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06.27.19

The EPO Has Successfully Muzzled the Media

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It has also blocked Techrights for nearly half a decade now and only because it’s one avenue for staff’s speech (IP Kat was temporarily blocked until it stopped writing critically about the EPO).

Traffic calming device

Summary: Workers of the European Patent Office (EPO) are not being listened to by the European/mainstream media, which is more interested in covering things that the EPO pays it to cover (managers wasting EPO budget) than in actual news which concerns the lives of thousands of well-meaning people and the European economy

EARLIER this week we complained about lack of media coverage about EPO scandals. We are certain that all EPO staff is aware of that; the media sort of stopped covering the matter as if António Campinos just magically fixed the legacy/policies of Battistelli by virtue of appointment/start of service. Never mind if software patents are still being granted, quality of patents is in general declining and staff comes under constant, never-ending attacks (with a Campinos smile accompanying those attacks). All we find in the media this week is a bunch of puff pieces like “Erema executives win European Inventor Award 2019″ (Plastics News). The EPO wants these puff pieces everywhere/dominant ahead of the meeting of the Administrative Council’s heads. The timings aren’t likely to be a coincidence. It is strategic. Piggybacking the accomplishments of scientists to associate the EPO with progress.

Comments about the EPO are pretty explosive this week, but only the comments. To quote the latest from Kluwer Patent Blog, we presume posted by EPO insiders past and/or present:

Perhaps the answer behind EPO’s chaotic management is to be found here: http://techrights.org/2019/06/05/drunk-on-power/

Apparently, what is reported in this article seems to be confirmed by several internal sources. It would even be a recurrent pattern e.g. dinner with EPI representatives, or dinner with high producers, also in Delft (NL)

The current EPO president is de facto relying on Battistelli’s minions to run the EPO for him who has no time to work since life has so many facets to enjoy.

Then the Administrative Council (AC) is brought up:

It will be interesting to see what decisions are taken at the upcoming meeting of the AC.

If the AC were intent on fulfilling its supervisory role, one might expect it to be alarmed by the truly terrifying results of the staff survey, and to instruct the President to take corrective action.

Also, one might expect the AC to dig into the details of the financial study, to chide the President for making unreasonable assumptions (in an apparent attempt to create the misleading impression that the EPO is in financial crisis), and to consign the study to the waste bin.

These two points are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many other issues to which a fully functional AC would turn its attention (such as important ILO judgements still not yet implemented, to name just one).

Judging from their recent track record, it seems that the AC is unlikely to be motivated to do much other than take actions that either preserve or increase the flow of funds from the EPO to the national offices. Provided that a proposal from the President satisfies that objective, then it seems that pretty much anything goes for the current AC. Thus, whilst I would very much like to be disproven on this point, I suspect that we will see the AC rubber-stamping yet further proposals that reap financial benefits for those in the club but that do nothing to help make the EPO fit for purpose.

Applicants and the public deserve better. But there is no way that they will ever get what they deserve unless and until the EPC member states remove the conflicts of interest that make AC members so motivated by money. In this regard, it is perhaps no coincidence that the era of serious troubles at the EPO began not so long after the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

And finally (for the time being):

To those who wonder what an “agile culture” is, please have a look at how France Telecom was driven to folly due to a HR management similar to that of the EPO (under Battistelli the EPO had a suicide rate similar to that of France Telecom. None of the cases reported by the central staff committee was investigated since Battistelli refused independent enquiries by competent local authorities).

In concrete terms, an “agile culture” means getting rid of elderly staff under permanent employment (too expensive) at all costs to replace them by far cheaper younger ones (lacking experience and badly trained), who will work under time-limited contracts. New recruits at EPO will not have the luxury to enjoy a pension since the undeclared aim of HR is to getting rid of them at the end of their 2nd and last time-limited contract, precisely before they qualify to pension rights.

But my friends do not worry: of course, HR top management will always make sure that favourites, friends and family members get a permanent position and a decent pension

Almost nobody in the media covers any of these concerns. As we explained earlier this week, those who did cover such matters more or less vanished. We can imagine the publisher/employer did not like that. People whom we contacted about this have not replied.

IPPro Magazine’s Ben Wodecki, who used to write mostly EPO puff pieces, is gradually becoming more like his colleague, Barney, having just mentioned the latest from the Central Staff Committee:

Proposed ‘quick fixes’ at the European Patent Office (EPO) would aid the “alarmingly slow” social dialogue, according to a letter to the office’s Central Staff Committee (CSC).
Changes proposed by the CSC including alterations to the time budget, general provision definitions, and exemptions for staff committee members.

In a letter to EPO president António Campinos, the CSC wrote that while the group were “optimistic” regarding making positive changes, the pace of progress by the office “has been alarmingly slow” in the Working Groups “Resources and Communication” and “Adjustment to the performance management system and procedure for incompetence”.

The CSC urged the office to “pick up the pace” in relation to these Working Groups.

The tenure of former EPO president Benoît Battistelli was dogged with criticism over staff measures. Campinos had pledged to alter the measures, but his administration has been accused of being slow at making the necessary changes.

Slow? They barely make any changes at all, except changes for the worse. In the next post we shall show leaks to that effect.

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