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05.10.18

Report on the (Mal)Functioning of the ILOAT From the 332nd Session of the ILO Governing Body

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 8:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Guest article

ILOAT Governing Body
Original: March report [PDF]

Summary: Although the non-EPO backlog had been reduced to 84 cases at the end of December 2017, there was an EPO backlog of 155 cases representing 64 per cent of the total backlog

At the 332nd Session of the ILO Governing Body held in Geneva on 8 to 22 March 2018 an update was provided on “the situation regarding the impact that the number of complaints filed against the European Patent Organisation (EPO) has on the functioning of the Tribunal” and related matters.

According to the report (document ref no. GB.332/PFA/INF/9): “[T]he ILO has, over the past few years, devoted considerable attention to addressing the situation arising from the disproportionate number of complaints persistently filed against one single organization”, namely the EPO.

In 2015 the Tribunal itself pointed out that the large number of complaints filed against the EPO represented the main challenge to its effective functioning.

The excessively large number of complaints filed against the EPO has been the subject of discussions between the Director-General and the EPO President in one direct meeting and numerous exchanges of letters, and has been regularly followed up by the relevant services of the ILO and the EPO.

The Director-General offered ILO expertise on social dialogue to assist the EPO in the dialogue between the administration and staff union but this was not taken up. (!)

The EPO President claimed that reform efforts have already led to a significant drop in the number of internal appeals, and are expected to result, in due course, in a decrease in the number of complaints lodged with the Tribunal.

The Tribunal confirmed a declining trend in the number of new complaints filed against the EPO whose share of the total number of new complaints filed dropped from 74 per cent at the beginning of 2016 to 39 per cent in 2017.

However, the drop in the number of new complaints is mainly due to the procedural consequences of Judgments 3694, 3785 and 3796 which dealt with the composition of the internal appeals body of the EPO and related matters. The flawed composition of the internal appeals body and other procedural irregularities resulted in the withdrawal of several hundred final decisions taken by the EPO President and the EPO’s Administrative Council.

This in turn led to the related internal appeals being re-submitted to the EPO’s newly composed internal appeals body where they are currently pending. Consequently, fewer final decisions had been taken by the EPO President, and fewer new complaints were therefore filed with the Tribunal.

The Tribunal also noted that several new complaints challenge the legality of the new composition of the Appeals Committee with respect to the members appointed by the staff and it is committed to examining this issue shortly.

Thus, although decreased, the proportion of EPO-related complaints remains high.

The report notes that the large volume of complaints filed against the EPO cannot be solely attributed to weaknesses in the EPO’s internal appeal mechanism but may also be symptomatic of the industrial relations climate within the organization. In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recognizing trade unions present at the EPO as social partners and creating a collective bargaining framework was signed in March 2016 with one of the staff unions, the European Civil Service Federation (FFPE). However the MoU has not yet been signed by the most representative staff union, the Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO).

Concerning the Tribunal’s backlog of cases, it was noted that although the non-EPO backlog had been reduced to 84 cases at the end of December 2017, there was an EPO backlog of 155 cases representing 64 per cent of the total backlog. Many of the EPO cases are linked and require consideration at the same Tribunal session.

“In order to reduce the EPO backlog more rapidly it would be necessary for entire Tribunal sessions to be devoted exclusively to the EPO.”The report states that it is clear that the statistics of the Tribunal are distorted by the EPO cases, either as the “backlog cases” or newly filed cases (for example, one former EPO official filed 97 complaints against the EPO; in October 2015 some 660 complaints were filed against a single decision of the EPO).

In order to reduce the EPO backlog more rapidly it would be necessary for entire Tribunal sessions to be devoted exclusively to the EPO.

Links 10/5/2018: Battle for Wesnoth 1.14, Tails 3.7, Devuan 2.0 RC

Posted in News Roundup at 9:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Looking for old game source Conquer (FOUND)

    Years later I met someone who had helped write a similar game called Dominion which is also very similar. The game has been kept up and is under a GPL license which is probably why it is still findable.

  • Summer of Code: Small steps

    As a first step towards working encryption and decryption, I obviously needed to create some PGP keys for testing purposes. As a regular user of OpenPGP I knew how to create keys using the command line tool GnuPG, so I started up the key creation by typing “gpg –generate-key”. I chose the key type to be RSA with a length of 2048 bits, as those settings are also the defaults recommended by GnuPG itself. When it came to entering user id information though, things got a little more complicated. GnuPG asks for the name of the user, their email address and a comment. XEP-0373 states, that the user id packet of a PGP key MUST be of the format “xmpp:juliet@capulet.lit”. My first thing to figure out was, if I should enter that String as the name, email or as a comment. I first tried with the name, upon which GnuPG complained, that neither name, nor comment is allowed to contain an email address. Logically my next step was to enter the String as the users email address. Again, GnuPG complained, this time it stated, that “xmpp:juliet@capulet.lit” was not a valid Email address. So I got stuck.

  • At The Source, Exploring the Blockchain Realm of GitHub

    Blockchain/cryptocurrency projects & the ever-mysterious open-source. If you come from a nontechnical background, you’ve probably wondered just exactly what open-source means; if you’ve hung around developers, in particular, you might’ve even heard about the powerful GitHub & the world of repositories. If you aren’t familiar with a terminal console, you likely aren’t familiar with previous terms.

    Yet understanding how open-source repositories work, as well as exploring the very basics of the GitHub platform, is probably one of the most effective ways to understand cryptocurrencies & their respective communities at a deeper level.

    Code talks. And learning how to view the source code for cryptocurrencies projects by yourself, regardless of your programming proficiency (or lack of), is an indispensable tool.

  • QElectroTech: An Open Source Wiring Diagram Tool

    There’s a few open source options out there for creating electrical schematics. KiCad and Fritzing are two that will take you from schematic capture to PCB layout. However, there’s been limited options for creating wiring diagrams. Often these are created in Microsoft’s Visio, which is neither open source nor well suited for the task.

  • 3 Ways to Use ART – IBM’S Open Source AI Security Library

    IBM’s Adversarial Robustness Toolbox, an open AI library, was released in April. Since then, developers have found some interesting uses for the tool.

    IBM launched an open library to help secure artificial intelligence systems in April.

    They call it the Adversarial Robustness Toolbox (ART) to help developers better protect AI systems and neural network. It contains benchmarks, defenses, and attacks in a framework-agnostic library.

  • Google Open Sources Seurat To Bring PC-Level VR To Mobile

    This year’s Google I/O developer conference might not have had much to share about VR, but one of the biggest reveals of last year’s event is now available to all.

  • Events

    • SecureDrop development sprint in PyCon 2018

      SecureDrop will take part in PyCon US development sprints (from 14th to 17th May). This will be first time for the SecureDrop project to present in the sprints.

      If you never heard of the project before, SecureDrop is an open source whistleblower submission system that media organizations can install to securely accept documents from anonymous sources. Currently, dozens of news organizations including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, USA Today, and more, use SecureDrop to preserve the anonymous tipline in an era of mass surveillance. SecureDrop is installed on-premises in the news organizations, and journalists and source both use a web application to interact with the system. It was originally coded by the late Aaron Swartz and is now managed by Freedom of the Press Foundation.

    • Highlights from the OpenStack project teams gathering

      A few weeks back in Dublin, Ireland, OpenStack engineers gathered from dozens of countries and companies to discuss the next release of OpenStack. This is always my favorite OpenStack event, because I get to do interviews with the various teams, to talk about what they did in the just-released version (Queens, in this case) and what they have planned for the next one (Rocky).

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Open for business: Firefox Quantum is ready for IT

        The new, super fast Firefox supports Windows Group Policy, so enterprise IT pros can easily configure the browser for organizational use.

        In the fall of 2017, Mozilla introduced Firefox Quantum — the blazing fast, completely reinvented Firefox. The new Firefox quickly won critical acclaim, with Wired writing that “Firefox Quantum is the browser built for 2017”.

      • Firefox 60 Is Here, And It (Finally) Includes Linux CSD Support

        Firefox 60 is now available to download and among the changes it sports is support for CSD on Linux.

        The latest stable release of Mozilla’s hugely influentially open-source web browser also brings a number of other tweaks, including a somewhat controversial change to the new tab page…

      • Firefox 60 released
      • An Enterprising Future

        So, to say that I’m happy about this particular release would be an understatement. I’m absolutely ecstatic that Mozilla decided that adding support for enterprise features was important.

        But I have to admit something; over the years in my zeal to get enterprise support into Firefox, I’ve encouraged just about every method possible to get customizations into Firefox. As a result, I know there are many installations of Firefox that use methods that are definitely not recommended anymore, especially now that we have real policy support.

      • Things Gateway – Monitoring Solar Panels
      • L10N Report: May Edition

        Activity Stream has become an integral part of Firefox, officially replacing the existing New Tab and soon integrating code for displaying snippets and onboarding content. For this reason, we’re working on moving translations to mozilla-central.

        Currently, Activity Stream is managed as a stand-alone project in Pontoon, and store its translations in a GitHub repository. Once this meta bug is fixed, Activity Stream’s strings will be exposed as part of the Firefox project.

        While this makes the relation between Activity Stream and Firefox more obvious for localizers, it will also allow to make some improvements in the future, like reducing the lag between translations landing in repositories and actually being available for testing in Firefox.

      • Firefox 61 Enters Development with Faster Tab Switching on Linux and Windows

        Now that Mozilla released the final Firefox 60 “Quantum” web browser, it’s time for them to concentrate on the next release, Firefox 61, which enters beta testing today with a bunch of much-needed enhancements.

        While Firefox 60 marked the Quantum series as ready for enterprise deployments, Firefox 61 will focus on performance enhancements and improvements of all sorts. For starters, Firefox 61 promises to enable faster tab switching on both GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows platforms and makes WebExtensions run in their own process on Apple’s macOS.

        Talking about WebExtensions, Firefox 61 will improve the way they manage and hide tabs. Mac users are also getting a new feature in the Page Actions menu that allows them to share the current URL with the sharing providers from macOS, and it looks like the dark theme will receive various improvements for a more consistent experience across Firefox’s user interface.

      • Firefox 61 Beta Brings Quantum CSS Improvements, Faster Tab Switching

        Rounding out today’s Firefox 60 release comes with promoting Firefox 61 to beta.

        Firefox 61.0 is now available in beta form and it excites us a lot for a sizable amount of performance work that’s been ongoing. Among the work to find with the Firefox 61 Beta are Quantum CSS improvements for faster page rendering times, improved page rendering speed thanks to retained display lists, and faster switching between tabs on Linux/Windows.

      • Firefox 60 for Android Brings Faster Page Rendering, New View Page Source Option

        Mozilla released today the Firefox 60 “Quantum” web browser for supported desktop platforms, including GNU/Linux, macOS, and Microsoft Windows, as well as for Google’s Android mobile operating system.

        Mozilla Firefox 60 “Quantum” is the next ESR (Extended Support Release) version of the open-source and cross-platform web browser, introducing USB token based authentication support, enhancements to New Tab and Firefox Home pages, revamped Cookies and Site Storage section, enhanced camera privacy indicators, better WebRTC audio performance and playback on Linux, and a new a policy engine to make enterprise deployments a breeze for IT professionals.

  • Databases

    • PostgreSQL visits LSFMM

      The recent fsync() woes experienced by PostgreSQL led to a session on the first day (April 23) of the 2018 Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management Summit (LSFMM). Those problems also led to a second-day session with PostgreSQL developer Andres Freund who gave an overview of how PostgreSQL does I/O and where that ran aground on some assumptions that had been made. The session led to a fair amount of discussion with the filesystem-track developers; real solutions seem to be in the offing.

      PostgreSQL is process-based; there are no threads used, Freund said. It does write-ahead logging (WAL) for durability and replication. That means it logs data before it is marked dirty and the log is flushed before the dirty data is written. Checkpointing is done in the background with writes that are throttled as needed. In general, all data I/O is buffered, though the WAL can use direct I/O.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Best Free Photoshop Alternative: GIMP

      Adobe Photoshop is a household name, and is widely regarded as one of, if not THE best photo editing and image manipulation suites around.

      Basically, it’s an industry leader, and if you work in a professional industry that relates to photography, publishing, design or any other simiar creative sphere, chances are it takes centre stage.

      It’s useful in a non-professional capacity too, however, being a much more powerful editing suite than things like Microsoft Paint.

      But the problem is, it’s expensive. You have to buy Adobe Photoshop and it costs a fair bit to do so. Hardly surprising that quite a few alternative software packages have emerged over the years for those on a budget, or for those who don’t want to pay a penny.

      For this article I could have quite easily put together a list of multiple different free alternatives to Adobe Photoshop, however, from my years of dabbling with what’s available there’s only one I can really say is worth bothering with – Gnu Image Manipulation Program, aka GIMP.

    • You have GNU sense of humor! Glibc abortion ‘joke’ diff tiff leaves Richard Stallman miffed

      Late last month, open-source contributor Raymond Nicholson proposed a change to the manual for glibc, the GNU implementation of the C programming language’s standard library, to remove “the abortion joke,” which accompanied the explanation of libc’s abort() function.

      Nicholson said: “The joke does not provide any useful information about the abort() function so removing it will not hinder use of glibc.”

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Containers and license compliance

      Containers are, of course, all the rage these days; in fact, during his 2018 Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW) talk, Dirk Hohndel said with a grin that he hears “containers may take off”. But, while containers are easy to set up and use, license compliance for containers is “incredibly hard”. He has been spending “way too much time” thinking about container compliance recently and, beyond the standard “let’s go shopping” solution to hard problems, has come up with some ideas. Hohndel is a longtime member of the FOSS community who is now the chief open source officer at VMware—a company that ships some container images.

      He said that he would be using Docker in his examples, but he is not picking on Docker, it is just a well-known container management system. His talk is targeting those that want to ship an actual container image, rather than simply a Dockerfile that a customer would build into an image. He has heard of some trying to avoid “distributing” free and open-source software that way, but is rather skeptical of that approach.

Leftovers

  • It Ain’t Innovation if No One Wants To Buy What You’re Selling

    In case you missed it, last month Gibson, the famed guitar company, filed for bankruptcy. Matt LeMay has a really fascinating and worth reading Medium post up, claiming that Gibson’s failure is a “cautionary tale about innovation.” He compares what Gibson’s management did over the past few years to another big name in guitars: Fender. And finds quite a telling story in the contrast.

    Specifically, he notes that Gibson doubled down on “innovation” and trying to come up with something new — almost none of which really seemed to catch on, while more or less ignoring the core product. Meanwhile, Fender took a step back and looked at what the data showed concerning what its existing customers wanted, and realized that it wasn’t serving the customer as well as it could. LeMay points to a Forbes interview with Fender CEO,

  • Hardware

    • Qualcomm Plans Exit From Server Chips

      Qualcomm Inc., the biggest maker of mobile-phone chips, is preparing to give up its push to develop processors for data-center servers, an effort that sought to break Intel Corp.’s hold on the lucrative market, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans.

      The San Diego-based company is exploring whether to shutter the unit or look for a new owner for the division, which was working on ways to get technology from ARM Holdings Plc into the market for chips that are at the heart of servers, the person said. ARM is one of Intel’s only rivals in developing semiconductor designs, and its architecture is primarily used in less power-intensive products, such as smartphones.

      [...]

      Qualcomm began selling a server chip, the Centriq 2400, based on ARM technology last year. At the time, the company said the chips, which were manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co., offered better results than an Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 processor, based on energy efficiency and cost. At the public introduction of the server chip line in November, potential customers such as Microsoft Corp. took to the stage to voice their interest in the offering. Since then, Qualcomm has been silent about its progress.

    • Qualcomm Reportedly Wanting To Exit ARM Server CPU Business

      Calxeda as the first interesting ARM-based servers didn’t pan out and the company went bust, attempts by the likes of AMD at ARM server CPUs so far have not panned out, and now today is a report that Qualcomm is looking to end its Centriq server CPU line or sell off that division.

      While the parts began shipping and they have some interesting offers up to a 48-core SoC and they were punctual with their Linux kernel support for these “Falkor” CPU cores, GCC support, etc. It looks like the Centriq server division isn’t making financial sense for Qualcomm. This is a bit surprising with their current Centriq wares offering competitive cost and performance-per-Watt to the x86 server competition.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • [DE] UPDATE: DFN-CERT-2018-0862 GNU Wget: Eine Schwachstelle ermöglicht die Manipulation von Cookies
    • A new strain of IoT malware can survive a reboot

      As scary as the epidemics of malware for Internet of Things devices have been, they had one saving grace: because they only lived in RAM (where they were hard to detect!), they could be flushed just by rebooting the infected gadget.

      But a new strain of malware, dubbed “Hide n Seek,” can live through a power-cycle: it writes a copy of itself to the /etc/init.d/ directory in the IoT device’s embedded GNU/Linux system, where startup programs are stored. When a device that’s been infected this way is rebooted, it is freshly infected.

    • World of Warcraft attacker jailed in US

      The Romanian citizen – who had been extradited to Los Angeles to face the charges – pleaded guilty in February to one count of causing damage to a protected computer.

    • Are you using Python module ‘SSH Decorator’? Newer versions include a backdoor

      Early this week, a developer noticed that multiple backdoored versions of the SSH Decorate module, the malicious code included in the library allowed to collect users’ SSH credentials and sent the data to a remote server controlled by the attackers.

    • Crypto backdoors are in the news again, and as bad for privacy as ever

      What is troubling, though, is that Ozzie’s reputation as one of the foremost engineers of recent years will allow some to claim that the backdoor puzzle has now been “solved” – because Ray Ozzie says it has. That’s definitely not the case, as the two critiques mentioned above, and others elsewhere, make plain. But politicians won’t worry about such technical niceties when it comes to calling for laws that mandate these “safe” backdoors in devices. That’s why it’s important that everyone who cares about their privacy and security should be ready to push back against attempts to turn a flawed idea into a flawed reality.

    • Ray Ozzie’s Encryption Backdoor

      I have no idea why anyone is talking as if this were anything new. Several cryptographers have already explained explained why this key escrow scheme is no better than any other key escrow scheme. The short answer is (1) we won’t be able to secure that database of backdoor keys, (2) we don’t know how to build the secure coprocessor the scheme requires, and (3) it solves none of the policy problems around the whole system. This is the typical mistake non-cryptographers make when they approach this problem: they think that the hard part is the cryptography to create the backdoor. That’s actually the easy part. The hard part is ensuring that it’s only used by the good guys, and there’s nothing in Ozzie’s proposal that addresses any of that.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The Meaning of Verification in Iran, Syria and North Korea

      Donald Trump bombed Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons last month and he has now officially pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran.

      But Syria officially has no chemical weapons and Iran has no nuclear ones. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)verifiedSyria to be chemical free, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verifiedIran’s consistent and continued compliance with the JCPOA. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Syria has no chemicals and Iran has no nukes: that’s what verification means.

    • CNN’s Iran Fearmongering Would Make More Sense Coming Directly From Pentagon

      Why doesn’t CNN Defense Department reporter Barbara Starr just leave CNN and instead work directly for the Trump DoD?

      On Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran deal (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), Starr (5/8/18) rushed to publish an anonymously sourced and transparently propagandistic press release for the Trump administration and Pentagon. Wouldn’t it be easier if Starr just skipped the middleman and just worked for the DoD?

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • WikiLeaks Founder Remains Cut Off from Internet Access at Ecuador Embassy

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains cut off from the web after his Ecuadorian Embassy hosts severed his communications with the outside world, the Ecuadorian foreign minister said.

      “He remains disconnected from the Internet and other communications,” Maria Fernanda Espinosa said. “A dialogue is continuing, and there is a will and interest to make progress.”

      Ecuador suspended his Internet access in March after accusing the whistleblower of interfering with other countries’ internal affairs via his social media posts.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • AAA Survey Finds 20% Of Americans Plan To Buy An Electric Car

      Last year, AAA began asking Americans if they planned to buy an electric car. 15% said yes. AAA plans to ask the same question every year and track the results — at least until electric cars become the norm. This year, 20% of Americans said they are considering an electric car for their next vehicle purchase.

      [...]

      “For instance,” Fisher says, “some of the reliability problems we see are with new multispeed transmissions. Having a one-speed, direct drive eliminates any of those issues.” Automatic transmissions with 8, 9, or 10 gears are becoming more common in conventional cars as manufacturers struggle to hit higher fuel consumption targets. But they can be fiendishly complex and devilishly expensive to repair when they fail.

      For example, the Chevy Bolt gets especially high marks for reliability from Consumer Reports. “It’s the most reliable car GM makes, which is especially impressive for a completely new model,” says Anita Lam, CR’s associate director of data integration.

  • Finance

    • Teachers Are Leading the Revolt Against Austerity

      In less than three months, rank-and-file teachers and educational support staff in five states—West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona—have turned the entire country into their classroom. They haven’t just pushed for—and won—better pay and working conditions for themselves. They’ve also mounted a direct challenge to decades of bipartisan tax cuts for corporations, helping us all understand what austerity means. And by championing a raft of policy proposals to redistribute wealth away from the 1 percent and back to the working and middle-class, they’ve shown us how austerity can be defeated. As Emily Comer, a middle-school Spanish teacher who was a leader in the strikes in West Virginia, put it, “The phase we are in now—to win a real, progressive solution to the health-insurance crisis—forces us to dream bigger. This isn’t just about our healthcare plan. It’s about rebalancing the power of workers and corporations in our state.”

    • Chicago Begins To Rethink How Bankruptcy Lawyers Get Paid

      Twice in the past three years, Kimberly Williams-Hayes has filed for bankruptcy. The first time, she made about $5,400 in total payments toward her debt before her case was dismissed, when she failed to hand over her tax refund.

      Only a fraction of that amount went toward a car loan, while her thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets and assorted other debts were untouched. One bill got paid in full: the bill from her bankruptcy lawyers.

      By the time she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy again, in September of last year, represented by another firm, her debt had grown. And again, her lawyers added language into her proposed payment plan to ensure they, too, would be paid first.

      For years, putting the lawyers and their fees ahead of other creditors through so-called “step up” payment plans has been standard practice among bankruptcy firms in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • AT&T Stumbles As It Tries To Explain Why It Paid $200K To Cohen’s Shady Shell Company

      Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti yesterday dropped a bit of a bombshell on DC in the form of this document (pdf), which alleges that Trump lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen was engaged in far deeper, shadier financial shenanigans than had so far been reported. Numerous allegations are made in the document, including claims that Cohen may have violated banking laws in setting up and funneling money through a front company by the name of Essential Consultants, including payments made by Columbus Nova, a U.S.-based affiliate of a company controlled by a Russian millionaire, Victor Vekselberg.

      [...]

      Granted AT&T’s also been pressuring the Trump administration to “reform” NAFTA to make it easier on AT&T’s telecom ambitions in Mexico. AT&T was also trying to secure the administration’s blessing for its $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner. But given the Trump DOJ proceeded to sue to block that deal for anti-competitive reasons (or hey, just good old cronyism), if the payments were to grease the M&A skids AT&T certainly didn’t get their money’s worth.

      The most likely reason is that AT&T, for some idiotic reason, thought paying a shady NYC fixer’s dubious front company would help curry general favor with the Trump administration. That’s certainly not out of character. AT&T is a company with pretty greasy track record, whether we’re talking about the time it turned a blind eye to drug dealers running a directory assistance scam on its own users, the time it was caught helping scammers rip off telecom systems for the hearing impaired, or that time it was caught making bills harder to understand just to help crammers rip off AT&T customers.

    • Trump’s Act of American Hubris

      The United States is so far doing virtually no trade with Iran anyway. In 2017 total US exports to Iran were just 138 million dollars, and total imports a mere 63 million dollars, figures entirely insignificant to the US economy. By contrast, for the EU as a whole imports and exports to Iran were each a very much more substantial 8 billion dollars in 2017 and projected to rise to over 10 billion dollars in 2018.

      There is one very significant US deal in the pipeline, for sale of Boeing aircraft, worth $18 billion dollars. It will now be cancelled.

      Which brings us to the crux of the argument. Can America make its will hold? Airbus also has orders from Iran of over US$20 billion, and it is assumed those orders will be stopped too, because Airbus planes contain parts and technology licensed from the US. It is possible, but unlikely, that the US could grant a waiver to Airbus – highly unlikely because Boeing would be furious.

      [...]

      I shall be most surprised if we do not see increased US/Israeli/Saudi sponsored jihadist attacks in Syria, and in Lebanon following Hezbollah’s new national electoral victory. Hezbollah’s democratic advance has stunned and infuriated the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia but been reported very sparsely in the MSM, as it very much goes against the neo-con narrative. It does not alter the positions of President or Prime Minister, constitutionally allocated by religion, but it does increase Hezbollah’s power in the Lebanese state, and thus Iranian influence.

      Iran is a difficult country to predict. I hope they will stick to the agreement and wait to see how Europe is able to adapt, before taking any rash decisions. They face, however, not only the provocation of Trump but the probability of a renewed wave of anti-Shia violence from Pakistan to Lebanon, designed to provoke Iran into reaction. These will be a tense few weeks. I do not think even Netanyahu is crazy enough to launch an early air strike on Iran itself, but I would not willingly bet my life on it.

    • Trump Vindicates Iranian Hardliners and Victimizes Ordinary Citizens

      When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was announced in 2015, the Iranian people poured into the streets to celebrate what they thought was the beginning of a new era.

      Long squeezed by both U.S. pressure and their own government, they had just cause for optimism. The threat of war was receding, and the sanctions that had stifled Iran’s economy were soon to be lifted. Many hoped that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, vindicated by his success at the negotiating table, would leverage his political capital and ease Iran’s harsh security environment at home.

      Today, as President Donald Trump tears up the agreement, the Iranian people are once again those who will suffer most. Iranian hardliners, empowered by the deal’s failure, are sharpening their knives for Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and the chances of catastrophic war are undoubtedly greater.

    • Russian Oligarch-Linked Firm That Paid Michael Cohen Was Also Represented by Trump Lawyer Marc Kasowitz

      The news on Tuesday that the same shell company that Michael Cohen, a longtime personal lawyer for Donald Trump, had used to pay $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels had also received about $500,000 in 2017 from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch set off a frenzy of commentary on Twitter and cable TV.

      At the heart of the story is an investment firm called Columbus Nova, which has close links to Renova Group, a conglomerate founded by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg. A Columbus Nova spokesman has said the payments to Cohen were for unspecified investment consulting.

      Now there’s a new wrinkle: Another longtime Trump personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, also represented Columbus Nova in recent years in a commercial case. A spokesman for Kasowitz said the case settled in early 2017.

      As ProPublica reported last year, Cohen spent a short period in February 2017 working at the offices of Kasowitz Benson Torres in midtown Manhattan, alarming several lawyers at the firm who worried about the brash attorney’s reputation. That was at the beginning of the period, between January and August 2017, when Columbus Nova made its payments to Cohen.

      Cohen told ProPublica last year that he used Kasowitz’s offices “because we were working on several matters together after the inauguration.” Both he and Kasowitz have declined to specify what they collaborated on.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • How China Managed to Play Censor at a Conference on U.S. Soil

      Taiwan was scrubbed from my biography.

      I’d been invited to give a keynote speech and accept an award at Savannah State University’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications. In a description of my background, I’d listed the self-governing island as one of the places where I’d reported. But in the printed materials for the event, the reference to Taiwan had been removed.

      The department had given the award annually since 1975. But in the past few years, finances had dwindled and organizers struggled to find the resources to cover the expenses of bringing in a speaker from out of town.

      Enter the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-affiliated organization that teaches Chinese language and culture and sponsors educational exchanges, with more than 500 branches around the globe. The branch at Savannah State, founded four years ago, agreed to sponsor the speech.

    • BWW TV: Go Behind the Scenes with BroadwayHD on the Censorship in INDECENT

      The theater and the arts is generally more progressive than the rest of the world. It’s a place where stories take shape that reflect the parts of society that many aren’t quite ready to face. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the way.

      Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance was a beautifully edgy play, depicting the first woman-on-woman kiss on Broadway. Written in 1907 but not performed in the States until 1923, the contents shocked theatergoers in America, leading to the arrest of the Broadway cast on obscenity charges. The hostile use of government resources fanned the discussion around morality onstage.

    • As Russia’s government effort to ban Telegram falters, digital activists are pranking the censorship agency

      Russia’s so-called “Digital Resistance” has struck out against the country’s internet blacklist, an ever-growing list of websites censored by the Russian government.

      Since April 16, Russia’s media regulatory agency Roskomnadzor has been trying — with mixed results — to block Telegram, a popular mobile messaging service. Since then, the blacklist, or registry of blocked websites, has grown and shrunk many times.

      The collateral damage of their approach has been enormous. Millions of unrelated IP addresses and internet services were blocked when the agency went after internet cloud services that are used by Telegram and plenty of other products, a move that some say could cost Russian businesses up to one billion dollars. Roskomnadzor began removing addresses from the blacklist on May 8, in what appeared to be a tacit acknowledgement of defeat.

    • Matt Drudge warns Trump is opening a pandora’s box of censorship with ‘crusade on fake news’

      Besides the occasional breaking news dispatch, Matt Drudge spends more time arranging the front page of the Internet than actually reporting. One of the most influential journalists, Drudge is normally remarkably silent, which is why his latest condemnation of free speech is noteworthy.

      The Drudge Report publisher tweeted Wednesday to condemn President Trump’s assault on Fake News:

      I fear the future result of Trump’s crusade on ‘fake news’ will be licensing of all reporters. [Dems already floated this in the senate pre-Trump.] The mop up on this issue is going to be excruciating…

    • Self-censorship bane of Nigerian media, says Iredia

      A former Director-General, Nigerian Television Authority, Dr. Tonnie Iredia, has highlighted the need for the Nigerian media to be courageous in discharging its duties as the 2019 elections draw near, describing self-censorship as a major problem.

      Iredia stated this on Wednesday during a courtesy visit by the Media and Publicity Committee of the International Press Institute Congress 2018 to The Punch Place, headquarters of Punch Nigeria Limited in Ogun State.

    • Donald Trump Jr. has a history of incorrectly suggesting Twitter is censoring or blocking tweets
    • ‘You Muppet’: Donald Trump Jr Mocked for Crying ‘Censorship’ After Supporter Deletes Tweet
    • Why You Should Support Your University’s Independent Student Newsroom
    • Students’ Survey Highlights Censorship of Christian College Newspapers [Ed: This has nothing at all to do with religion which is just desperate to paint itself as the victim of censorship or oppression]
    • At Christian Colleges, Many Student Journalists Have to Deal With Censorship
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Fourth Circuit Rules That Suspicionless Forensic Searches of Electronic Devices at the Border Are Unconstitutional

      In a victory for privacy rights at the border, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today ruled that forensic searches of electronic devices carried out by border agents without any suspicion that the traveler has committed a crime violate the U.S. Constitution.

      The ruling in U.S. v. Kolsuz is the first federal appellate case after the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Riley v. California (2014) to hold that certain border device searches require individualized suspicion that the traveler is involved in criminal wrongdoing. Two other federal appellate opinions this year—from the Fifth Circuit and Eleventh Circuit—included strong analyses by judges who similarly questioned suspicionless border device searches.

      EFF filed an amicus brief in Kolsuz arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley supports the conclusion that border agents need a probable cause warrant before searching electronic devices—whether manually or with forensic software—because of the unprecedented and significant privacy interests travelers have in their digital data. In Riley, a case that involved manual searches, the Supreme Court followed similar reasoning and held that police must obtain a warrant to search the cell phone of an arrestee.

    • State Judge Finds New Hampshire Border Patrol Checkpoint Unconstitutional

      In a rebuke to the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, a New Hampshire court ruled last week that a Border Patrol checkpoint on an interstate highway last summer was “unconstitutional under both State and federal law.”

      Don’t believe for a second the administration’s official response that this decision “does not affect the U.S. Border Patrol’s federal authority to conduct immigration checkpoints.” All motorists’ constitutional rights got a huge boost from Judge Thomas Rappa’s refusal to give Trump’s deportation force a blank check to pretextually set up a drug checkpoint under the guise of immigration enforcement.

      Why was this checkpoint unlawful?

      Because federal customs and border agents used impermissible dog-sniff searches to go after drugs without a warrant and without any reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed. After conducting these dog-sniff searches, CBP agents then turned over to the local police the resulting evidence for state drug prosecutions.

    • Facial recognition tech used by UK police is making a ton of mistakes

      At the end of each summer for the last 14 years, the small Welsh town of Porthcawl has been invaded. Every year its 16,000 population is swamped by up to 35,000 Elvis fans. Many people attending the yearly festival look the same: they slick back their hair, throw on oversized sunglasses and don white flares.

      At 2017′s Elvis festival, impersonators were faced with something different. Police were trialling automated facial recognition technology to track down criminals. Cameras scanning the public spotted 17 faces that they believed matched those stored in databases. Ten were correct, and seven people were wrongly identified.

      South Wales Police has been testing an automated facial recognition system since June 2017 and has used it in the real-world at more than ten events. In the majority of cases, the system has made more incorrect matches than the times it has been able to correctly identify a potential suspect or offender.

    • Not Ready For Prime Time: UK Law Enforcement Facial Recognition Software Producing Tons Of False Positives

      Law enforcement agencies have embraced facial recognition. And contractors have returned the embrace, offering up a variety of “solutions” that are long on promise, but short on accuracy. That hasn’t stopped the mutual attraction, as government agencies are apparently willing to sacrifice people’s lives and freedom during these extended beta tests.

      The latest example of widespread failure comes from the UK, where the government’s embrace of surveillance equipment far exceeds that of the United States. Matt Burgess of Wired obtained documents detailing the South Wales Police’s deployment of automated facial recognition software. What’s shown in the FOI docs should worry everyone who isn’t part of UK law enforcement. (It should worry law enforcement as well, but strangely does not seem to bother them.)

    • Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Data Protection? A Troubling Implication Of The American Voter UK Data Protection Case

      The Guardian had an article this past weekend about what looks like a potentially successful attempt by an American to use UK data protection law to force Cambridge Analytica to divulge what information it had collected about US voters like him. Whether the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is truly entitled to compel Cambridge Analytica to do anything, much less on behalf of an American, is an open question. But for purposes here, let’s assume that UK data protection law works this way, that it was intended to work this way, and that it’s good policy for it to work this way.

      The problem is, it’s one thing for the ICO to force Cambridge Analytica to share with the American voter himself what personal data it had about him. But it’s another thing entirely for the ICO to force Cambridge Analytica to share the personal data it has about American voters with it. Yet it looks from the article like that’s what ICO may have threatened to force Cambridge Analytica to do.

    • Rights groups to take Government to court over shocking immigration exemption

      This exemption will affect everyone involved in an immigration case, for example: those seeking refuge in the UK, those affected by the Windrush scandal, the three million EU citizens who will have to submit their applications for a new immigration status after Brexit. If this Bill becomes law, people won’t have the right to access their personal data held by the Home Office.

      According to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Home Office has a ten percent error rate in immigration status checks. This exemption would allow these mistakes to go unchallenged. These errors could lead to an application being refused or even deportation.

    • Just 12% People Want To Pay For Facebook If Their Data Isn’t Collected And Sold

      Ever since the Cambridge Analytica fire sparked, Mozilla has been busy leg-pulling Facebook wherever and whenever they can. They have already released Facebook Container meant to prevent the social network from tracking users on the web.

      [...]

      It turns out, just 11.43%% of the 47,000 respondents agreed that they’d shell out up to $10/month to continue using the social network. Around 1% of the respondents were even comfortable in paying more. For the rest, it was a strick ‘No’ in the case of 62.84%, and 34.68% were not sure.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Could Ida B. Wells Have Exposed Lynching on Your Newsfeed?

      If Ida B. Wells had depended on Facebook, would we ever have had a National Lynching Memorial?

      Two stories collided in my head this week. One of which was the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama—this country’s first major effort to confront the vast scope of the racial-terror lynchings that ravaged the black community under a pervasive, prevailing culture of white supremacy. It is the first because, until now, that same majority culture of white supremacy hasn’t wanted to look.

    • What Gina Haspel Got Wrong About the Torture Tapes She Helped Destroy

      During today’s nomination hearing for Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Haspel testified about a topic that has rightly generated significant controversy: the destruction of 92 videotapes showing CIA torture.

      Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), asked a question about the destruction of those tapes, misspeaking when she referred to tapes showing interrogations “of 92 detainees.” Haspel, seemingly determined to correct Feinstein, stated that the tapes “were of only one detainee.”

      But the CIA’s own records produced in response to the ACLU’s torture transparency litigation contradict Haspel. According to those records, which include a declaration under oath from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, the 92 destroyed tapes depicted abuse of two detainees: Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

      Here’s what we know: The videotapes were subject to long-running ACLU Freedom of Information Act litigation seeking to make public information about the torture program. After news about the videotape destruction broke, the judge in the case ordered the CIA to produce information about, among other things, the content of those videotapes.

    • How Gina Haspel Dodged CIA Torture Questions During Her Senate Hearing

      President Trump’s nominee to be CIA director, Gina Haspel, faced pointed questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning. Senators asked about her role in the agency’s torture program and its cover-up, including her role in the destruction of dozens of videotapes documenting torture.

      Haspel, however, was far from forthright, regularly evading questions or giving only vague answers.

    • Cops ‘Help’ Naked, Possibly-Suicidal Schizophrenic Man By Tasing Him To Death

      “Excited delirium” makes an appearance in another case where medical help for a mentally ill person was sought, but instead, police arrived and delivered someone to an early grave. (h/t Radley Balko)

      22-year-old Adam Trammell was spotted wandering the halls of his group home completely naked. Feeling the young man was experiencing a psychotic break, the neighbor whose door Trammell had knocked on called the police. When officers arrived, they found Trammell in a distinctly non-threatening state: naked in the shower.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • It’s not over! Take action for net neutrality today!

      In December 2017, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the policies that protected net neutrality.

      Rather than merely accepting this, Senator Ed Markey launched a Congressional Review Act (CRA) to save net neutrality. A CRA allows a simple majority (more than 50%) of Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) to overturn an FCC vote. You can read more about CRAs on Wikipedia.

      Already, 50 senators are supporting the CRA. We need one more vote to pass this effort to overturn the FCC’s ruling.

    • Red Alert for Net Neutrality: Tell Congress to Save the Open Internet Order

      In December, the FCC voted to end the 2015 Open Internet Order, which prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Comcast from violating net neutrality principles. A simple majority vote in Congress can keep the FCC’s decision from going into effect. From now until the Senate votes, EFF, along with a coalition of organizations, companies, and websites, is on red alert and calling on you to tell Congress to vote to restore the Open Internet Order.

      The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress to overturn an agency rule using a simple majority vote. It likewise only requires 30 signatures in order to force a vote. The petition to force the vote was delivered today. That means we’re likely to see the Senate—which has only been only one vote away from restoring net neutrality protections for quite a while—vote in mid-May.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • New Report Shines Much-Needed Light On Shadow Libraries Around The World

        Techdirt readers with long memories may recall a post back in 2011 about a 440-page report entitled “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies.” As Mike wrote then, this detailed study effectively debunked the entire foundation of US attempts to impose maximalist copyright regimes on other countries. That report was edited by Joe Karaganis, who has put together another collection of articles, called “Shadow Libraries: Access to Knowledge in Global Higher Education”, that are also likely to be of interest to Techdirt readers.

      • Gaming Industry And Game Consumers On A Collision Course Over Loot Boxes

        If you’re a gamer, you know all about loot boxes. We haven’t covered them or the associated controversy here, as both are slightly outside of the usual topics we cover. But we do in fact cover digital marketplaces and how companies and industries react to market forces and it’s becoming more clear that the gaming industry and the gaming public are on something of a collision course over loot boxes.

        As a primer, a loot box is a digital randomized thing, typically purchased in-game and resulting in a random reward of in-game content. Some content is more valuable than others, leading to some referring to loot boxes as a form of gambling, particularly when some of the game content can provide benefits to players in multiplayer settings. Overwatch popularized loot boxes somewhat in 2016, although mobile games have used some flavor of this kind of monetization for pretty much ever. The gaming public never really liked this concept, with many arguing that it breaks in-game competition by giving players willing to pay for loot boxes an advantage. But the loot box fervor hit its pique after the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2, with EA being forced to massively alter how its loot boxes worked in game. Since then, loot boxes are a topic of consumer backlash as a general rule.

      • Copyright changes in the UK after Brexit

        Patrick Wingrove asks UK practitioners how copyright will change after Brexit, and analyses the EU Commission’s recent report on the subject

      • Originality in copyright: a meaningless requirement?

        Is the originality requirement in copyright a non-requirement? In other words: is there any meaningful threshold to copyright protection?

        I’ve had the opportunity to discuss this issue three times over less than a month: first, at a workshop in Berlin, then with a Belgian student and, finally, with an IP lawyer based outside Europe. If these three situations had anything in common, it was the suggestion that the originality requirement is not really a requirement – whether under EU or US law – and that copyright protection is very easy to obtain.

        While it is true that originality is not a particularly difficult condition to satisfy, it is still a requirement and: (1) it is not a mundane one, both in the EU and the US; and (2) there are a few instances in which the threshold would unlikely to be passed.

The EPO’s ‘Inventor Award’ Scam: Part I

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Theranos and EPO

Summary: A new series exploring the highly disturbing and political aspect of the so-called European Inventor Award, which for the most part involves passing EPO budget to publishers (i.e. paying the media) and to particular cities

THE ‘Inventor Award’ of the EPO, in spite of the EPO wasting millions of euros on it (including paying the media), has earned its share of notoriety. There are many scandals associated with it, even corruption and fraud. We already covered many examples and we shall be covering more soon. Currently, as part of this series, we also look at underlying patents that are being not just awarded but also rewarded for — a gross distortion of the concept of patent neutrality, giving parity to patents as opposed to ‘ranking’ them. The lack of patent neutrality at the EPO is a very serious problem. That also led the EPO to ‘endorsing’ literal frauds that killed many people. They basically made a fraud a “top rank” patent, lending legitimacy to the fraud.

Frenchman Benoît Battistelli is back to former French colonies this week. Last night the EPO published another photo op for him (amid major EPO scandals). Suffice to say, as usual, it was all about Battistelli, not the EPO. And it was about Morocco. To quote the puff piece (warning: epo.org link)

On 8 May EPO President Benoît Battistelli met Morocco’s Minister for Industry, Investment, Trade and the Digital Economy, Moulay Hafid Elalamy, in Rabat. The meeting is part of a major co-operation programme between the Moroccan Office for Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC) and the EPO which has been running for a number of years with a view to setting up a patent and innovation system to foster the competitiveness of Moroccan businesses and the development of foreign investment.

[...]

“We are delighted that the number of European patent applications designating Morocco has doubled over the past three years, and now stands at 2 000 applications a year,” President Battistelli said.

In part 2 of this series we’ll cover the Moroccan aspect of the ‘Inventor Award’ scam, or what some EPO insiders deem to be somewhat of a “scam”. This prize has become very political and almost a lobbying opportunity; Battistelli’s choice of venues, moreover, is a facility/vehicle of ‘gifting’ millions of euros to particular countries or districts. There’s no oversight guarding against corruption here. Think FIFA/Blatter.

“This prize has become very political and almost a lobbying opportunity; Battistelli’s choice of venues, moreover, is a facility/vehicle of ‘gifting’ millions of euros to particular countries or districts. There’s no oversight guarding against corruption here.”For the time being, investigation/research notwithstanding, we wish to draw attention to three items published by Patent Docs on Sunday. One is this “webinar entitled “Patenting Antibodies at the EPO” on May 17, 2018″ and another (from the same site) about the Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA) amplifying USTR propaganda (notorious ‘IP’ maximalism by shaming of countries). The last (third) one concerns “Webinar on U.S. Patent Exclusivity for Biologics” (also known as patents on nature/life).

As we shall show soon, the EPO not only grants patents on nature/life (EPC does not permits this) but also specially rewards these, even when prior art exists. Another political stunt by Battistelli? Readers can decide for themselves…

EPO Scandals Are Far Worse Than FIFA’s (or Even Emissionsgate/Dieselgate), But Will European Media Belatedly Realise This?

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Original (German) [PDF] | English [PDF] | French [PDF]

CICERO article

Summary: The new article from CICERO and a backstory; why did it take so long to properly investigate and cover some of the EPO’s abuses, which themselves involved corruption of European publishers (e.g. liaising with the EPO to defame Battistelli’s perceived ‘enemies’)?

THE EPO scandals have occupied much of my life over the past 3-4 years (it took thousands of hours of my time and there was no monetary gain at all). I have been covering these scandals almost every day for the past 4 years, yielding thousands of posts/articles. I can nowadays yield more pointers/information to journalists who require it, having become familiar with many aspects of these scandals. But journalists are rarely actually interested in covering these things.

This is a lot worse than FIFA scandals or Dieselgate. The large publishers mostly turn a blind eye because they perceive that to be risky to the stability of Europe (or the European project). In reality, brushing it under the carpet is the far greater risk because it gets worse over time. Recently there has been a lot of textbook corruption in and around the EPO. This must be covered. This must not be treated as just a mere nuisance that will “hopefully” go away.

“But journalists are rarely actually interested in covering these things.”Over the past few weeks/months CICERO did something unusual. It had the courage to look deeper into these scandals. People from all across Europe sent feedback/input. We saw some of it. This was a multi-lingual effort. There’s more on the way, including coverage of Croatian corruption. This is connected to the EPO. People are becoming more familiar with what has been happening for a number of years. Is it too late to hold the culprits accountable? Hopefully not. To quote one message of interest (in English):

Some details about the general situation at the EPO can be found in article published online by an IP journal “IP Pro Patents”:

Earlier this year, SUEPO sought protection from Dutch courts in the form of an injunction to prevent the violation of EPO workers’ rights. But the Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld the EPO’s immunity. _

SUEPO has since the Netherlands to the European Court of Human Rights over the decision. _

Technologia, an independent agency aimed at reducing risks for workers and approved by the French Ministry of Labour, conducted an enquiry into the psychosocial risks for SUEPO. _

THE AGENCY REVEALED THAT OF THOSE SURVEYED 2649 OF THE OFFICE’S 6770 EMPLOYEES, 82 PERCENT, STATED THAT THEIR WORKING CONDITIONS HAVE DETERIORATED OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS, WITH 58 PERCENT PERCEIVING A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THEIR HEALTH. _

The source close to SUEPO explained that the union would “like to see the end of a system based on the total distrust of all staff, this by a handful of top managers brought by Battistelli”. _

“The EPO cannot continue to function by violating fundamental rights of its staff and disrespecting the rule of law. Anxiety and insecurity do not enhance sustainable business models,” the source said. _

So there are indications of a general deterioration in working conditions.

It can be argued that the top management team including Topić bear a responsibility for this even if their responsibility for individual cases might be limited.

But the Administrative Council does not seem to care.

Or perhaps more accurately, the problem is that BB [Battistelli] has many small delegations under his influence so that the delegations that are concerned about the situation cannot do anything.

In April 2017, the Netherlands delegation published a report of the March 2017 AC meeting in which they stated the following:

EPO / SUMMARY REPORT OF THE 151ST ADMINSTRATIVE COUNCIL (AC)_ _The Administrative Council (AC) of the European Patent Organization (EPO) held it most recent meeting on 15 and 16 March 2017._

To begin with, the AC has now lost a lot of ground, just one year after the AC itself gave very concrete assignments to EPO President Battistelli with a (unanimous) resolution. Due to his apparent influence over a large group of smaller countries, Battistelli does not have to worry about the smaller group of larger (critical) patent countries (Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Sweden). An unreal situation._

The Netherlands delegation publishes reports on the quarterly meetings of the AC in the official journal of the Netherlands Patents Office.

These reports are often quite critical but they are only published in Dutch so they are not easily accessible to outsiders.

We have already covered all the above aspects, including that aspect of ‘gerrymandering’ by Battistelli if not outright vote-buying, which might be viewed as a bribe (with EPO budget being misused). When will there be accountability? Well, maybe never, but one can at least publish the facts (to remain accessible for decades to come). So did the following article — a translation for which SUEPO has just published. We’re appending it below along with highlights on bits we consider to be important/noteworthy/new.

LET NO MAN JUDGE …

International organizations often offer jobs to die for. But cases of arbitrary actions and bullying are piling up, with legal immunity preventing any action being taken to stop them

By PETRA SORGE Photos DIRK BRUNIECKI

Petra Sorge is a freelance journalist in Berlin. Her work has already taken her to many countries, and in 2017, with support from the European Journalism Centre, she investigated the Indian mining sector. But it was in Munich that she found out for the first time just how little employees can rely on the ILO, the International Labour Organization.

The right to legal recourse for Irishman Patrick Corcoran, 54, ends shortly after the Munich-Haar turnoff on the A 99. This is the territory of the European Patent Office (EPO), and even the German Basic Law no longer applies here. For years Corcoran had worked for the Boards of Appeal of the EPO as a judge, essentially deciding on whether patents had been correctly granted. That was until December 2014, when he fell under suspicion of having leaked internal information, and having slandered leading personnel at the Office. Corcoran was suddenly a kind of Number One Enemy of the State on the supranational territory. Frenchman Benoît Battistelli, President of the EPO, started a campaign of vengeance: He set spies on the Irishman, banned him from entering the building, engaged lawyers. Corcoran is today professionally ruined and psychologically shattered. The case of Judge Corcoran is a drastic example of what can go wrong not just at the European Patent Office, but at many other supranational organizations as well, such as the United Nations or the World Trade Organization. Because the organizations themselves, as well as their executives and employees often enjoy immunity, places come into being which are essentially almost outside the law, where only the rules apply which the particular organization has created for itself. If all goes well, the conditions of the job are something to dream about. But what happens if a system of despotic government comes into being within these authorities, under which nobody can protect themselves against pressure, bullying, or even contraventions of human rights?

The fact that there is more than just the Corcoran case has been shown in the interim by the 42nd demonstration by the international staff union at the European Patent Office (SUEPO). Some 300 employees gathered for the most recent event in March. They were not permitted to demonstrate on the premises of the Munich headquarters of the Office on the bank of the River Isar, and were diverted onto the street, blocked off by the police, in front of the black box of a building dating from the ‘seventies. SUEPO are accusing the Patent Office of using these tactics to restrict freedom of opinion and right of assembly, and they decry what they call the “autocratic management style” and “censure” of EPO boss Battistelli. Their slogan is a demand for nothing less than “basic rights now!” According to the Union, it has recently lost almost all its leading personnel: The General Secretary in The Hague has been dismissed. In Munich it met the President and the Vice President. The Treasurer has also been downgraded. SUEPO says that they were all only doing their jobs as staff representatives.

Photo: Stephan Elleringmann/Laif (pages 74 to 75), Antje Berghäuser (Author)

Are staff representatives being bullied out of a job at the EPO? The EPO Directorate, to which a German citizen also belongs in the person of Vice President Raimund Lutz, General Director for Law and International Affairs, denies this. According to them, SUEPO have “always rejected” any serious attempts at dialogue on the part of the management. Not only the union, however, but also former Federal Constitutional Court judge Siegfried Bross, consider much of what goes on at the five locations of the European Patent Office in Munich, Berlin, The Hague, Vienna, and Brussels as being unlawful. He says that “human rights are frequently being violated.” On instructions from US pharmaceutical concerns, Bross has prepared a thick dossier as an expert opinion on the status of the European Patent Convention with regard to constitutional law and the notion of a state governed by law, the act which led to the establishment of the Office in 1977. The task which was defined then was that the EPO should create incentive for companies to pursue innovations, and thereby secure jobs in Europe. In times of trade wars between the USA, China, and Europe threaten, this is needed more than ever.

THE DRAMA IS BEING PLAYED OUT on a stage without spotlights. A place outside the law, because the immunity of the supranational EPO circumvents any judicial supervision or control. President Battistelli, however, rejects the role of the villain of the piece. He sees himself in the role of the victim. The Press Office maintains that: “Since the introduction of the reform process, the EPO has been subjected to an unparalleled campaign of defamation”, with which the Office, and in particular its top management have been “seriously discredited”. The methods include “a personal smear campaign, defamations, personal threats, false information”. And the aim is “to damage severely the reputation of the Office”. Internal circulars bear this out: The Office is afraid of a campaign not only against Battistelli, but also against his second Vice-President, the Croatian Željko Topic. One of the chief suspects as far as the Office is concerned is Patrick Corcoran. Like all other EPO staff, he is not allowed to talk to journalists. Cicero does, however, have three reports in its possession, classified as “confidential”, concerning his case and dating from April and May 2016, totalling more than 180 pages. They are based on forensic analyses by the Investigative Unit, an EPO intelligence-gathering body, which almost has the powers of a secret service. According to the reports, the team secretly monitored Corcoran’s E-mails and PC’s, combed through his office, seized his private USB stick, took fingerprints. The EPO service regulations allow for the Unit to be brought in if there are accusations of defamation or molestation. In the Corcoran case, even people who were not involved at all were also put under scrutiny: The investigators prepared a publicly accessible computer with key loggers, which copy what the users are doing.

With Patrick Corcoran, according to the outcome of the trace analysis, “several thousand” files had been found. He was said to have sent numerous E-mail to senior State officials, Government leaders, journalists, or the European Parliament, apparently warning about “corruption in high places” and “nepotism”, and about a “Balkan Affair” involving Battistelli and Vice President Topic. Corcoran admitted having copies of these E-mails, but disputes having written them. The only factor which might contradict this is the sheer volume of the data. President Battistelli nevertheless ordered the suspension of the Irishman, on grounds of defamation. In these situations, EPO judges are not answerable to the Presidium but to the Administrative Council, which is intended to ensure internal independence. The Administrative Council agreed to the measure after the event, which is also against the regulations, and applied three times to the body of judges responsible, the Enlarged Boards of Appeal, to which Corcoran also once belonged, to have him suspended from office. But the judges declared the applications to be inadmissible, although they were obviously put under massive pressure by Battistelli. “All the members present of the Enlarged Boards of Appeal” regarded themselves as “under threat of disciplinary measures”, according to the decision of June 2016. “This undermines the fundamental principle of court independence.” Experts in international law have long criticised the fact that bodies of judges in many international organizations are not truly independent. The judges of such courts, such as at the World Trade Organization or the United Nations, are in most cases only temporary appointments, writes the Geneva-based attorney Matthew Parish. They are, however, often appointed by the head of the organization “against whom the complaints are being laid”. At the EPO, Benoît Battistelli accordingly ignored the Corcoran judgment. He persisted with the ban on entering the building, and together with Željko Topic even took out a private prosecution before the Munich Regional Court on grounds of defamation. In vain: There was apparently no proof that Corcoran was the originator of the E-mails, according to the findings of the Court in November 2017. But if Corcoran had not written the E-mails, then why were other obviously unhappy employees seeking an outlet to the outside? The conditions at the European Patent Office really do make it sound like the dream job: A patent examiner earns about 11,000 Euro a month, tax free. Since 2011 the salaries have gone up by 15 percent, says the EPO. Added to that are special payments and services, school money for the children, and the status of immunity. The only problem is that anyone who loses this has a bottomless pit to fall into: Insurance, pensions, disability benefits – everything depends on one institution.

Left: Former judge at the Federal Supreme Court Siegfried Bross is making serious
accusations
Top: No German labour law applies at the European Patent Office in Munich

WHEN BATTISTELLI BEGAN to trim the Office towards maximum efficiency, the mood at the EPO started to go downhill. Since he took office in 2010, he has increased the number of patents approved by 82 percent, to 106,000 in 2017, a new record. And, according to the Office, with operational costs coming down. He achieved this by introducing a new performance-related remuneration, and by screwing performance targets higher and higher. This year, according to the union, the staff are again supposed to commit themselves to a productivity increase, up by 10 to 20 percent over 2017. Battistelli is also congratulating himself on having days off sick cut by 40 percent. He has established medical snooping and monitoring units. A regulation – Circular 367 – states that persons off sick must be at home daily from 10.00 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 16.00, in case the Office doctor comes knocking. Anyone who is not at home is threatened with sanctions, including patients suffering from depression or burnout. Munich attorney Alexander Holtz counts up how many basic rights this ruling is infringing: “First, the general right of personality, second the right of integrity of the place of residence, and third also the needs and rights of family members, are all affected.” The Press Office states that: “The reforms will secure the future of the Office and make the EPO into a European success story”. The “success story” also includes the fact that in the past six years five employees have committed suicide. It has even happened directly at the place of work: According to SUEPO, at The Hague one man jumped out of the office window, and another hanged himself on the last day of his holiday. The union sees a connection with the Battistelli reforms. The EPO states that it is “most deeply concerned” about the suicides. But “against all principles of collegiality”, a number of isolated individuals have exploited the incidents “for political purposes”.

Why this unconditional growth course adopted at the Patent Office? All for the economy, and for Europe as a place of and for ideas? Even the world of industry is taking an increasingly sceptical view of this. At the end of 2016, the economic attorneys magazine Juve asked 168 technology companies how they assessed the quality of the patent issuing procedures at the EPO. 54 percent said that they were dissatisfied. A slim majority of 50.2 percent also saw defects in the appeal procedure. The question of how independent these are is at the present time also a cause of concern to the Federal Constitutional Court: Karlsruhe reports that four actions are pending relating to inadequate legal protection against decisions by the Boards of Appeal.

Munich patent attorney Gero Maatz-Jansen from the firm of Grünecker says that the EPO must not be allowed to become a profit centre. His expectation is that patent examiners should take their time to examine innovations thoroughly. His agency applied submits around 3,000 patents to the EPO annually. In earlier days, about half of these would have been granted; last year this suddenly shot up to more than 2,500. Maatz-Jansen is sceptical about this: “If the monopoly right which the applicants thereby acquire is examined too carelessly, and therefore cannot be put to use, then it’s worthless to them.” This poses a threat to the entire patent system. Has each of the patents really earned its name? Many EPO patent examiners have in the meantime begun issuing warnings themselves that they can no longer ensure the quality of their work. In mid-March, 924 of them wrote an open but anonymous letter, certified by a notary, to the Administrative Council: They were “far too often forced into the dilemma” of either striving for high quality or subjecting themselves to the orders from their superiors. The fear of sanctions is substantial. One of the few to speak out about the procedures at the EPO is Roland Klausecker, 44, a character with a three-day beard and a polo shirt. He calls by Skype from South Korea, where he works for car suppliers Schaeffler as Asian Regional Manager, Director of Tools and Prototypes. Following an accident, Klausecker is severely disabled by 18 to 100 percent: On his left side he is minus a hand, the sight in one eye, and his ear is also severely damaged. On the right side he is missing parts of his fingers. This has never impaired his performance. Klausecker studied production engineering at the University of Erlangen, became a member of the scientific staff, and then applied to the European Patent Office. He passed all the admission tests, and the specialists and experts were highly satisfied. The Office doctor had reservations: Klausecker was said to be fit for work, but the possibility could not be excluded that at some stage his right hand might be overstressed by working on the PC. Klausecker was screened out.

THE ORGANIZATION OF THE EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE

Member States
European Patent Office

monitors

Administrative Council
European Patent Convention

Boards of Appeal

Left: The staff have already demonstrated 42 times – to no effect

Had a German business acted like that, the legal system and anti-discrimination authorities would have reacted, with alacrity. Not so the European Patent Office. Klausecker took legal action. He was convinced that he had been discriminated against. He considered himself to be extremely fit: In 2010 he climbed Island Peak, a six thousand metre mountain in the Himalayas. In 2006 the Federal Constitutional Court declared that it did not have jurisdiction in the matter, because the EPO enjoys immunity. The European Court of Human Rights came up with a similar argument in 2015: The claim was inadmissible, because the EPO is a “legal person” and “not a party” to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Munich Office is therefore not bound by the document which the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe with their 820 million citizens all signed. For ten years Klausecker fought his legal fight, and the result was nothing. His court campaign makes it clear why it is almost impossible for employees, applicants, companies, and also ordinary citizens to pursue their rights with any success against an international organization. The ex-Constitutional Court judge Siegfried Bross summarised the legal situation surrounding the European Patent Office like this: “With such an organizational structure of an international organization, it would be possible, quite legally, to operate a Guantánamo right in the middle of Munich”. The Irishman Patrick Corcoran, in any event, sees himself as a victim of character assassination. A leak seems to have been responsible for this. In October 2015 the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that “something unbelievable” had apparently been found in his office: “Two clubs – and National Socialist propaganda material”, including nationalist songs and “prohibited emblems”. The newspaper attributed the findings to the EPO internal investigation unit.

WHERE DID THIS REPORT COME FROM? Did Battistelli make use of the press for his own personal game? Is Corcoran a right-wing extremist? His attorney, labour lawyer Senay Okyay, rolls her eyes at the question. “I would never defend anyone with right-wing extremist views!”. The young attorney sits in her somewhat unassuming office in Munich’s Stachus district. The walls are empty, but her desk is all the fuller. Files relating to EPO employees, including Patrick Corcoran. She says: “Yes, my client is a history geek, and he has collected historical material about Germany. But am I also a Nazi because I’ve got a book at home about Hitler?” What is striking in any event is that a month before the SZ article appeared the Enlarged Boards of Appeal had rejected Corcoran’s suspension from office. Neither this, nor the other judgments exonerating him have ever been published by the Office, which contravenes the Statutes. Instead, the leak reached the public. Although Corcoran was publicly pilloried, he did win another valuable judgment, before the Geneva-based Tribunal of the International Labour Organization, the ILO, the only court which might be in a position to plug the legal loopholes with regard to the supranationals. It is responsible for 58,000 employees in 62 international organizations. The snag: It is focused only on the legal framework which the international organization itself provides. British star attorney Geoffrey Robertson, who also defended the author Salman Rushdie, is convinced: The ILO court does not fulfil the human rights standards at issue. Not only because here too the judges can be caught out by their short terms of office, always only three years. Nor is there any “fair and open legal hearing”, since the judges decide on the presentation of records alone. Errored decisions cannot be scrutinised. There is no appellate instance. Corcoran only won before the ILO Tribunal because the EPO disregarded its own rulings and infringed the internal separation of powers. The judges decided that the Irishman should be “immediately” reinstated and that he should be paid 35,000 Euro in compensatory damages. To date, the EPO is refusing to give him back his old job. In February he was apparently offered a place at The Hague which was entirely divorced from his area of expertise, and 850 kilometres away from his home – “pure bullying”, says attorney Okyay. In between Corcoran has become ill, suffering, like a lot of people at the EPO, from severe depression. Okyay says: “My reward is that at least he’s still alive.” The ILO Tribunal is in reality powerless: It has neither the power to impose sanctions nor to enforce judgments. Even the suicides at the EPO did not come up for discussion at the Geneva Tribunal. And there’s more: At the end of January it decided that the Office had acted correctly when it fired the beleaguered staff representative Elizabeth Hardon. To this day, attorney Senay Okyay will not let the case go. This originally involved her client, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Bardelot, who actually had a different name. She remembers him as a good-natured bon viveur. In early 2012 he hanged himself in a Munich suburb. Okyay is convinced that the EPO could have prevented this. Bardelot had suffered from depression, but his superiors still initiated disciplinary procedures against him. She remembers a phone call. “The Office won’t stop until they have found some way to dismiss me.” He had even mentioned the planned suicide to two of his colleagues.

BENOÎT BATTISTELLI President

ŽELJKO TOPIC Vice-President Directorate-General Administration

RAIMUND LUTZ Vice-President Directorate- General Legal/ International Affairs

ALBERTO CASADO CERVIÑO Vice-President Directorate-General Patent Granting Process

THE EPO MANAGEMENT

Photos: European Patent Office (4)

Top: Internationality and immunity apply not only at the EPO in Munich

Left: Attorney Alexander Holtz speaks of infringement of fundamental rights

“This way it would be possible quite legally to operate a Guantánamo in the middle of Munich”

Attorney Senay Okyay fights for the rights of a number of EPO employees

STAFF REPRESENTATIVE ELIZABETH HARDON at that time wrote an E-mail via a union server in which she raised questions about Bardelot’s superior: “Many of us believe that the behaviour of the manager and the groundless attacks by the personnel executive contributed significantly to the death of the colleague. Formally, of course, the Office will deny any blame.” Someone from the server forwarded the confidential E-mail, and that was how President Battistelli got to hear about it. He engaged the Disciplinary Committee. This was unable to find that Hardon has committed any gross misconduct, but Battistelli ignored the advice of the experts – and downgraded Hardon. The judges at the Geneva ILO followed his justification that Hardon had “defamed” a colleague. Her behaviour had been “serious” and “incorrect”. Conversely, whether there could have been some truth in Hardon’s accusations was something the court never investigated. Instead, Battistelli was handed a blank cheque: He can also make decisions by the internal disciplinary bodies and the Boards of Appeal concur, provided that the appeal is “well founded in content”. A “frightful judgment” says Stefan Schennach, who chairs the Social Committee in the Council of Europe. “Why have a clearing body at all, if the chief executive is not bound by internal decisions?” The Austrian Social Democrat has concerned himself intensively with what goes on at the EPO. What has been reported to him from there in confidence, as well as from the branch in The Hague, he regards as “grievous despotism”. He has written a draft for a resolution calling on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to impose more transparency, more rule as a state of law, and higher social standards in international organizations. The recommendation speaks of “abuse of power”. This is directed not only at the EPO, but at all international organizations. Schennach describes the case of two wives of UN employees in Austria who asked him for help. Their husbands were divorcing them, but were refusing to provide separation allowances and maintenance payments for the children from the marriages. Because of the immunity for UN employees, the women were unable to claim either in Austria or in their original homelands. Even the United Nations did not feel responsible. Both the divorced women faced an uncertain future. Their residence was linked to the visas of the ex-husbands. The paper now being laid before the Council of Europe calls for the concept of immunity to be reined in, including in the EU. Schennach calls it “incomprehensible” that EU offshoots in the Member States can make recourse to diplomatic immunity even though they are only “outlying authorities of the Commission”. “Does the Bavarian representation in Berlin also enjoy immunity?” As well as this, all the international organizations should also be subjected to an independent adjudication authority, such as that of the Council of Europe or of courts which are still to be established. The Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe would have to agree to the draft resolution, however. And then, how could the reform be put into effect in real terms? Nevertheless, the EPO Administrative Council has openly declared that it needs a more socially competent President than Battistelli. Plans are for him to be succeeded as from July by the Portuguese António Campinos, hitherto the Director of the EU Intellectual Property Office in Alicante. The only problem is that he is regarded as Battistelli’s vassal. Since October, Germany has been holding a strategically important position: Chair of the EPO Administrative Council, with Christoph Ernst even being a Ministerial Councillor from the Justice Ministry. The Federal Justice Ministry has let it be known, however, that Germany, as an individual state, has “no powers of intervention or supervision”, and therefore has no authority of instruction in respect of the EPO. It is “obliged to follow the route by way of the organizational bodies of the Organization, and in that context is only one of 38 contracting states.”

Even the United Nations do not feel responsible

Expect more on this. This is like “part 1″…

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