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05.10.17

English-Speaking Media Catches Up With Latest Twists in EPO Fiasco, Including Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This was publicly debated by Dutch authorities yesterday

House of Representatives (Netherlands)

Summary: Actions about or against EPO management have accelerated ahead of next month’s Administrative Council meeting, whose head is leaving after alleged orders/commands from his government (half a year after we exposed his conflict of interest/s)

AS we noted a few weeks ago, under the surface and behind the silence there was something brewing. The EPO scandals recently culminated in the apparent firing of Battistelli’s ‘boss’ (someone told us that the government forced his resignation — an EPO tactic where it’s made to look like early retirement) and the European Court of Human Rights may soon step in. Yesterday we reposted SUEPO's statement (which had also been sent by E-mail, based on a new comment from IP Kat).

This morning, the British media covered this latest twist (it’s in the front page of The Register right now). Kieren McCarthy wrote:

The staff union of the European Patent Office on Tuesday applied to the European Court of Human Rights in an effort to force greater accountability on the organization and its president, Benoit Battistelli.

The EPO has carried out a years-long campaign of surveillance, intimidation and disciplinary hearings against staff who have opposed Battistelli’s reform efforts: a campaign that would be illegal under the laws of the countries in which the organization resides.

But when the staff union, SUEPO, sued to force the organization to follow those laws, EPO management claimed immunity due to its status as an international organization. After a protracted legal battle, the Dutch Supreme Court ultimately agreed with that argument, and shortly thereafter EPO’s president Battistelli sacked another staff union representative, sparking more protests.

SUEPO is appealing that decision to the human rights court by making the case that the immunity provision only holds if an organization has effective internal remedies. It argues that the EPO does not, and that its own systems are also severely lacking.

Even blogs of the patent microcosm are starting to respond to the damage caused by Battistelli’s poor leadership and yesterday Kluwer wrote this:

EPO trade union files complaint against The Netherlands before European Court of Human Rights

[...]

In several other EPO member states – France, Germany, for instance – and at the European Union, the disastrous social climate at the EPO has been on the agenda repeatedly as well. Last month, the USF, the largest federation of Unions of the Public Service wrote a letter to the members of the European Parliament, stating: ‘Countless reports in the media about dismissed staff representatives, other scandals and a total loss of trust of the staff in the current EPO president, Mr. Battistelli, are evidence of the seriousness of the situation at the EPO.’ Recently, in a series of articles on this blog (I, II, III, IV), the negative consequences of the EPO policy for patent quality were questioned as well.

Crucially however, Battistelli still seems to have support of enough members of the EPO’s supervisory Administrative Council, which could have taken more measures against the authoritarian president than it has been willing to.

The complaint before the ECHR is the latest attempt to do something about the EPO crisis. In the Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad, lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld explained it is directed against The Netherlands, ‘because it has actively promoted upholding the EPO’s immunity’. According to Zegveld, the Dutch government has a diplomatic interest in doing this, ‘as it hopes for international organizations to settle in the Netherlands’. It wasn’t immediately clear when a decision can be expected from ECHR, but it will probably take quite some time. A brochure of the court of 2012 indicates the aim is to finalize cases within three years.

EPSU, which has generally been supportive of SUEPO (as recently as a few months ago), tweeted me about it this morning. “Unions @EPOorg launch complaint against Dutch State with #ECHR as justice denied to workers,” EPSU stated. Over at IP Kat there are now rumours about what will happen after Jesper Kongstad’s (JK) departure:

Perhaps JK taking over as head honcho at the EPO could be Battistelli’s “Plan B” in the (perhaps unlikely) event that someone at the AC points out that BB [Battistelli] will be beyond mandatory retirement age from August next year? After all, if it cannot be BB himself, then it would have to be a “trusted” acolyte… if only to keep the lid on the explosive secrets that we all know are just waiting to be uncovered.

Secrets like that money which got spent building Battistelli a palace at the expense (losses) of a Dutch contractor?

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5 Comments

  1. john said,

    May 11, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Gravatar

    Nice news, but comes too late. Apparently suepo is dead: there will not be enough candidates for the staff committee (deadline is the 15th and candidates are lacking). Without elected representatives in the staff committee, suepo will not be present in meetings with the president, since they are not recognized as a union. Expect the rate of reforms to accelerate. Expect the pension reform to be implemented this summer without input from the staff.

    john Reply:

    Still no candidates for the nearest staff committee elections and the deadline is monday…
    Battistelli can prepare the champagne: the next two years will happen without input from the staff. First, the pension reform this summer and next year massive layoffs in the areas where the stock first reaches zero.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Do you (or others reading this) happen to know who might run next month for Kongstad’s position? Ernst? Campinos? I guess it’s already being discussed internally…

    john Reply:

    Too few people know for me to divulge that information on a public forum.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    If anyone has a clue/s, please get in touch. Can be done anonymously. It might help if candidates can be studied and appropriately scrutinised before June.

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