03.20.17

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Supposedly ‘Pampered’ Prisoners Are Still Prisoners of the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Funny how the ones who cry victim are the ones who are actually doing the wrong”Anonymous EPO staff

Attempts at firing Battistelli

Summary: Response to those gross and familiar attempts to portray patent examiners, not politicians who trample all over them, as the cause of all the problems at the EPO

NOT to our surprise, as the above report indicates, Battistelli gets to keep his job because his pet chinchilla protects him rather than supervises him. As we noted in our previous post, dirty old tactics appear to be back, with EPO staff being painted as aggressors, as spoiled brats, etc. It’s not just inaccurate; it’s incredibly insulting. It’s like these outrageous, infuriating stories where rape victims are being accused of “faking”, and the rapist is thus portrayed as their victim. It’s a truly traumatic experience for the person who was raped, and occasionally it leads to suicides.

“The EPO has mishandled so many cases and abused so many people that we are fairly convinced there’s no certain route leading to this source.”We deem it a suitable time to share an old story — a story which we learned about not too long ago. It’s sometimes said that journalists aren’t sympathetic towards the pleas of EPO staff because journalists typically get paid very little, whereas EPO workers receive massive salaries (in comparison). This overlooks all sorts of important facts, such as limits on work (post-EPO employment), declining salaries, various contributions, and even sanctions. The EPO relies on “alternative facts” when it tries to paint itself as generous, even when it clearly isn’t (and it only gets worse over time). It also neglects to take into account the types of salaries these employees would receive elsewhere, considering their experience and given their qualifications (which used to be high but are not anymore).

“I just sent a mail to my lawyer,” one reader once told us, “informing him that as of today I haven’t received any monthly wage, which makes 3 months no pay and without any “official” reason for it (the letter delivered by [redacted] in [redacted] is still of unknown content to me, but that changes nothing). This, in order to solicit some thought from his side concerning a strategic disclosure of facts to third parties. I know he agreed the strategy in general but I have got no precise opinion on which detail and how should be passed over.”

Well, much time has passed and nothing has improved.

“As the above article states clearly in the summary, the “EPO continues to be an appalling place to work” and it only continues to get worse.”“In essence,” our reader continued, “my idea is to deliver details that even if they can be seen as unequivocally leading to me, they still need to be proven as linked to me in a reasoned procedure (i.e. by disciplinary procedure or better: by suing me before a court, which as you know, they dread doing).”

The EPO has mishandled so many cases and abused so many people that we are fairly convinced there’s no certain route leading to this source. Team Battistelli can only make wild guesses and possibly falsely accuse the wrong people, i.e. more of the same.

“Paradoxically,” our reader explained, “not paying me can only lead me to undertaking earlier an activity (if not even applying for a job) for a living, which per se can be a breach of rule of the statute, but once before ILO, I’d bet they can can see their behaviour and way of communication as a perfectly understandable motivation. Therefore it can cause an earlier landing of the case on ILO’s desks and an earlier deliverance for public disclosure.”

“The EPO is more or less a rogue state and the only way to justify this rogue state is to shift the burden of blame and accusations to the victims.”For those who aren’t following the above (between the lines), the EPO basically denied particular staff any salary, without even providing a reason, thus leaving staff in a limbo, unable to pursue another job. This means that, if the Office was to let the person go, there would be a long gap of time (unemployment) which would need explaining to prospective employers (questions like, “why did they not pay you a salary for this long?” or “why did you not look for a job for so long?”). In addition, there are strict sanctions on the sort of employment an EPO worker can pursue once dismissed (or early retirement). Does that sound like much of a dream job? It’s not.

As the above article states clearly in the summary, the “EPO continues to be an appalling place to work” and it only continues to get worse. Here are some highlights from the article, which adds little that we haven’t covered here before:

EPO chair Jesper Kongstad made several efforts to derail that process by arguing for high voting thresholds. Under the EPO’s rules, only a majority vote of the council is needed for something to be approved – something that was highly likely to be achieved in the case of publishing a vacancy notice for the job. But Kongstad apparently argued first that it would require a two-thirds vote (under the EPO’s written notice process rather than a vote) and then that a three-quarters vote was needed, which is the threshold required to approve a new president.

Neither of those procedural tactics appeared to gain much weight, however, and so we understand that in closed-door meetings between government representatives, the challenge to Battistelli’s position was beaten back by using the classic board tactic of making an unpalatable proposal from the other side and then agreeing to drop it in return for the other proposal being dropped.

[...]

To acclaim at the council, EPO management asserted that patent reviews were up 40 per cent in 2017 while at the same time there were across-the-board improvements in quality metrics. They also claimed that overall well-being at the EPO had improved, and used a reduction in the number of sick days taken per employee as evidence of that.

Those doing the work see things very differently, however. The huge increase in work has come as a result of constant pressure by management and new, required production levels, which EPO staff complain have led to them having far too little time to do proper reviews.

The apparent increase in quality has come, staff say, thanks to the introduction of an entirely new system of measurement that the EPO management effectively controls and is artificially inflated to give a false sense of success.

[...]

In short, the EPO continues to be an appalling place to work and it is likely to only get worse for the next year as the person at the center of the problems, president Benoit Battistelli, continues to be protected by a minority of supporters that use government representatives’ unwillingness to create a stir to stop action being taken against him.

The message seems clear. The EPO is more or less a rogue state and the only way to justify this rogue state is to shift the burden of blame and accusations to the victims. Such a thing happened in IP Kat comments the other day. As we stated before, we don’t wish to become a platform for trolls (entertaining inaccuracies), so we’ll drop the false accusations and leap straight ahead to the responses received (so far).

Here is one person recalling one of the suicides (during working hours):

about atrocities

I am an examiner working in Le Croisé and on a working day of July 2013 I have seen a colleague of mine jumping out of the window to land dead on the parking.

Is this something that matches your definition of atrocity ?

This suicide was NEVER investigated independantly by the local authorities since – despite the courageous request of my staff reps – the EPO invoqued ¨… immunity.

So please shut up before telling more non sense.

Another person noted that people aren’t pursuing EPO careers anymore, knowing perhaps that layoffs are on their way and new staff receives short-term contracts with little or no benefits:

One question only: why don’t you apply to work at this paradise ?
It is not a secret: EPO is desperately looking for patent examiners to replace those who left (sorry – who retired).
However, mysteriously enough, nobody having the required competences is accepting this job anymore.

The following response mentioned North Korea and Turkey. We’ve decided to remove from these snippets which repeat the false allegations, or unnecessary provocation:

I am so tired. Of the trolls, of the President’s men here in this forum. Nobody claims that epo staff doesn’t earn enough money. But money is not everything and no reason to give up fundamental rights. Epo staff has elected staff representatives, and they were elected according to rules the President made. 3 elected staff representatives were fired by the President, one downgraded, for no reason that could be upheld in the outside world. The President abolishes our rights anchored in the statute by changing them from legal texts into circulars. There is an almost endless list of new provisions, all restricting our rights and all not feasible in any national law (maybe in NOrth Corea or Turkey), just have a look at those investigation guidelines. For the last years the Office has been reigned according to the principle of “Gleichschaltung”, everything is turning worse and worse. And now Ipkat is leaving us too. So desperate.

As one person correctly notes, the EPO “is free to leak any information it wants to sympathetic newspapers” (or paid papers, which it bribes for puff pieces), as was the case with one judge whom the EPO defamed in Dutch and German media (even giving away his nationality, so as to ensure everyone knows who that is).

Here is the comment responding to provocation in a well-mannered fashion:

The conditions are good, no-one is denying that, even though you’re wrong about the “partial diplomatic status”; that is not something that most of us enjoy. Many of the other things that you quote are in fact provided by the Office in lieu of a government; most people get educational allowances for their children from their government or local authority; as we don’t have access to such bodies, the EPO, as is common with many International Organisations, has to take on these responsibilities. Or perhaps you think us having health coverage is some kind of luxury?

All this notwithstanding, the ridiculous production increases (and they are ridiculous, regardless of what people outside the EPO might think) combined with agressive and repressive management policy is not good for morale. Combine that with the targeted investigation of union officials and staff reps, the tapping of telephones and computers, the fact that anyone sacked by the Supreme Leader is not allowed to publicly discuss his/her case, while the Office is free to leak any information it wants to sympathetic newspapers, the fact that the long-term sick are placed under de facto house-arrest, the fact that we have NO legal recourse against decisions taken by the Office/President, because of the way the Office is structured and the fact that any case submitted to the ILO takes many years to be heard.

Employees of the EPO live and work in a legal vacuum when it comes to labour law; as has been proved repeatedly, host countries are reluctant to get involved, meaning that EPO employees have effectively zero protection from the excesses of higher management. The question is, would YOU expect to be governed by such repressive policies in your home country? I suspect not.

One person put it succinctly as follows:

Thank you for your learned comment – they pop up regularly in this forum, and we usually file them under “People above a certain salary level are no entitled to human and labor rights”.

We generally encourage people not to “feed the trolls”, so to speak, as it only encourages more of the same. Thankfully, we never received any such comments, possibly because we require as little as a working E-mail address. Trolls are usually too lazy to provide even that.

“Under various national laws this [what Battistelli is doing] is considered a crime worth time in jail,” another response noted, tackling the financial motivation as well (I personally earn nothing from reporting on the EPO, I do this out of principles).

Again a person with exclusively financial interest in life.

First, to my best knowledge, the statements are not correct. The average examiner earns less than 100,000/year, the salary is taxed, the standard holidays are 30 per year, international schools are paid only exceptionally, same for university, and health coverage is on the level of 1970 (the ceilings for reimbursements have never been raised). True, the canteen is subsidized. Employees pay for healthcare, pension, etc from their salary.

Second, you obviously missed some other points, e.g. that the EPO enjoys immunity, as does the President. You should browse up the last decision from the Enlarged Board (Art 23 1/16) where they stated that the President infringed on their judicial independence. Under various national laws this is considered a crime worth time in jail. In the EPO, what happens is precisely nothing. Merpel has it here: http://ipkitten.blogspot.de/2016/06/enlarged-board-publishes-decision-epo.html.

It would appear that you have no issues with rule of law, respect for others, freedom and some other aspects, enshrined e.g. in the Human Rights. These cannot be bought and must not be bought.

Nobody asked for sympathy for the individual examiner. What these examiners want is precisely what we all enjoy: protection against transgressions and access to justice. They do not have that. They may not be in a position to leave. After some years in patents, you are limited to patents. There are not that many job offerings.

Thank you Merpel for having covered the topic. I appreciated your style, coverage and courage.

Well, Battistelli is not in jail. He probably never will be. People in such positions, as history serves to show, are at worst sent to exile somewhere like Corsica (nice and sunny).

As one more comment put it:

Since the Watergate a US president can not order the surveillance of an American citizen.

At the EPO he can!

Well, the EPO is one heck of a monster. Whether or not Battistelli leaves, we’ll continue to monitor and cover the situation there. The longer this goes on for, the more Europe will suffer. UPC proponents are trying to bring patent trolls over here, in order for them to profit from more litigation activity. This whole saga will not end any time soon. Just like that saga about Turkey and the EU.

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