Privatising the NHS and compromising privacy of every Brit with foreign entities
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia
Summary: The worst privacy violator in the world and the firm behind LSE failures are pocketing as much as £0.35 billion of British taxpayers’ money to acquire access to very sensitive data of British people
IT IS being reported in the British media that the NHS, which is gradually moving to adopt more and more Free/libre software, has just given a contract to Microsoft minion Accenture (article by IDG). £0.35 billion are to be spent on mail alone; that’s just crazy! That’s a big — even colossal! — mistake for the NHS to make when budget is tight and the Conservatives try to kill or privatise it. A lot of money for Microsoft/Accenture means that a degree of privatisation is happening here. “The same crew that did in the stock exchange,” iophk notes regarding the role played by Accenture. The article says “NHSmail has almost a million registered accounts and 730,000 active users. It has been running on Microsoft’s Exchange platform since 2009. Accenture is yet to confirm which IT systems it will use.” What a ripoff. £0.35 billion for less than a million users? What a heist! They should have gone with Free software and a British Free software consultancy. But since Conservatives like Cameron insist that encryption is such a nasty thing, no wonder an insecure proprietary alternative might be sought. Need PRISM (and by extension the NSA) be mentioned here?
Several days ago an article was published titled “The NHS must embrace open source to improve”. No doubt that’s true. The article says: “This is according to CIO at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust Rachel Dunscombe, who we recently caught up with to learn more about the transformation facing the UK healthcare system.
“Dunscombe told us that she is a strong supporter of open source in the NHS because it removes many of the risks presented by using proprietary products.”
The risks presented by proprietary products are not just to budget (disproportionately high cost) but also to patients. There have been stories about unencrypted data leaks and this new report from the British press [via Slashdot, which amended the post], calling out Windows, recalls Stuxnet and shows how using Microsoft Windows yourself helps your enemies (espionage): “Malware probers Tillmann Werner, of Crowdstrike, and Felix Leder, of BlueCoat, say the clever cyber-spy tool – said to have put back Iran’s nuclear program by two years – was on the brink of failure thanks to buggy code.
“Stuxnet had to remain undetected to the Iranians or else it would have blown the operation. Unfortunately, a programming blunder would have allowed it to spread to PCs running older and unsupported versions of Windows, and probably causing them to crash as a result. Those blue screens of death would have raised suspicions at the Natanz nuclear lab.”
And Windows continues to be used in British healthcare. This is insane. Another report from IDG in the UK helps Microsoft pretend to care about privacy (see “Microsoft moves to address customers’ concerns about cloud control and transparency”) while it’s actively providing the NSA with back doors, such as those which enabled sabotage in Iran.
If the NHS is serious about money savings and about privacy of patients, then it must immediately drop Windows and other Microsoft traps. As this British report from the other day serves to remind us, Windows ‘sales’ still are falling, largely due to GNU/Linux. It says that “Microsoft has weathered a tough three months, and despite signs of growth in cloud computing, Redmond saw its sales dragged down by dwindling demand from consumers.” Now recall the article above, “Microsoft moves to address customers’ concerns about cloud control and transparency”. Microsoft now wants the NHS to give Microsoft its data, using buzzwords like the ‘cloud’ nonsense. It is clear that the NHS should reject all that and just self-host using Free/libre Open Source software instead. It would cost far less than £0.35 billion and be more reliable, secure, etc. █
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Lives of ordinary Europeans silently compromised
Summary: The European Patent Office and European Commission promote the agenda of large multinational corporations (at the expense or European citizens) and critics are being kept at bay
Ahead of the May 5th Unitary Patent decision we have been hoping for stronger action and a push/effort that puts the underlying issues in European media. Sadly, however, it has been quiet on this front. Secrecy plays a role in this relative calm. If Europeans knew what was going on and what was really at stake, they would be up in arms, marching in the streets everywhere (hundreds of millions of them). Ignorance — induced by silence or passivity — works in favour of the rich looters. Most people are just too lazy or too apathetic to study these issues, which tie into several other issues that do in fact have Europeans marching in the streets (many protests reported last week and this week).
For the uninitiated, the Unitary Patent can lead to software patents (and with them patent trolls) in Europe. The Unitary Patent offers a lot to large corporations and just about nothing to ordinary European citizens. It’s corporations-led and plutocrats-steered globalisation — like that which we find in TPP and similar treaties that have nothing to do with ‘freedom’ or ‘trade’, just passage of wealth from the bottom to the top (trickle-up effect).
Over in the United States, software patents continue getting weaker, but it doesn’t prevent opportunists from making self-promotional noise. Here is press releases celebrating software patents earlier this month and another couple of brags about software patents. As we shall show another day, however, the real trend is the demise of software patents, especially once they reach the court. This is why the vocation of patent courts in Europe matters so much. It’s a hugely important decision, but the public is not contacting European officials.
In the US, even automobile companies (remember where the first software patent came from, granted to Martin Goetz) acquire patents on software. As this month’s report from “Fortune” Magazine put it, “the automaker has also been getting into the software space, according to patenting data, which shows that GM filed 592 software patents over the past five years, accounting for over 15% of their patenting activity.”
Well, Europe has a large automobile industry (engines manufacturing for example) and with it there’s the risk of patents on software creeping in. Some companies sure are working on it and amid USPTO misconduct (glorifying patents by manipulating the process; see this related new propaganda from patent lawyers’ media) we should keep alert. Those who are familiar with controversial ‘trade’ treaties in the EU ought to know by now the role of automobile giants in selling out European citizens.
The EPO, whose current management is dominated by large and greedy corporations, increasingly copies the USPTO for increased private profits, introduced by poor quality patents that include software patents.
Referring to the Unitary Patent, Dr. Glyn Moody now writes that it shows “Why is EU Pushing Itself into Irrelevance” (he frames this as a question).
“Although I haven’t written about the Unitary Patent for a while now,” Moody says, “it hasn’t gone away – alas. Instead, it is still grinding through the ratification process that is necessary before it comes into force. There are many questions about how it will work in practice, and whether it will offer any real benefits to European companies. So it’s strange that the European Commission recently came out with a total puff-piece on the subject, which tries to convince people that it’s all going to be great. As you will see if you click on that link, that puff-piece also seems to have disappeared, which is rather telling (if anyone finds it again, please let me know.)”
Moody refers to text which can still be found here. He concludes as follows: “Assuming the Unitary Patent ever comes into being – and a legal challenge from Spain at the Court of Justice of the European Union is just one reason why it might not – the new Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court that will rule on disputes are both essentially outside the control of the European Commission, existing in a bizarre political limbo that is one of the most problematic aspects of the whole idea, as I’ve noted before. Leaving aside the fact that many statements on the vanished page are/were simply wrong, the larger question has to be: why on earth is the European Commission pushing an idea that will not only marginalise its own role, but make it highly likely that European companies will be forced to start paying an exorbitant patent troll tax like their American colleagues? One, moreover, that will be particularly problematic for the open source world which has few resources to fight back.”
It sure looks like the European Commission, which has been defending the EPO (and by extension software patents in Europe), is working hard to make the Unitary Patent a reality. This is really bad. The only thing worse is that SUEPO has been almost silenced and EPO staff has not been so active in fighting back as of late. Based on this April 23rd press release: “At a round table meeting jointly initiated by the Chairman of the Administrative Council, Jesper Kongstad, and EPO President Benoît Battistelli, the SUEPO and FFPE entered into a process which could eventually lead to their formal recognition as trade unions at the Office for the first time in EPO history. The meeting’s aim was to re-launch social dialogue to overcome disputes that have arisen over the inner reform agenda of the EPO.”
This does deal with some rights of staff, but it still does not deal with corruption in the EPO, appointment of criminals, expansion of patent scope, etc. The EPO’s management not only crushes EPO staff (leading many to suicide); it is crushing top people from the Enlarged Board of Appeal and on April 21st we learned from the EPO’s site about bizarre amendments that include: “In proceedings under Article 112 EPC the Board may, on its own initiative or at the written, reasoned request of the President of the European Patent Office, invite him to comment in writing or orally on questions of general interest which arise in the course of proceedings pending before it. The parties shall be entitled to submit their observations on the President’s comments.”
Why is the EPO run like a tyrannical regime where the so-called ‘President’ (with capital P) can exercise total power and intervene even in the processes of peripheral and presumably independent bodies? The EPO is corrupt and to make matters worse, it now seems as though many who are supposed to act as regulating forces are now complicit in making it more powerful — empowered to help the super-rich at the expense of everyone else. █
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USPTO: when quality does not matter, only the payment does
Summary: The USPTO, much like FISA (notorious court for surveillance/espionage authorisation), has become a rubber-stamping operation rather than a patents examination centre, as new evidence and old evidence serve to show
EARLIER this evening we wrote about the OIN’s response to the growing patent problem, HBO’s (corporate media) misdirection, and now we turn our attention to the USPTO, which has been busy hiding or perfuming its systematic abuse.
The EPO, which is now working towards the Unitary Patent Package (see the latest in IP Kat [1, 2]) is becoming increasingly assimilated to the USPTO, where software patents are still, at least in principle, allowed.
“It has actually become a lot more difficult to acquire software patents in the US, let alone win with software patents in court.”“A look at the USPTO’s examples for patent eligibility” is the title of a recent article from lawyers’ media. As we have demonstrated hundreds of times before, patent lawyers work hard to deny the post-Alice reality, which disqualifies many software patents. This kind of bias helps distort people’s perception of the status quo. It has actually become a lot more difficult to acquire software patents in the US, let alone win with software patents in court. That is of course good news and a step in the right direction. This is what can possibly salvage some of the USPTO’s past reputation and perhaps make US patents worth more than the paper they’re printed on.
The lawyers’ site says: “This article is the second installment of a three-part series examining the USPTO’s Interim Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility. The first installment describes the Interim Guidelines’ implementation of the Supreme Court’s two-part test for determining patent eligibility. Now, we will review examples published by the USPTO of patent-eligible and patent-ineligible claims.”
As we have noted here before, after the Supreme Court’s ruling the guidelines for patent examiners were modified. Surely this can reduce the overall number of patents granted, which in turn makes the USPTO look “less successful” (meaning less profitable, as quality clearly does not count when 92% of applications are "successful"). According to this lawyers’ site, “USPTO Can’t Be Sued For Not Axing Re-Exam, Fed. Circ. Says” and one patent lawyer’s site (vocal proponent of software patents) talks about USPTO fees. There are surely changes underway (less software patents) and many patent lawyers must be nervous.
“Surely this can reduce the overall number of patents granted, which in turn makes the USPTO look “less successful” (meaning less profitable, as quality clearly does not count when 92% of applications are “successful”.”As we mentioned the other day, the USPTO uses some dirty tricks to make itself look better. “US Patent Office Gamed The System To Make Sure Patent 9 Million Wasn’t A Crazy Troll Patent,” said the title composed by Mike Masnick. “As I’m sure you were carefully anticipating,” he wrote, “on Tuesday, April 7th, the US Patent and Trademark Office issued patent 9,000,000. As you of course are already aware, over the past few decades, the USPTO has been rapidly ramping up the number of patents it approves. That’s why, even though patents only have a lifetime of 20 years from the date of application, 1/3 of all issued patents are still in force today. Think about that.”
Watch the press release and self-congratulatory Smithsonian spin. If a country has 9 million patents and 92% of patent applications are eventually accepted, it does not mean the country is innovative, it just means it is too lenient when it comes to patent granting. It means it is unable to recognise real innovation. This is why the EPO (especially its examiners) must guard against the greed of businesspeople like Benoît Battistelli. As it stands, the EPO is not (yet) a laughing stock, only its management is. █
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Image from Android Beat
Summary: Microsoft’s sheer abuse against Android is laying bare for everyone to see now that Microsoft has paralysed Google’s legal department with potential antitrust action in Europe
WHAT can we say? Cyanogen's latest move is very troublesome. We have warned about this for a very long time, but much of the press played along with Microsoft’s plot (covering Office for Android), propping up Cyanogen etc.
So, what do we do now? Microsoft has nothing to fear but an informed public (or truth itself). The sooner people realise what Microsoft is up to, the sooner they will reject Cyanogen and stop buying from Samsung (we called for a Samsung boycott way back in 2007, right after Samsung had signed its first Microsoft patent deal covering Linux).
“If Microsoft bought Cyanogen, as some people had speculated, it would harm its ability to pretend ‘independence’.”Several readers have sent us links about Cyanogen. My wife says Cyanogen’s interest is “just making money, they don’t care about privacy or people’s concerns.” Richard Stallman asked me today for more information (having read my previous articles) and the better familiar we are with this circumstance and the underlying facts, the more effectively we can challenge this “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” (EEE) manoeuvre from Microsoft.
A Microsoft-linked site weighed in on Friday, explaining to readers how Cyanogen is essentially a Microsoft proxy. The article titled “3 Companies Are Helping Microsoft Corporation Steal Android From Google Inc.” It also names Samsung and Amazon (many executives from Microsoft moved there, including those who manage the Linux efforts, such as Kindle, and ended up paying Microsoft for Linux). The section about Cyanogen is titled “Making Android-powered Windows Phones”. That’s a good description of Microsoft’s goal.
As a kind of FUD advisory, one ought to know that Microsoft has gone “full frontal assault” mode on Android. It’s usually done through proxies, e.g. biased publications with Microsoft boosters who are shamelessly misleading audiences. Here for example is some Microsoft propaganda from Microsoft’s booster Matt Rosoff (yes, he is still around). It was published yesterday. It used deception/false charts, big lies, shameless PR, and ultimately sought to mislead Google, mischaracterise Google, and incite readers. It’s disguised as analysis, but being from Rosoff (a loyal Microsoft 'analyst'), one oughtn’t expect it to be honest.
“Deceptive charts,” called it iophk, “using ‘shipments’ rather than activations. Microsoft market share gets the illusion of being more than double that way. In reality it is less than 2% and shrinking.”
What Rosoff provides is not advice for Google (the headline says “It’s time for Google to throw ‘open’ Android under the bus”), Rosoff has been a Microsoft propagandist for many years and his words should be treated accordingly. Rosoff is offering a trap, misguided ‘ideas’ that would essentially help his friends at Microsoft and get Google in a lot of trouble (e.g. in China, where promises have been made).
The anti-Android propaganda (not just the above) is all in sync; in Europe there’s talk of antitrust (after Microsoft lobbying and pressure through proxies like Nokia) and then there’s the bribe for Cyanogen to sell out (official announcement here). They want to pretend that ‘evil’ Google must be destroyed and Microsoft will be our ‘saviour’. All of this happened almost on the same day, so there is probably no coincidence in timing. It looks like a strategic alignment of announcements that exploit people’s emotions and put forth a misleading storyline; while Microsoft lobbyists are misleading regulators Microsoft is proposed as the ‘solution’ by Cyanogen and while regulators slam Google over many things (some legitimate, e.g. privacy) Cyanogen steps forth to ‘help’. Microsoft is trying to pressure OEMs — using threats of litigation or bribes — to preinstall Microsoft (and thus drop Google), all whilst EU press (and by extension the international media; see the New York Times article “Microsoft, Once an Antitrust Target, Is Now Google’s Regulatory Scold” further down in this post) attacks Google for being so unbelievably evil (even compared to Microsoft). Microsoft is about as evil as ever, if not worse. The fact that it hides this behind a grin and massive PR efforts (lies) won’t change that.
We already see some large media sites helping Cyanogen (explaining to people how to replace Android with ‘Microsoft Android’) and promoting Microsoft’s narrative. We, in response, ought to work hard to make sure Cyanogen has not a single partner and that people don’t ever install it. We called for a boycott quite some time ago and shortly afterwards OnePlus dumped Cyanogen ([cref 82427 there is more to be done by OnePlus and its users).
Over at the Microsoft-friendly ZDNet one does not get the full story. Microsoft’s Mouth at ZDNet/CBS, Mary Jo Foley, downplays the evilness of this move. As one site reminded readers: “There were rumors before of a potential synergy between both companies especially when Cyanogen initiated its funding round. Although at that time Microsoft did not invest, but rumor mill announced a potential team up between the two, which has now been realized.”
Wired shamelessly labelled Microsoft spyware ‘choice’, saying that “[t]he partnership, as detailed by Cyanogen yesterday, will allow the budding mobile OS to integrate Microsoft apps like Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, OneDrive, and OneNote. The subtext here is that these apps can act as a replacement for the ones that Google appends to its Android releases, such as Gmail, Maps, Hangouts, and more.”
Further down it says: “That’s a lot of upside with not much to lose, especially given the recent cross-platform push. And an arrangement like this makes more sense than the $70 million investment Microsoft was rumored to make back in January. Cyanogen doesn’t have to feel beholden to one software suite, and Microsoft limits its financial exposure and Windows Phone conflicts.”
That’s untrue. Cyanogen is imposing or at least pushing Microsoft software, it is not offering choice.
In response to this article from Wired (titled “Microsoft Just Took Android’s Future Out of Google’s Hands”) one person published a post titled “No, Microsoft isn’t taking Android’s future out of Google’s hands — here’s why”. To quote the conclusion: “Microsoft isn’t taking Android’s future out of Google’s hands, it is likely taking Cyanogen’s future out of Cyanogen’s hands.”
Cyanogen is now a proxy of Microsoft. If Microsoft bought Cyanogen, as some people had speculated, it would harm its ability to pretend ‘independence’.
What Microsoft does here with Cyanogen is similar to what Microsoft did to Yahoo! (Yahoo! shows signs of regaining some independence now). All that Microsoft can do right now is try hard to bamboozle politicians, developers and users, pretending it is all about “choice” rather than destroying competition, much as it did when it took over (before shattering) Novell, Corel, and Nokia. Microsoft does not need to complete an acquisition in order to destroy the competition. Microsoft’s proxy war on Android is very much similar to other Microsoft plots to “knife the baby”, to use Microsoft’s own words (in reference to Linux). And for anyone still gullible enough (or amnesic) to believe that Microsoft no longer hates GNU/Linux, revisit the following series:
We urge readers to keep track of where many people who run Cyanogen are from; many come from Microsoft’s back yard in Seattle. “The startup that wants to take Android ‘away from Google’ just struck a deal with Microsoft” is a new report that helps put it in perspective. “The move,” says the report, “comes months after The Wall Street Journal and The Information reported that Microsoft had considered investing in Cyanogen, but the company opted to strike a partnership with the company instead.”
Wall Street Journal‘s owner Rupert Murdoch (a close friend and business partner of Bill Gates) gave the money instead and Microsoft is then making the investment ‘worthwhile’. Clever accounting tricks are likely to be at hand. Microsoft potentially reassures “return on investment” by making promises of deal before some third parties funnel money into Cyanogen. Larry Goldfarb from BayStar, a key investor in SCO, once said that Microsoft’s “Mr. Emerson and I discussed a variety of investment structures wherein Microsoft would ‘backstop,’ or guarantee in some way, BayStar’s investment…. Microsoft assured me that it would in some way guarantee BayStar’s investment in SCO.”
Learn from SCO history.
“Microsoft has kept its coffers full for the fight,” says the New York Times on the same day as the Cyanogen deal, “spending more on lobbying here than any European company.”
The timing cannot be a coincidence. The report from the New York Times is titled “Microsoft, Once an Antitrust Target, Is Now Google’s Regulatory Scold” and it serves to demonise Google at a very strategic time. It says “Microsoft has founded or funded a cottage industry of splinter groups. The most prominent, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, or Icomp, has waged a relentless public relations campaign promoting grievances against Google. Icomp hosts webinars, panel discussions and news conferences. It conducted a study that suggested changes made by Google to appease regulators were largely window dressing.”
Microsoft is still using lots of proxies, some of which we wrote about before, and it is giving politicians the wrong impression that Android (Free software) is ‘abuse’. This is clearly a proxy fight which blends with the “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” (EEE) manoeuvre that Microsoft has made famous. Fight back or be extinguished. █
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Summary: German and Dutch translations of the Le Monde article are now available
GERMANY- and Holland-based staff of the EPO (locations of main ‘branches’ with top bureaucrats) can now easily read the article that we mentioned here before (focusing on yet more suicides), shortly ahead of an English translation which was kindly provided to us.
“The EPO’s response to suicides (from the arrogant Battistelli) took some people by surprise; these people include Merpel from IP Kat.”The EPO’s response to suicides (from the arrogant Battistelli) took some people by surprise; these people include Merpel from IP Kat. Merpel wrote that she “has received word of an article published by the major French newspaper Le Monde on 6 April 2015, reporting on the industrial unrest and social tensions within the European Patent Office (EPO). The original article linked appears to require a subscription and is naturally in French, but those good people at SUEPO have published a version with a translation in French and German which you can access on their news page (item of 9 April 2015) here.”
Merpel linked to this page which says: “Le Monde, one of the reference newspapers in France, published an article on the deleterious social climate at the European Patent Office culminating with an authoritarian management style and four suicides since 2012. Translation are available in English, German and Dutch by scrolling through the document” (links on the page).
Even the pro-patents circles are unhappy with the EPO, based on this article (recently cited above), so we expect major changes. In the coming days we will write a lot about patent reform. █
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Serving the top of the top 1%
Summary: The meta-industry of patent protectionism is debating and pushing forth the Unitary Patent Court, with or without endorsement from the European public
The UPC, or “Unipat”, or Unitary Patent Court (it has former names), is the culmination of systemic corruption inside the EPO and around it. It is almost as bad as TPP, whereby corporate power is increased, especially the power of those who are already super-wealthy. Call it class war, or land grab, or passage of wealth, that’s what it’s really all about. Europe is historically viewed as not so corruptible, at least not as much as various other countries. It’s this false perception that guards the EPO and lets is get away with many abuses. European citizens should be extremely concerned about what the EPO is doing right now, even if they don’t quiet grasp the impact. EPO staff is dying and the EPO’s management does not (or no longer) exists to serve Europe and its citizens, despite them subsidising it through tax. The EPO is rogue. It’s working for multinationals, or the richest 1% of the world’s population. This isn’t what the patent system should be about.
“If ECJ does not get rid of the discriminatory language of the Unipat,” writes the FFII’s President, “we have to look at enforcing ECHR prot12, [in] only some countries.”
“ECJ [is] to publish its decision on the Unitary Patent next 5th May,” he adds, repeating what IP Magazine stated: “Spanish challenge to UPC handed down by CJEU on 5 May” (Spain has historically resisted the UPC more than other member states).
James Love attended the Fordham IP Conference (#fordhamip) the other day and he wrote that “Rt. Hon. Prof. Sir Robin Jacob (lots of titles) giving very aggressive attack on patent critics at #fordhamip ”
Robin Jacob was mentioned here very recently in relation to EPO scandals. “Not surprisingly,” Love added, “the speakers at the #fordhamip panel on China represent IP right holders.”
“Mark Cohen [was] at #fordhamip,” Love wrote. “Senior Counsel for USPTO’s China team. Formerly the director of IP policy at Microsoft.”
“John Temple Lang expresses concern that in UPC injunction cases, public interest not specifically relevant,” Love wrote, continuing with: “#fordhamip panel on the European Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court expressing a lot of concern over competence of Judges.”
“Paul England now explaining areas where Unitary Patent Court will have to resolve thorny issues regarding jurisdiction of laws,” he wrote.
It sure looks like without any explicit consent (or referendum) from scientists and the wider European population, patent lawyers and other profiteers in this system of artificial protectionism are driving policy, at least not in secret (Love is an opponent of such people, so he came there to observe and report). █
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Summary: Article from Le Monde translated into English
THE French article which was mentioned the other day is attempting to be balanced by speaking to the Frenchman Battistelli and French proponents of software patents, UPC etc. (Michel Barnier for example). While we can find some factual errors and glaring omissions in the article or the way certain things are framed, it does introduce some interesting observations, some of which are new.
Someone has provided us with an English translation of the article and we can now present it in full (translation making it fair use):
A ‘so good’ office
The European Patent Office (EPO) looks like a happy world, which like any happiness, is appreciated but until now was hidden. Who knows this international organisation? For nearly forty years it has recorded the patents filed by businesses in Europe and it employs 7,000 people, mostly based in the headquarters in Munich, Germany, and at Ryswick, a suburb of The Hague in
the Netherlands. Many employees of all nationalities, quietly being pampered, are receiving higher wages and more benefits than even the unionists of this modern Babel and feel favorable.
Yet behind its peaceful facade, another reality is now described from the inside. Poisoned atmosphere, staff at the edge of a nervous breakdown, monitored, marked, pressurised, subjected to productivity goals which are always higher. Recalcitrants are summoned by the security officers to take their goods in the hour and are accompanied under escort to the exit. And some come to extreme gestures. A 55-year-old man was tied up by some colleagues because he was banging his head against a wall. Another one was scarifying himself.
More dramatic late March, a German committed suicide in a public garden in the Bavarian capital. He was on sick leave for depression and had spoken with friends about his apprehension as to achieve productivity goals. July 8, 2013, a Belgian officer threw himself out of the window of his office in The Hague. Two other employees, one French and one German, committed suicide at their Munich home. Before ending his days in May 2012, the French had requested a transfer, because he felt harassed by his superior. The German, who had criticised the attitude of the management in managing the distress of this colleague was immediately suspended and expelled from the premises. He committed suicide Sept. 3, 2014, the day he received a convocation from the Disciplinary Committee.
In this context of extreme tension, slings and arrows started. The daily life of the Office is punctuated by strikes (22 days in 2014) and demonstrations. “Social relationships are very bad,” said one employee who, like all the others, requested anonymity. The main union of the house, SUEPO (an acronym which stands for Staff Union of the European Patent Office), to which almost half of employees are members, accuses Benoît Battistelli, the president appointed in 2010 and renewed in 2014. The French would abuse a principle inscribed since the beginning in the statutes of Office: legal immunity.
The EPO was born in 1977 from an agreement signed by the States of the European Community, has been extended to the Union of Twenty-Eight and afterwards to other countries, from Switzerland to the Balkans, to count today [as many as] 38 members. Like most international organisations, the EPO has a status of extraterritoriality. It has its own rules on taxation, social security,
pension or labor law. It does not depend on national justice. The only legal recourse is the Arbitral Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). “This immunity is a fundamental condition of functioning and independence, explains Benoît Battistelli. We are present in five countries and are counting many nationalities among our employees. What law should apply to them?”
Until then, the organisation knew how to cuddle highly qualified staff, mostly made up of PhDs and engineers from leading schools. Brain boxes [were] able to examine in German, English, French, the three official languages, and patent applications filed by the laboratories of Siemens, Philips, Samsung and others. Aces were able to detect flaws or “borrowings” from competitors in technical documents that can reach 200 pages. Starting Salary: 5000 euros per month, taxable at 6%, plus expatriation bonuses. The salaries can reach 15,000 euros in late career for 40 hours per week and three months of vacation. The Office pays the medical expenses and education of children, including enrolment fees in the best American universities.
The EPO has a considerable operating budget, 2 billion euros, up 20% in five years, making it the largest European organisation, just after the Brussels Commission. Companies around the world come to register their inventions: 274,000 applications in 2014, again rising steadily. The Office finances itself with the examination fee and the annual fees paid by the patents’ applicants.
Listening to SUEPO, this economic and legal independence has yet been perverted by the arrival of Benoît Battistelli, a technocrat of 64 years formed at the french “École nationale d’administration”. The new boss would succumb to an “authoritarian drift” and to “dictatorial tactics”. It would be surrounded by an inner circle at his sole devotion, formed almost entirely of French individuals coming like him from the National Intellectual Property Institute (INPI). Benoît Battistelli would have transformed the tenth floor of the Munich headquarters, by means of a stylish and expensive renovation, in a fortress from which he rules the institution.
To denounce the colleagues
Still, according to its detractors, the management uses and abuses an “investigation unit” which, for each site, is responsible for investigating breaches. In the German headquarters, this internal police has been called… the Stasi. A document gives obligation to the employees to collaborate with this investigation unit and to denounce the faults of others, under penalty of sanctions. “There were more disciplinary procedures in the past two years than in the previous thirty years,” complained a staff representative.
The counterweights for the presidency, provided by the statutes, were gradually eliminated, continues SUEPO. The union was expelled from the EPO premises in November 2014. “We had eight days to pack up”. The right to strike was limited: it is subject to a complex procedure and the president may oppose to it by requisition. Several staff representatives, unprotected, are under penalty of sanctions for having supported colleagues.
“We are aware that our salaries are more than decent. But from which income level the human rights do not apply anymore?” asks a Munich employee.
Recently, a judge of the Board of appeal – which handles appeals of rejected patent – was suspended and forcibly thrown out. He is suspected of having slandered anonymously a member of management, the Croat Zeljko Topic, referring to corruption cases that would affect him in his country. But the judge is in principle independent. His colleagues protested collectively to the President against what they consider an abuse of power.
“A wall of silence reigns now in this organization,” agrees Philip Cordery, socialist member of parliament of French abroad. “People who are working at the EPO inform me regularly of their malaise. There is a clear abuse of the extraterritorial status which does not mean impunity”.
Lengthily, methodically, Benoît Battistelli refutes attacks on him. He even agreed to entrust Le Monde his contract and discloses his salary, “around 250,000 euros per year.” He denounced the “fantasies” for caricaturing the Office into a Banana Republic. “The EPO is the victim of a two years campaign to undermine the integrity and honesty of its leaders.” He and
his entourage received anonymous letters, sometimes accompanied by swastikas. He declares himself as a victim of a cabal just because he wanted to clarify the roles of everybody, to introduce formal rules, when the organization used to be a de facto joint management. He denounced “racist attacks” against his Croatian deputy. To use suicides against him would fall under bad procedure: “I am deeply shocked by attempts to exploit these tragedies. This subject is too serious for lending itself to controversy”. He ensures that “the investigation unit acts independently”.
The President has the support of the Administrative Council, comprised of representatives from 38 states. He was reappointed unanimously in 2014. Benoît Battistelli was mandated to make the institution more productive and more competitive against the competition of other offices worldwide. EPO procedures are three times more expensive than its US counterpart, even though, because of the precision of the work, the patents it grants are twenty times less often attacked in the courts. “We have to adapt our way of working, our regulatory framework to allow the agency to ensure its future,” he says. And that future is called “Unitary European patent”, a simplified procedure whose objective is “to make innovation cheaper and easier for companies,” said Michel Barnier, former European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services. “We want to make these savings at the expense of staff of the office,” retorted a trade unionist.
SUEPO multiplied complaints before national courts. “But we meet with the principle of immunity,” says Amélie Lefebvre, which represents the union in France. The Hague Court of Appeal has however driven a wedge in a judgment delivered on 17 February. The judges ruled that the immunity was “disproportionate” and did not guarantee “the protection of fundamental rights”. They even estimated their decision applicable elsewhere in Europe.
The Government of the Netherlands, fearing that this decision makes ]changes to] some other similar organisations on its territory, immediately condemned this decision and refused to run it. The case takes a politic turn. Philip Cordery sent letters to the European Commission or to the Directorate General of the ILO, relaying concerns of the staff. Member of parliament Pierre-Yves Le BORGN’ and Senator Jean-Yves Leconte, other socialist representatives of French abroad, called out successive ministers of economy, to no avail so far. Elsewhere, some parliamentarians of Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland and Cyprus have launched similar initiatives.
At the last board of the EPO, on 25 and 26 of March, discordant voices were heard and a Communiqué called for a “resumption of social dialogue”. Not sure that this attempt at conciliation will be enough to appease encysted hatreds. The violence of the mail exchanges between the president and SUEPO proves that between these two there is a death struggle.
Any corrections to this translation should be reported to us to ensure accuracy. █
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Large corporations increasingly cast their shadow over European society
Summary: Recent articles about the EPO and the Unitary Patent are bundled together to highlight truly disturbing developments whereby those in power beget power through instruments of state-sanctioned power, such as the EPO (stateless entity within a continent-wide ‘island’)
OUR coverage of the EPO-targeting French article will hopefully lead to an English translation pretty soon (more suicides inside the EPO), but in the mean time we wish to take stock of recent European-centic patents-related developments which we have not found the time to properly cover (at least not yet). We will separate and partition this post, then set some headlines to help digestion of the important news.
Techrights has written about the Unitary Patent for quite a few years, even before it was called or referred to as “Unitary Patent”. In a series titled “UPC Mock Trial” [1, 2] (Unitary Patent Court is UPC) IP Kat provides some interesting information. Since a lot of this stuff is discussed behind closed doors (like TPP and other globalisation treaties) it has not been easy to keep track of what’s going on. In part it’s about serving huge corporations (multinational and often tax-exempt through loopholes) and it’s about software patents. The folks from the FFII (former and current presidents) are fighting back, calling the Unitary Patent unconstitutional. To quote their summary, which made some waves on the Web last week, “ESOMA and iMatix has filed an appeal against the Unitary Patent ratification by Belgium at the Constitutional Court. Equality of languages, separation of powers, and the irresponsibility of the EPO in front of courts are violating the Belgian Constitution. A central patent court will become the single point of failure to validate software patents Europe-wide. Small Software companies cannot afford to go to court or pay damages.”
There are similar actions elsewhere. They are fighting back.
European Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), OpenForum Europe and others (such as OIN from the US) were mentioned the other day in this post about the EU patent debate. We deem some of the text quite important (and unique). It states: “I already mentioned earlier the plans to present about the situation of the Open Source community as a consumer of the patent system at the conference on “Innovation in a European Digital Single Market – The Role of Patents” in Brussels on March 17. FSFE, OpenForum Europe, colleagues at OIN and fellow Open Source supporters provided great feedback for the presentation. Many thanks to everybody who contributed! In the end, the concept for the presentation (which was a short introduction to a following panel discussion) was to explain five concrete difficulties the patent system causes in a collaborative production environment.”
Towards the bottom it says that “Sage joined the Open Invention Network. OIN is the world’s largest patent non-aggression community with the mission to protect Linux and Open Source. It speaks for the credibility that patent non-aggression has achieved and for how OIN represents that idea in the Open Source space when a publicly listed company that grew to success long before Linux really took off subscribes to it. Thanks, Sage! More large and small companies are considering this step. Your company should do so, too. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.”
As we have pointed out before, the problem with OIN is that it does not fight software patents; additionally, it is selective in who is protects and how. Still, for many purposes (not all), it is a lot better than nothing.
Want to Patent Nature? EPO Approves
The EPO is an utter, corrupt, greedy disgrace. On numerous occasions we have shown how the EPO’s management, including Benoît Battistelli himself, gloated and bragged about expanding the scope of patents, reducing the quality bar etc. just to increase profits. This is systemic corruption and this in its own right should suffice to oust Battistelli.
Techrights is especially focused on software patents, but it is deeply disturbed to learn just how low the EPO’s management can stoop. As it turns out, the EPO now permits patenting natural foods – not just GMO and algorithms. This surely can motivate more EPO staff to rebel against greedy-beyond-control managers. We sure hope to see people standing up and fighting against this abuse by EPO architects, whose priority has become to serve large corporations, not people. See articles such as “Unpatentable Vegetables Are Now Patentable In Europe”, “EPO Backs Patents On Conventional Plants: Broccoli, Tomato Cases Decided”, and “A Kat revisits Broccoli & Tomatoes, part deux – what does it all mean?” IPKat reported on it quote early on (to its credit).
Software Patents in Europe
Patent scope has gone out of control in Europe. Patents not only on natural things but also on abstract things are now permitted, if not by law then by de facto ‘law’ (see our wiki page about software patents in Europe). Glyn Moody warned some weeks ago that “Spain [Was] About To Bring In Software Patents — Just As US Starts Moving Away From Them”.
Quoting Moody: “Last year, Techdirt noted how the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice v. CLS Bank seemed to be having a positive effect on limiting the patentability of software. Against that background, it’s regrettable that Spain appears to be moving in the other direction with its new Patent Act (original in Spanish), which is being brought in without any public debate, it seems. The key section of the proposed law is Article 4, which spells out patentability. It specifically says (Section 4c) that “computer programs” are excluded from patentability — but then goes on to add (Section 5) that it is only software “as such” that is excluded.”
Greedy patent lawyers from the US (such as Gene Quinn in this case) are already licking their lips over this. “The European technical standard as a guide for drafting software patents” is the title of one recent article from Gene Quinn, one of the most vocal proponents of software patents (he makes money from it).
And guess who he interviews for this article? “Micky Minhas is Chief Patent Counsel for Microsoft Corporation. He is also someone that I have know for over 20 years, which is almost hard to believe.”
Welcome to Europe, Microsoft. A truly European company!
Microsoft has been lobbying for software patents in Europe for so many years and we wrote many articles about it. Microsoft also paid several proxies to do this lobbying behind the scenes. Among these lobbyists we have had the BSA and ACT listed.
Microsoft’s Minhas says: “I’ve been here about two and a half years in my role as Chief Patent Counsel. The Patent Strategy team is roughly 110 people and we are responsible for all of our new patent filings and preparation. We also have a large analysis group that analyzes a lot of our issued patents and our pending patents and supports our licensing programs. As to the daily life, the job ranges anywhere from issues with the PTO, or any other patent office around the world, to issues supporting our licensing programs. Sometimes it’s acquisition related activities; sometimes it’s risk mitigation projects. I’m having a lot of fun. It’s interesting particularly because Microsoft is in so many different businesses, so the legal issues and the intellectual property issues are often pretty unique. Sometimes what is in the best interest of one division may not be in the best interest of another division. Intellectually, it leads to some pretty interesting strategy assessments and discussions.”
So, while Europeans are busy typing computer code, testing, improving, testing again (among other things) Microsoft is working with lawyers to undermine these Europeans and take them to court if they ever become successful and can thus be extorted (like TomTom in Holland). Welcome to Europe’s new patent regime?
Fight the System Before It’s Too Late
Patent examiners in Europe (scientists, not lawyers) should work hard to prevent the EPO from becoming another USPTO with lots of software patents, patent trolls, and reign by massive corporations such as IBM. Benoît Battistelli seems to be trying to emulate the notorious US patent system, not a saner system whose priority is service to local (European) citizens. Once corporations take over such systems (in a coup d’état fashion) it becomes incredibly difficult to regain control of them, as the US model serves to show. We will provide examples of this in the coming days. █
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