Insider’s Account (Not Face-Saving EPO Statement) Reveals That Even Battistelli’s Allies Turn Against Him, EPO ‘Results’ Not Believed by Some, and Munich Protests Break Records
The ‘official’ narrative does not tell the full story, as usual…
Summary: Once the thick blanket of PR and hogwash is removed, more optimism for EPO workers is found and more trouble for Battistelli et al becomes apparent
A LOT is happening at the EPO this week and earlier this night/evening we wrote a quick response to the outcome of the Administrative Council's (AC) meeting. We have not lost track of mainstream media coverage, some of which got listed as follows at SUEPO’s site later in the afternoon. The following list isn’t complete and we hope that SUEPO will produce translations in the coming days (some of the articles below have already been translated for publications at Techrights):
- “Lidstaten Octrooibureau willen rechtvaardige sancties” (NRC, 17 March 2016).
- “2000 gegen einen” (Donaukurier, 16 March 2016).
- “EPA-Konflikt: Schonfrist für Battistelli” (JUVE, 16 March 2016).
- “LABOR DISPUTE – Daggers Drawn at European Patent Office” (Handelsblatt, 16 March 2016).
- “Baas Europees Octrooibureau vertrekt boos bij Van Dam” (NRC, 16 March 2016).
- “Het wordt een pijnlijke bijeenkomst” (NRC, 16 March 2016).
- “Angry EU patent office chief breaks off talks with Dutch minister: NRC” (DutchNews.nl, 16 March 2016).
- “Staatssecretaris voert vruchteloos gesprek met omstreden octrooibaas” (nu.nl, 16 March 2016).
- “L’Epa, c’est moi” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15 March 2016).
- “Angst, Mobbing, Entlassungen” (Donaukurier, 15 March 2016).
- “Verwaltungsrat berät über Zwist beim Europäischen Patentamt” (München.tv, 15 March 2016).
- “Querelen beim europäischen Patentamt – Aufstand im Paradies” (Handelsblatt, 15 March 2016).
- “Angst im Europäischen Patentamt: Wer kritisiert, wird entlassen” (blog.compact, 15 March 2016).
- “EPO’s Admin Council meets amid demonstration and strike threats” (Managing Intellectual Property, 14 March 2016).
- “La commission des affaires européennes auditionne le président de l’OEB” (Philip Cordery, 14 March 2016).
- “EPO Union Presses Management To Reverse President’s Disciplinary Actions” (IP-Watch, 14 March 2016).
- “EPO Performance 1 – application pendency times” (IPKAT, 12 March 2016).
It is worth noting that much of the above comes from Dutch and German media, as should probably be expected given the location of the offices. We should add to the above “Battistelli bleibt trotz Protesten im Amt”, which was published earlier today. If anyone can produce a translation or interpretation of new information, that would be appreciated.
“We already know, based on the reaction to a German TV program, that EPO management is very aggressive towards the media.”“Legal notice” has just been added by SUEPO, mirroring what its apparently new site (withdrawn since) contained. The text is exactly the same (see screenshot from February) as it says: “External links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by SUEPO of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual publishing the linked material. SUEPO bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.”
For those who don’t understand the purpose of this text, consider legal threats against SUEPO (half a year ago). We already know, based on the reaction to a German TV program [1, 2], that EPO management is very aggressive towards the media. It cannot tolerate opposing views and it’s stuck in a bubble of self righteousness.
EPO Saving Face
As we noted earlier today, the hogwash posted in the EPO’s Web site should be taken with a large barrel of salt because the EPO shamelessly lies to journalists nowadays. Here is the full statement with our comments in-line:
Munich, 17 March 2016
147th meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (Munich, 16 March 2016)
The Administrative Council held its 147th meeting in Munich on 16 March 2016, with Jesper Kongstad, Director General of the Danish Patent Office, in the chair.
After the Chairman’s activities report, covering in particular the last two meetings of the Board of the Administrative Council, the Council noted the activities report given by the President of the European Patent Office, Benoît Battistelli. The Council was pleased with the excellent results achieved by the Office in terms of production and productivity but expressed concern about the social climate and discussed quality.
Who measured the quality? Did they try independent quality assessment? By some indications, the EPO tortured statistics or even invented the results. As we are going to show later on, some people at the AC were rightly skeptical.
Following an in-depth discussion, the Council approved, in agreement with the President, a resolution on the social situation (see the document below).
The Council re-elected its chairman for a term of three years starting on 1 July 2016. It made two appointments to the Supervisory Board of the Academy and a number of appointments to the Boards of Appeal.
With Kongstad staying for another 3 years it may be hard to discover (or have divulged) Battistelli’s super-secret contract.
The Council noted information provided by the Office on the envisaged structural reform of the EPO Boards of Appeal.
The Council heard reports on the Select Committee 19th meeting (see separate report on this website) as well as on the unitary patent, the latter delivered by the Netherlands delegation representing the country holding the EU presidency in the first half of 2016.
The unitary patent is a project that can be hard to implement because of various sources of opposition. But the EPO, as usual, pretends it has no opposition whatsoever, just some “vocal minority” or something along those lines.
Now comes the next (non-introductory) part:
RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL ON 16 MARCH 2016
in its capacity as supervisory organ of the EPOrg -
having repeatedly expressed its deep concerns about the social unrest within the EPOffice;
having repeatedly urged the EPOffice President and the trade unions to reach a consensus on an MOU which would establish a framework for negotiation between social partners;
noting that disciplinary sanctions and proceedings against staff or trade union representatives have, among other reasons, made it more difficult to reach such a consensus;
noting that these disciplinary sanctions and proceedings are widely being questioned in the public opinion;
recalling the importance and the urgency of the structural reform of the BOA;
recognizing the important institutional role of the AC and its dependence on a well-resourced and independent secretariat;
Calls on both parties to the social dialogue to recognize their responsibilities and to work diligently and in good faith to find a way forward, and:
Requests the EPOffice President -
to ensure that disciplinary sanctions and proceedings are not only fair but also seen to be so, and to consider the possibility of involvement of an external reviewer or of arbitration or mediation
pending the outcome of this process and before further decisions in disciplinary cases are taken, to inform the AC in appropriate detail and make proposals that enhance confidence in fair and reasonable proceedings and sanctions;
to submit to the AC a draft revision of the Staff Regulations which incorporates investigation guidelines (including the investigation unit) and disciplinary procedures which have been reviewed and amended;
to achieve, within the framework of the tripartite negotiations, an MOU simultaneously with both trade unions, which would have no pre-conditions or exclude any topics from future discussions;
to submit proposals to the AC at its June 2016 meeting, after discussion in B28, for immediate implementation of the structural reform of the BOA, on the lines of the 5 points agreed by the AC at its December 2015 meeting and of the legal advice given by Prof. Sarooshi, and taking into account comments from the Presidium of the BOA;
to submit proposals to the AC at its June 2016 meeting, after discussion in B28, for reinforcement of the AC secretariat and a clarification of its position in terms of governance.
Requests the staff representation and the Trade Unions -
to acknowledge the importance of firm and fair disciplinary procedures; and to respond constructively to the initiatives set out above, in particular to work rapidly to an agreement on Union recognition without preconditions.
This is the part which was probably most controversial because it puts a certain burden on SUEPO, it is too gently worded an opposition to Battistelli, and it does nothing whatsoever to actually give the staff representatives their jobs back (pending an external investigation). The AC is trying to save face and AC folks basically try to protect their own job.
Staff’s Response (or Reality Check)
3 sources independently sent us details regarding the latest developments. We don’t really need 3 copies, but it at least helps verify the authenticity of some given material. Here is the message in full:
This beginning of the week was by any standard short but intense.
So much in front: no “big bang”, nor “door slammed”, but clear impulses have been given that will decisive be decisive for the future of the EPO.
1- Biggest Demo so far: the voice of the majority of staff is clear and loud
As reported in the media already, the demo yesterday was the best attended event so far, with over 2000 participants (according to the police). It means that again (I lost count how many), over half of the Staff employed in the EPO (including managers and staff that are requested/sick/on leave…) was physically standing in front of EPO building expressing their discontent with the situation. In the light of such clear fact, it is a puzzle how our leaders can still claim that a “large majority stands behind” their reforms… “Tunnel vision” perhaps? (see pt 3 below)
Contrarily to somewhat depressive past events, it was reported that the mood yesterday was spirited and intense, suggesting that the last events have given Staff a more optimistic outlook on the future of the EPO. In any case Staff expectations are high.
2- Staff survey preliminary results: “Black zero!” and all indicators “in the red”
The 2016 Staff Survey is now been completed. The preliminary results are accessible and brought to the attention of the Delegations of the Administrative Council yesterday. The remarkable response rate of 76% with a global response rate of 39% of all EPO staff ensures that the results are statistically significant.
The results are coherent with the past 2 surveys and correspond unfortunately to the “subjective feel” of staff (see previous point). Even if the situation is well-known to those in the machine-room (and above now), to see such a consistent worsening of the situation in quantified manner is frightening:
– the “job strain” is sliding further down in the “red zone” while “job recognition”, confidence” and “quality” are consistently falling,
– worse: with a quantum leap from 2%, in 2016 11% of staff are experiencing a “psychological distress” (anxiety, depression, cognitive troubles, etc…)
– and while his predecessor still could claim a meager 7% support, today, Mr. Battistelli can claim ZERO % confidence! – the same applies to the MAC…
In good French, “c’est un zero pointé”!
It is hard to apprehend how one can live with the knowledge that at best a handful of individuals (office-wide) have declared their confidence in your leadership. And again, it is even a larger mystery how, in the light of all these facts, one can still pretend that “large majority stands behind” his reforms… “Tunnel vision”
perhaps? (see pt 3 below)
3- “Kurz und schmerzlos”: AC gives also a “Zéro pointé” for past performance and sets new “challenging targets”
The 147th session of the AC was closed after only one short but very intense day. The mandate of the AC Chair, Jesper Kongstad, was renewed for three years. According to the President’s report , it was all congratulations for the impressive results of the EPO and support for his policies…
3.1 the president’s perception is fairly different from that of the other participants.
To paraphrase the NL delegate: “The Office has come out of its “tunnel vision”, also as regards the perception of quality. The Office must work on his bad reputation” (sic!!)
First, the delegations in the AC have been very critical about the Office and in the first place about the social conflict.
But unexpectedly the Delegates also openly questioned the “impressive results for production and quality”, advanced by the EPO.
Here some attempts to paraphrase some delegation:
– NO: “The increase in productivity is impressive, but it’s actually quite unbelievable how this has come. I am confused about the extremely positive surge. Quality is very important.”
– DE: “The social climate must be addressed.”[…]. This part in your [very long] report a bit short […] two to three pages. To put it sarcastically, one could say that there is little progress to report upon. “
– NL: “the recognition of a trade union, which represents only 1% of Staff is somewhat strange… to say the least”
And that was in plenum; The confidential points which took the whole afternoon is reported to have been even more uncomfortable.
3.2 Regarding the disciplinary cases it seems to “requests” (!) the EPOffice President
According to informal information gathered here and there, the AC has taken an unanimous decision (with several abstentions) on a Resolution which was only slightly amended version from the confidential document CA/C 5/16. The latter orients itself closely the B28 document and was signed by 19 delegations (!). We can only presume that a public version of that document will circulate in short. But in the mean-time here is what could be gathered from the somewhat
– to ensure that disciplinary sanctions and proceedings are not only fair but also “to be seen” (!) to be so, and to consider the “possibility of the involvement” of an external party (reviewer/arbitrator/mediator)… It seems also that in the mean-time running proceedings (in DH) are asked to be suspended
– submit to AC revised SR including investigation guidelines
– achieve a MoU with “both” (!) unions
– submit a proposal for structural reforms of both DG3 and Council Secretariat for June 2016, “after discussion in B28” (!)
– also as an apparent attempt to look balanced, it also requests the “SR to acknowledge the importance of firm and fair disciplinary procedures”, and be “constructive” regarding the initiatives set out above.
for the call for a mediator to solve the general issue, it seems that the President is asked to consider the possibility” of using the service of a competent external party (such as arbitrators/mediators/conciliators).
In other words:
On a first reading this may look disappointing because of the lack of immediate effect regarding our fired and disciplined colleagues. But it could also hint at the following: it looks like the president has just had his “target setting talks” with his boss who has expressed clear measurable SMART goals.
To paraphrase the Swiss delegate, Mr. Grossenbacher: “Am Anfang war er [Präsident] gut. Jetzt ist er ins Stocken gekommen… Ein deutlich vom Verwaltungsrat gesetztes Ziel in dieser Hinsicht wird ganz klar nicht erreicht“. In the new EPO career language that may be a box 7 or 8?
In conclusion the AC and the staff both expect concrete and measurable results before the end of spring. At the coming June session it is probable that the delegates will take stock and…draw consequences.
This is not over yet!: until that happens, Staff will be forced to continue and express their claims clearly.
A lot of people must have seen the above by now. When 3 people send you the same thing within one hour (minutes apart) you know that the EPO has a big problem in its hands; insiders want change very badly and they are not afraid to communicate in a way that denigrates the management or criticises in a derogatory manner some of the top bosses. We are going to get another report tomorrow. It’s about the final outcome. A source told us explicitly that “there should be some details coming out tomorrow.”
“When 3 people send you the same thing within one hour (minutes apart) you know that the EPO has a big problem in its hands; insiders want change very badly and they are not afraid to communicate in a way that denigrates the management or criticises in a derogatory manner some of the top bosses.”As noted earlier today, the strikes are likely to go on since “obviously we are not pleased,” to quote one reader, as “the general expectation is that Battistelli should go [...] the strikes are going to continue.”
This will further demonstrate a state of crisis, as recognised by the Board. To quote one reader, “we´ve tried to see the positive side of it, i.e., maybe in the next meeting he will be removed, since one cannot expect him to agree to anything SUEPO proposes [...] at least now he has to carry out some steps imposed to him [...] if he leaves all the pieces of the domino will fall [...] all the French guys plus the incompetent vice-presidents [...] one can imagine that a lot of people expecting promotions to PD or VP are pissed of at Battistelli´s nepotism.”
While this may be true, Battistelli became an icon or a symbol of EPO abuses. If he stays in, it will only turn out to be a profound image and publicity disaster. The sooner the EPO gets rid of him (and his bunch), the less further damage the EPO as a whole will suffer. He cannot compromise with SUEPO, as he can barely accept/tolerate delegates or politicians who disagree with him. It increasingly looks like an issue of character.
“…one can imagine that a lot of people expecting promotions to PD or VP are pissed of at Battistelli´s nepotism.”
–AnonymousWe previously took note of Grossenbacher’s proximity to Battistelli, but now it sure looks like even Grossenbacher hasn’t positive things to say about Battistelli. When even Grossenbacher is upset at or disappointed with Battistelli it means that there are barely any allies left. We asked around for more information about the quote above (“Am Anfang war er [Präsident] gut. Jetzt ist er ins Stocken gekommen… Ein deutlich vom Verwaltungsrat gesetztes Ziel in dieser Hinsicht wird ganz klar nicht erreicht“).
“My translation,” told us one reader is: “At the beginning he [the President] was good. Now he is faltering. An objective which was clearly set by the Administrative Council was very clearly not reached.” █
“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans are suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they`re okay, then it`s you.”
–Rita Mae Brown