12.01.16

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Dutch and French Politicians Complain About the European Patent Office, British Media Coverage Regular Now

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Philip Cordery

Summary: Pressure from the political systems, the scientific community and from the media is growing, as it becomes abundantly apparent that the EPO cannot go on like this

THE European Patent Office (EPO) has already come under scrutiny from many politicians, but they are unable to do much because of the EPO’s insanely-granted (in retrospect highly irrational) immunity/impunity. Could EPO management get away with robbery, rape and murder as well? Hard to tell unless or until this happens… after 5 suicides the EPO’s management continues to deny authorities access to EPO sites (in order to properly investigate this). For all we know, EPO management can cover anything up, defame the accuser/s, and insist that it is the victim of a “campaign of defamation”. Watch in disgust and recall its appalling response to Bavarian TV coverage about one of the suicides.

Philip Cordery, a French politician who is sympathetic towards EPO staff, has just written in his blog again. To quote the French: “J’ai interrogé ce mercredi 30 novembre, lors de la traditionnelle séance de questions au gouvernement, le secrétaire d’Etat chargé de l’industrie, Christophe Sirugue, sur la situation sociale à l’Office européen des brevets.”

“Could EPO management get away with robbery, rape and murder as well?”We hope that a French-speaking reader can provide us with a reliable translation. Well, perhaps SUEPO will supply translations at some stage, but it doesn’t always happen. More French officials now speak out against the EPO’s management, including Richard Yung, who is also no beginner to this controversy. To quote Yung’s blog post: “M. Richard Yung attire l’attention de M. le ministre de l’économie et des finances sur la dégradation du climat social au sein de l’Office européen des brevets (OEB).”

This one too we could use a complete translation of. Accuracy is important as we strive to maintain a good record and poor translations have betrayed us at least once in the past.

Petra Kramer, our Dutch EPO ‘expert’ (she cares about the EPO’s situation although she does not have any connections to it), translated this new NOS article (like BBC of the Netherlands) for us. Here is a complete translation:

Van Dam: social situation European Patent Office should be better

State Secretary Van Dam wants the European Patent Office (EPO) to take concrete steps to improve the social situation. In a letter to the Lower House, he writes that a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) contains concrete leads to achieve this.

The agency has offices in several cities in Europe, including in Rijswijk. At the institute there are long-lived concerns about the working conditions and the social situation. Staff Office in Rijswijk’s took to the streets to protest several times, even last week. Even the House and the Cabinet have expressed their concerns.

Lack of trust

The EPO has called for the study partly at the insistence of the government. PWC states, several important reforms which have already been implemented, which are successful in part. Named for example, are a sharp drop in sick leave and the introduction of part-time jobs and working from home.

But the researchers are also critical about several issues. They questioned the reforms in the areas of participation and the implementation of the right to strike. They signal an “us-versus-them culture and lack of mutual trust between management and staff.”

Finger on sore spot

According to Van Dam the report puts the finger on the sore spot. The State Secretary is more concerned about the lack of internal trust and will continue to address that issue with the President of the Office.

At the EPO union members have repeatedly been fired, even recently. Van Dam writes that he can not speak about that last particular case, but he believes it is “not a healthy breeding ground for the restoration of social relations.”

Recently, the results of the PWC study were presented to 350 people involved in the EPO. Van Dam states it’s telling that the largest trade union was not invited to that meeting.

“The news is in the last sentence,” Petra Kramer noted. “SUEPO [was] not involved in PWC-study of EPO.”

“Diplomatical approach is certainly not bad,” told us an EPO insider, “however in this case totally useless. Van Dam is a way too subservient!”

Thankfully, the British press (Britain’s leading site in the area of technology) is covering the EPO scandals these days. This is the second time this week (the first one being about the UPC). Kieren McCarthy used the same game of words that we had used, revolving around the word “conCERN”. Here is the latest from McCarthy about Battisetlli’s McCarthyism and the response to it:

CERN concern: Particle boffins join backlash against Euro Patent Office’s King Battistelli

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, has joined the list of organizations and media outlets calling for action against the president of the European Patent Office (EPO).

In its weekly staff bulletin, the particle physicists’ take issue with Benoit Battistelli for targeting and firing staff. “Over the past three years this organization has been under the rule of a president who imposes productivity targets which hinders the quality of the work done by the intellectual property specialists,” the bulletin notes.

It then accuses him of “degrading” the EPO with behavior “worthy of the 19th century” and endangering both the EPO itself and the European economy.

CERN is not the only organization to use such strong language. The European Public Service Union (EPSU), which represents more than eight million workers in Europe, has written [PDF] to a number of leading French, Dutch and German politicians this week asking them to “re-establish the rule of law” at the EPO citing “continuous threats to union representatives” by Battistelli, and violation of workers’ rights.

If things continue to be this bad, it’s not clear if there is any future at all for the EPO. Some believe that this plays into the hands of UPC proponents, perhaps connected to an attempt to make the EPO a more EU-connected institution, a bit like EUIPO. And speaking of EUIPO, watch the EPO sucking up to it this week [1, 2]; we remind readers that some EPO insiders believe these two institutions will one day be merged.

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