04.10.21

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EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Part 12: A Worthy Successor to His Mentor?

Posted in Europe, Finance, Patents at 2:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Series index:

  1. The EPO Bundestagate — Part 1: How the Bundestag Was (and Continues to be) Misled About EPO Affairs
  2. The EPO Bundestagate — Part 2: Lack of Parliamentary Oversight, Many Questions and Few Answers…
  3. The EPO Bundestagate — Part 3: A “Minor Interpellation” in the German Bundestag
  4. The EPO Bundestagate — Part 4: Parroting the GDPR-Compliance Myth
  5. The EPO Bundestagate — Part 5: The Federal Eagle’s Disconcerting Metamorphosis
  6. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Part 6: Dr Petri Starts the Ball Rolling…
  7. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Part 7: Ms Voßhoff Alerts the Bundestag…
  8. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Part 8: The EPO’s Tweedledum, Raimund Lutz
  9. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Part 9: A Veritable Virtuoso of Legal Sophistry
  10. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Part 10: A Faithful Lapdog Despised and Reviled by EPO Staff
  11. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Appendix (Benoît Battistelli’s Vichy Syndrome): Georges Henri Léon Battistelli and Charles Robert Battistelli
  12. EPOLeaks on Misleading the Bundestag — Part 11: The BMJV’s Tweedledee: Dr Christoph Ernst
  13. You are here ☞ A Worthy Successor to His Mentor?

Christoph Ernst money series
Ernst’s professional background is in taxation law and corporate accounting standards.

Summary: We examine the role of Christoph Ernst in EPO management, both in the Benoît Battistelli era and the António Campinos era (plenty to hide)

Christoph Ernst’s sudden rise to prominence in the governance circles of the European Patent Organisation is somewhat enigmatic in view of the fact that his professional background and expertise lies in the area of taxation law, corporate accounting and financial reporting standards.

“…there is no indication that he had any prior involvement with IP and patent law matters before 2011, when his name first crops up in the records of the Administrative Council as the new head of the German delegation following the appointment of Raimund Lutz as EPO Vice-President.”Puff pieces which have appeared the IP media have regularly claimed that Ernst has “extensive knowledge of intellectual property”. However, there is no indication that he had any prior involvement with IP and patent law matters before 2011, when his name first crops up in the records of the Administrative Council as the new head of the German delegation following the appointment of Raimund Lutz as EPO Vice-President.

We remind readers that during the first decade and a half of his career at the German Justice Ministry, Ernst had languished in relative obscurity as a humble Undersecretary (“Ministerialrat”) working in the area of financial reporting and accounting standards.

Back in those days his public profile was limited to occasional appearances as an guest speaker at the annual symposia of little-known academic discussion groups for economic policy wonks such as the Ulm Forum for Economic Studies (“Ulmer Forum für Wirtschaftswissenschaften”).

Christoph Ernst in 2006
Ernst as a guest speaker at an obscure policy wonks’ symposium in 2006.

Ernst’s career at the Justice Ministry started to take off following his appointment as head of the BilMoG project. From 2007 onwards he was suddenly in great demand as a guest speaker at various corporate accounting events [PDF] sponsored by the likes of Handelsblatt and Price Waterhouse Coopers. His newly acquired popularity in these circles was due to his insider knowledge of the impending reform of corporate accounting law.

Christoph Ernst banking
Due to his insider knowledge of the BilMog, Ernst was in great demand as a guest speaker at corporate accounting events sponsored by the likes of Handelsblatt and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

In May 2010 Ernst was promoted to the position of Deputy Director General (“Ministerialdirigent”) in the Justice Ministry´s Commercial and Intellectual Property Law Department.

In April 2011, shortly after Lutz had taken up his new post as EPO Vice-President, Ernst was appointed as his successor to head the German delegation on the EPO’s Administrative Council.

After that whenever Lutz turned up for a photo-op at some IP junket or EPO extravaganza, Ernst was almost certain to be seen in close proximity, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat.

The pictures below show Lutz with Ernst at a junket organised by the German Federal Patent Court in 2011 and with Boards of Appeal President (Carl Josefsson) and the Mayor of Haar (Gabriele Müller) at the formal inauguration of the new Boards of Appeal premises in Haar in December 2017. (warning: epo.org link)

Christoph Ernst and Lutz
Ernst was frequently seen in the company of EPO Vice-President Lutz (these photos are from 2011 and 2017, left and right respectively).

For EPO staff, Ernst’s tenure as Chair of the Administrative Council was hugely disappointing because he turned out to be every bit as subservient to Battistelli as his predecessor, Kongstad.

Although Ernst was described as a “moderate critic” of Battistelli by JUVE in June 2017 (copy here [PDF]), it soon became clear that he was – as Techrights put it – "just a megaphone of Battistelli’s EPO" and – just like Kongstad – another one of "Battistelli's protectors".

Indeed it hardly seems to be an exaggeration to say that following Ernst’s appointment as Chairman of the Council, Battistelli ended up with not just one but two subservient German “Duckmäuser” at his disposal: one in-house, in charge of his Legal and International Affairs Department, and the other conveniently in charge of the Organisation’s governing body.

In June 2018 – as Battistelli’s departure from the EPO was imminent – Kluwer Patent Blog published a farewell article about the “tarnished reputation of an EPO President”.

At around the same time Techrights reported on calls for Ernst “to be forced by national politicians to step down with immediate effect”.

However, it would appear that the main concern of Ernst’s boss, Justice Minister Heiko Mass, was to preserve the German share of the “loot” from the EPO’s "Dukatenesel". Maas would never have dared to upset the apple cart by calling his “Ministerialdirigent” to account.

And Ernst, for his part, had no intention of falling on his own sword voluntarily.

Au contraire, as he approached the statutory retirement age in 2018, he allowed himself to be rewarded by his buddies on the Administrative Council with a cushy little sinecure [PDF] as the next EPO Vice-President for International and Legal Affairs.

Christoph Ernst revolving doors
In 2018, Ernst was rewarded by his buddies on the Council with a well-paid sinecure as EPO Vice-President.

Thus, in addition to his entitlement to a generous public sector pension for previous service in the Justice Ministry, Ernst is now in receipt of a juicy five-digit monthly tax-free salary as an EPO Vice-President.

Unfortunately, his track record as Vice-President so far has been every bit as disappointing as his earlier track record as Administrative Council Chairman – although cynics might be inclined to say that he is indeed a worthy successor to his mentor Raimund Lutz.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ernst was rarely seen on EPO premises. During 2019, he seems to have spent most of his time on “duty missions” travelling to attend various IP junkets and boondoggles around the globe, particularly in the Far East.

He has also been implicated in the "Doyen for a Yen" scandal where the former Vice-President Željko Topić managed to become a European Patent Attorney without passing the European Qualifying Examination.

As reported by Techrights, Topić’s bogus application to be registered as a European Patent Attorney must have been rubber-stamped by EPO Directorate 5.2.3 which falls under the responsibility of Christoph Ernst as Vice President of DG5.

Furthermore, Ernst has conspicuously failed to press for the adoption of appropriate measures to ensure that the EPO’s data protection framework is truly fit for purpose for the twenty-first century.

Instead of doing what badly needs to be done in this regard, Ernst seems to be content to sit on his hands and continue peddling the untenable EPOnian myth of GDPR-compliance which he inherited from his mentor Lutz.

In the next part we will continue our review of Ernst’s role in EPO affairs by looking into the failed promise of a self-styled “good governance” guru.

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