11.28.19

Understanding Thierry Breton: Thierry and the EPO’s “Sun-King”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Overview

Understanding Thierry Breton

Further parts pending review and research


Atos headquarter
Atos headquarter on the banks of the Seine in Bezons

Summary: Revolving doors galore in the EPO, Atos, and French politics

The corporate headquarters of the French multinational Atos are located on the banks of the River Seine, on the Quai Voltaire in Bezons, a municipality located in the northwestern suburbs of the Greater Paris area.

Bezons is part of the administrative department of Val-d’Oise which borders on the neighbouring department of Yvelines where Saint-Germain-en-Laye is located.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Atos
Saint-Germain-en-Laye just a stone’s throw away from Bezons…

Saint-Germain is quite literally just around the corner – or perhaps more accurately just around the bend of the river – from Bezons.

So when Atos CEO Thierry Breton appeared as the guest of honour of EPO President Benoît Battistelli at the European Inventor Award extravaganza held in Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 7 June 2018 he didn’t have far to travel and he could pride himself on minimising his environmental footprint in accordance with company policy…

Atos and a car
Atos strives to minimise its environmental footprint…

Techrights readers will recall that Battistelli is a minor luminary of a notoriously corrupt and Libyan-funded mafia-like entity: the French political party known as the Union pour un mouvement populaire (UMP) which rebranded itself in 2015 as Les Républicains.

“In 2010 his close connections with the Sarkozy/Lagarde faction of the UMP helped him to move up in the world when he was parachuted in as head of the European Patent Office.”Battistelli has been involved in local politics for the UMP in Saint-Germain-en-Laye for many years as the deputy mayor for culture. In his day job he was a career civil servant who ended up as the head honcho at the French national intellectual property office (INPI).

In 2010 his close connections with the Sarkozy/Lagarde faction of the UMP helped him to move up in the world when he was parachuted in as head of the European Patent Office. Lagarde supported Battistelli’s candidacy as EPO president and issued a congratulatory press release following his election in 2010.

Battistelli in UMP
In 2010 INPI boss Battistelli was parachuted in as head of the EPO by the notoriously corrupt and Libyan-funded UMP under the leadership of Sarkozy

Once installed at the EPO, Battistelli proceeded to wreak havoc and conduct a managerial “reign of terror” over the next eight years. He was aided and abetted in this by his faithful sidekick, the “Great Dane” Jesper Kongstad, who according to insider sources at the EPO, is reported to have been in receipt of an upper-management salary (of the order of € 15K per month net of tax) which was allegedly paid to him “off the books”.

“It has been rumoured that Kongstad’s premature departure was linked to an internal Danish government investigation into the allegations that he had been illicitly pocketing a generous “supplementary income” from Battistelli from 2010 onwards.”Kongstad always strenuously denied these allegations but very few at the EPO are inclined to give much credit to his self-serving denials.

It’s a known fact that Kongstad had to step down unexpectedly from his position as AC chair in 2017. It has been rumoured that Kongstad’s premature departure was linked to an internal Danish government investigation into the allegations that he had been illicitly pocketing a generous “supplementary income” from Battistelli from 2010 onwards.

As Battistelli’s excesses at the EPO generated ever-increasing negative PR and he was openly denounced as a “disgrace” to France, he became an embarrassment to his political patrons.

“Kongstad always strenuously denied these allegations but very few at the EPO are inclined to give much credit to his self-serving denials.”His cronies on the EPO Administrative Council also started to fret about his managerial style and the increasing public scrutiny of EPO governance. In March 2016 they passed a resolution expressing “deep concerns” about the social unrest at the EPO. This turned out to be little more than a timid slap on the wrist. Subsequent events showed that the AC was nothing more than a “toothless tiger” that lacked the backbone and resolve to call its errant subordinate to account.

In the end Battistelli got off lightly. He was allowed to serve out the remainder of his term of office and ride off into the sunset with a golden parachute rumoured to have been of the order of € 600K.

Readers of Techrights will also be familiar with the European Inventor Award (EIA) ceremony, an annual multi-million Euro boondoggle shamelessly exploited by Battistelli and his cronies as a vehicle for self-aggrandisment.

The last event of Battistelli’s tenure was held on 7 June 2018 in the Théâtre Alexandre Dumas in Saint-Germain-en-Laye which came under his personal remit as deputy mayor for culture.

“One of these buddies, Atos CEO Thierry Breton, was selected as chairman of the jury for the EIA boondoggle in 2018.”In the normal course of events, such a curious “coincidence” would qualify as a textbook example of illicit influence-peddling and improper diversion of public funds.

But hey, folks, let’s not get too excited about such hypothetical irregularities. Remember that we’re talking about a “dangerous cocktail” of EPO immunity and French political intrigue.

In other words, “business as usual” for Benoît and his buddies.

One of these buddies, Atos CEO Thierry Breton, was selected as chairman of the jury for the EIA boondoggle in 2018.

Battistelli-Breton photo-op
Thierry Breton (right) with EPO boss Battistelli and the Secretary General of the cultural organisation Francophonie in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (7 June 2018)

The EPO Web page showing the composition of the 2018 jury has disappeared from the official website but an archived version is still accessible here.

“The EPO Web page showing the composition of the 2018 jury has disappeared from the official website…”The organisation of the EIA extravaganza is shrouded in impenetrable opacity and there isn’t a lot of openly available information about the connections between the two UMP foot-soldiers, Breton and Battistelli. So nobody can say for sure how Breton ended up as chair of the EIA jury in 2018.

At the moment we only have a few fragmentary pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. For the rest we have to rely on guesswork and speculation.

It has been noticed that, during Battistelli’s tenure at the EPO, Atos was awarded a number of juicy contracts for the provision of IT services at the EPO.

“It has been noticed that, during Battistelli’s tenure at the EPO, Atos was awarded a number of juicy contracts for the provision of IT services at the EPO.”EPO tendering procedures are another “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” where it is difficult to obtain detailed information. As far as can be determined, the EPO had never awarded any tenders to Atos prior to 2013.

Once upon a time back in 2002, that is to say well before the Battistelli era, Atos submitted an unsuccessful bid for the provision of “managed storage services, capacity management and related services” in accordance with the EPO International Open Tender 2002/0586/Tp.

On that occasion the bid was rejected due to non-compliance with the tender requirements. There is no record of any EPO contract being awarded to Atos over the next decade.

However, in 2014, as Battistelli was in the middle of his initial five-year term as EPO president, Atos was awarded a deal worth almost € 830 K under the terms of contract no. 2013/0207 which related to the provision of “business services”.

Atos money

In 2017, the initial contract was extended by a further € 1.7 million bringing the total value of the contract to around € 2.5 million.

Atos NL

Documents from 2018 reveal that as Battistelli’s reign at the EPO was drawing to a close Atos was awarded two more juicy contracts, one “for the provision of business analysis support services and business operational support services” worth a cool € 11 million and another “for the provision of Identity and Access Management services” worth almost € 5 million.

Atos and EPO

Atos NL millions

But it’s not just about a one-way cashflow from the EPO to Atos.

There are also indications of a transfer of “intangible cultural assets” in the reverse direction.

“There are also indications of a transfer of “intangible cultural assets” in the reverse direction.”Some insiders have pointed to an uncanny similarity between the management practices adopted at the EPO under Battistelli and those which Breton helped to pioneer in France from the 1990s onwards.

As explained by one commentator, “Breton-style management” is an expression that became idiomatic in France. It evokes “a way of managing by means of the exertion of considerable pressure on the employees of an organisation, relying heavily on recriminations and unachievable objectives in order to increase their productivity”.

This was how Breton established his reputation as a “cost killer” at France Telecom where he was appointed CEO in 2002. It was also how he eroded the morale of the company’s employees in record time, with the tragic consequences that are all too well known.

Breton-style management
French union members in Paris at the trial of France Télécom executives who pursued “Breton-style management” practices (May 2019)

During his time at Atos Breton is reputed to have introduced quotas for “low performers”. This refers to a practice where the ability of firm’s employees to achieve their objectives is assessed on an annual basis and where it is stipulated in advance that 20% are to be rated as “unsatisfactory”, i.e., effectively branded as potential candidates for dismissal.

“The similarities between “Breton-style management” and the EPO’s “Social Democracy à la sauce Battistelli” are so pronounced that it’s difficult to believe that they are purely coincidental rather than a deliberate “cultural enrichment” of EPO flowing from the clandestine off-radar collaboration between Breton and Battistelli.”Setting a predetermined quota for the number of “incompetent” staff is an idea that appealed to Battistelli and he was keen to implement it at the EPO. However, his successor Campinos seems to have back-pedalled on that one – at least for the moment – following resistance from the staff union at the EPO.

The similarities between “Breton-style management” and the EPO’s “Social Democracy à la sauce Battistelli” are so pronounced that it’s difficult to believe that they are purely coincidental rather than a deliberate “cultural enrichment” of EPO flowing from the clandestine off-radar collaboration between Breton and Battistelli.

Breton’s connections with Battistelli should not be regarded solely as a case of cross-border money and influence trafficking by UMP cronies. The Atos CEO is likely to have been interested in cultivating the relationship in the hope of furthering his own IT business interests.

“He has invested considerable effort in trying to position Atos as a “European champion” in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and it is probable that Atos hopes to jump on the “Hey Hi” patenting bandwagon which has been gathering steam in recent years.”Breton has been keenly aware of the commercial and monetary value of patents since his time at Thomson Multimedia due to the significant revenue generated by that company’s “IP portfolio”. Thomson’s records show that in 1998 its income from patents and IP licencing agreements was already a modest but respectable € 67 million. After it began reaping revenues from RCA patents in 1999, this rose to € 278 million in 1999 and by 2002 it had reached a whopping € 506 million.

So Breton would have had little difficulty in understanding the strategic value of having his own personal hotline to the 10th floor penthouse of the EPO Isar Building.

He has invested considerable effort in trying to position Atos as a “European champion” in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and it is probable that Atos hopes to jump on the “Hey Hi” patenting bandwagon which has been gathering steam in recent years.

Atos hey hi
Thierry getting ready to jump on the “Hey Hi” patenting bandwagon?

The first step in this direction took place in December 2010 when Atos and Siemens announced their intention to form a global strategic partnership to create a “European IT champion”. The planned partnership involved Atos acquiring Siemens IT Solutions and Services for the sum of €850 million.

Atos was advised on the deal by Rothschild & Cie Banque and the key Rothschild contact was a certain Emmanuel Macron. The deal was completed following approval by Atos shareholders at an Extraordinary Shareholders Meeting on 1 July 2011.

Siemens will expand financing opportunities for its customers with its own bank /  Atos Origin und Siemens gründen führenden europäischen IT-Service-Dienstleister
Siemens and Atos CEOs announcing a “global strategic partnership” (December 2010)

Shortly afterwards at a press conference to announce the EPO’s annual results in March 2012 Siemens was honoured as “Europe’s leading innovator in 2011″ and Battistelli appeared in a photo-op with Siemens CEO Peter Löscher.

Press conference: Battistelli and Siemens
Battistelli presenting a certificate to Siemens CEO Peter Löscher (March 2012)

It remains unclear if this was just a coincidence or whether it was part of a co-ordinated campaign orchestrated by Battistelli and Breton to “love-bomb” the newly acquired German partner of Atos with unctuous Gallic charm.

“Shortly afterwards at a press conference to announce the EPO’s annual results in March 2012 Siemens was honoured as “Europe’s leading innovator in 2011″ and Battistelli appeared in a photo-op with Siemens CEO Peter Löscher.”Whatever the truth of the matter may be, Atos has continued to develop the AI branch of its operations.

Earlier this year, in September (copy here [PDF] without paywalls), it announced the opening of its first AI Laboratory in Germany. To be more precise: in Munich where the EPO headquarters are located.

Annette Maier and Breton
Annette Maier, Managing Director Google Cloud DACH, Thierry Breton, Atos CEO and Ursula Morgenstern, CEO Atos Germany at the opening of the AI Lab in Munich

Battistelli may have departed the Bavarian capital and returned to his old stomping-ground in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. But this doesn’t mean that Thierry’s hotline to the 10th floor of the EPO’s Isar Building has been disconnected.

Let’s not forget that one of the members of the European Inventor Award jury in 2018 was none other than Battistelli’s designated successor, EUIPO boss António Serge de Pinho Campinos.

“Let’s not forget that one of the members of the European Inventor Award jury in 2018 was none other than Battistelli’s designated successor, EUIPO boss António Serge de Pinho Campinos.”The EIA boondoggle at the Théâtre Alexandre Dumas in June 2018 would have provided an ideal opportunity for some bonding between Breton, Battistelli and his successor Campinos over a few bottles of expensive French plonk, preferably some Mouton Rothschild.

Although he is reputed to hold French citizenship, Campinos has no known connections to the UMP. But he is a long-serving member of the EU technocratic elite and has spent much of his career working at the EUIPO (formerly OHIM) which comes under the remit of the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship.

And as if we haven’t encountered enough revolving doors already, the next Commissioner for the Internal Market is none other than … wait for it, folks … former Atos CEO, Thierry Breton!

Breton buys democracy
The newly appointed EU Commissioner for the Internal Market…

So it can be seen that all the preconditions for a smooth and fruitful working relationship between the president of the EPO and the next Commissioner for the Internal Market are already in place.

“And as if we haven’t encountered enough revolving doors already, the next Commissioner for the Internal Market is none other than … wait for it, folks … former Atos CEO, Thierry Breton!”It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the new Commissioner decides to include a visit to the EPO in Munich as part of his initial tour of duty in the coming weeks… let’s just wait and see…

And if all those revolving doors haven’t made you too dizzy, stay tuned for the next and final part of this series where we will take a look at how Thierry ended up in his latest position as “Macron’s joker” in Brussels.

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