06.07.16

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EPO Protest Tomorrow: Help the Media (Not ‘Media Partners’ in EPO Management’s Pocket) See What EPO Staff Really Thinks (Updated)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A reminder that later this week there will be a showing of dissent and unrest, not just a paid-for ceremony that serves as mass distraction

THE EPO has a war in it between staff and management. There will be a demonstration on Thursday and to quote a source of ours: “There are two local SUEPO demos on Thursday: In Munich, the demo starts at 12:00 h in front of the ISAR building. In The Hague, buses leave at 11:40 h (sharp) in front of the Main building, the demo starts at about 12:00 h at “Plein 1813″ (not at Carnegieplein).”

The goal is to raise awareness of the rift while Battistelli's media extravaganza goes on in Lisbon. Some MPs are aware of the rift and to quote SUEPO: “Ënnerstëtzt Lëtzebuerg weiderhin den aktuellen, staark ëmstriddenen EPO-President?” (Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, 3 June 2016). Scroll down to read the parliamentary question in French of Claudia Dall’Agnol, Member of Parliament.”

Luxembourg may be a small country, but it’s not so blindly loyal to Battistelli, nor is it passive. We recently mentioned two articles from Luxembourg [1, 2] and surely politicians from other nations pay close attention. The more of them get personally involved, the better. That’s bureaucracy. The whole situation gets harder to ignore.

SUEPO recently published a list of 8 videos with Dutch politicians in them and we increasingly see more of the same from German politicians. The demonstrations in Munich and The Hague will hopefully stir up some of the same kinds of interventions. “The demonstration in The Hague on 28 January 2016,” wrote SUEPO, “led to an extensive media coverage in The Netherlands, including video reports that have now been grouped in a playlist in Youtube. All the video reports are now provided with translations in English, French and German (you simply need to activate subtitles in your preferred language)”

English subtitles are available for all the videos and here are half of them which we probably never showed here before (except some sections/cuts within them):

NOS Journaal 28/1/2016 20:00

TV West Nieuws 28 January 19:30

‘De heksenjacht heeft nu ook Rijswijk bereikt’

Video in article “Personeel protesteert tegen ‘intimidatie’ bij Europees Octrooibureau” (28/01/2016)

Here is a text circulated about tomorrow’s protest and why it’s worth attending:

Oh Benoît, did the earth move for you too?

On 16 March, the Administrative Council voted unanimously in favour of a resolution, imposing their will on the president. In a 2012 interview (http://www.usinenouvelle.com/article/le-stratege-du-brevet-europeen.N182255) that has by now become notorious, the president said that it would take a “tremblement de terre” for the Administrative Council, or any of its members not to support him. Was the meeting of 16 March the earthquake that we have all been waiting for?

A unique resolution
One thing is for sure: the resolution is unique in the history of the European Patent Organisation. Never before has the Administrative Council felt the need to take the initiative in such a way, or done so with such unanimity. There was not a single vote against the resolution, which told the president who was boss, even if it did so in softer words than some would have liked. In the same 2012 interview, the president said, “Je n’ai jamais été aussi libre. Je n’ai pas de ministère de tutelle, de Parlement, de gouvernement. C’est nous qui fixons les règles, les discutons, les négocions.” Suddenly, however, it is not the president who makes the rules. And now, he has a body to which he must answer. The words he uttered in 2012 were out of place at the time he said them, and they definitely seem totally hollow today. The “great dictator” cannot resist the sabre-rattling and the growling, but the lion of old has turned into a cat with allures.

Whose turn is it to be micro-managed now?
The master of micro-management is finding that he is being micro-managed himself. No longer can he say, “Je n’ai jamais été aussi libre”. Ironically, no EPO president has ever had so little freedom or been under such close supervision. But he has only himself to blame for the arrogance and ruthlessness with which he pushed the bad reforms. How many of us can remember the harnesses that mothers used to put on badly behaving children? They had reins so that the mother could keep a close eye on the child and quickly pull it back to order if it stepped out of line. The Administrative Council has just fitted out our president with a virtual harness and is keeping a tight grip on the reins it has in its hands.

It is becoming rapidly clear that staff, many delegations and large swathes of the press have lost all trust in what the president says. Staff realised a long time ago that what Battistelli says is often a distortion of the truth. Others, with less access to the full information, took him at his word and refused to believe that he was as bad as the staff was claiming. For Council delegations, that changed last December, when they realised that the president not only had failed to implement the clear wishes they had expressed about the DG3 reform, but that he had even misrepresented the results of the external survey on the reform of DG3 the Office had carried out. In the March 2016 Council meeting, some delegations went further, questioning the background to the high productivity statistics, and hinting that they may not be all they seem, or may not have been achieved in a reasonable way. Journalists have also begun to spot cracks in the shiny presidential surface. IPKat is analysing the Office’s statistics and is finding they might not be telling the whole truth (http://ipkitten.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/epo-performance-1-application-pendency.html).

Do NOT be fooled by the president backing down for the first time in his presidency, and removing the pension cut from the punishment imposed on one SUEPO leader. This was a unique and isolated act, and if you read the text of the president’s decision, he refuses to accept that he made any mistakes, only granting the milder punishment “ex gratia” (http://techrights.org/2016/03/26/epo-strike-imminent/). Undoing one blatant injustice is not the same as doing justice or making it seen being done. This “gracious” act is merely symbolic, and the language used shows no change in attitude whatever. Real justice would require complete abolition of ALL the new rules and regulations that breach international civil service law and human rights.

SUEPO and the resolution
The resolution passed on 16 March calls on the unions “to work rapidly to an agreement on Union recognition without preconditions.” Pro-Battistelli commentators, notably Intellectual Assets Magazine, have seized on this, arguing that the ball will soon be in the unions’ court to resolve the issue (http://www.iam-media.com/Blog/Detail.aspx?g=0fe01b6c-4516-4a7d-afcc-8ef0b8496405). It is difficult to understand how such commentators reach that conclusion. SUEPO has in fact played a rather minor role in the evolution of staff’s unhappiness with the Office’s management. Even the latest call for strike came from a group of individuals and was not a SUEPO initiative. If SUEPO were to throw open their arms and say, “All is forgiven, Benoît,” what would staff expect them to do? Should they agree to measures that go against the European Convention on Human Rights, such as the strike regulation, social democracy and the health reform? Should they accept that their union leaders, some of whom are now unemployed, go into negotiations with a man who behaved so heinously towards those same union leaders? Should they negotiate with a man whose idea of negotiation is to say, “Take it or leave it, and let me warn you, if you leave it, there will be nasty consequences for you”? We say, NO, they should not discuss with this man, who has disqualified himself from the ranks of people it is reasonable to speak with. There is no trust in Battistelli, and after all that has happened, there can never be trust in Battistelli.

It’s time to go
Today, the president is a lame duck. He may not think so, of course. True to character, he is acting in his old aggressive way. It is as though, metaphorically speaking, he has cut the brake lines on his own bike and is hurtling downhill towards disaster. His latest proposal for a reform of DG 3 has once more been drafted without consulting those affected, is once more at odds with leading opinions across the IP world and is once more totally unacceptable. In parallel, he is “revising” the Investigation Guidelines and the rules for disciplinary procedures at the EPO. No one expects any good to come out of these activities.
His open disrespect for the instructions he has been given will lead to further tensions in the Council. Can the delegations tolerate his presence any longer at the helm of the EPO?
He is in a Catch 22 situation. If he behaves in his old way, he will surely be the subject of severe criticism for ignoring the Council resolution. If he does nothing, then there is no point in him staying on as president. If he surprises us all and spontaneously turns into a Mr Nice Guy over night, it will have no credibility. Whichever way you look at it, a once strong – and very unpleasant – leader is now weak, and still very unpleasant. It is time for him to go.
And it is our duty to remind him and the Council of that:

Come to the demo on Thursday!

Things are getting very busy (and noisy) at the EPO again, so expect more coverage from us.

Update: at around 2 AM, based on the RSS timestamp, SUEPO published the following statement:

Actions continue: next demonstration 9 June

During its March meeting, the Administrative Council (the Supervisory  Body) of the EPO passed a resolution making a number of requests to the Mr Battistelli, President of the EPO. None of the changes that Mr Battistelli will table to the June meeting of the Administrative Council (AC) comply with these requests.

The reforms proposed by Mr Battistelli – if adopted by the Council – will further increase the discretionary powers of the President over EPO staff and their representatives (new investigation regulations, new disciplinary procedures, post-service employment restrictions) and reduce the independence of the Boards of Appeals (reform of DG3). In short, the new proposals are bad for staff and bad for the EPO.

In spite of the many proposals tabled by SUEPO in the (recent) past and of the clear request of the Administrative Council, SUEPO – representing 50% of staff, was not even approached by the President to re-open discussions about a Memorandum of Understanding.

By acting this way, Mr Battistelli shows a blatant disregard not only for staff but also for the representatives of the EPO Member States. 

Last month we explained why Battistelli should be sacked.

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