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French Politician Claudine Lepage Confronts the EPO Again, Mentions the Hague Court

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Claudine LepageSummary: The European Patent Office (EPO) comes under renewed pressure from Claudine Lepage, who is about the same age as Battistelli but isn’t tolerating him, saying that he directly impacts the reputation of France in international institutions

BEING from the Socialist Party, Claudine Lepage is a political opponent of Battistell (who is still a politician inside the EPO — something which he isn’t supposed to be). The selection of the next President of the EPO too is the outcome of political lobbying. And yes, the next President is French (that’s 3 out of 4 in a row).

Lepage isn’t new to the situation. She wrote/spoke about it several times since last year and just before the weekend she did it again, but it’s in French:

J’avais interrogé, par une question écrite, le ministre de l’économie et des finances sur la politique sociale menée à l’office européen des brevets.

La réponse que je viens de recevoir de Bruno Lemaire est, étant donné les enjeux et le contexte social qui règne à l’OEB, plus que décevante.

This automated translation isn’t all that bad, but we cannot trust it and won’t comment on any automated translation (only a boor like Battistell would rely on things like these for legal matters, maybe because “quality” is a concept he is unable to grasp). If someone can translate for us the full text, we will greatly appreciate it. Here is the automated translation:

I had questioned, by a written question, the Minister of Economy and Finance on social policy at the European Patent Office.

The answer I just received from Bruno Lemaire is, given the stakes and the social context prevailing at the EPO, more than disappointing .

To follow closely with other parliamentarians the situation at the EPO I want to respond to some of the arguments given by the minister.

The EPO has never been in deficit and is still self-financing and the organization’s transformation plan initiated in 2013 was therefore not an obligation.

As for the social dialogue evoked by the minister, all the observers know that it is reduced to the minimum and that on the contrary the social malaise is permanently installed within this international organization.

I therefore call on the French Government to be fully aware of the situation at the EPO and to make every effort to put an end to this social conflict which, in addition to seriously undermining the image of France, is endangering the health of the staff .

Read below the minister’s answer and my question:

Response of the Minister of Economy and Finance:

The European Patent Office (EPO), established by the European Patent Convention of 5 October 1973, is an intergovernmental organization that has been operational since 1977 and employs nearly 7000 agents from 30 different States. In order to ensure the long-term financial viability of the EPO, an organizational transformation plan was initiated and in 2013 the Administrative Council amended the EPO’s Staff Regulations throughout the framework. social security (pensions, remuneration, social benefits, right to strike), in consultation with staff representatives. These reforms helped to redress the Office’s financial situation in a few years, despite specific organizational constraints inherent to the EPO’s international organization status and a fragmented culture of establishment, with five locations in four different countries. However, they have generated social conflicts, accentuated by the specific jurisdictional status of international organizations. Following proceedings before the local courts, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands annulled the judgment of the Court of Appeal of The Hague on 20 January 2017 and upheld the jurisdictional immunity of the EPO. Aware of these difficulties, France consistently supports, within the EPO’s Board of Directors, initiatives aimed at improving the situation and social dialogue within the organization, such as launching the audit. in 2016, or the resolution passed in March 2016, inviting the President of the EPO to submit to the Administrative Council a draft revision of the Staff Regulations providing for revised and amended disciplinary procedures and guidelines for investigations . The Board of Directors of 28 and 29 June 2017 has thus included in the Staff Regulations new safeguards to ensure the independence and impartiality of the procedures (investigations, disciplinary matters, internal appeals) as well as the rights of the defense ( right to silence or to be assisted by a lawyer).

Question from Claudine Lepage:

Claudine Lepage draws the attention of the Minister of the Economy and Finance to the situation at the European Patent Office (EPO). This intergovernmental organization and its 7 000 highly qualified staff recruited from the 38 Member States certainly contribute greatly to innovation, competitiveness and economic growth in Europe.
However, for several years, the authoritarian and arbitrary social policy of this office poses great difficulties, in particular as regards the respect of the fundamental rights of the person and the violation of the social right. It should be noted that four suicides in thirty-two months are to be deplored among the staff.
In addition, in February 2015, the Hague Court of Appeal, seized by staff representatives, condemned the social policy pursued by the EPO as unfair to fundamental rights.
However, its French president refuses to take note of this decision, on the pretext that the office enjoys a system of immunity.
This management, highly questionable, directly impacting the reputation of France in international institutions, she wants to know if arrangements will be made to remedy this situation that has lasted too long and threatens the future of the institution at the moment when, after thirty years of negotiation, an agreement has been reached on the unitary European patent, which the EPO will be responsible for issuing.

We don’t expect French media to write about it. There’s not much interest in scrutiny of the EPO among rich media owners. Maybe they have their own EPs to worry about. Don’t expect blogs like IP Kat to ever write about EPO scandals, either. The site is not only quiet on these matters; it actively deleted comments of those who mention such matters. Some EPO folks have, in fact, declared that they’re blocking IP Kat for it, not just ignoring it. Yesterday the blog published its weekly roundup (“if you missed the IPKat last week!”). Not a word about the biggest thing in IP Kat this past week, namely censorship of EPO news and comments.

“I remain disappointed,” one person wrote, that this blog “has all but given up reporting on the EPO [...] I don’t know the reason…”

Here is the full comment:

I remain disappointed that ipKat, which used to offer reasonable and regular opinion and reporting on the situation at the EPO, has all but given up reporting on the EPO other than to provide bare factual statements. There are now more reports on copyright decisions issued by Italian courts than there are on the EPO. Obviously I don’t know the reason for this change in editorial policy. I just find it disappointing.

I also echo the statement of BenQ, it is simply not true to say that the majority of the comments on Merpel’s post were libellous. The relevant comments remain on the internet for anybody who is interested in checking them and making up their own mind.

There are a few more comments there (if not rude comments about gender) insinuating that indeed “Merpel” isn’t the same author who used to write about the EPO. We think so too. Quite a few authors (people we heard from) have left the blog as they were not happy to see where it was going.

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