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07.07.18

One Week of António Campinos at the EPO: Early Uncertainty

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Elizabeth Hardon was virtually forced to retire and Patrick Corcoran is reportedly hospitalised (in spite of their innocence)

Glasses on calendar

Summary: António Campinos completes a week’s work at the European Patent Office, but our main concern or reservation is that he is not doing anything to assure staff and stakeholders that the Office takes justice seriously

WE WOULD genuinely anticipate and very honestly like to think that the scandals can be left behind. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? But in order for that to happen we need to observe change and remorse. We haven’t quite seen that yet.

“Unless Patrick Corcoran and Elizabeth Hardon get their jobs back (as difficult as it may be given their frustration), we’re just left assuming that President Campinos has done nothing to restore a sense of justice, let alone justice itself.”Among the many articles posted about Battistelli’s last (and in some sense horrific) week was this Heise report about his attack on justice and attack on the staff union. SUEPO’s translation [PDF] of this article appeared online just before the weekend (in its Web site). Highlighted below are two reminders that the judge is still not back, a SUEPO leader was compelled to end her career (after Battistelli had threatened to take away some of her pension too) and the other two staff representatives have not yet received a sign of reassurance/compliance (with ILO-AT’s rulings) from António Campinos, not to mention other staff representatives who have not yet had their ‘hearings’ (ILO does not offer an opportunity to actually speak). Here is the translation:

Union members of the European Patent Office win claim against dismissal

(Picture: dpa, Frank Leonhardt)

The International Labour Organization has upheld claims by three union members against the European Patent Office. It has suspended demotions and dismissals.

Shortly before the end of his term in office, on 30 June 2018, the President of the European Patent Office (EPO) Benoît Battistelli has had his ears boxed, in public. The Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization (ILOAT) has found in favour of three leading members of the EPO staff union SUEPO in their claims against the disciplinary measures and dismissals which he imposed. The EPO, as a supranational organization, is not subject to any national law. When it comes to labour law disputes, the ILOAT has exclusive jurisdiction.

With his decisions, Battistelli overrode the findings of the disciplinary commission responsible at the EPO in 2016. The commission only wanted to demote the union executive Ion Brumme within the EPO hierarchy, but the President fired him instead. For the Treasurer of the EPO union, Malika Weaver, the commission imposed a block on promotion for three years, which Battistelli turned into a demotion.

Illegal decisions right from the start

The ILOAT ruled in its decisions 4042 and 4043 that the decisions by the disciplinary commission itself were already illegal. They rested essentially on the accusation that the accused has made “confidential” EPO documents accessible to the public. The ILOAT decisions pointed out that the authorities had not been able to provide any clear definition of
confidentiality. It ruled that both claimants should be reinstated in their appropriate positions, as well as awarding them damages and 5 percent interest on lost salary payments.

In the case of SUEPO chief executive Elizabeth Hardon, likewise fired by Battistelli in 2016, the ILOAT likewise found in favour of the claimant, but she had already agreed with the EPO on early retirement as at 1 July 2018.

Double victory for dismissed judge

The ILOAT has already ruled in favour of a former judge of the EPO Board of Appeal in proceedings at the end of 2017. He had been suspended in a doubtful procedure due to “defamation”. The Tribunal demanded in its decision 3958, among other things, that the judge be allowed with immediate effect to enter the EPO building again, and that he be compensated for the suspension. It ruled that in the proceedings Battistelli had taken decisions regardless of a manifest conflict of interests, and that rules of procedure had been broken. At the same time as the decision by the ILOAT, Munich Regional Court ruled that there were no adequate grounds for suspicion with regard to the criminal charges made against the suspended judge.

Constant conflicts with the staff

During Benoît Battistelli’s term of office, the European Patent Office has constantly been rocked by conflicts between the management and staff. Among other issues, SUEPO has criticised the increasing pressure, which has led to less thorough examination of patent applications. The EPO also imposed unannounced visits by doctors to employees who had reported sick, and installed keyloggers on publicly accessible computers in the service building. (Christian Kirsch) / (ck)

Much has been published and much has been said over the past fortnight. An anonymous comment from “EPO staff is waiting for a CLEAR SIGNAL of change” is worth reproducing. It says a bunch of things about Wednesday:

Mr Campinos yesterday invited each of us to a one-to-one meeting with him to give inputs and ideas on “what can still be improved”. While being positively surprised for such a change of attitude, it will take a VERY long time until we begin to trust a President of the EPO again.

Therefore, I dare posting here a couple of remarks [between square brackets below], sure that they will get to him somehow. In particular, I’ll just comment a few passages of the “Letter of Motivation” that he sent to the EPO when he applied for his post and that it was published on our Intranet yesterday.

“Attracting, training, developing and retaining talent must be at the heart of EPO HR policies, as should be nurturing fairness, gender and nationality balances”.
[Please do ask EPO HR the latest statistics on “attracting, training, developing and retaining” talents. Tell them that you’d like to see the ‘real numbers’]

“The EPO should provide its staff with a clear understanding of its strategic goals, making their contributions more meaningful and thus developing a clear sense of professional purpose”.
[Good point. For the time being we have no idea what the “strategic goal” and the “professional purpose” of firing out grants and running out of dossiers in most of the technical fields might have been]

“Merit must be rewarded and celebrated”
[Only the high-producers are rewarded. And nobody knows who they are].

“Team work, and teleworking, where appropriate, should be developed”
[Teamworking is dead. Teleworking is seen as a relief from seeing colleagues against which you have been obliged to compete in the same rat race].

“Managers should be called upon to improve their communication skills, and through communication, ensure a better alignment within the organisation”.
[Examiners have even become afraid of their directors. There are no directorate meetings anymore. All available time is to be devoted uniquely to ‘production’].

“Social dialogue must be renewed and tensions eased, through the development of a culture that favours compromise, not losing sight of the EPO’s long term sustainability”. To this extent, I am sincerely committed to reach and hold common ground with the EPO’s social partners”.
[Yes! This is the way to go. Good luck Mr President]

I’d like to conclude with the last words he pronounced on his presentation video, made available yesterday as well: “If we are work together we can shape an EPO we are all proud of”
[AGAIN].

Unless Patrick Corcoran and Elizabeth Hardon get their jobs back (as difficult as it may be given their frustration), we’re just left assuming that President Campinos has done nothing to restore a sense of justice, let alone justice itself. Moreover, we have not yet seen any evidence of SUEPO regaining confidence to speak out freely, SUEPO’s representatives being compensated/reinstated, and others like Prunier being invited back to their job (even without ILO-AT getting involved, which can take a year if not years).

“It’s just a PR/face change fronting for Team Battistelli.”When Campinos came, a week after the rulings from ILO-AT, we actually thought — not just hoped — that he would openly make peace with SUEPO. Instead, all we have seen from Campinos is UPC lobbying, accompanied by a press release full of lies and a ‘blog’ post (Battistelli’s ‘blog’). So we’re not so hopeful and not even cautiously optimistic ahead of his second week. What a disappointment; a man of words, not of deeds. It’s just a PR/face change fronting for Team Battistelli.

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