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The EPO Now Censors the Central Staff Committee Like It Used to Censor SUEPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Censorship is escalating and going even further, not too long after EPO management was accused of suppressing another publication of the Central Staff Committee

Minnoye MAGA
Welcome to Bavaria’s version of North Korea

Summary: The EPO’s Central Staff Committee (CSC) is now being treated as poorly as SUEPO several years ago (when it was threatened to remove publications from its site or face severe action)

“The EPO is currently censoring the publication on the Intranet of a CSC open letter to the Members of the Board 28,” which does not surprise us at all. It’s not the first time and it is becoming a pattern or the norm.

Here is the cover text of the CSC letter:

The CSC submitted an open letter to the Heads of Delegations of the Administrative Council as it appears that the “Modernisation of the EPO’s employment framework” is on the agenda of the B28 meeting on 30 January 2018 for opinion.

In short – the necessary and requested (by the AC) consultation process with your staff representation worth the name is not taking place.

The rat-race to ever higher production is still ongoing and is furthered by the management. The potential additional contract framework adds another powerful tool to this. Such management methods have been qualified as “particularly disruptive”, such practices must be considered methods of the past.

In the last AC meeting, the German delegate explained concretely why such a contract scheme would not be adopted in her own Patent Office, showing that permanent posts may be a modern, successful alternative, allowing for attractiveness, workforce planning and motivation.

Any decision-making should entail a thorough, bona-fide, examination of alternatives, in particular the grounds justifying their introduction as well as their impact on the EPO finances and on the social climate.

This is why we appeal to the Delegations not to rush into deciding anything on the basis of the insufficient information provided by the current Administration and to allow the next President to deal with the matter at the right pace and in the framework of a genuine social dialogue.

The full CSC letter is similar but not identical to the above, so we’re including it as follows:

To the Members of the Board of the
Administrative Council


Modernisation of the EPO’s employment framework – Dangerous rush

Date: 26.01.2018

Dear Heads of Delegations,

It appears that the “Modernisation of the EPO’s employment framework” is on the agenda of the B28 meeting on 30 January 2018 for opinion.

With the exception of a three-hour ViCo just before Christmas, no further consultation has taken place and no additional information at all has been given to the Staff representation since the December meeting of the Administrative Council, when CA/121/17 was tabled. A consultation process worth the name is not taking place.

The President has now set targets for 2018 which are currently cascaded down to all examiners. For the large majority of examiners these targets are hardly achievable without compromise. Setting such unrealistic targets is not due to any miscalculation. It is intended. Several DG1 Directors admit – off the record, of course – that they are fully aware that most individual targets are unachievable, but they allocate them nevertheless. Increased targets will also burden an already fragile staff in patent administration. At the same time, the recent streamlining of the professional incompetence framework contributes to an atmosphere of distrust and fear and the Office structure has otherwise been shaped so as to discourage any behaviour but submissiveness.

France Telecom, a French company formerly including civil servants with lifetime job employment workforce, precisely used such management methods, including consciously tasking staff with duties they could not fulfil. At the same time the number of suicides increased dramatically.

Having since then been qualified as “particularly disruptive”1, such practices must be considered methods of the past.

We already drew your attention to the many problems caused by previous reforms. In the current context the proposed “modernisation”, especially the introduction of non-permanent contracts, would exacerbate the problems and expose an even more vulnerable group of staff (contract staff) to the above harmful policies.

The Council is ultimately responsible for the results of the policies put in place. We fear for the most tragic consequences, should the Council not properly discharge its duty of care towards EPO staff. The Delegations of the host countries obviously have particular responsibilities in that respect.

In the last AC meeting, the German delegate explained concretely why such a contract scheme would not be adopted in her own Patent Office, showing that permanent posts may be a modern, successful alternative, allowing for attractiveness, workforce planning and motivation.

The proposed “modernisation” introduces readily applicable additional means for pressuring staff. It will also have far-reaching, long-term, effects on the culture and the functioning of the Office, which have not been touched yet. True social dialogue, and decision-making, should entail a thorough, bona-fide, examination of alternatives, in particular the grounds justifying their introduction as well as their impact on the EPO finances and on the social climate.

This is why we appeal to you not to rush into deciding anything on the basis of the insufficient information provided to you by the current Administration and to allow the next President to deal with the matter at the right pace and in the framework of a genuine social dialogue.

Sincerely yours,

Chairman of the Central Staff Committee
cc.: Mr B. Battistelli; President of the EPO

1 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/10/business/global/10ftel.html

Team Battistelli has already been silencing or threatening staff representatives for 'daring' to speak about declines in patent quality. What they are trying to hide is simply truth itself. As one new comment put it a couple of days ago:

As an Examiner, I wish to report, that every director I had said, that being able to reach the set target (and in my case it was never negotiated, despite the rules requiring so) within the time available is also quality of examiner’s work.
Hence, my production (grants/refusals/searches) is thmain ingredient foor the quality of my work.
The quality measured under the ISO 9001 is irrelevant, as long as I meet my target.
If I fail to meet my target, good quality measurements (CASE statistics) will not help me. Low quality will additionally be used against me. But so far I’ve not met one who got a low score for quality in her/his appraisal when the target was met, no matter what the CASE statistics said…. And this practice has been confirmed by ILOAT as being okay.
Hence my production appears twice in my appraisal, and the CASE measured quality actually only if my production is low and the quality measured is low…

But since we measure our colleagues quality, and they measure mine, we never had a need to record everything. The second member simply found the “non-conformities”…

A lot of supposed ‘growth’ also comes from granting of software patents, albeit under different labels. Following our article about Bastian Best's obsession with the blockchain hype in relation to European Patents we found former ‘Kat’ David Pearce responding to Best with: “Given that the first EP application with ‘blockchain’ in the title was only published in 2015, this is hardly surprising. [] Also, the basics of blockchain technology are based on open source, unpatented (and most likely unpatentable), inventions. [] So I would not expect to see much of any significance from the EPO Boards of Appeal for a few years at least, and even then it’s likely just to restate the position following T 641/00.”

It’s also worth noting that there’s now a new article about lack of motivation among examiners, who — in order to just keep their jobs — need to operate in ‘drone’ mode:

In summary, I am not sure whether the EPO’s “vision” of a motivated staff matches with current reality. While many examiners and Board of Appeal members genuinely like their work, I have yet to find one who tells me that (s)he feels motivated by the current management, whilst many tell me the opposite. It seems to me that the current management focusses far too much on delusional and senseless objectives such as “raising production targets” every year and on “challenging staff”, rather than positively motivating it to work together towards a common goal, i.e. the public weal.

The EPO is becoming so oppressive that it now gags not only the staff union that is detached from the EPO but also the EPO’s very own staff representatives. Welcome to North Korea?

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