We suspect this, but cannot be sure yet. Petra Kramer too is trying to get certainty either way.
“What I am trying to find out,” she wrote, “is how many members FFPE-EPO has. No luck thus far but I found the results good enough to share.”
We still welcome leaks to shed light on this.
“A 2 days old article by NRC claims FFPE has 75 members, 1% of EPO-staff,” Petra said before working on a translation (also amending some bits [1, 2]), later noting: “Quite funny: the head honcho of FPPE has 1 endorsement on LinkedIn.”
Upon further research she also started using expletives: “The fucking idiots signed a carte blanche! Union recognized, no strikes allowed.”
Here is the article as put by Petra Kramer (PK), with her comments added in-line to her translation from Dutch:
European Patent Office agrees with union representing 1 percent of staff
After a year of negotiations the European Patent Office, which has been criticized by unions, signed an agreement in Brussels last Wednesday officially recognizing a trade union. It’s not the largest union, SUEPO refuses to sign as a form of protest. The signer is FFPE-EPO, which represents 1 percent of the 7,000 employees with about 75* members. (*Citation needed ~PK)
Employees of the Patent Office, which approves European patents and is based in four countries (five according to wikipedia ~PK), have been complaining for some time about the pressure, intimidation by management and restriction of their right to strike. Thus far, the agency acknowledged no unions because as an international organization it claimed national labour laws did not apply.
Last year the agency invited the unions to hold a “social dialogue” which should lead to recognition. But SUEPO withdrew in June when the patent office took punitive measures against three trade union leaders. Two of them have been fired.
Last week leaks made clear that the President of the Agency, Frenchman Benoît Battistelli, came into conflict with the Administrative Council, the supreme body. The Council is “deeply concerned” about the sanctions. That same week Battistelli invited the unions to negotiate an agreement on recognition. (Which of course is insane, you either organize or you don’t. You don’t let your boss decide on that. If we did so there would never have been any union in our history whatsoever ~PK).
SUEPO, which represents almost half of the 7,000 employees, refuses to sign as long as its staff is “unlawfully threatened and persecuted.” SUEPO considers it a “toothless agreement” without clear “rights and obligations.”
Samuel van der Bijl, President of FFPE-EPO, acknowledges that his union is small, but he hopes the agreement will draw in more members. The agreement says nothing about the right to strike, but that is the first and foremost point on the agenda, according to Van der Bijl.
The patent office says it is one of the first international organizations to recognize unions. Battistelli has declared “all work related issues” to be open to debate.
Human corrected machine translation of: http://www.nrc.nl/next/2016/03/02/conflict-akkoord-europees-octrooibureau-met-vakbon-1596848 Paywalled, but each visitor gets 5 free articles per month. Throw away your cookies because that is how they keep their tally.
In order to understand the context of it all, consider the following recent letter:
INTERNATIONALE GEWERKSCHAFT IM EUROPÄISCHEN PATENTAMT
STAFF UNION OF THE EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE
UNION SYNDICALE DE L’OFFICE EUROPEEN DES BREVETS
Zentralbüro | Central Bureau | Bureau central
29 February 2016
Heads of Delegation
European Patent Organisation
Letter of the President “Memorandum of understanding – invitation for signing”
On 24 February 2016, we received an invitation from the President of the Office to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SUEPO and the EPO. Regrettably, we have to inform you that we had to decline this invitation.
Although the document is apparently ready for signature by the EPO, it is far from ready for signature by SUEPO, the union which represents around half of the staff. Because SUEPO is a reliable social partner, we had already submitted a proposed model “Framework Agreement” on 5 February 2014 (su14020cl), which is a serious document based on acknowledged practice in Europe. Later, on 29 November 2015 we submitted to the Chairman of the AC another model document, the Memorandum of Understanding which was agreed upon in the EU (su15182cl, re-attached for your convenience). Both proposals are examples of European “best practice” and either of them would, in our opinion, be a much more suitable starting point for discussion between the Office and SUEPO. We note with regret that the current Administration chose to totally disregard both these proposals without any further discussion.
More importantly, we reminded the EPO in a letter dated 13 January 2016 (su16002cl) on our position that we cannot participate further in the corresponding working group on union
recognition while SUEPO leaders or experts remain sanctioned or under severe attack by the Administration, as is presently the case. Only two days later, the situation worsened with very severe sanctions being applied to three Union officials.
Our position is now only more resolute: a meaningful discussion on the issue that might lead to a MoU or other agreement that is acceptable to all parties is impaired to the extent that it is in our opinion impossible in the current, deteriorating situation. Nowhere in Europe does a union negotiate whilst its officials are being pursued.
As soon as the situation with regards to all disciplinary cases and pending abusive, vexatious investigations involving union officials has been successfully resolved, SUEPO will be ready to re-discuss the issues at hand. Once this is the case, we would like to invite the Administration
to kindly reconsider both reasonable proposals which have been put on the table as a new starting point for the negotiations. At the same time, we await a more serious negotiation partner from the side of the Office.
Chair SUEPO Central
Vice-Chair SUEPO Central
Chair SUEPO Munich
Vice-Chair SUEPO Central
Chair SUEPO The Hague
Vice-Chair SUEPO Central
Chair SUEPO Berlin
Vice-Chair SUEPO Central
Chair SUEPO Vienna
Usefully enough, some people have mentioned this comment about a ‘leak’ of the MoU:
A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding is available online.
Judge by yourself.
There was a comment on this in the evening. It said:
Is that the actual MoU? I’ve never seen anything like it. All very revealing about how the world looks from inside that Battistelli brain. Management is a simple matter of deciding how people are going to behave.
And how long is the MoU valid for? This memorandum which enters into force on 1st April 2016 shall be valid for a period of three years, i.e. until 28 February 2019. Er… how long is that exactly?
A lot more curious is the following bit about timing:
The MoU will terminate before it actually can come into force because the FPPE can not be considered a union under Article 7, because it limits membership to employees in The Hague by its statutes.
Interesting fact: The invitation for signing was for February 24th, yet it was only published the day a critical TV report was to be broadcasted. They even forgot to fill in a sensible date over the signatures before publishing it…
Now, putting it in HTML form (for our record), here is the “Proposed MoU between European Patent Office and trade unions.” It may be out of date, there may be numerous versions, but it’s probably close enough to the final ‘product’.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN
THE EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE
THE TRADE UNIONS AND STAFF ASSOCIATIONS
The European Patent Office (EPO), represented by the President of the Office
the following trade unions and staff associations
Union ……, represented by ….
Union ……, represented by ….
hereinafter referred to as ‘Union (s)’
having regard to Articles 30 and 33-38a ServRegs
have agreed as follows
This Memorandum governs relations between the EPO and the union parties thereto.
Freedom of association
The parties confirm their support for freedom of association as enshrined in Article 30 of ServRegs. All employees and former employees referred to in Article 1 of ServRegs may be members of unions of international civil servants.
Role of the unions
1. The EPO recognises the role and responsibility of the unions as important social dialogue partner as set out in the present Memorandum.
2. The unions shall act in the general interest of the staff. The Office recognises the aim of the unions to strive towards improvements of the employment conditions at the EPO. In the exercise of this aim, the union officials shall be bound by the legal framework applicable at the EPO and respect the relevant national laws that may apply to them. The unions shall act without prejudice to the competences conferred to the Staff Committee and other statutory bodies under the Service Regulations. The rights and obligations conferred to the signatory parties under the present Memorandum shall be exercised without prejudice to the competences and powers of the appointing authorities in accordance with the EPC.
Membership in a union and participation in union activities or the holding of office in a union shall in no way be prejudicial to the person concerned.
Exchange of information
1. The unions shall provide the President with:
- their statutes or articles of association which should fully respect and comply with the EPO legal framework inter alia the EPC, Service Regulations, Implementing Rules and Circulars
- the names of their officials within ten working days from the entry into force of this memorandum.
2. Any changes shall be also communicated to the President within the same time frame.
3. The parties ensure that any exchange of information between them occurs in transparency and good faith.
RECOGNITION OF UNIONS
Article 6 Recognition
1. The parties agree on the principle of official recognition of the unions of the EPO staff.
2. This recognition implies the acceptance by each party of the other as a social dialogue partner without prejudice and fully respecting the role and powers conferred on the Staff Committee and other statutory bodies under the Service Regulations.
3. The parties undertake to ensure that relations and communications between them are guided by mutual respect fully complying with the EPO legal framework and the Code of Conduct.
Criteria for recognition of the unions
The unions shall be recognised if they:
- declare that their statutory aim is the defence of the interests of all members of staff without any discrimination based on any ground, such as job group, nature of connection with the EPO, ethnic or national origin, opinions or beliefs, gender, sexual orientation or disabilities
- confirm that they have been legally constituted.
Groupings of recognised unions
Recognised trade unions may act alone or may form groupings of recognised trade unions. They may be affiliated to international trade unions.
Representativeness of the unions
1. Subject to meeting the requirements set out in Article 7, the EPO shall recognise as representative the unions which meet the following criteria:
- they elect their officials in democratic and transparent elections;
- they present candidates in official elections with the purpose of having elected staff representatives or
- they have elected staff representatives.
2. Trade unions meeting the above representativeness criteria may sign this memorandum of understanding.
Loss of recognised union status
Any union which no longer meets one of the requirements set out in Articles 7 and 9 shall be notified by the Administration and its rights under the present memorandum shall be suspended within three months. Such rights shall be immediately restored on verification that the requirements in question have been again met.
Consultation process- mutual exchange of information
1. At the beginning of each calendar year, the President shall send to the signatory trade unions a provisional list of the main items that are to be the subject of consultation and mutual exchange of information.
2. This list may be amended during the course of the year according to the EPO’s strategic goals, policies and social issues at any given time.
3. The unions may also inform the President of the list of items they wish to have discussed within the framework of social dialogue. The items on the social dialogue list and their priorities ranking shall be established in mutual agreement by the President and the unions and the list shall be published to all staff
Scope of the negotiation process
1. The negotiation process may relate to proposals relating to staff policy and the working conditions of the whole or part of the staff. The aim of the discussion is to reach an agreement on a proposal to be submitted to further statutory consultation process for the final decision by the Administrative Council.
2. The parties have to agree on the subject matters that will be subject to negotiations.
3. Before starting the negotiation, the parties define a maximum time to reach an agreement.
Negotiation process meetings
1. Negotiation process shall take place in a meeting to which attend a maximum of one representative per local signatory union and one representative per central signatory union.
2. Each signatory union shall be free to decide on the choice of its representatives among EPO staff in active service.
3. The President shall designate a number of Office representatives not more than the union representatives.
4. Based on the social dialogue list established in accordance with Article 11, the agenda shall be set by the President and sent to the signatory unions before the date of the meeting.
5. Following the negotiation process meeting a document summarising the positions of each party and the agreement or disagreement on the relevant social dialogue item shall be drawn up. This document shall be included in the further statutory consultation mechanism within GCC.
6. In case agreement is reached, the signatory unions shall call for social peace as regards the relevant proposal, refrain from issuing a call for a strike, and call on their members not to participate in any other industrial actions. The signatory unions shall in this case not support or encourage individual litigation actions.
RESOURCES AND FACILITIES GRANTED TO THE SIGNATORY UNIONS
Provision of resources to unions
The unions are financed by the contributions of their members. Notwithstanding this principle, the Office shall provide the necessary means for the communication between signatory unions and staff members as well as facilities to participate in the negotiation process.
1. The EPO shall make premises available for trade unions for the purpose of meeting staff and holding union committee meetings.
2. The unions shall have the right to hold meetings for staff at large and general assemblies in the EPO buildings outside core hours subject to a prior notice of at least three working days to be submitted to the site manager and
Vice-President DG 4. Organisers shall ensure that staff attending these meetings must comply with the security and safety rules applicable in the Office premises.
Use of IT tools and distribution of union documents
1. Unions may use the designated intranet site, as well as notice boards in the communal areas of the Office to publish information to staff. Additionally, they are provided with RSS feeds allowing staff members to receive up-dates of union’s intranet sites directly to their chosen email inbox. The published content is made under the content providers’ responsibility. The unions shall observe the rules in force with regard to communication and ensure that its publications are professional and respectful and meet the standards expected of the international civil service and under the EPO legal framework.
2. The printing of any documents shall be carried out by using union own resources. Upon request, the Office’s internal services and facilities may be used for distribution of such documents by each signatory union up to two times per year.
3. Upon request, a signatory union may dispatch per year up to two e-mails to all staff, inter alia for the purpose of convening a general assembly, distributing activity reports etc.
4. The signatory union shall ensure that the documents and e-mails referred to above are formulated in a fair and respectful manner, in factual terms and in accordance with the standards expected of the international civil service.
Staff hired by the unions
1. The unions may, out of their own funds and strictly under their own responsibility, employ staff under private law contracts in the EPO premises made available to them. Such contract must expressly state that there is no contractual relationship with the EPO.
2. The unions must inform the Office of the identity of such staff and the tasks to be carried out by them.
Time deductions for union representatives
1. Union representatives who participate in a negotiation process meeting shall be entitled to deduct reasonable time for the preparation, participation and follow up of such a meeting. This time deduction is limited up to three
days per meeting and includes travelling time of up to half a day per leg of the trip if applicable.
2. The above time deduction is not granted to fully exempted Staff Committee members.
Special leave for union officials
Upon justified request, each signatory union may be granted up to four working days special leave per calendar year for the purposes of its officials participating in the events organised by their central bodies, other unions or organisation of unions as well as in trainings relevant to union work.
1. This memorandum which enters into force on 1st April 2016 shall be valid for a period of three years, i.e. until 28 February 2019.
2. After an initial period of two years from the date of its entry into force:
- this memorandum may be reviewed upon request of any of the parties based on the experience gained;
- any party may withdraw from this memorandum provided that it gives six months’ notice in writing to the other parties concerned.
3. On 1st March 2019, this memorandum shall be automatically extended for a further period of three years, unless any of the parties to this memorandum requests renegotiation of any of its terms by giving six months’ notice in writing to the other parties concerned.
The above is already out there on the Web and someone in IP Kat linked to it. We don’t know how it got there, but upon further investigation we found out about context.
As this stage, it didn’t look as though SUEPO was in any way prepared to sign, but still, nevertheless, Battistelli chose to pretend that the offer was open to both unions (the apparently yellow one and the real one). Here is what Battistelli wrote:
European Patent Office 180298 MUNICH | GERMANY
European Patent Office
Tel. +49 (0)89 2399 – 1000
Fax +49 (0)89 2399 – 2892
• SUEPO Central
Memorandum of Understanding – invitation for signing
Dear Union representatives,
In March 2015, the call for a renewed social dialogue was jointly launched by the Administrative Council and the President. Unions represented at the EPO were invited to discuss the modalities of the recognition of unions and thus, to fill a longstanding vacuum.
The resulting Memorandum is now open to signature to all trade unions present at the EPO. Beyond the formal recognition of unions as social partners, it creates a collective bargaining scheme. Furthermore, the Memorandum will specifically address:
- criteria for the recognition of unions;
- consultation process on the basis of a mutually established social dialogue list and with an aim to reach an agreement;
- resources and facilities to be granted to the signatory unions.
In this framework, the Office states its readiness to address any topic linked to the working conditions and acknowledges that during the discussions related to the Memorandum, both the FFPE The Hague and the SUEPO expressed their wish to discuss the specific roles of signatory unions in the call and organisation of a strike. The Office agrees to include this topic in the first set of items to be subject to negotiation following the signature of the Memorandum.
You are then invited to a meeting for the purpose of signing the Memorandum. It will take place in Brussels, at the Bureau of the Office, avenue de Cortenbergh 60, on 2 March 2016 at 14:30. In this regard, thank you to indicate to the HR department the names of the representatives of your unions who will participate to it (for practical reasons the number will be limited to 5 by trade union). Looking forward to meeting you.
Notice in the above (highlighted in yellow) how Benoît Battistelli made the right to strike, which he evidently does not tolerate, subject to signing the MoU. What a nice trap, right? It’s almost like a sort of blackmail (into signing a deal which is bad in hopes of improving it later). The term mort gage, in Old French, means “dead pledge.” This one is more like a deal with the devil — one that only a bogus union would probably be foolish enough to agree to. █
Battistelli is killing the EPO, whose job should be to ensure proper examination of applications (not patent inflation or revenue), and accuses those who are trying to save the EPO of “defamation”
Summary: A look at some of the puff pieces that the EPO, boosted by a massive PR budget and outside help from FTI Consulting (to the tune of nearly $1,000,000 per year), has managed to stick on the Web
Left unchallenged, lies can stick. We urge all of our readers — no matter where they are from — to pressure media to properly cover what’s really going on inside the EPO (the important story, not PR) because the EPO’s unethical PR team sure is pressuring journalists right now, backed by a massive PR agency. Journalists can hopefully pay attention to both sides of the argument, not just paid PR people. We already see some Wall Street media and other financial media playing along with this propaganda. We also see some general news sites going along with this [1, 2, 3, 4], not to mention patent maximalists [1, 2, 3] (some horrible spin there, including UPC propaganda from EPO-funded sites like IAM, paid through FTI Consulting).
“It would do nothing but exacerbate “social unrest in the organisation.” That’s what yellow unions (or the perception thereof) lead to.”The above article (screenshot at the top), just published by IP Watch after a previous (very recent) puff piece, refers to what looks like a yellow union as follows: “The EPO president also announced the signature of an agreement with one trade union against a background of social unrest in the organisation.”
It would do nothing but exacerbate “social unrest in the organisation.” That’s what yellow unions (or the perception thereof) lead to. Just how much damage does Battistelli intend to cause before he finally jumps ship (even against his will)? As this new comment has just put it: “FFPE-EPO statute exists only in Dutch. Its Art. 3(1) allows membership only for ambtenaar van EOB bij de vestiging Den Haag. (Employees in The Hague)”
“Battistelli’s spin is getting not only ridiculous but also outright laughable.”Battistelli will be left red-faced/blush when we finally do our detailed stories about the small trade union and his secret salary that Kongstad kept approving (it’s still a secret by the way). In the above interview/article Battistelli said about the grim situation (with the Council) that “these allegations were the result of a defamation campaign,” but he didn’t say these were false. Battistelli also “said his salary is €300,000 per year,” according to IP Watch, but he’s going to regret saying that. “Battistelli said he never thought patent were the only solution,” IP Watch noted towards the end. Well, ask him about software patents and copyrights then. Why does the Battistelli-led EPO keep promoting (and often granting) software patents in Europe when software developers like myself almost unequivocally want just copyrights? Why is he ignoring the EPC — on the basis of which the EPO exists in the first place? Why does he snub European law and international law?
Battistelli’s spin is getting not only ridiculous but also outright laughable. Battistelli was “underlining that there had been no strikes in 2015,” according to IP Watch. That’s a classic straw man argument. He said nothing about an all-time high in protests and he also hopes nobody will notice the imminent strike that he's trying to crush along with his Iron Lady (Bergot).
We found it funny that Battistelli resorts to the old/outdated/typical propaganda points which we tackled here before. He uses “ISO9001 certification” for bragging rights (compared to other continents!), but ISO is Swiss (Europe!) and in our assessment it is deeply corrupt (you pay for what you get!). Why has the Switzerland-based IP Watch once again done such shallow or shoddy journalism? The site is usually decent, but not when it comes to EPO. Not anymore anyway…
“We found it funny that Battistelli resorts to the old/outdated/typical propaganda points which we tackled here before.”“The backlog decreased by 66 percent,” IP Watch says about Battistelli’s claims, but it didn’t explain how. Rubber-stamping of applications en masse? As per this leak?
“According to Battistelli,” IP Watch added, “reforms started to pay off in 2015. In terms of production, there was an increase of 14 percent in the number of files treated in one year. Patents granted and published rose by 6 percent, he said.”
“Battistelli is to the EPO what Nixon or Bush were to US and watch/recall which political party and politicians Battistelli is affiliated with in France.”See the above leak. Battistelli is killing the EPO pretty fast. The EPO under Battistelli now embraces the USPTO approach, which is grant (almost) everything, and fast! Whatever is left behind Battistelli when he leaves the EPO is a big mess that needs cleaning up, including patent quality. “EP” patents now include a lot of low-quality patents which Battistelli is evidently in denial about (even when European courts invalidate these).
Finally, Battistelli says EPO “is the best in the world in terms of quality,” but he means WAS, not is. The EPO has become Europe’s shame/embarrassment for many reasons and he put an end to its worldwide leadership. He took all the golden eggs and squeezed to death the goose, probably in order to give the impression that he was “successful”. He’s a “wartime President” by his own choice/making. What a horrible President. Battistelli is to the EPO what Nixon or Bush were to US and watch/recall which political party and politicians Battistelli is affiliated with in France. It figures. █
Coverage broadens in scope and geography
Summary: A roundup of this week’s (and especially today’s) EPO coverage, including some of the latest propaganda from the EPO (management) and media that repeats whatever the EPO says
“There was an extensive Dutch media coverage relating to the demonstration held on 28 January in the Hague. The TV news (Thursday 28 January 09:00) on NOS (From 3’40’’) is now provided [see above] with subtitles in English, French and German,” SUEPO noted this afternoon, later adding also a list of press reports that begin to surface (even this morning) in European media:
- “PR-Gag: Europäisches Patentamt will Gewerkschaft anerkennen” (Heise, 3 March 2016).
- “Un hiérarque français sur la sellette” (blog post from latribune.fr, 3 March 2016).
- “Akkoord Europees Octrooibureau met vakbond die 1 procent personeel vertegenwoordigt” (NRC, 2 March 2016). A translation is available in English.
- “Verhärtete Fronten im Europäischen Patentamt” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2 March 2016).
- [Video] “Die Story: Wenn der Traumjob zum Albtraum wird” (BR, Kontrovers, from 12’25’’, 2 March 2016)
- [Video] “Europäisches Patentamt in München – Rechtsfreier Raum mitten in Deutschland?” (BR, Abendschau 2 March 2016, 18:00)
- “EPO deal with trade union – not what it seems” (IPKAT, 2 March 2016).
- “European Patent Office inks deal with staff union it isn’t locked in death spiral with” (The Register, 2 March 2016).
- “Europees octrooibureau erkent vakbond” (fd.nl, 2 March 2016).
- “Europäisches Patentamt in München – Rechtsfreier Raum mitten in Deutschland?” (br.de, 2 March 2016).
- “Europe’s potential to sit at the heart of the global patent market may have to be reconsidered” (IAM, 1 March 2016).
The English translation mentioned above has just been converted by us so that it can be presented as plain HTML:
European Patent Office agreement with union that represents 1 percent of staff
2 March 2016
After a year of negotiations, the criticised European Patent Office signed an agreement on official recognition of a trade union on Wednesday in Brussels. But this was not the largest union, SUEPO, which is refusing to sign in protest. The signatory is FFPE-EPO, which, with 75 members, represents 1 percent of the 7,000 employees.
Employees at the patent office, which grants European patents and is based in four countries, have been complaining for a long time about work pressure, intimidation by the management and restriction of their right to strike. Until now, the office has also not recognised any unions, since as an international organisation it supposedly does not fall under national labour laws.
Last year, the office did invite the unions to enter into a “social dialogue” which would lead to recognition. But SUEPO withdrew in June, when the patent office took punitive measures against three union leaders. Two of them were dismissed.
Last week, news leaked that the president of the office, Frenchman Benoît Battistelli, came into conflict over this with the administrative council, the highest body. The council has “serious concerns” about the punitive measures. The same week, Battistelli invited the unions to sign an agreement on recognition.
SUEPO, which represents almost half of the 7,000 employees, will not sign as long as its leaders feel “threatened and unlawfully persecuted”. SUEPO considers it a “toothless agreement” without clear “rights and obligations”.
Samuel van der Bijl, Chair of FFPE-EPO recognises that his union is small, but hopes to attract more members through the agreement. The agreement says nothing about the right to strike, but this is at the top of the agenda according to Van der Bijl.
The patent office says that it is one of the first international organisations to recognise unions. Battistelli has stated that he is open to “all themes” in relation to work.
We don't honestly believe that FFPE-EPO is much more than a yellow union, which is why we are going to write more articles about it later in the week
Battistelli, according to this article, continues to deny that he is leaving (well, he will probably have to, irrespective of his desire). Here is the key part:
Asked about rumours about a possible “retirement package” of some €18million, and if his salary was over €1million a year, Battistelli said these allegations were the result of a defamation campaign which has been going on for some time.
He qualified his relationship with the EPO Council as “excellent” and said the Council asked him to extend his mandate by three years. He said his salary is €300,000 per year and “not a single euro in bonus.” The €18million is the budgetary amount of all rewards given to staff in 2015, he said, which was divided between some 70 percent of the staff, about 5,500 people, he said.
[Editor’s note: these claims of progress with staff relations and denial of negotiation for an exit package run contrary to reports and documents being circulated by information sources claiming inside information at the EPO. IP-Watch could not confirm these reports at press time.]
We have meanwhile noticed that “Lidstaten keren zich tegen ‘tirannieke’ topman Europees octrooibureau” and “Octrooibureau wil onderzoek naar bestuursstijl president” (two articles we previously posted here with an English translation) now have SUEPO translations available in English, French and German. Here are the English versions as PDFs.
“This “UK delegation” and this “preparatory committee” are nothing but self-serving non-scientists.”We have also just noticed this article from WIPR which helps British lawyers promote the UPC. There is no input from outsiders to this system. None whatsoever. Nonetheless, UK-IPO helps pull this Trojan horse across the Channel, and according to WIPR: “The UK delegation of the preparatory committee for the Unified Patent Court (UPC) has secured a zero cost opt-out for the new system, the government has said.
“According to the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), after “18 months of hard work” the UK delegation has secured the deal.”
This “UK delegation” and this “preparatory committee” are nothing but self-serving non-scientists. They should be allowed to take forward the UPC with no public input. That’s grossly antidemocratic. They are stealing democracy. █
Unlikely to happen as long as the patent establishment (USPTO) generates revenue from software patents, at the expense of many other people
Summary: A little more coverage about India’s decision to maintain the embargo on software patents and what this can teach the US public about the US patent office
“Last month,” says this new article. “the Indian Patents Office released the revised Guidelines for Computer Related Invention (CRI Guidelines), which has finally aligned the Patents Office fully with the Indian Patents Act. This is the third time that software patents have been beaten back in India: the first with the Amendments to the Patents Act in 2005, the next, smuggling it in through the Patents Manual issued by the Patents Office, and this time, through the original CRI Guideline issued in August last year. Each time, these attempts have been beaten back.”
“Time after time we saw foreign companies such as IBM and Microsoft trying to shame India into making software patents legal.”On the same day we found an article by Glyn Moody, titled “After Some Dangerous Wavering, Indian Patent Office Gives Definitive ‘No’ To Software Patents”. Dr. Moody notes: “As Techdirt has reported over the years, views on whether software should be patentable, and if so, to what extent, have ebbed and flowed. In the US, the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank seems to have established that most software isn’t patentable. In the EU, the fate of software patents is less clear. According to the European Patent Convention, patents are not available for computer programs “as such” — but that metaphysical “as such” rider has allowed thousands of software patents to be issued anyway. Muddying the waters further is the Unified Patent Court, which may or may not come into existence soon, with almost unchecked powers to reshape the patent landscape in Europe.”
An Indian innovator, Vivek Wadhwa, whom we mentioned here before because of his views on software patents [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], wrote the following piece for the Washington Post (it’s about the USPTO), later to be reposted in Indian media (yesterday) and say:
Lemley and Feldman found that that patent litigation and licensing demands for existing patents only happen after the defendant has developed and implemented the technology, particularly when patent trolls are involved. And they cite several studies which show that patent trolls now account for the majority of patent lawsuits that are filed.
This means that other than through university technology transfer, hardly any innovation is being created by technology patents. Therefore, it may be best to abolish them, particularly software patents – which have long been clogging up the patent office.
Universities are very defensive about patents; they argue that they need these to protect their ideas and inventions. This may be true, but it leads to yet another question: should universities be profiting from license revenue obtained from research that was publicly funded? Regardless of the answer, for the larger cause of innovation, it is clear that patents are not fulfilling the purpose for which they were intended. The often-cited defense of patents, that patent rights encourage inventions that would not otherwise occur, is no longer grounded in reality.
The key part from Wadhwa says “it may be best to abolish them, particularly software patents – which have long been clogging up the patent office.” Amen to that. The USPTO has much to learn from India, not the other way around. But the USPTO has its own selfish interests. As this new article from WIPR has just put it: “USPTO: trademark and patent fees to hit $3.2bn”
Well, it costing the economy so much more, maybe $100bn in taxes and litigation fees. Who benefits from this? Surely not the population of the US. █
Not your father’s IBM
Photo source (modified slightly): The 10 Most Powerful Women in Technology Today
Summary: IBM is becoming predatory as the business is sinking and all it has got left is a big pile of patents, including a lot of software patents that it now weaponises
WHEN the corporate media covers the problem with patents and suggests a reform it often alludes to “patent trolls” but not to large companies that are equally bad if not worse. They are in many ways the culprits, as it’s them and their people — like David Kappos in IBM’s case — who push hard for software patents (that patent trolls too are using).
The other day the EFF's Nazer showed how software patents in the US do so much damage for benefit of very few people, who are parasites. Nazer did not mention software patents explicitly and as usual he focused on “trolls”. As an article about it has just put it: “”Personalized content” is a phrase so vague that it could mean just about anything. That quality makes it just about perfect for use by a patent troll. This month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s patent lawyers have honed in on a patent describing a way of “presenting personalized content relating to offered products and services,” owned by Phoenix Licensing LLC, a patent-holding company controlled by Richard Libman, an Arizona man who’s sued more that 100 companies.” [...] Wordy language notwithstanding, the patents look like the type of “do it on a computer” claims that should get tossed out as “almost surely invalid” under the Alice v. CLS Bank Supreme Court precedent, EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer explains in his blog post. “Unsurprisingly, given that its patents are so vulnerable to challenge under the Alice standard, it has filed all of these lawsuits in the Eastern District of Texas.” That plaintiff-friendly court is less likely to invalidate patents under Alice.”
“The company is a patent aggressor and we cannot help but wonder how the Linux Foundation feels about IBM not only lobbying for software patents but also suing companies using these.”Since it’s about Alice, one immediately knows it involves abstract software patents. But it’s too expensive to deal with in a court of law. Even software patents which one knows for sure are not truly valid can be used as a weapon but not only by patent trolls but also by a patent monster like IBM, which always takes the lions’s share of patents at the USPTO. Well, IBM has just announced major layoffs; but worse — it’s becoming a patent aggressor more so than in the recent past. “IBM can sue any webshop with those 4 broad patents from the late nineties,” Benjamin Henrion wrote this morning. “IBM is suing Groupon with 4 software patents,” he added, “probably trivial ones,” pointing to two articles [1, 2]. IBM is not responding to a company that’s suing it first. To quote the first report: “IBM has sued online deals marketplace Groupon for infringing four of its patents, including two that emerged from Prodigy, the online service launched by IBM and partners ahead of the World Wide Web.”
The latter article says: “IBM is suing Groupon over alleged patent infringement, court documents revealed Wednesday. It’s the latest in a series of lawsuits the computing pioneer has filed against tech companies that it says rely on groundwork it laid.
“IBM filed a lawsuit in Delaware district court alleging that the Chicago-based online marketplace ignored repeated alerts stemming to 2011 that it was unfairly using IBM inventions.”
“It’s often said that patents are only trophies for vanity until a company is collapsing, whereupon it chooses to sue rivals or sell patents to aggressive entities, including trolls.”Remember that IBM is pushing India to grant patents on software. It’s the same thing it did in Europe and in New Zealand, so shame on IBM. It not only amasses software patents (while using OIN to pretend that it’s all fine and dandy) but also uses them for litigation, not just against large companies (like Sun) and not just using hardware patents. The face IBM does not want you to see is IBM without the “open” makeup (openwashing of everything including proprietary, grossly overpriced mainframes). The company is a patent aggressor and we cannot help but wonder how the Linux Foundation feels about IBM not only lobbying for software patents but also suing companies using these.
It’s often said that patents are only trophies for vanity until a company is collapsing, whereupon it chooses to sue rivals or sell patents to aggressive entities, including trolls. IBM proves that right. █
What’s not in the photo op says more than what’s in it
Source: Wikipedia on yellow unions
Summary: Why there are legitimate reasons to believe that FFPE-EPO is essentially being used as a yellow union, in order to help crush SUEPO and incite the media against SUEPO
THE EPO is having a propaganda day today. The rebuttals we wrote yesterday [1, 2] and so far today [1, 2] are just the tip of the iceberg. It would be interesting to know what role — if any — the Washington-based FTI Consulting plays in this propaganda. It does, after all, receive nearly 80,000 euros per month from the EPO for propaganda.
Merpel has published an article titled “EPO deal with trade union – not what it seems” in which she wrote:
In fact, as today’s announcement makes clear, the union that has signed the MoU is FFPE-EPO. What is the significance of this? Well, FFPE-EPO exists only in the Hague office of the EPO, and is believed to have about 70 members, whereas SUEPO has about 3400 (about half of the EPO staff, and increasing over recent years). While any union recognition is to be welcomed, the concern is that the EPO is trying to present this as showing that all is well, when in fact, with the overwhelmingly larger union, the disciplinary sanctions remain against the officials and there is no sign that a dialogue is possible at all. The social situation remains in a toxic state, and, under the current management, seems likely to stay that way.
The reports of the Board 28 meeting from last month suggested that perhaps the Administrative Council meeting this month on 16/17 March might be a turning point. Merpel still hopes that it will be, and that today’s announcement will not be used to suggest that the social and industrial issues within the EPO’s workforce area already being resolved.
Among the early comments we see:
Indeed the Union is a little unlikely. First it is only open to staff in The Hague (so isn’t an ‘EPO’ Union per se) and was originally set up for Dutch members of staff (they felt unfairly treated with regard to not being eligible for expat benefits so may also include other Hague staff not eligible for expat rights). Secondly, even Dutch colleagues are in the dark and the public pages of their website were last updated in 2008. If the committee hasn’t changed in more than 7 years then they must be popular. On the other hand they have no elected staff representatives despite the voting rules having been changed (unilaterally by BB) to prevent block voting of Suepo members. Their support seems minimal.
Next Tuesday there is an office-wide strike vote. Staff are not allowed to campaign for it and any communication is limited to 50 people (although nobody would dare to send even one – Emails with the word Suepo are blocked too). I guess next Tuesday we and the Administrative Council will see any fruits of this MoU.
One person asks: “Has anyone seen the MoU?”
We are going to publish it later. We received some leaked material.
“It seems only one of the faces is actually FFPE-EPO, all the rest are either EPO management or FFPE-European Council, which is a different branch of the FFPR organization.”
–AnonymousAnother person uses sarcasm with reversal and says: “It is indeed most pleasing to see that the status of the EPO has finally been recognised by the FFPE.”
This person added: “It seems only one of the faces is actually FFPE-EPO, all the rest are either EPO management or FFPE-European Council, which is a different branch of the FFPR organization.”
This in itself is interesting (if true). The image metadata (above) says: “EPO signs MoU with trade union FFPE-EPO (From left to right: EPO Vice-President DG5 Raimund Lutz; FFPE Vice-Chair Aldert De Haan, EPO Vice-President DG2 Alberto Casado; President FFPE European Council Simon Coates, EPO Vice-President DG4 Željko Topić; EPO President Benoît Battistelli, EPO Principal Director Human Resources Elodie Bergot, Federal President FFPE Council of Europe John Parsons, FFPE-EPO Chair Samuel van der Bijl, President FFPE European Commission Pierre-Philippe Bacri, EPO Vice-President DG1 Guillaume Minnoye.”
Only one person, Samuel van der Bijl, is from FFPE-EPO, so this is probably true.
One other new comment states:
The President recently dismissed two leading SUEPO officials. I wonder how much commitment is behind the FFPE-EPO signatures, considering these circumstances
And once again we see the EPO publish information which is incomplete, to say the least. The publication should include the relevant facts – see comment #1: about 70 members, only in The hague. The EPO should not be able to claim immunity for such publications.
SUEPO and interested third parties should be given the possibility to challenge this and other publications, as is the case for newspaper articles etc. The EPO itself is not shy to place such request, e.g. to Techrights.
We can’t help but wonder if Battistelli and those loyal to him deal with a union which they themselves created or at least groomed/propped up for their own selfish purposes. One person wrote to us and said: “Just wanted to share my thought that FFPE unions Actionszenen remind me a lot of AUB, a “Union” set up and funded by Siemens. Timing of The MoU is too much of a “coincidence”. Would really like to know what Team Battistelli have or promised them…”
Looking into the Siemens example (also in Germany), here’s what we have: “In his first public comments since the scandal broke in February, Mr Schelsky is quoted as saying: “I was supposed to build up an umbrella organisation with the money. And that is what I did . . . I was secretly employed as a lobbyist for Siemens. There was a clear order from the top of the company.”
‘Mr Schelsky’s comments further raise the pressure on Siemens and its management. Siemens is suspected of helping finance the AUB to build a counterweight to its main IG Metall union. The AUB affair is separate from a financially far bigger bribery investigation into several divisions of Siemens.
“Siemens is suspected of helping finance the AUB to build a counterweight to its main IG Metall union. The AUB affair is separate from a financially far bigger bribery investigation into several divisions of Siemens.”
–CorpWatch“Siemens declined to comment on Mr Schelsky’s claims but said it was co-operating with authorities in both cases to clear up the matter as quickly as possible. It has recently lost both its chief executive and chairman as a result of the scandals. Both deny any wrongdoing. Johannes Feldmayer, a management board member, is a suspect in the AUB affair and was briefly remanded in custody earlier this year. He is currently on leave from Siemens at his own request and his contract will not be renewed at the end of the year.”
Siemens is close to the EPO (the President and the EPO even pose for photos together — some of which we used here before!) and the EPO recently appointed to head of communications the person whom Siemens had allegedly hired from Transparency International to help address the bribery scandal purely by public perception (reputation laundering).
We are not suggesting that this is enough evidence with which to paint FFPE bogus/yellow union, but we just want to give readers food for thought. Organisations such as the EPO don’t have a reputation for ethics and as we showed here over the years (usually in relation to Microsoft), corrupt officials often end up calling bribes “financial assistance” or “marketing help” (euphemisms). This can sometimes happen in the case of pseudo-unions that are propped up while the other ones are viciously crushed using witchhunts, defamation, mental torture and so on. █
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