02.21.18

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Rumour: European Patent Office to Lay Off a Significant Proportion of Its Workforce

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 5:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

While Team Battistelli gives itself major bonuses

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Just don’t mention anything about luxury cars of top-level management or bars built secretly at the 10th floor (among other ludicrous spendings on media influence, Eurovision-type festivals, plenty of personal bodyguards and so on)

Summary: While the Administrative Council of the EPO praises Battistelli for his financial accomplishments (as laughable as it may seem) a lot of families stuck in a foreign country may soon see their breadwinner unemployed, according to rumours

THE EPO is in trouble/peril; insiders started to insinuate that something wrong and very major was brewing at the Office yesterday. We’ve waited long enough and we now hear it from multiple sources. So here it goes.

“According to rumours heard at the EPO’s canteen,” one source told us, “the EPO seems to be planning dismissals of 700 to 1000 employees.”

“If they have as much money as they claim, why would the Office shrink this much?”This does not surprise us. We wrote about layoffs just earlier this week and many imminent changes seem to be hinting at that. Battistelli is just planting the seeds of catastrophe, which no doubt already causes super-hard-working examiners to panic.

Now that we hear these things we can’t help but recall some recent comments. One such comment said that “the only bells to which the Administrative Council of the EPO usually reacts to are the cash register bells operated by Mr. Battistelli.”

What cash register?

If they have as much money as they claim, why would the Office shrink this much? This is unprecedented; the Office grew over time rather than shrink.

Here is another interesting new comment:

” If the Freie Wähler stand up and file a pretty sensible and non-ideological resolution like this one, then I would not be surprised if it will actually be passed by the state parliament on 20/2/2018.”

Dear Dr. Bausch, far be it from me to question your optimism about Bavarian democracy.
But I wouldn’t count on the motion passing if the CSU gets its way.

But I suggest that you take a look at the contribution from Mr. Taubeneder (CSU) during the last debate on EPO affairs back in March 2017:

https://www1.bayern.landtag.de/www/player/index.html?playlist=https://www1.bayern.landtag.de/lisp/res/metafiles/wp17/17_346/meta_vod_24176.json&startId=

Maybe it is just me, but he gives the impression of singing off the same hymn sheet as the EPO management.
It would not surprise me if the EPO PR department wrote the speech for him.

We wrote about that at the time. People said the same thing to us (that the EPO seems to be ‘operating’ some politicians behind the scenes).

Thorsten Bausch responded by noting that he “heard that today’s [yesterday's] session was postponed to March due to sickness of Ms. Schmidt.”

Schmidt is a key figure in all this. Fantastic politician.

“As to your comments about Mr. Taubeneder,” Bausch continued, “you may indeed be right. Some of the language he used was clearly not his own (but the same is true for Ms. Schmidt, to be fair). Mr. Taubeneder’s main argument in 2017 was that the Bavarian Parliament is not competent to judge about such matters, which are in the very capable hands of the Administrative Council (sarcasm added by me, but not much). If I were Mr. Taubeneder or any of his CSU fellows, I would rather argue that it is the failure of the SPD-led Federal Ministry of Justice to apply more pressure on the Administrative Council to change things at the EPO to the better.”

Where is the German state when all these abuses are happening, culminating in the likely dismissal of many public servants living and working abroad with their families? Can the sessions wait another month?

Here is another new comment from another thread. This one too is about the supine Administrative Council:

Introducing the provision to “terminate the service of an employee if the exigencies of the service require abolition of their post or a reduction in staff” looks like a classic (“dead cat”) strategy from the EPO management.

Getting feedback that nobody likes the proposal to change to 5 year contracts? Starting to worry that the proposal might not be passed? No problem, we have the answer for you: just introduce a proposal that is far more outrageous an objectionable and then everyone will expend their energy and time fighting that instead.

So here’s my prediction: unless the AC has become completely supine, the “dead cat” proposal will draw objections, at which point the EPO management (with a theatrical show of exasperation and reluctance) will agree to withdraw it, but only if the AC agrees to rubber-stamp all of the other proposals (including the expansion of 5-year contracts).

It will be interesting to see how accurate this prediction turns out to be.

If the rumours are true, it all makes sense now. And as a followup comment put it: “Our salaries at the USPTO are even more competitive than the EPO’s [...] Conclusion: the overall better employment conditions at the USPTO allows USPTO examiners to provide much higher quality than that provided by the EPO. Hence, applicants would be better advised to file first in the US to get value for money…”

It’s hardly surprising that under Battistelli, e.g. last year, the number of patent applications (for EPs) actually fell slightly. Battistelli doomed the Office. Whether it was intentional or not (UPC in mind) we’ll let readers decide.

The demise of the EPO threatens Europe’s competitiveness. One might say, “so they’ll turn to NPOs…”

Well, not necessarily. Some people now go abroad for their patents.

As a side note, earlier this month EPLAW wrote about the ‘Drum Unit’ case that relates to the NPO:

With its milestone ‘Drum Unit’ decision, the German Federal Supreme Court revisits its case law on the exhaustion of patent rights, and in particular, on the delimitation of ‘permissible use’ on the one hand and the ‘unlawful (re-)making’ of a patented product on the other.

What would exhaustion of a patent office itself mean to stakeholders? Has it ever happened?

We have, on numerous occasions, been told that an EPO career should be lifelong because finding a job after the EPO is hard (there are several different reasons for this). It pains us to think that many EPO workers, some of whom were supportive of us over the years, are not in a state of shock if not additional stress (as it things weren’t already stressful enough).

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