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05.17.19

Q2 Midterm Weather Forecast for EPOnia, Part 4: Happy Birthday to the Kötter Group?

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

See part one, part two and part three for more background about this brewing European Patent Office (EPO) scandal

William Faulkner

Summary: This year the Kötter Group commemorates the 85th anniversary of its existence. But is it really a cause for celebration or would a less self-congratulatory approach be more fitting? And does it create the risk that a routine tendering exercise at the EPO will turn into Operation Charlie Foxtrot?

AS the Kötter Group commemorates its 85th anniversary it seems rather petty-minded to rain on their parade.

But despite the best efforts to maintain a festive mood, some mean-spirited party-poopers have pointed out that the official Internet pages contain little or no information about the Group’s early history.

“It’s a bit like those gaps in a person’s CV that can lead to awkward questions at the job interview…”As a matter of fact, there is a rather conspicuous lacuna between 1934 when it was founded as “Westdeutscher Wach- und Schutzdienst Fritz Kötter” and 1966 when it started to operate as a provider of security technology in the post-war Federal Republic of Germany.

Koetter services 85

It’s a bit like those gaps in a person’s CV that can lead to awkward questions at the job interview…

As a matter of fact, back in 2008 some awkward questions were already being asked by the Federal Association of Prison Officers in Germany (Bundesverband der Strafvollzugsbediensteten Deutschlands).

“The BSBD pointed out that Kötter had been founded in 1934 as a family business under the name “Westdeutscher Wach- und Schutzdienst Fritz Kötter” and that state approval for establishing such an enterprise would most certainly have been required at the time in question.”The BDSD is, as its name suggests, an organisation which represents the interests of officials working in the prison sector. It was reacting to an announcement from the Baden-Württemberg Justice Ministry about the results of a tendering procedure for the “outsourcing” of services at the Oldenburg state pentitentiary. On that occasion Kötter submitted the most competitive bid and was awarded the contract.

The BSBD pointed out that Kötter had been founded in 1934 as a family business under the name “Westdeutscher Wach- und Schutzdienst Fritz Kötter” and that state approval for establishing such an enterprise would most certainly have been required at the time in question.

It should be remembered that we are not talking about any old state here. This particular state had succumbed to totalitarian control just one year previously and its new leader proceeded to ruthlessly eliminate many of his domestic opponents during the infamous “Night of the Long Knives” at the end of June 1934

“Let’s have a guess: all the records went missing because there was a war on at the time? How convenient!”The BSBD concluded that “it would be interesting to find out what protective and security tasks the private company was entrusted with from that time until today.”

That is a question which has so far remained without a satisfactory answer.

The late Friedrich Karl Kötter (+ 2015), the son of the founder, wasn’t giving much away in a puff-piece published in the online industry journal Vernetzte Kompetenz im Sicherheitsmanagement (Veko online) in 2012 when made the following evasive comments about the company’s origins: “I was born on 27 February 1937 in the heart of the Ruhr area, in Wanne-Eickel, where I also spent my youth. Three years earlier my father Karl Friedrich had founded the company Westdeutscher Wach- und Schutzdienst Fritz Kötter, which was active not only in Germany but also in Holland. What exactly the field of work comprised at that time is no longer known.”

“You would think that the Kötters could have afforded to engage the services of a professional historian or two to properly research the Group’s corporate history for the occasion of its 85th anniversary.”Well fancy that now. Let’s have a guess: all the records went missing because there was a war on at the time? How convenient!

“Westdeutscher Wach- und Schutzdienst Fritz Kötter … was active not only in Germany but also in the Netherlands from 1934 onwards” …

For anybody familiar with 20th Century European history, particularly the occupation of the Netherlands during WWII, this should be enough to trigger the alarm bells and signal the proximity of a potential minefield!

Minen Mijnen

You would think that the Kötters could have afforded to engage the services of a professional historian or two to properly research the Group’s corporate history for the occasion of its 85th anniversary.

“Their gut instincts may have told them that there were some skeletons in the family cupboard that were best left to rest in peace.”On the other hand, it could be that the experiences of other German companies, such as the Bertlesmann Group back in 2002, made them wary about digging too deep into the history of the family business.

Their gut instincts may have told them that there were some skeletons in the family cupboard that were best left to rest in peace.

Skeleton in the closet

If this was the case, then their reliance on those gut instincts was not misplaced. According to informed sources, a preliminary trawl has confirmed that there are some rather disturbing cans of worms waiting to be opened in the relevant archives.

“…it would appear that he used the proceeds of his business activities for the purpose of acquiring a significant shareholding in at least one “aryanised” company in the retail sector.”Hopefully Campinos and his management team are able and willing to look beyond the managerial bottom line and to realise that, to quote William Faulkner, “The past is never dead.”

Insiders confidently predict that if a rigorous in-depth UXO Risk Management Analysis isn’t carried out before a final decision is taken on this matter, then Campinos and his team could end up being well and truly blown out of the water.

Explosives in water

The evidence gathered so far suggests that the company founder made a small fortune for himself in the occupied Netherlands due to a close association with the military-industrial complex of the Third Reich. And it would appear that he used the proceeds of his business activities for the purpose of acquiring a significant shareholding in at least one “aryanised” company in the retail sector.

But what’s the point in doing all the homework for Campinos and his generously remunerated managerial dweebs? Surely it’s not too much to expect them to do a bit of “due diligence” for themselves?

“EPO staff, especially the large Dutch contingent among them (almost 500 at the last count), are unlikely to be favorably impressed if the deal goes ahead as currently planned.”Before making any further revelations on this front let’s just sit back and see what they are able to come up with off their own bat between now and the BFC meeting later this month or at least before the Administrative Council takes the final decision at the end of June.

After the farcical “Nazi witch-hunts” of the Battistelli era, wouldn’t it be the height of irony to see the new EPO President signing off on a contract worth EUR 30 million which goes to a company having such a “flawed pedigree”?

EPO staff, especially the large Dutch contingent among them (almost 500 at the last count), are unlikely to be favorably impressed if the deal goes ahead as currently planned.

The writing is on the wall for everyone to see. If no effective pre-emptive action is taken on this one as a matter of urgency, then there is a very real danger that what started out as a routine tendering exercise will turn into Operation Charlie Foxtrot for Antonio the Unready and his loyal retainers.

Charlie Foxtrot

Let us hope that things do not come to such a sorry pass. But if they do, then he can’t say that he wasn’t warned in good time.

Nobody told me

On that note we conclude the Q2 Midterm Weather Forecast for EPOnia. An update in the form of an end-of-term report is planned for June.

Watch this space, folks…

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