People are leaving the Office a lot faster than the EPO is able to hire replacements
Summary: A report from Canada about the EPO’s oddly-placed booth, whose whole purpose seems to be attracting interest in another continent
THE EPO (see Wiki for background) is burning money or flushing money down the toilet. Insiders worry about it and talk about it. Why aren’t officials or even delegates talking about the unprecedented waste of money? When millions of Euros are wasted on just a few hours of lobbying something is just seriously wrong.
Some time ago we learned about an event held at a congress centre. “The exhibition was reserved to previously registered conference participants,” someone told us, “with something like a £600 fee.” This is quite typical when it comes to such events, where only relatively affluent people are allowed, or people who work for large companies that foot the bill or are partners with the events (e.g. sponsorship). “There was another “cheaper” option (about £175) which was no longer available,” we got told.
“Why aren’t officials or even delegates talking about the unprecedented waste of money?”“Day 1 was open to the general public,” we learned, and “it might have been interesting to go there. Even though I think electric cars are a terrible idea, it would still have interested me to have a good look at that environment.”
Indeed, as it turned out, “exhibitors received a contingent of passes,” which means that EPO staff could probably get in.
Shown above is what was available even for those denied entry (too expensive). “The interesting thing,” we got told, “is that the EPO had a FULL PAGE ad. There were only three of these in the whole brochure: one from the Québec government, the top sponsor, one for the public power utility, which is really an arm of the Québec government, and the EPO. That’s strange, as the EPO isn’t even listed as a sponsor. Two actual sponsors (Nissan and Volkswagen) only had half-page ads, and all the few other ones were quarter-page or even smaller. Obviously quite a bit of money was squandered on this. This is an angle [worth exploring], together with, why should a public authority peddle monopolies like kings did centuries ago?”
“Indeed, as it turned out, “exhibitors received a contingent of passes,” which means that EPO staff could probably get in.”Remember that the EPO is, indeed, a de facto monopoly in Europe. There is no competing office other than NPOs (that are serving a different purpose anyway). “According to the floor map, the EPO booth however was smallish,” we were told. “The EPO web site appears to indicate this was foreseen as a recruiting event, but this must be an instance of bad timing, as there are currently no openings for scientists and engineers.”
Well, that was then. Right now the EPO is very desperate for applicants/applications as staff is fleeing (more on that to be published soon).
“There was a paper presented by one Gilles Schmitt,” we were told, “who appears to be a more junior examiner. One person of the same name is mentioned in two electric-vehicle related patent applications from 2007, so if this is the same person, he couldn’t have been there for more than 10 years. He couldn’t be a director with that seniority, unless he was very eager.”
“The interesting thing is that the EPO had a FULL PAGE ad.”
–AnonymousThe title of his talk: “Patents and progress; intellectual property showing the future of electric vehicles” (a subject which is sometimes being pushed for marketing purposes in Twitter).
That whole charade took place quite some time back and in the mean time we saw this tweet from CIPA being promoted by the EPO (see below). █
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Where Battistelli and his goons arrogantly refuse to obey court orders
Summary: Details about the latest developments in the union-busting campaign of Battistelli at The Hague, where Laurent Prunier and colleagues who are staff representatives face “demonstrably fabricated accusations,” according to Prunier
The disciplinary case of Laurent Prunier became more public a few months ago and we saw some details about it (both before and after). The atmosphere of sheer fear limits communication about these cases (there are threats being made to prevent/limit communications), but without any outside access to information the thugs who manage the EPO after a de facto coup can do just about anything without facing scrutiny, judgment, sometimes even backlash. That’s just what they want and to help them maintain this secrecy isn’t necessarily helpful (they eventually do whatever they please, experiences in Munich show). The significance of the attack on Prunier is that attacks on unions became apparent not just in Munich but also in The Hague (maybe Berlin too is somehow affected). Already, bearing in mind what we wrote about Mr. van der Eijk (the name indicates which country he is from) in past years, there were allegedly attacks on his independence at the boards. The latest message from AMBA says: “The present situation seems to be that the Boards of Appeal are now constituted within the BoAU, that the post of President of the Boards of Appeal is not yet occupied, that Mr van der Eijk is acting President of the Boards of Appeal, but that no power has been delegated to him. Thus, the President of the European Patent Office can be seen as exercising direct control over the Boards of Appeal.”
Feedback from Laurent Prunier, a SUEPO Secretary, was sent to us yesterday. Recipients were, as expected, colleagues from The Hague. Some of them deemed it worthwhile passing it on and after thinking about it for longer than a day I decided that portions of the message deserve to be publicly available, for Prunier’s protection (as when the public/press is aware of the situation there’s less leeway for this charade to carry on). We are aware of at least one more case which is similar to that of Prunier, culminating in a letter of dismissal. It’s often disguised as “health reasons” to hide the real motivations, such as union-busting endeavors.
Here are some selected bits (DG4 is Željko Topić, who apparently plays a big role in this attack, having done similar things in Croatia):
The Netherlands, 01-09-2016
Dear colleagues, Chers tous,
I hope this letter finds you well. This report is a little longer than usual because there have been new developments; it covers the months of June to August included. Once more UN GRAND MERCI for your solidarity, which allowed me to stay afloat [...] DG4 did not want to recognize my sick leave, in spite of valid medical certificates. They put me on unauthorized absence1 and cut 100% my remuneration as from January 2016. The Office has now changed tactics. At the end of June2, I have been suspended with immediate effect “awaiting trial” for alleged misconduct.
The letter of suspension was another punch in the stomach that left me knocked out for several days (by the way, thanks to those of you who sent me messages). As you may imagine getting back a stable health condition in such circumstances is a real Sisyphean task. Each new punch wastes the forces recovered from the previous one. But I will continue to defend my rights by all legitimate means: what is done to me may be tomorrow done to you; all this happened in the course of and because of my activities as staff/union representative. I thus sense it is my duty not to throw in the towel.
The Codex does not allow me to share the insights with you but:
• I firmly deny any wrongdoings.
• The whole is a genuine insult to anyone’s intelligence. The file against me contains so many demonstrably fabricated accusations that I have little doubt I can defend myself – or, rather I would be able to if, our internal system were not what it is currently, a kangaroo court.
The terms of the suspension
No date for the “trial” has been set, but I am “forbidden to enter any EPO premises as well as ordered not to travel away from The Hague without permission of the Office and to remain available for delivery of further correspondence and contact with the Office in (my) official address”. Basically, I am assigned to home arrest without any indication of the duration. The alleged legal basis for this restriction is Article 23 ServRegs – which does not concern suspensions. Just to illustrate the creativity of DG4 when it comes to use and misuse legal provisions to serve their ends.
1 In the meantime (on 26.07.2016), I received a letter from the Chairman of the Administrative Council concerning my Request for Review addressed to the Administrative Council (AC) on this matter. On 4th April 2016 my lawyer asked them to review my placement on unauthorized absence in spite of valid medical certificates. My lawyer asked the AC to review the matter since the President and his associates have an obvious conflict of interest, having expressed publicly and repeatedly their aversion to me. Well, Mr Kongstad informed me that since I wasn’t nominated by the AC, the AC does not see itself in charge of reviewing my RfR, and considers that the Office should deal with the RfR. My RfR will thus be examined by those who are causing my troubles, and who in fine, will take the decision on my internal appeal. So much for impartiality, conflict of interests and independence of judiciary vs. executive.
2 Also worth being noted, my suspension occurred only a few days after SUEPO filed a Kort Geding with the Court of Justice in The Hague to challenge its harassment by the Office. I can already hear VP1 muttering “pure coincidence”…
I was also ordered to hand back my EPO badge, my offices keys, laptop, mobile etc. This had to be done urgently but I was informed that my badge had been de-activated and the lock of my office had been changed in my absence (!) These orders had thus no purpose other than humiliation.
According to the Codex the suspension can last for a maximum four months (in my case this means up to end October 2016), but there too I remain prudent since the way DG4 interprets the Codex may deviate from its literal wording.
The suspension letter further states: “You shall receive your full salary; however the Office reserves its right to impose a deduction thereof under Art. 95(2) ServRegs if grounds for that arise”.
Again DG4 cannot help itself to systematically formulate the perspective of even more sanctions, always in unclear circumstances, so as to maintain a constant psycho-threat on those they target.
The consequences of the suspension
In July my “full salary” actually amounted to 1***EUR (!) only since… the EPO levied 3*** EUR as contributions for health and pension, retroactively from the date of my placement in unauthorized absence at the beginning of 2016. Another 1*** EUR for “arrears in June” was also retained (the explanations provided so far are cryptic to me). In August however my salary was finally paid in full for the first time since 01.01.2016. [redacted].
And other emergencies there will be. In March the Administrative Council adopted the resolution CA/26/16, urging the President to take concrete steps to de-escalate the social tensions. We all expected them to follow-up on this matter. They did not: in the June council, they only had time to try and fix the President’s attempts to extend his claws on DG3. Legitimate as that concern was, it is disappointing that they did not have time to tackle social issues. Given the fate of Staff and Union representatives, unjustly accused and punished [redacted]
Thus, not only your donation will have helped me to stay afloat, but if justice is done, it will also help others.
Again MANY THANKS for your support. Without you I would have faced harsh problems on the top of the “special treatment” by DG4/Mr Battistelli. This proves again that solidarity is the only way to move forward in our present work environment.
It looks as though Battistelli and his goons may be preparing to do in The Hague what they already did in Munich, having made it abundantly clear/explicit that they don’t give a damn about what Dutch courts say. How can anyone step aside at this sight of gross injustice? What has Battistelli turned the EPO into? █
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Summary: Some privacy takeaways from the analysis of Bretton Woods Law (commissioned by EPO staff) and more examples of serious privacy violations inside the European Patent Office
PRIVACY is significantly eroded by authoritarian regimes for the purpose of crushing dissent and the European Patent Office (EPO) is no exception. Eponia is highly authoritarian and it even hired autocrats like Željko Topić for top positions. A lot of the illegal surveillance inside the EPO began or culminated around the time people were chatting about criminal charges against him (for sure a story worth telling one day).
A letter was sent to Heiko Maas, Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection in Germany, just over a couple of months ago. “A SUEPO lawyer addressed Heiko Maas and informed him of the latest reforms and developments at the EPO,” explained an insider. Suffice to say, Maas has done virtually nothing (he has a reputation for this in Germany), but let’s assess the privacy violations based on another legal office. A few days ago we saw the following new comment in IP Kat:
The EU data protection Regulation does not apply everywhere in Europe. For example, the European Patent Organisation (EPO) has its own data protection Regulation.
The document “BREACHES OF BASIC AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AT THE EPO” by Bretton Woods Law (Specialists in Public International Law) explains (from page 17 to 23) why the EPO data protection regulation fails to meet the standards of both EU data protection law and the national data protection laws of the Contracting States.
Summary of deficiencies in the current EPO data protection framework:
- Fundamental rights: The reference to the respect of fundamental rights had been removed from the EPO data protection regulation (page 18).
- Lack of independent oversight: At the EPO there is no independent supervisory authority. The EPO president supervises himself the data processing he has implemented. (page 21)
- Change of purpose: The EPO data protection regulation allows the EPO President unilaterally to decide that data may be processed for purposes other than those for which they have been collected.(page 21)
- Transmission to recipients outside the European Patent Organisation: The EPO President may authorise a transfer or a set of transfers of personal data to a third country or international organisation which does not ensure an adequate level of protection.(page 21)
- Lack of any effective means of redress in circumstances where the rights of data subjects are infringed (see pages 22 and 23 – the intervention by the German data protection authorities).
A wide range of personal data from both patent applicants and EPO staff are processed at the EPO. The situation at the EPO falls far below the standards expected and the rights enjoyed by citizens in the rest of Europe.
The above reminded us of what the EPO does with Europatis — a scandal which we covered here last year in the following articles:
- Jacques Michel (Former EPO VP1), Benoît Battistelli’s EPO, and the Leak of Internal Staff Data to Michel’s Private Venture
- Europatis: “Turnover of €211,800 and Zero Employees”
- Loose Data ‘Protection’ and Likely Privacy Infringements at the EPO: Here’s Who Gets Employees’ Internal Data
- Summary of the EPO-Europatis Series
- Revolving Doors of High-Level EPO Management: Jacques Michel and the Questel Deal With the EPO
Privacy violations are so serious inside the EPO that detailed accounts of mock trials or investigations are being ‘leaked’ by EPO management to the media, in order to essentially defame the accused (a judge in one case). One of the reasons for strong data protection around one’s medical record is the potential for blackmail and discrimination. In light of this we’re reminded of a document we saw several months ago (it’s a letter to Mr. Topić actually). It spoke about the unacceptable state of medical data protection at the EPO (it would be totally unthinkable at the USPTO). Here is the complete text
European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY
Mr Željko Topic
Vice President DG4
European Patent Office
Central Staff Committee
Comité central du personnel
Tel. +49 -89- 2399 – 4355
+43 -1-52126 – 305
+49 -30-25901 – 800
+31 -70-340 – 2028
Reference: sc16075cl –0.3.1/4.3
Nomination of Ms R. de Greiff as Director Health and Safety
Dear Mr Topic,
On 24 March 2016 you announced on the Intranet the appointment of Ms Raffaella de Greiff as new Director Health and Safety with effect from 1 April 2016, this after serving as ad interim Director of one of the two EPO medical departments since Dr Koopman retired almost two years ago.
Ms de Greiff has a degree in “industrial relations” but no medical qualification. A non-medical person can manage a medical unit, but normally only subject to certain strict requirements:
● medical confidentiality is respected;
● non-medically qualified managers do not have access to any medical information;
● medical files and H&S staff when handling such files remain under the direct supervision of medical doctors;
● medical doctors remain free to carry out their medical duties without interference from managers in medical issues.
So far, the Office has not introduced any such formal guarantees and safeguards.
We refer in particular to the Gazette of January 2016, page 20, which includes a diagram showing that the units that administer such medical files (“Medical advisory and general administration” and “Occupational health and safety”) are under the direct authority of the Health & Safety Director and not of the medical doctors (medical advisor or OH physician), who instead appear to enjoy a consultancy role. The whole Health & Safety department led by Ms de Greiff is in turn under the authority of Ms Bergot (PD Human Resources). This new structure is problematic in several respects.
Firstly, Ms de Greiff is neither bound to nor protected by the Hippocratic Oath. If Ms Bergot, as her superior, demanded access to information from the medical file of a staff member (be it a MAU or an OH file), then Ms de Greiff would not have the authority to refuse such an order; neither would she be able to intervene if PD43 were to obtain medical information by other means.
In other words, the strict confidentiality of staff medical files kept in the EPO can no longer be guaranteed.
Secondly, medical doctors are responsible for ensuring the confidentiality of any and all medical data in their possession. If it cannot be guaranteed that non-medical personnel will not have access to medical information, then medical ethics oblige the doctors not to enter or amend any staff data, collected either by themselves or by external doctors working for the EPO, in the EPO medical databases. If they did nonetheless, they would risk losing their medical license.
Under such circumstances, it is unclear how the EPO medical department is supposed to function properly.
Thirdly, we have already raised a number of questions concerning the MAU which to date have never been answered. With the new structure, similar concerns now also apply to the former Occupational Health Department.
We respectfully request you to acknowledge receipt of the above
observations and take a position on them.
The Central Staff Committee
Mr B. Battistelli; President of the EPO
Ms Dr Bosch and Mr Dr Schüder
Ms R. de Greiff
Ms E. Bergot
This medical data protection letter, contained in the original PDF, has the signatures of many staff representatives, not just SUEPO representatives. This is an important letter regarding a serious problem which is widely known about (word of mouth and more). When will the EPO realise that this is totally unacceptable in the 21st century? In this particular case the abuse of privacy of staff cannot even be excused/justified using a war on unions/dissent/whistleblowers. It’s just an authoritarian regime’s dream. █
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Recruitment drive with Kool-Aid. Academics would rarely be found who are ignorant enough to remain unaware of EPO abuses and choose to apply for work there (attracting talent is crucial for attracting applicants willing to pay high fees)
Summary: A lot of EPO staff is fleeing (faster than the EPO is able to recruit) and the EPO’s marketing tactics have reached the bottom of the barrel
THE European Patent Office (EPO) is a lot worse than the USPTO in terms of its reputation right now. It’s largely the fault of Battistelli, who basically implemented a fast suicide plan for the Office. He brought his friends to management, he attacked the staff union, he lied to the press, he attacked the boards, and he even ruined patent quality while lying about it (citing a source which was paid by a PR firm he had wasted over a million Euros on). Even by a Republican politician’s standard/yardstick Battistelli has been a miserable failure and a cautionary tale for the Council. Why was a politician (let alone a Republican one) put in charge of a scientific institution in the first place?
The EPO was once a powerful, reputable Office with top-class staff. It was widely respected. It now looks feeble and this damages Europe as a whole. Dead EPO forums (with more threads than replies in this case [Caution:
epo.org link]) are a symptom of this decline. The EPO's PR team just keeps promoting this in Twitter because almost nobody is participating and spurious, expensive events are being set up, even in the United States, where the EPO had IAM set up a pro-UPC event earlier this year. They are producing glossy brochures in America (Canada also — not just the US — as we shall show another day or later today) and the Office is going to Uncle Sam to talk about software patents (not really legal in Europe and increasingly phased out even in the US). Here is the EPO unleashing a new PDF [Caution:
epo.org link] with some bland foreword by the sociopath, Battistelli. This event will start just over a week from now. The PR people are still asking all people to participate in Battistelli's self-serving lobbying event using irrelevant (maybe in error) introductions (the EPO lost track of the years, thinking next year is 2016 again). More curiously, however, they’re just 'spamming' universities at a very high pace right now (here are examples from the past few days [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]), hoping that these universities will mention the EPO or try to associate themselves with the EPO. There is no sense of shame anymore, is there? These universities, however, as we here showed before, rarely play along. They might have realised that Battistelli is a bad connection/affiliation/neighbourhood.
Right now, undeniably, the EPO has very severe recruitment issues (we saw the numbers and will cover them some day), but it shamelessly lies to staff about it. It’s almost begging for job applications and it lowered the requirement considerably (doing more harm than good in the face of staff exodus). █
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