03.01.18

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European Patent Office (EPO) in Chaos and Attempting to Silence the Staff Would Only Exacerbate Matters

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Censorship in such circumstances/scenarios almost always backfires

Metal whistle

Summary: As the EPO becomes ever more oppressive it makes the mistake of attempting to control communication and transparency, which means that anonymous whistleblowing becomes the last resort to many

THE situation at the EPO has gotten so bad that staff representatives are no longer permitted to talk either to the Council or to the people whom they represent. It’s just so surreal. Earlier today we published this letter and now we see an accompanying message that says “EPO [management] is currently censoring the publication on the Intranet of a CSC communication.”

So basically the management just wants everyone to stay pretty much silent and not disseminate any information because information may then be labeled “defamatory” (that’s how they attempted to justify censorship of Techrights).

The EPO has just hired a firm (warning: epo.org link) to produce for it some more propaganda and without a shadow of a doubt claim — as usual — the very opposite of the truth. The EPO did this many times before and there were many debunkings.

“To ensure anonymity,” the EPO wrote, “an external contractor, BERENT Deutschland GmbH, will conduct the surveys on behalf of the EPO.”

Seriously, anonymity? And they’re on the EPO’s payroll, so how independent can that really be?

Anyway, information is being disseminated by the media right now. Not the German or Swiss or even French media (albeit some Dutch journalists do mention Techrights today).

Following coverage of the USF letter at SUEPO and elsewhere IPPro Patents wrote this article which says:

Union Syndicale Fédérale (USF) has penned a letter to senior European Patent Office (EPO) officials highlighting what it calls the “extreme” situation and “shocking events” taking place at the office.

In its letter, addressed to current EPO president Benoît Battistelli, president elect António Campinos and all 38 Delegations of the EPO’s Administrative Council, among others, USF said it had been following the situation with “great concern”.

[...]

USF concluded: “Beyond the mere application of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (access of individual workers to an independent and impartial court) the issues of the European Social Charter as a universal source of social rights, the locus standi of union and the creation of appellate judicial bodies are now being raised.”

“USF considers that the various organs of the Council of Europe deserve to conduct their discussions and develop their conclusions with an adequate degree of autonomy, but any support or encouragement your institution of government may convey to the current debates at the Council of Europe would help re-establishing decent working conditions, transparency and a positive perception of the EPO by the public.”

The Register too wrote about it this morning and the article alludes to the “Unitary [sic] Patent Court (UPC)” towards the end (should be Unified). To quote some portions:

Pressure is continuing to build on the European Patent Office (EPO) over its treatment of staff and continued refusal to accept the results of an independent tribunal.

This week, Europe’s largest trade union, the Union Syndicale Fédérale (USF) wrote to all 38 members of the EPO’s Administrative Council noting its “great concern” at recent “extreme” EPO management actions that point to “fundamental flaws in the institutional setup of the EPO.”

The letter [PDF] notes that the situation at the EPO – where staff have been hounded and fired and then been ignored when they have taken their cases to an independent tribunal and won – is now being actively discussed in other European institutions, including the Council of Europe.

“USF wishes to draw your attention to an important ongoing debate between organs of the Council of Europe,” the letter notes. “The debates in Strasbourg focused on the issues of strengthening the legal system of international organizations and of the strict limitation of activities covered by their immunity of jurisdiction.”

[...]

That complaint argues that the long-planned Unitary Patent Court (UPC) is not legal because the EPO – which approves patents – has insufficient governance mechanisms. It will be heard later this year.

The situation has grown so dire that the Council of Europe has started looking into making high-level changes to prevent international organizations from going awol – and the initial recommendations are referenced in USF’s letter to the EPO’s Administrative Council.

There are mostly off-topic comments, but one person said about Battistelli: “He’s still there! It’s like trying to get rid of a stubborn stain. I doubt if he’ll pay much attention to them or anybody.”

It’s not just Battistelli anymore but also many of the toxic people he brought after him. Campinos too was his pick, so don’t expect much to change in 4 months when Battistelli leaves.

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