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03.17.16

Institutional Failure and Dirty Tricks: Benoît Battistelli Seemingly Gets Support Like Microsoft Gets Support

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Open XML, Patents at 1:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

When all votes count as equal…

Arūnas Želvys, Director of the State Patent Bureau of the Republic of Lithuania, and EPO President Benoît Battistelli sign the agreement
Published only hours ago. Where next? Croatia?

Also see: Benoît Battistelli: “An Earthquake Would be Needed for the Administrative Council... Not to Support My Major Proposals.”

Summary: Today’s reminder that Battistelli is not at all monitored or ‘bossed’ by the Administrative Council, which he not only comes from but also offers incentives to (days after waving EPO money at Dutch politicians in an effort to influence them to place the EPO above the law)

BACK in the days — nearly a whole decade ago — we used to thoroughly cover Microsoft’s use of corruption to make Microsoft Office an ‘open’ ‘standard’. Given enough money, power, connections etc. one can conceivably achieve anything, especially in poor countries where even dental treatment is a massive treat. Remember that Microsoft offered financial incentives to entire countries (or politicians’ own cities) in an effort to buy their votes. Conversely, sometimes blackmail gets used (“do what we say, or else…”). We covered examples of that. Well, Microsoft still relies on bribes (to officials) to get business 'done'.

The EPO, which is especially close to Microsoft, is hardly any better. Rather than label itself a private or ‘public’ (in the shareholders sense) corporation it is an international body that acts like a corporation and enjoys exemptions from the law. It even calls itself “European”, even though the only European thing about it is the staff. The EPO is connected to some very powerful people from all over the world and therefore it guards powerful people, obviously at the expense of ordinary Europeans. Battistelli is a good example or a symptom of this, for reasons we covered here many times before. Battistelli often looks more and more (at least appears to outsiders) like he’s carrying out the orders or instructions of somebody else (or many somebodies). The way I personally look at it (yes, personally), Battistelli is the first domino piece to fall and serve as a deterrence against those who follow his footsteps and implement so-called ‘reforms’ that abolish human rights, commonwealth, etc. Next on the list might be Kongstad, e.g. for protecting Battistelli for many years and then hiding his contract. EPO workers need Kongstad to get Battistelli out, but they won’t see it any time soon because Battistelli is Kongstad’s predecessor and the latter now acts more like his guardian (we first pointed this out in 2014). In order to implement popular change (not corporate/billionaires’ change) at the EPO, the Administrative Council too needs to be tackled. They’re mostly lawyers from national patent offices, they’re not scientists or examiners. They too need to be shaken a bit. Then, staff may move on to other culprits (whose power if not reputation as well will be simpler to destroy based purely on their unethical actions, as they’re low-profile people compared to Battistelli and Kongstad).

“Well, Microsoft still relies on bribes (to officials) to get business ‘done’.”The EPO scandals will surely outlive Battistelli and Kongstad, so EPO staff should be prepared for a longer struggle before sanity is restored, the EPC is obeyed, human rights are respected and so on.

As one reader put it the other day: “It can be a course of events, but I am afraid the domino effect might not be as automatic as we wish. For sure active pressure, e.g. by media and union action, will be needed and still well organized. Laws in and about EPO are murky, so that no matter how unreasonable and indefensible some managers’ behaviour might be, they might still get away with it.

“Another key factor would be to get ever more examiners getting out of the dark when showing support and denouncing abuses. This could set the beginning of an end, so to say.

“Another key factor would be to get ever more examiners getting out of the dark when showing support and denouncing abuses.”
      –Anonymous
“If Battistelli’s and/or Kongstad’s ditching takes longer than this year, we might lose the momentum, with examiners retreating their heads in their necks and Union back in its self-referential playing of pretending to be Machiavellis they never were, and as if they have a hundred years to play about.”

Earlier today some people’s hearts sank because they came to realise that the Administrative Council is not on their side. Doctored results and fake union recognition at EPO apparently fooled those who wished to be fooled. This didn’t surprise us at all, but it’s only an expected step, probably to be followed by strikes.

In the mean time, as there is a personal aspect to my activism/reporting in this area (I am a software engineer worried about software patents), I decided to also take personal action and therefore contacted some delegates. I sent them the following message a few days ago:

I am writing to you as a concerned European and as a software professional based in the UK. As you may know, the management of the EPO is under heavy attack for its mistreatment of staff, which even led to an imminent Office-wide strike and resulted in staff suicides (see TV coverage from earlier this month in Germany). However, I am a lot more concerned at the moment about a parade of misinformation, intended to distract from this and also mislead delegates of your country, who shall soon be attending the Administrative Council meeting in Munich. I want to keep this short, so let me highlight two kinds of lies you may be told by the EPO. The first lie concerns so-called union recognition. There is no such thing at the EPO, except a quasi-staged signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with a tiny union that hardly represents even 1% of staff at the EPO (the real union represents about half of all staff). This is intended to lull delegates into the illusion that relationships between staff and management have improved. It’s far from the truth. In fact, over 91% of staff which voted on a strike last week voted in favour. EPO workers are unwilling to tolerate the abusive management, in spite of their salary and despite the risk of voting in favour of a strike (the ballot provides no real privacy). The second point I must stress is that when the EPO claims improved performance, efficiency, results etc. these claims must be regarded as dubious/questionable at best. Numerous people, professionals in the field in fact, have already demonstrated that the EPO uses misleading statistics in order to give an illusion of success. This, in their minds, is intended to distract from (or justify) the aforementioned abuses and consequent unrest.

Over the past few months I’ve covered examples where the EPO lies not only to staff but also to journalists. In a desperate effort to salvage their reputation they are now creating an alternate reality. Sceptical analysis of EPO claims thus becomes a survival skill.

I want to see the EPO repaired. I wish to see it serving the European people and European interests. Right now the EPO is merely being used by very few people to advance their personal interests and this is unsustainable. It will, over the long run, damage Europe’s science, technology, and reputation.

My sincere regards,

Roy Schestowitz

Judging based on the message from John Alty today (UK-IPO), whom I contacted a few days ago, there’s no pleasant surprise, just the expected complicity. “Just back from @EPOorg Council meeting,” he wrote. “Strong statement of Council’s expectations to encourage improved social engagement.”

“Amid abuses that are widely recognised both at the EPO and outside of it the ‘opposition’ sounds like not even a slap on the wrist (hardly even that).”It’s hardly a strong statement. Amid abuses that are widely recognised both at the EPO and outside of it the ‘opposition’ sounds like not even a slap on the wrist (hardly even that).

Earlier today one anonymous person sent us a stream of messages about the outcome of the Administrative Council meeting. Among them:

  • “Unfortunately hard measures against Battistelli are off the table! The AC welcomed the impressive results for production & quality.”
  • “In order to address the social issues, the AC and Battistelli jointly agreed to launch a programme of actions to be implemented in the coming months.”
  • “The revision of the investigation guidelines, which was launched by the office in January, and the revision of disciplinary proc.”
  • “of course they do however the supreme question here remains unanswered, that is… who is the axis of evil? BB of the AC?”
  • “That was the biggest mistake ever and I warned in the past. Clearly a conflict in interests.”
  • “well it isn’t over yet, we need to wait till the end of the day to get a real picture of the situation, let’s keep our fingers”
  • “that is in preparation and the next logical step. Sad to say that a few thousands of staff members will be downhearted today!”

“It was rather unlikely all along that Administrative Council folks would be the ones to take serious action against Battistelli; not therein lies redemption anyway (the Administrative Council is simply too self-absorbed to care about EPO staff).”My response to the above was, EPO workers should go on strike and denounce not only EPO management but also the Administrative Council for being supine, complicit, and disinterested. It was rather unlikely all along that Administrative Council folks would be the ones to take serious action against Battistelli; not therein lies redemption anyway (the Administrative Council is simply too self-absorbed to care about EPO staff). This one comment which we received earlier today put in context this EPO announcement (warning: epo.org link) that we had noticed hours earlier. There is also this post-meeting hogwash (warning: epo.org link) for those who believe what the EPO says to the media. The latest EPO propaganda now tries to paint the Office as poor-friendly/SME-friendly (a total lie amid PACE propaganda in Twitter today, as well as more from Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP) and also serves to highlight what may have happened behind the scenes. In the words of the commenter:

I see Mr. Battistelli has signed an agreement to subsidize searches carried out for Lithuanians as for “Cyprus and other member states”. Only a cynic would suggest that this is a mechanism to encourage these states to support him in the AC.

EPO link: http://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2016/20160317.html

Some believed that Battistelli had "bribed" lower management for support (like Microsoft did for OOXML at ISO) and now again some interpret that as a bribe. This is not sufficient evidence, but still, it cannot count for nothing at all. There is at the very least a perception that Battistelli gave some gifts and got one back. Remember Battistelli’s money-waving strategy when dealing with Dutch politicians. It hardly works in rich countries.

There is already an article about this latest development. It comes from NRC. Human-corrected machine translation of this article was provided, as usual, by Petra Kramer, who put it as follows:

EPO Member States want fair sanctions

[Kramer: They changed the headline. First it was “After criticism EPO workers now getting fair sanctions”
see: http://drimble.nl/overige/business/34514479/na-kritiek-krijgen-werknemers-europees-octrooibureau-nu-eerlijke-sancties.html]

Majority votes for compromise over sanctions

The controversial punitive measures for employees of the European Patent Office, with among others an office in Rijswijk, are to be reviewed. With 12 abstentions 26 of the 38 Member States of the office Wednesday in Munich have voted in favour of fair sanctions, sources confirm.

The international organization (7,000 employees) accepts patent applications and grants European patents. The position of the President of the Agency, the Frenchman Benoît Battistelli (65) is under pressure because of his “authoritarian” management style. During a critical interview in early March with State Secretary Martijn van Dam (Economic Affairs, Labour Party) which Battistelli left in anger, this newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Governing Council, the highest body consists of the 38 member states, including the Netherlands, have great concern about the dismissal and demotion of three members of SUEPO trade union and the works council. So far Battistelli showed not to be very receptive to this criticism. In leaked minutes of February, the board of the Management Board described the situation as “a crisis.”

The council, which met Wednesday and Thursday in Munich, would rather an external investigation into the sanctions. In today’s resolution, which today is made public, that demand has been weakened. Battistelli must now consider an investigation or intervention through mediation or arbitration. The management board calls the patent office and the trade union to resume social dialogue and to reach an agreement. The president has embraced the content of the resolution, according to the patent office.

As an international organization the patent office claims not to be bound by national labour law. Battistelli does not recognize SUEPO union, which represents half of the total staff, either. The patent office has its own disciplinary procedures and an internal investigation service to screen workers. The method of this investigation service and the penalty rules are to be revised.

It is unclear what will happen to the trade unionists who are punished because of a “corruption campaign.” The Dutch Elizabeth Hardon, chairman of SUEPO in Munich, was fired and her pension was reduced. Her predecessor Ion Brumme was fired and the treasurer of the union, Malika Weaver was cut in her salary. Other members of the union have received official warnings.

Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld of the union calls Battistelli to undo the dismissals and demotion. “Battistelli abuse of his authority and power as he decides to expel the three union officials in Munich,” said Zegveld. “He is thus acting in blatant contradiction with the express wish of the Member States to improve social conditions and to protect the union.”

Notice that the above cites/quotes documents we leaked last night (at around 2 AM).

Is the EPO peaceful now? No.

“For the second day in a row in Twitter, the EPO lobbied for software patents (using the weasel word “ICT”) and will do the same tomorrow.”There will almost certainly be strikes soon.

Is the EPO’s propaganda over? No.

For the second day in a row over at Twitter, the EPO subtly lobbied for software patents (using the weasel word “ICT”) and will do the same tomorrow [1, 2]. The EPO arrogantly stomps on the EPC as nobody seems to be able to stop it. These liars keep citing their own bunk 'statistics' today [1, 2, 3], even when there are demonstrable issues with these. IAM ‘magazine’, which unwittingly uses a survey to give Battistelli his usual propaganda/ammunition, is now offering gifts in exchange for participating in the latest round of propaganda (maybe SUEPO's surveys scare Battistelli a little too much).

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5 Comments

  1. katkatkat said,

    March 17, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Gravatar

    http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2016/03/17/na-kritiek-krijgen-werknemers-europees-octrooibureau-nu-eerlijke-sancties

    Battistelli wants the glory of the beginning of the Unitary Patent and will do anything in order to stay and “enter into history”. The squalid components of the Administrative Council allow him this by failing to properly exert their functions. Battistelli buys their votes and support with the money of the cooperation programs which are managed by his friend Régis whatever. Especially disgusting is the position of Germany, the host country. But we know the Germans…..they just care about their own interest. Beware of them, always.
    So your title is very appropriate: Institutional failure and dirty tricks !

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I will write more later tonight. If you can elaborate on the cooperation programs (beyond what was covered here in 2014), that would help a lot.

  2. katkatkat said,

    March 17, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Gravatar

    Without entering into details, the question of the cooperation programs is quite simple. The EPO has plenty of funds (partly also coming from the EU) for cooperation with national offices for training at all levels (search & examination, languages, classification, patenting issues, formalities, qualifying examination, case law, exchanges, academy activities etc.). This is not bad per se in view of the necessity of harmonising patent policies. Bad is the use of the funds to buy consensus and votes. Régis-Hannard acts often as BB’s ambassador and distributes funds accordingly. Some small patent offices have never seen so much money……

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Thanks for clarifying. I invite anyone with more information about this, especially negotiation process for these funds, to send us documents. I was first made aware of this aspect of carrot and stick 2 years ago, but haven’t addressed it since.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrot_and_stick

  3. katkatkat said,

    March 17, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Gravatar

    This all would deserve an investigation. But – you understand – in absence of an appropriate auditing transparency of the operations is quite problematic.
    No wonder that some delegations in the AC would agree to anything…..

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