11.24.20

Growing Concerns That EPO Staff Has Been Placed Under de Facto House Arrest by an Entirely Unaccountable Office

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 5:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bars

Summary: “House arrest” is excessive and disproportionate. So says the Central Staff Committee of Europe’s second-largest institution (which surprisingly enough the media is failing to properly study and investigate) as it highlights yet more human rights violations.

WHEN we started the “Corona” series earlier this months we gradually showed a large number of illegalities at the EPO, perpetrated by António Campinos and his friends (whom he now calls “colleagues”). Days ago we started showing the intent to start legal actions over this.

Dog in distressJust over 3 weeks ago the following letter was sent and then circulated among EPO staff by the Central Staff Committee, basically a group of elected staff representatives who work to highlight the grievances of staff and protect staff from an unaccountable Office management. Sick leave and incapacity scheme means “house arrest” during a pandemic:

Reference: sc20165cl-0.3.1
Date: 30.10.2020

Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO

ISAR – R.1081

OPEN LETTER

Urgent amendment of Circular 367 and immediate suspension of “house arrest”

Dear Mr President,

Recently, the Appeals Committee has unanimously found that the Office is bound to take due account of human rights, in particular the fundamental right to privacy1 . Consequently, it has unanimously confirmed our view that the obligations imposed on sick staff to stay at home under certain times2, also known as “house arrest”, are excessive and disproportionate.

Our Service Regulations already contain less intrusive measures available to verify persons on sick leave. We ask for a meeting with you with a view to amending in depth Circular No. 367, as a matter of urgency. A proposal to revise the Circular inspired by the EU practice was already submitted to the COHSEC on 6 September 2019. It could be a basis for discussion.

In addition, we consider it absolutely necessary to alleviate any undue pressure on sick staff now, out of a duty of care.

We request therefore an immediate suspension of the provision on “house arrest”.

Yours sincerely,

Alain Dumont
Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

_______
1 As in Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
2 Currently, Article B(3) of Circular No. 367 obliges a sick employee to be available at their home address from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day, including on weekends.

“In this open letter to the President,” the Central Staff Committee said, “we ask for a meeting with a view to amending Circular No. 367, as a matter of urgency.” We’ve been back to the Benoît Battistelli era for quite some time now; if this doesn’t prove it, what will?

“Days ago we started showing the intent to start legal actions over this.”In another recent letter the Central Staff Committee sought feedback from staff regarding the general sentiment and stress levels. “Of course we will treat your feedback confidentially,” they said, pointing out mindless buzzwords and euphemisms commonly used by the corrupt administration, run by incompetent bullies.

Here’s the full letter:

Munich, 26.10.2020
sc20164cp

Dear colleagues in Job Groups 5 and 6
We are listening to you, let’s talk, make your voice heard!

SP2023 – agility – reorganisations – new normal – staff health – new career – production targets – diversity and inclusion… EPO buzzwords these days, but do you find yourselves addressed in all this?

Does management involve you, take your concerns and input into account? Or do you rather feel ignored by management and are issues specific to your situation not taken seriously?

Your staff representation has started an internal Job Group 5 and 6 Working Group because we are sure that there are issues you would like to share with us – and of course also positive ideas and experiences.

Take a moment and reflect on the following questions

 Do you feel stressed?
 Can you cope with the workload?
 Did the reorganisation(s) impact you?
 Is the frequency of changes too high, at a pace too fast to follow?
 Have you received the training you need to do your (new) job?
 Do you have a feeling of job satisfaction?
 Do you feel supported by your colleagues within your team?
 Is your work recognised?
 Do you feel respected for your contribution to the EPO?
 Are you worried about your future at the EPO?

We are very keen to receive your feedback to these questions, no matter how detailed or short they are, and would like to include them in the list of topics relevant to you. Of course we will treat your feedback confidentially.

The aim is to get an idea on which topics to start with in our discussions with management, topics especially relevant for colleagues in Job Groups 5 and 6.

Your staff representatives

Notice the part about “diversity and inclusion…”

As recently as 6 days ago Office management pretended to care about disabled people; in reality, they’re a large contributor to this problem. EPO workers aren’t gullible enough for Office management to get away with these white-washing lies.

11.23.20

Internal Error: Unified Patent Court and Unitary Patent Incompatible With the Constitution and Basic Laws

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Internal Error: 500

Summary: The FFII has issued a statement for Members of the Bundestag, Members of the European Parliament, Members of the Council, German Presidency of the EU, Chancellor Merkel, Commissioner Von Der Leyen, Commissioner Reynders, and Battistelli‘s buddy Breton

TWO days ago we wrote about the latest claim from Team UPC, later pointing out that many scholars across Europe line up and stand in Team UPC's way. The EPO (Office) hardly even mentions the UPC and the Council barely touched the subject. Miraculous leaps of faith are required to “believe” in the UPC.

“Saying that UPC/A can still be ratified and be started is akin to saying (at this point) that Donald Trump will overturn the election results and remain President until 2024.”UPC won’t materialise for a lot of reasons, not just a list of constitutional complaints and withdrawals. Team UPC has a long tradition of lying about the UPC; it’s all about money and saving face (they made false promises to clients). Some “core people” of Team UPC are about to become unemployed and they know it. They just try to buy another month or two.

AceIs the UPC about to become a reality? Been there, done that, seen that… they always say it’ll come Real Soon™ or Almost There®.

How many times? Dozens if not hundreds.

Two years ago they told us it was imminent (just before the end of 2018).

It was a lie. Fabrication.

Just to be sure the lid stays shut, the following statement has just been published by the FFII (a few hours ago) to say:

FFII e.V. is a pan-European alliance of software companies and independent software developers, defending the rights to a free and competitive software creation since 1999. Over the years, more then 3,000 software companies accross Europe have supported our calls against software patenting, among which 1,100 German ones. With the Unitary Patent project, we are at the third attempt to validate software patents in Europe. The previous 2 first attempts to change the law (EPC2000 and the 2005 software patent directive) failed.

This Wednesday 25th november 2020, the Legal Affairs committee of the Bundestag will vote on the ratification by Germany of the Unitary Patent and its Court [ref1]. In a series of answers to questions asked by the Free Democratic Party (FDP) [ref2] [ref3], the German Ministry of Justice Christine Lambrecht (SPD) says that they are “no constitutional problems” with the Unitary Patent and its Court [ref4].

Firstly, on the 22nd of April 2020, the same Legal Affairs committee of the Bundestag voted [ref5] to participate in the legal proceedings in front of the German Federal Constitutional Court (GFCC) in Karlsruhe, on cases related to the question inter alia of impossibility to sue the administration (the EPO) in front of the courts for maladministration. The possibility to sue an administrative body, such as the EPO, for maladministration before the courts is one of the fundamental pillar of our western democracies, also called the “Rule of Law” (TFEU art2) and is a categorical constitutional guarantee (i.e judicial review of administrative acts). This applies also to the institutional possibility, under the requisite constitutional system of separation of powers, to appeal acts and decisions of administrative bodies (e.g. the EPO), as it can be observed in all national systems and also at the EU level, as with the other intellectual property rights of trademarks and designs, where the decisions of the EUIPO are frequently appealed before the CJEU. In this respect, the constitutional mechanism that sustains the absolutely necessary separation of powers exists for intellectual property rights in the EU (trademarks and designs) but is spectacularly absent from the Unified Patent Court and Unitary Patent institutional arrangement. As they cannot provide such basic constitutional-democratic guarantees, they concern clear unconstitutional arrangements that deprive the patent system in Europe from adequate democratic control and undermine the whole system of the EU, as these constitute blatant constitutional failures that fly in the face of the whole institutional design and function of the EU and of the arrangements and understanding that member states have with the EU. On this basic issue there is now a pan-European academic initiative [ref6] from various EU member states, including from Germany, asking for a legal reform of the the Unified Patent Court in order to restore essential democratic safeguards in its operation, such as those seen in other areas of intellectual property, as pointed out above.

For example, one of those cases relate to the fact that the EPO examiners prefered to go watch a football match of the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa instead of hearing an appeal (Wallinger case) [ref7]. In 2012, our association also hit the same problem during our oral opposition at the EPO against Amazon’s One Click Gift patent [ref8]. The EPO refused to provide us a live translation in the language of our choice (spanish in the particular case) [ref9]. We came to the conclusion at the time that the EPO could not be sued for maladministration.

Nevertheless, despite these well known institutional anomalies, some members of the Bundestag and the Ministry of Justice want to go forward with this ratification project, even though there are obvious “constitutional problems”. The Bundestag is now part of the legal proceedings that are active before in front of the Constitutional Court and should have more insight about those particular cases. Those cases on the impossibility to sue the EPO for maladministration were on the agenda of the Court for 2020, but apparently they won’t be decided this year, but early next year in 2021.

As far as we know, FFII isn’t the only party prepared to torpedo the whole thing with another complaint. UPC is a dead thing because it’s simply not compatible with the law and key stakeholders have already walked away. Saying that UPC/A can still be ratified and be started is akin to saying (at this point) that Donald Trump will overturn the election results and remain President until 2024.

The EPO is Using Hype Wave and Buzzword to Promote Illegal Software Patents in a So-Called “Digital Conference”

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 4:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Would be epic if not tragic if the ‘conference’ got called off due to a software patent troll lawsuit (over alleged violation)

Digital Numbers

Summary: The “HEY HI” or “AI” hype is misused by the Office; not just in person but also in webstreams, which basically serve as a vehicle for illegal agenda

EARLIER TODAY we noticed novice ‘Kat’ Sophie Corke advertising toxic agenda of the EPO. As might be expected from a blog that mass-deletes comments critical of Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos (remember it’s run by totally different authors/editors now), there’s no mention of the inherent problems. It simply says: “Keeping with the conference theme, the European Patent Office is holding a digital conference on the role of patents in an AI-driven world on 17-18 December 2020. The full schedule and registration details are available here.”

“Read terms like “AI-related” as “computer-implemented” (in software).”They just keep posting puff pieces and ads for the EPO and for Battistelli (CEIPI) as if the ‘Kat’ is just another “media asset” of the Office. The cited page (warning: epo.org link) makes it very clear and unambiguous that EPO management promotes illegal software patents (not allowed in Europe) under the guise of “HEY HI” or “AI-related inventions”. The people doing this aren’t scientists but parts of Battistelli’s cabal. This is what they say:

AI is ubiquitous today. It is used to recommend online purchases, power virtual assistants, and even for predictive maintenance in smart factories. AI also presents two interesting questions for the patent system. The first asks to what extent AI-related inventions can be protected by patents.

Read terms like “AI-related” as “computer-implemented” (in software). They know exactly what they’re doing there and what agenda they are pushing. But long, long ago they quit caring about the law and about EPC conformance.

Dutch Delegation and German Delegation at the Administrative Council of the EPO Upset at the Office for Secrecy, Working Behind the Scenes to Crush Productive Staff

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

They eventually got rid of one Benoît Battistelli, but will they remove another and overthrow the entire cabal?

Circus Elephant
There’s a new ‘elephant in the room’, treading carefully as pressure grows

Summary: Less than halfway through his term at the Office, Battistelli’s buddy already faces growing criticism and, according to the Central Staff Committee, he “was emotionally affected by the intervention such that he was not able to effectively reply to the questions of the delegates.”

FOUR weeks ago the Central Staff Committee of the EPO wrote to staff about the ‘meeting’ (videoconference) it had experienced remotely with people who are in theory supposed to supervise António Campinos. The experience was mostly positive, according to them, calling it “short” (“Yet another short meeting by videoconference”).

“As a reminder, the “New Normal” is just some fancy term for crushing the staff.”We don’t want to just throw the Council out the window or out with the bathwater because it might be the best chance staff has (albeit not last resort) if order is to be restored at the Office. The Office management is the most corrupt element; the problem with the Council is mostly complicity by toothlessness (or apathy caused by fear of ‘shaking the boat’).

Free elephantThe Central Staff Committee wrote about 4 weeks ago: “The virtual meetings of the Administrative Council are in marked contrast to the previous face-to-face meetings. The debates are much shorter, but some presentations are longer. The desire of many delegations for the possibility of informal meetings is well understandable. In particular, a discussion on the “New Normal” is also urgently needed.”

As a reminder, the “New Normal” is just some fancy term for crushing the staff. Never be misled by EPO euphemisms, which are all too common…

“We have every right to expect the President to come to staff’s defence,” the Central Staff Committee wrote, “especially in times of crisis. There are still opportunities for development here. The report of the Chairman of the Boards of Appeal shows that even self-critical statements are not taboo in the Administrative Council. Finally, we would like to pass on the thanks and congratulations which some delegations have expressed explicitly to the staff.”

We thought we’d pass along the full report, seeing there’s nothing sensitive in it (the ‘meeting’ wasn’t secret). There’s a mention of “progress report on the unitary patent” (albeit there’s none) and the software used was KUDO:

Munich, 22.10.2020
sc20161cp/en – 0.2.1/3.1

Report on the 164th meeting of the Administrative Council on 13 October 2020

Following an informal video conference on 25 March 2020 and the official meeting via video conference on 30 June and 1 July 2020, this was the third virtual meeting of the Administrative Council. The video conference platform KUDO is used, which now caused far fewer problems than in spring. However, many delegations said that they missed the informal exchanges that are usually held at face-to-face meetings.

The agenda was one of the shortest in the history of the Administrative Council. Only the President’s activities report together with the interventions on the matter took up more time. The few other items on the agenda, such as the report of the Chairman of the Boards of Appeal, the election of the new Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee or the progress report on the unitary patent, became a minor matter.

President’s activities report

Interacting with all Vice-Presidents and his Chief of Staff, the President gave a presentation of about 50 pages, which was intended to highlight the situation of the Office during the pandemic and the status quo in the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2023. Unfortunately, the presentation was overloaded with so many details that the real achievement of the staff, namely maintaining in an impressive manner the functioning of the European Patent Office during this difficult period, was almost lost. Who would have thought with the enormous pandemic-related changes in spring, for example, that the number of patents published is now 6% above plan?

The interventions of the delegations thus focused more on the plans of the Office to assist national patent offices in IT development than on our core tasks. Apparently, the Dutch delegation and the German delegation were unpleasantly surprised by the previously hidden activities of the management on “New Normal”. In a diplomatic tone, they asked for early involvement in the Administrative Council and for more information on the survey results and on the building plans.

The Staff Representation referred to the great stress situation to which staff are currently exposed. In the midst of this emotionally charged period, especially for families, the President then announced reform plans for the education allowance and payment of school fees. As far as the plans for “New Normal” are concerned, the participation of the Staff Committee is long overdue in order to find sustainable solutions. Hurrying is not the order of the day, but pausing for a moment to take stock of the situation.

Unfortunately, the President then missed the opportunity to jump to the defence of staff and make up for the perhaps somewhat neglected appreciation. He used the rather awkward argument that he had talked to more colleagues than the staff representative who had taken the floor before thus knowing the situation better. It seemed that the President was emotionally affected by the intervention such that he was not able to effectively reply to the questions of the delegates.


President of the Boards of Appeal’s activities report 2020

The President of the Boards of Appeal limited himself to 15 clearly structured slides to present the activities in this year. He did not hesitate to mention also the downsides and the decline in productivity over the past months, which was well understood because of the few possible oral proceedings. However, his delight during the presentation of the pilot project of paperless working with iPads seemed a bit exaggerated.

The delegations expressed their appreciation. With regard to the points raised by the Staff Representation, the President of the Boards of Appeal showed his ability to take criticism and even reacted with appropriate humour.

Chairmanship of the Budget and Finance Committee

Pascal Faure (FR) was unanimously elected Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee for a three-year term of office to replace Lex Kaufhold (LU). For the first time an online voting system was used.

Unitary patent and related developments – progress to date

The German delegation reported on the legislative process which is now well under way, looking back to the fact that in March 2020 the Federal Constitutional Court annulled the previously adopted law. As the German Federal Council had raised no objections, the intention was to have the draft law in Parliament by Christmas.

Conclusions

The virtual meetings of the Administrative Council are in marked contrast to the previous face-to-face meetings. The debates are much shorter, but some presentations are longer. The desire of many delegations for the possibility of informal meetings is well understandable. In particular, a discussion on the “New Normal” is also urgently needed.

We have every right to expect the President to come to staff’s defence, especially in times of crisis. There are still opportunities for development here. The report of the Chairman of the Boards of Appeal shows that even self-critical statements are not taboo in the Administrative Council.

Finally, we would like to pass on the thanks and congratulations which some delegations have expressed explicitly to the staff.

Your Central Staff Committee


Annex: Interventions of the Staff Representatives

On the President’s activities report

Dear Mr Chairman, dear delegates, dear Mr President, dear António, dear colleagues,

The Staff Representation thanks the delegations for recognising the huge efforts done by all staff during this ongoing pandemic and will transmit this message to them.

I would like to depict an additional view to the presentation given by the President on the last months. The numbers, honestly, look great! It shows the strong commitment of our staff to contribute to the results of the Office and all this during the biggest ongoing pandemic.

But what are the numbers omitting?
These numbers don’t reflect the feelings of staff!
How is staff actually feeling? Similar to the residents of your countries, EPO staff is juggling between reaching their goals at work and home schooling while adapting constantly to the new tools linked to digitisation.

I can tell you: staff is stressed, exhausted – the actual situation since mid-March is stressful, exhausting! Parents with young children are the hardest hit by this pandemic as they don’t have enough support to deal with the situation. Although we appreciate the flexibility put in place by the Office such as no more core hours, and working from home. However, the extended availability of the tools up to midnight may have a detrimental effect on the well-being of our staff. This is because our career is based on a competing factor: who can produce the most and more? and not a collaborative one. In the President’s activity report, the “Collaboration” Balanced Scorecard is at 52%, in the past this number was higher. Staff know that in order to even be eligible for a reward they have to reach the ever-increasing targets set be the management. How can a constant decreasing number of FOs and examiners produce every year more and more? And so, after putting the kids to bed rather than taking a break to regenerate many work until midnight to catch up! How long can this situation be maintained??? For how long is this situation sustainable? Parents feel left alone by the administration…

Because, as if this would not be enough to deal with, we, the Staff Representation and staff have been surprised by a survey on the New Normal which was conducted recently, while excluding the Staff Representation. The scenarios presented in the survey will possibly affect the whole structure of the Organisation. This uncertainty adds to the previous feelings of stress and anxiety of our colleagues.

Additionally, the administration presented end of July a reform on the childcare and education allowances foreseeing harsh cuts in these allowances for most of staff, including nationals, e.g. Dutch citizens working in The Netherlands. Although this reform is portraited as a measure of fairness towards our national colleagues, at a closer inspection it turns out to be another measure of saving money in the mid-term. The President assures us however that this is not the intention and we would like to believe him. However, the reform as it is designed now and the way the discussions are ongoing in the working group with the policy designer speaks a different story. And so, no wonder that the management and we are approached by hundreds and hundreds of desperate parents feeling extremely stressed, betrayed and frankly disrespected by the administration…

On social dialogue: we are very happy to hear that the administration is willing to solve the issue of the PhDs, but news reached us, just 30 minutes ago, that colleagues are receiving letters from the administration denying recognition of the PhD years.

This is only one example for the social dialogue.


Now, how can we turn into the right direction? How can we, all together, you, the President and Staff Representation, give support and space to breath to our colleagues? How can we reassure staff?

We, the Staff Representation, request:
- a constructive education and childcare allowance reform with site specific solutions,
- a slowing down of the definition of the New Normal to a time after the pandemic,
- a fair assessment with rewards for ALL staff, for their contribution in 2020,
- a career based on collaboration, with fair career advancement for all staff.

In the name of staff, we urge the Administrative Council to work together with the Staff Representation and the President of the Office to pave the way for a trustful and respectful future for the benefit of our staff and our organisation!

Thank you very much for your attention!


On the President of the Boards of Appeals’ activities report 2020

Der präsentierte Zwischenbericht ist eindrucksvoll und zeigt, daß die Kolleginnen und Kollegen in den Beschwerdekammern in den Zeiten der Pandemie Bemerkenswertes geleistet haben. Ich möchte drei Punkte herausgreifen, die aus Sicht des Personalausschusses im Bericht etwas zu kurz kommen.

Da ist erstens das Personal selbst. Nicht nur dadurch, daß nur wenige mündliche Verhandlungen stattfinden, mußten die Kolleginnen und Kollegen zahlreiche Arbeitsabläufe umstellen. Dies geschah oft von zu Hause aus mit der zusätzlichen Belastung durch die Sorge um Familie und Angehörige. Viele Kolleginnen und Kollegen sind bis an die Grenze der Belastbarkeit gegangen und manche sogar darüber hinaus. Wir sollten gerade jetzt besonders an die Gesundheit der Kolleginnen und Kollegen denken, um tatsächlich eine nachhaltige Anpassung an die neuen Umstände zu gewährleisten.

Zweitens wird von einem Pilotprojekt über papierloses Arbeiten berichtet. Auch hier sollten wir nicht übertreiben. Zwar befürwortet der Personalausschuß, daß die Arbeit der Kolleginnen und Kollegen durch geeignete Tools unterstützt wird, allerdings ist die Technik noch nicht so weit, daß eine Arbeit ganz ohne Papier in naher Zukunft überhaupt denkbar ist. Fraglich ist in der Tat, ob die derzeit verwendeten iPads für papierloses Arbeiten überhaupt adäquat sind, so die Rückmeldungen von den Kolleginnen und Kollegen aus den Beschwerdekammern. Arbeit ausschließlich am Computer oder Tablet ist nicht gesund. Auch hier sollte die Gesundheit der Mitglieder der Beschwerdekammern ganz im Vordergrund stehen.

Drittens wird im Dokument von Arbeitsgruppen berichtet, die zu bestimmten Themen eingesetzt wurden, beispielsweise zu mündlichen Verhandlungen per Videokonferenz oder zu Qualitätsaspekten. Hier müssen noch Strukturen entwickelt werden, wie der Personalausschuß und repräsentativ gewählte Vertreter geeignet eingebunden werden. Denn gerade kritische Stimmen sind notwendig, um Veränderungen auch nachhaltig zu gestalten. Weder der Personalausschuß noch das Präsidium der Beschwerdekammern ist derzeit im Beschwerdekammerausschuß vertreten, wo zum Beispiel das Karrieresystem und die Arbeitsbedingungen der Patentrichter auf der Agenda sind. Dies ist noch ein Relikt aus der Battistelli-Zeit, und hier sollten wir baldmöglichst und unbedingt im Interesse der Europäischen Patentorganisation eine Änderung vorsehen. In diesem Sinne möchte ich abschließen und Ihnen versichern, daß der Personalausschuß auch weiterhin die Gestaltungsprozesse in den Beschwerdekammern aufmerksam beobachten und kritisch begleiten wird.

It’s very easy to relate to the bits about working parents with young children; the EPO has done just about nothing for them. We keep hearing those stories about young workers who sit on the computer working until midnight or even past midnight. Here’s a touching paragraph: “staff is stressed, exhausted – the actual situation since mid-March is stressful, exhausting! Parents with young children are the hardest hit by this pandemic as they don’t have enough support to deal with the situation. Although we appreciate the flexibility put in place by the Office such as no more core hours, and working from home. However, the extended availability of the tools up to midnight may have a detrimental effect on the well-being of our staff. This is because our career is based on a competing factor: who can produce the most and more? and not a collaborative one. In the President’s activity report, the “Collaboration” Balanced Scorecard is at 52%, in the past this number was higher. Staff know that in order to even be eligible for a reward they have to reach the ever-increasing targets set be the management. How can a constant decreasing number of FOs and examiners produce every year more and more? And so, after putting the kids to bed rather than taking a break to regenerate many work until midnight to catch up! How long can this situation be maintained??? For how long is this situation sustainable? Parents feel left alone by the administration…”

There’s meanwhile also the question about the illegality of oral hearings over video. This topic was covered repeatedly by SUEPO, citing the relevant laws being broken (pretty serious violations of human and labour rights).

Incidentally, days ago (November 18 2020) Max Walters wrote: “EPO president Campinos says the time is right for virtual hearings, while in-house counsel offer mixed views on the benefits of video conferences…”

Notice, as we’ve noted before that they never speak about the illegality of the whole thing. Almost never. What kind of journalism is that? One can see past the paywall here:

In-house counsel revealed mixed views to Managing IP on the benefits of video conferences this week – while the EPO’s president agreed that stalling tactics by some parties had denied access to justice.

The EPO announced last week that all hearings below appeal level – namely examination and opposition proceedings – would be virtual until September 2021.

Until now, virtual hearings had been permitted so long as both parties agreed. From January 4 2021, the need for both parties’ consent will be removed.

Miriam Colling-Hendelkens, head of patents in crop science at Bayer in Germany, suggests that the EPO’s decision is a bad one because it’s important for parties to be able to observe each examination/opposition division member’s reaction on the arguments provided.

She added: “The interpretation that opting for video conferences is a delay tactic might miss some additional real pain points and seems to be the underlying rationale in rare and very specific cases.”

So even some stakeholders are complaining, contrary to what the Office claims. “From January 4 2021,” it notes, “the need for both parties’ consent will be removed.” So they’re forced to do or participate in something illegal.

11.22.20

Legal Action at the European Patent Office (EPO) Leveraged Against Management… for Robbing EPO Staff and Robbing Europe, by Extension

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

La cara del dinero y su valor

Summary: The EPO is being looted for its value; the staff is rightly concerned and there’s legal action on the way, filed reluctantly as there’s clearly no other option (a last resort/necessary recourse)

OVER the past few weeks we unveiled a number of recent EPO scandals. Internal documents revealed what had happened, including layoff plans, illegal practices and so on.

This is no laughing matter! People’s lives are being utterly ruined (they tell us so) — all this while Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos basically loot the institution without any fear/care! Heck, Campinos only joined this institution less than 2.5 years ago (2.5 years ago he was still at EUIPO). Some people have worked at the EPO for nearly 50 years! 20 times longer than Campinos…

Cherry appleThose who ruined and still ruin the EPO (on multiple levels, both for stakeholders and workers) are going to face the wrath of high-level legal challenges. We showed hints of that a couple of days ago, as it has been made explicit in a letter that preparations were being made. Then there’s this four-page document from last month. It’s about the ‘trickle-up’ effect at the Office, basically passage of wealth from the bottom to the top. The document’s publication wouldn’t be complete without graphics, so instead of HTML we’ll present it as follows:

EPO looting P1

EPO looting P2

EPO looting P3

EPO looting P4

The Central Staff Committee concludes by saying that “it is therefore with regret that to defend our rights, even in this clear-cut case, we are forced again to resort to a lengthy legal dispute. It is not our intention, and we are simply asking the administration to adopt a fair and reasonable distribution method.”

“They’ve given Campinos ample time and even a public health crisis to exploit; and now the assault of staff is standing at/reaching unprecedented levels, with practically no consideration given to anything staff has to say.”The only thing that surprises us is that it took more than a couple of years to do so. They’ve given Campinos ample time and even a public health crisis to exploit; and now the assault of staff is standing at/reaching unprecedented levels, with practically no consideration given to anything staff has to say. In fact, without physical meetings (because “pandemic!”) there’s just about nothing to be done to resist it, e.g. protests and strikes. People are isolated in their homes, helpless and divided for the most part.

Here’s what the representatives told staff besieged by the management:

On the 6th October 2020, the GCC-SSPR sub-committee met to discuss the proposal of the administration for cash injections into the RFPSS and the Salary Savings Plan (SSP). Once again, Staff representation objected to the proposed distribution of the amounts into individual SSP accounts on the grounds that it heavily favours those in the higher grades and provides disproportionately large sums when compared to those in the lower grades.

The full publication on this topic, which can be found here, provides a more detailed overview of the issue with the cash injections into the SSP. In addition, for those less familiar with the acronyms used, a list including brief descriptions can be found on the last page of the publication.

We assume that readers of ours who aren’t working for the EPO might find the pertinent details a tad dull and the acronyms difficult to keep abreast of; but the short story is, funds are being grossly mis-allocated, not just for gambling. Shockingly, the EU’s officials seem to have no problem with that because at least some of them are part of the collusion/cover-up (Mr. Breton for sure).

New Position Paper on the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Says It’s “Not the Best Solution for Europe” — Clearly an Understatement

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 9:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ever noticed how the ‘Kats’ completely stopped talking about the Unified Patent Court (UPC)? They know it’s dead. They just know it.

A white cat

Summary: UPC proponents (profiteers) aren’t enjoying support anymore; not only has progress stalled (come to a complete stop) but the whole debate about the UPC (or anything conceptually like it) turned toxic and negative because facts come out, overriding lobbyists of litigation giants

THE predictions from Team UPC have long been a source of amusement. Some have given up making fake predictions. Few have not. Some retired early. Some left their employer. UPC promotion is a big risk/liability to one’s reputation. Some began doing it anonymously. How very telling.

“They wasted their money promoting a dud which in retrospect makes them look incredibly dishonest.”These frauds and charlatans thought that repeatedly lying to the public and to our elected officials would accomplish something. They wasted their money promoting a dud which in retrospect makes them look incredibly dishonest.

Now there’s this new paper (exactly a month and a week old), signed by Alain Strowel (alain.strowel@uclouvain.be), Fernand de Visscher (fernand.devisscher@simontbraun.eu), Vincent Cassiers (vincent.cassiers@uclouvain.be), and Luc Desaunettes (luc.desaunettes@uclouvain.be). “If you agree with the position papers or the simple motion,” they say, “please contact one of us.” They urge a “pause” to the whole thing. I’m not adding my name to it because I think that not only the UPC is wrong; anything even remotely like it is wrong. We know where the idea came from and who/what for.

“It’s time to put the brakes on this hopeless chase. It’s a total waste of politicians’ and courts’ time.”Here are the two originals (updated 2 days ago). We’re aware that most people don’t like PDFs and won’t bother opening any, so we’ve reproduced below, as images, both papers/statements, which are mostly signatures (notice Professor Xenos among the signatures below, along with many other names). The images below are added for readers’ convenience. They’re not reproductions of the underlying text.

UPC Alternatives P1

UPC Alternatives P2

UPC Alternatives P3


UPC Preliminary Research Working Document P1

UPC Preliminary Research Working Document P2

UPC Preliminary Research Working Document P3

UPC Preliminary Research Working Document P4

UPC Preliminary Research Working Document P5

UPC Preliminary Research Working Document P6

From the corresponding page:

The Unified Patent Court system is not the best solution for Europe and for innovation, and there are alternative systems to consider after Brexit.

The intellectual property group within CRIDES is behind an on-going initiative to rethink the system for adjudicating patents in Europe.

A position paper and a motion on the Unified Patent Court system, already signed by some experts, practitioners and academics, are available below.

We found this because of UPC boosters, who added an “UPDATE: This article was updated on 21 November 2020 [Saturday] to include the position paper of European academics and practitioners”

As usual, comments there are more informative that the Bristows diatribe. Here’s the latest comment, which speaks about the ridiculous prose from Team UPC’s ‘useful idiots’ in the German government:

Well, I think that we can conclude that my powers of prediction are very strong indeed. On 2 November 2020, I stated that:
“we can already predict with 100% confidence what the responses will be, namely “Everything is in order. Nothing to see here”. We can also be certain that the responses will amount to nothing more than hand-waving, smoke and mirrors and half truths”.

Well, the answers provided by the German government match this prediction PRECISELY. My personal favourite is the answer provided in connection with questions regarding the absence of a cost-benefit analysis for the UPC and the possible impact upon SMEs. This is because the government’s “excuse” for not conducting any analysis is that they were happy to rely upon two prior “studies” that were conducted … in 2009!

The trouble with this is that, back in 2009, the legislation relating to unitary patents was COMPLETELY different. This is because the flavour of the day back then was the ECPC. That proposed system was struck down by the CJEU as being incompatible with EU law. Thus, unsurprisingly, the provisions of the UPC Agreement look rather different. There is also the matter that neither of the 2009 studies includes anything close to a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

Thus, the German government’s “excuse” for not conducting a full cost-benefit analysis is effectively that other people did some “back of a fag packet” calculations more than a decade ago in connection with a proposed legal system that was really quite different to what we have now.

Well, in the face of such compelling reasoning, I am sure that no one will doubt any of the government’s other assertions, such as:
“The compatibility of the UPCA with the Basic Law, in particular the fundamental rights, as well as with Union law was comprehensively examined”; and
“The federal government does not see any further constitutional deficits”.

I mean, there is no way on earth that these statements could be viewed as being deliberately misleading, right?

So, irrelevant 2009 (yes, 2009!) ‘studies’ are the basis of the lies; back when UPC was mostly a concept, just a little beyond hypothetical. Let’s focus on the 2020 scholarly position (based on experts who produced more than just a study), which explains that the UPC is unsuitable, truly unfit for purpose. It’s time to put the brakes on this hopeless chase. It’s a total waste of politicians’ and courts’ time. A lot of taxpayers’ money was already put into that. What do they have to show for it? Nothing.

Mortality Rates Increase at the EPO and Christmases (or Holidays) During Corona Mean Fewer Days Off

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Among other factoids and findings from the latest GCC meeting report

Xmas tree

Summary: There’s still no sign (other than hand-waving and empty gestures/smiles) that the EPO’s management wishes to right the wrongs and undo the damage done over the past decade or so; in some ways, today’s management is worse than ever before (grossly incompetent and eager to break the law at every turn)

LAST month there was a rare(r) opportunity to “discuss directly” with António Campinos the “New Normal” 'survey' after he was absent/missing from the last meeting, citing health reasons.

“Battistelli’s ally or “plant” Bergot is claiming “lack of resources” while Battistelli blows EPO money away (on gambling) and speaking about “data protection issues” when the EPO violates data protection laws all the time.”Was the meeting productive? Apparently not, not even by EPO standards (which are appallingly low). After the meeting the Central Staff Committee said that “[o]nly two items were on the official agenda for consultation: the public holidays 2021 and the review of the death insurance.”

“The number of deceased colleagues increased,” it said, “but the low numbers are not statistically significant to show a trend.”

EPO changeThere used to be many suicides as well.

“Newly elected members of the CSC had for the first time the opportunity to discuss directly with Mr Campinos two other burning topics: the Education and Childcare allowance reform and the “New Normal”,” it was noted, telling staff they can “find our report together with the opinions we sent to the President after the meeting.”

The report is interesting. For a number of reasons….

They mention how Benoît Battistelli “removed some public holidays” and “Ms Bergot mentioned data protection issues and lack of resources as reasons for the delay.”

Amazing. Battistelli’s ally or “plant” Bergot is claiming “lack of resources” while Battistelli blows EPO money away (on gambling) and speaking about “data protection issues” when the EPO violates data protection laws all the time.

“The lack of involvement of the Staff Representation for the New Normal survey and the persistent lack of information lead us to believe that Mr Campinos had already unilaterally prepared his plans for the future of the Organisation,” says this report. It’s worth noting that while a meeting did in fact take place (meeting the dictator for the first time in months, or at least talking to him remotely), he’s not budging and there’s no sign that input from staff is taken into consideration at all. What sort of dialogue involves only listening?

Here’s the full report:

Munich 09.10.2020
sc20152cp – 0.2.1/6.2.1

Report on the GCC meeting on 1 October 2020

Only two items were on the agenda for consultation: the public holidays 2021 and the review of the death insurance. The newly elected staff representatives members of the CSC had for the first time the opportunity to discuss directly with Mr Campinos two other burning topics: the Education and Childcare allowance reform and the “New Normal”.

We expressed our pleasure to see Mr Campinos again after the non-meeting of 9 September. He tried to convince us that that social dialogue continued even though he was absent, but we insisted that “nothing could compare to a meeting with the President” and asked for further “catch-up” meetings.

On the agenda:

1. Public Holidays 2021 (GCC/DOC 13/2020)

The document confirms the return to the yearlong practice of calculating additional days of annual leave for all duty stations in reference to the duty station with the highest number of public holidays. The practice had been discontinued by Mr Battistelli who had also removed some public holidays. Unfortunately, for Vienna, Good Friday is once again omitted from the list.

The compulsory office closure during Christmas and New Year’s Eve amounts to four days this year. We argued that in Covid-19 times, with the extension of teleworking and possible travel restrictions, this practice no longer make [sic] sense and could at least be mitigated by granting part of the days from the balance of the Office, in line with the practice in other international organisations. Mr Campinos replied that the number of days of leave in the Office are at the upper end compared to EU agencies and other international organisations and saw no reason to change.


2. Death Insurance: Review of the period 2017-2019 and provisional rates for 2020-2022 (GCC/DOC 14/2020)

The topic was not controversial. The contribution rates proposed for the period 2020-2022 remain the same as for the period 2017-2019. The number of deceased colleagues increased, but the low numbers are not statistically significant to show a trend. The Administration added that the mortality rate was consistent with the rates used in the mortality tables for actuarial studies.

Any other business

3. Reward exercise & fixed-term contracts

We referred to our letter of 7 September asking for further data concerning the last reward exercise to make it more transparent and to be able to assess the current career system in preparation for the upcoming Working Group on career and performance. Ms Bergot mentioned data protection issues and lack of resources as reasons for the delay. She confirmed that data would be provided for the next meeting of the Working Group early October. The Administration also confirmed that a dedicated Working Group would be set up on the topic of fixed-term contracts.

4. Education and Childcare allowance reform

For the first time since the end of July, when the initial reform proposal was shared with staff, we were able to address directly Mr Campinos on this sensitive topic.

The Administration’s intention seems to be to remove the distinction between nationals and non-nationals as set out in current Article 71 ServRegs. We recalled that in the past the staff representation already advocated including nationals, so that they would also be eligible for the education allowance. The Office always opposed an extension to nationals, who thus had to file complaints1 supported by SUEPO. The cases were unfortunately lost before the Tribunal (Judgment 28702).

The present reform proposal shows that when there is a will, there is a way for Mr Campinos to re-open cases which have the force of res judicata3. Unfortunately, in line with the current cost-reduction policy of Mr Campinos, the announced reform would reduce the benefits for most staff – both nationals and expats – and thus the overall

_____
1 “Education allowance for non-expat staff”, SUEPO paper of 21.01.2008, su0812mp
2 The argumentation of the EPO at the time can be found on page 6 of Judgement 2870:

“The EPO denies that it has breached the principle of equal treatment and submits that the different treatment
of nationals and non-nationals under Article 71 of the Service Regulations is justified in light of the purpose of
that article, which is to help expatriate employees provide their children with an education in their country of
origin or in an international school system in order to maintain contacts with the country of origin and to
facilitate their children’s subsequent return to their country of origin for the purposes of study or employment.
Furthermore, the education allowance is not intended to offer financial support to all employees for the
financing of their children’s education but rather to compensate employees who, as non-nationals, are
generally exposed to higher educational expenses for their children.”

3 In his Communiqué of 29.06.2020, Mr Campinos refused to re-open disciplinary cases of former members of the Appeals Committee on the basis that “court rulings have been issued on these cases, so they are considered res judicata”.


budget4. We warned that this would trigger more litigation among those who had legitimate expectations based on the current regulations.

We proposed that the Office should assess how staff would make use of the new scheme. We repeated again our request to commission an impact study which should also take into account the psychosocial impact that such a reform would have on the families concerned.

Site-specific solutions and late impact study
We pointed out that the information we received from the Administration was contradictory. On the one hand, Mr Campinos said that the current reform proposal was only a draft and he promised deeply concerned colleagues in team meetings that there would be site-specific solutions. On the other hand, we heard from the members of his Administration in the Working Group that the proposal was final and that only transitional measures were open for discussion.

Mr Campinos confirmed that he wanted to apply education and childcare benefits to all staff regardless of nationality and to use as much as possible “lump sums” in order to facilitate the management of the allowances. He acknowledged that childcare facilities were more expensive in The Hague and that the lump sums could be adjusted by duty station (“if there is a business case”). Mr Campinos complained about the excessive costs incurred by some schools. This statement confirms our suspicion that cost reduction was is of the driving principles of the reform.

The Staff Representation reiterated its request for impact studies (on financial and psychosocial risks) as soon as possible. Mr Campinos replied that a financial study would be only possible when the draft proposal would be in an advanced stage.

5. New Normal

The lack of involvement of the Staff Representation for the New Normal survey and the persistent lack of information lead us to believe that Mr Campinos had already unilaterally prepared his plans for the future of the Organisation.

Mr Campinos denied the existence of a master plan and the persistent rumours about a dismantling of the Office. However, he admitted that a document on the New Normal was ready and that the Administration was only waiting for the results of the survey. Mr Campinos expressed the hope that staff would ask for more flexibility.

The Central Staff Committee

Annexes: the opinions of the CSC members of the GCC on the two GCC documents for consultation as sent to the President after the meeting.

_____
4 Confidential documents show a reduction of €4,9m in the budget.


Opinion of the CSC members of the GCC on GCC/DOC 13/2020: Public Holidays 2021

The CSC members of the GCC give the following opinion on the proposal of the list of public holidays for 2021 including four compulsory closure days.

On the number of public holidays
In this year’s proposal, the Office acknowledged the year-long practice of adding days of annual leave for all duty stations in order to align with the duty station with the highest number of public holidays. This is appreciated. Unfortunately, for Vienna, Good Friday is once again omitted from the list.

On the compulsory closure days
The proposal comprises four compulsory closure days for 2021. This is a record in mandatory leave days to date. The Office had proposed three days in previous years, to which we had objected as well.

In view of the number of colleagues currently working from home and in view of the foreseeable extension of homeworking, the explanations given by the Administration to justify this measure is not any longer valid or seems even less convincing. Instead, the change in the situation, with a low office occupancy, should be taken into account – not only for the compulsory closure days in 2021, but even more urgently for the compulsory closure days in 2020.

We propose to discontinue this practice of compulsory office closure days and to leave the flexibility of planning their annual leave to our colleagues.

However, should the President decide to continue this practice, we are of the opinion that the Office should compensate for these compulsory leave days, at least in part. For instance half of the compulsory leave days could be borne by the staff and half by the Office. In our view, this would be a concrete gesture of appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of all our colleagues.

The CSC members of the GCC


Opinion of the CSC members of the GCC on GCC/DOC 14/2020: Circular 406; Death insurance (Article 84 ServRegs)

Review for the period 2017–2019 and provisional rates for 2020–2022

The document shows the number of colleagues who passed away in the years 2017–2019 and for whom EPO death insurance was paid. As CSC members of the GCC, we would like to emphasise that we are not only looking at the numbers, but that we do not forget the colleagues who all died too early.

Although the death numbers increased from 4 in 2017 and 6 in 2018 to 7 in 2019, the figures are not statistically significant and no conclusion should be drawn.

We are in favour of the proposal by the Administration to leave unchanged the contribution rate for death insurance, i.e. 0.3% with 0.1% borne by the staff and 0.2% borne by the Office.

The CSC members of the GCC

January 1st will be 2.5 years since Campinos ‘took office’ and halfway into his term. What has he actually accomplished? Social dialogue? No. Peace? No. Improved quality and lawfulness? No, only lies about both. Maybe the real goal isn’t to fix the EPO but to turn it into a printing machine, operating outside the rule of law and in clear defiance of the EPC, directly violating a number of terms and even internal service regulations.

Newly Abnormal: A Crackdown on EPO Staff and Labour Rights in ‘Survey’ Clothing (Willis Towers Watson)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Only Fools and Horses… (or Donkeys) trust the EPO’s management

Donkey

Summary: In a very characteristic fashion, with zero consultation/input from staff (or staff representatives/union leaders) EPO President António Campinos proceeds to implementing illegal ‘reforms’, assuring any remaining non-sceptics that he’s just another Benoît Battistelli

THE past few weeks at “the Office” (Europe’s second-largest institution, not the TV programme) were much of the same; the ‘European’ Patent Office doesn’t seem to understand — or want to understand — that any patent office without qualified staff is pretty much worthless.

Office management not only crushes staff (financially, morally and so on); it actively breaks a lot of laws, hoping that “Pandemic!” is somehow an excuse for just about anything. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. The EPC did not contain a section that voids all the rules in case of war or pandemic. If you cannot obey/follow the EPC, then do away with the EPO. No nation signed up for some arbitrary, lawless institution to suck up money, gamble money, and then claim diplomatic immunity. If current EPO management does not understand this, then flush this management down the toilet, hold the crooks accountable, then start afresh (the examiners can stay; the bosses need to go).

“This is ‘Tobacco Industry’ kind of pseudoscience…”Both the EPO’s union and the representatives (more internal in the latter case) have strongly condemned the latest plot to crush staff. As usual, or as might be expected based on the past decade, the Council goes along with whatever Office management asks for. No wonder 0% of surveyed EPO staff trusts the Council. It’s little but a rubber-stamping operation of and for the Office President.

It should be noted that this glorified Office President is no achiever. No background in science, no accomplishment other than photo ops. “Like all dictatorships,” someone told me yesterday in a similar context, “they prioritize loyalty & obedience over competence.”

The litigation ‘industry’ likes Campinos because he’s serving the patenting and litigation ‘sector’ while oppressing actual scientists. Even if/when that sector is American, not European. Sure, it has some branches and operations in Europe, but those operations are inherently parasitic.

Staff that practiced science and exercised patent examination for years if not decades very well understands what Campinos is up to and who he’s serving. It’s not science. The regime is deeply unscientific and at times anti-scientific. It gets hoax ‘studies’ from Donald Trump allies that sponsor the far right; it’s doing bogus ‘surveys’ where the sole goal is to justify some predetermined outcome. This is ‘Tobacco Industry’ kind of pseudoscience

Now, for actual material and evidence regarding this matter…

At the start of last month several letters were circulated, leading up to last week.

In its own words:

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) raised the crucial issue of involvement of all stakeholders on the “New Normal” in an open letter to the President…

Here’s the letter dated October 14th:

Reference: sc20154cl – 0.3.1/4.6
Date: 14.10.2020

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO

ISAR – Room 1081

OPEN LETTER

Constructed urgency and deconstructed social dialogue

Dear Mr President,

On 6 May 2020, you launched a survey by Willis Towers Watson (WTW) entitled “Strong together – working during Covid-19”. No follow-up of this survey took place, in particular with respect to the evolution of the health of staff. The Central Staff Committee (CSC) was left out in both the preparation and the evaluation of this survey.

On 16 September 2020, you launched a further survey by WTW on the so-called “New Normal”, rushing into a new reality without checking on the health of staff. The CSC has again not been involved at all in elaborating the content of the survey.

The consequences of any decision on these matters will affect the EPO both in fulfilling its mission as in the mission statement, and the daily lives of every staff member. Some changes could even be irreversible, which asks for a prudent, timely and fully concerted approach involving all stakeholders. In that respect the CSC has sent a letter to the Administrative Council1. Staff had to cope throughout the year with the exceptional circumstance of Covid-19 and now the EPO is set to quickly engage in far-reaching reforms.

The CSC has repeatedly requested an improvement on the consultation process, the last time in an Open Letter2. The CSC was shocked to observe that results of the survey on New Normal appear to have already been provided to HR and that presentations are being made, but the CSC has not received this information. This approach lends to the spread of rumours that do not facilitate the active interaction between yourself and the staff.

_______
1 Letter to the AC, 02.10.2020
2 Letter to the President, 24.07.2020


In the meeting of last GCC3 you mentioned that the administration had already drafted a document on the New Normal before the results of the survey were known. Such changes to the current working conditions entail numerous risks and require an impact study. There is no need to rush any reform.

Please take the advantage of building the future of the Office on the most diverse base possible. This should include the preparation of an informal discussion in the Administrative Council (possibly foreseen already for the December meeting).

Not informing the CSC on (preliminary) results of the survey constitutes a lack of transparency and lack of honouring obligations towards the CSC to which you committed4. In line with your commitment to promote a culture of dialogue that focuses on mutual understanding, we urge you to ensure that the CSC is fully informed on the (preliminary) results of the WTW survey without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Sampels
Acting Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

_______
3 Report on the GCC, 01.10.2020
4 Social dialogue, undated

Two weeks prior to it, on October 2nd, the so-called ‘bosses’ of Campinos were briefed on this matter. As the Central Staff Committee put it:

A broad and early debate is necessary to first set the course for the future and secondly address all aspects of “New Normal” which will influence the working conditions of staff as well as the content and the quality of their work for years to come. “New Normal” as management sees it even questions the institutional principles of immunity and centralisation on which the success of the Organisation was built.

Why offer immunity for those who repeatedly break the law? Why is the Council tolerating this? What does that say about the Council?

“In this open letter to the heads of delegations of the Member States,” said the introduction to the letter signed by the Chairman of the Committee, “we appeal to their sense of responsibility.” [sic]

They never had any real sense of responsibility; this is why 0% of the surveyed staff said they’re trustworthy.

Here’s the full letter:

Reference: sc20147cl – 0.3.1/1.3.1
Date: 02.10.2020

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

To the Chairman and
The Heads of Delegations of the
Administrative Council of the European
Patent Organisation

OPEN LETTER

Setting the course for the “New Normal”

Dear Mr Chairman,
dear Heads of Delegations,

The President has recently announced that we are approaching a critical point in the history of our Organisation1 and management is in the process of concretely shaping the “New Normal”:

 The President has offered a temporary scheme for teleworking, which allows staff to work from any EPC country, i.e. far away from their usual places of employment. Many staff members confronted with the pandemic are using it.
 The pandemic has also made the previous scenarios in the building investment programme completely obsolete. We suspect that management is presently working full steam ahead on formatting even worse scenarios about the future use of EPO buildings, up to selling them2. We are also concerned about excessive staff depletion in some places of employment.

Recent experience teaches us that we, the Staff Representation, will be informed and consulted too late, when the policy decisions are close to being implemented3. It is also presently unclear how late the Member States will be informed, and how great their involvement will be in shaping those plans. In any case, there has been no discussion on which course would be most desirable for our Organisation.

_______
1 See the President’s announcement to staff: “Shaping our future”
2 Selling Pschorrhöfe Bauteil 7 in Munich seems now certain; as in document CA/43/19 Rev.1, page 35/39.
3 We were not even involved in the drafting of the staff survey, contrary to the practice in the past.


If we are indeed approaching a critical point in the history of our Organisation, as the President surmises, then a broad and early debate is necessary to first set the course for the future and secondly address all aspects of “New Normal” which will influence the working conditions of staff as well as the content and the quality of their work for years to come4. “New Normal” as management sees it even questions the institutional principles of immunity and centralisation5 on which the success of the Organisation was built.

All this cannot be achieved by “business as usual”, i.e. the late involvement of the stakeholders and “faits accomplis” policy. Instead, one would expect the President of the Office to start discussions with all stakeholders.

We count on you, the delegations of the Member States, to remind the President that all stakeholders must play a part commensurate with the challenges ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Alain Dumont
Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

_______
4 Seven months’ experience of “New Normal” type working does not mean we now have enough knowledge to extrapolate the long-term effects, e.g. on corporate culture, ergonomics, psychosocial aspect, collaboration within (Examining) Divisions, etc.

5 As anchored in the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities and in the Protocol on Centralisation

Having written letters addressed to the President and to the Council (above), the Central Staff Committee also wrote to staff and said: “The only urgency is to resume with human relation” (examiners are human).

The introductory text said that “the Office should not rush into defining a so-called “New Normal”. Instead, it should properly involve all staff and in particular your elected staff representatives in defining the necessary next steps on this journey. It is the time to step back and take a good look, not to rush things beyond any point of no return.”

Here’s the full letter:

Munich, 23.10.2020
sc20162cp – 0.2.1/4.6

New Normal staff survey results

It is urgent to wait!

Dear colleagues,

By now, the first survey results have been presented to us all and it seems that the Administration is willing to use these results to define a so-called “New Normal” at fast pace. We, the Staff Representatives from all sites, would like to support you, our colleagues, and the Office to plan for a future which guarantees the long-term sustainability of our Office.

On a positive note:
- More than three quarters1 of us all would like to continue teleworking to a greater or lesser extent.
- More than three quarters of us all would like to continue using Office premises to a greater or lesser extent.

We appreciate the diversity of your answers. Beyond the plurality of views on teleworking, it is obvious that the great majority – whilst wanting to enjoy greater flexibility – acknowledge the value of proper collaboration, of meeting colleagues face-to-face and also making use of e.g. the canteens2 and Amicale facilities. Vastly more colleagues working in the core business feel that their work has become more difficult than easier3. There seems to be no wish for decentralisation or a closing of sites therein. All of us think that a sense of belonging is important for the future of the Office.

Some further preliminary remarks:
We are still in the middle of a pandemic, i.e. in some kind of an emergency state. The survey conductor Willis Towers Watson (WTW) admitted that it was the first survey of that kind for them. In the absence of any precedent, we beg to ask how reliable these results really are, in their entirety.

It is too early for us to elaborate for now on the survey in detail. However, we wonder, with regards to the methodology used, whether the standard survey criteria (reliability, objectivity, validity) have been followed.

Importantly, it remains to be seen whether the feelings of staff and long-term psychosocial aspects have been adequately caught by the questions and reflected in the results

_______
1 See in particular slides 24 and 31
2 See in particular slides 45 and 46
3 See in particular slides 21 and 22


presented so far, or whether they would be more fittingly deduced from the numerous comments (over 40’000) given by staff. An in-depth evaluation of these is still due.

Conclusion
The Office should not rush into defining a so-called “New Normal”. Instead, it should properly involve all staff and in particular your elected staff representatives in defining the necessary next steps on this journey. It is the time to step back and take a good look, not to rush things beyond any point of no return.

The only urgency is to resume with human relation

Your Central Staff Committee

Lastly, after intervention from the Central Staff Committee, the union (SUEPO) weighed in as well. That was earlier this month when SUEPO wrote to members that “Mr Campinos has invited SUEPO to a meeting on 18 November. Since the beginning of his mandate, social dialogue has remained painfully slow on all fronts. The present pandemic led to a new working environment and following the latest survey by Willis Towers Watson on the “New Normal”, the SP2023 plan is being adapted to a “New Normal” situation – all without any input from the social partners. Our position in nearly all outstanding matters (in particular Career System, Rules for Strike, Memorandum of Understanding) has consistently been to follow the EU model. Staff deserves to know clearly the position of the administration on these issues.”

Here’s the full letter, which was presented 10 days ago regarding a meeting that took place 4 days ago (Wednesday):

10 November 2020
su20035cl – 0.3.1

OPEN LETTER

Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO
ISAR– Room 1081

Meeting President/SUEPO

Dear Mr Campinos,

Thank you for your invitation to a “President/SUEPO” meeting on 18 November 2020. We agree with you that it is high time to engage in genuine social dialogue for the benefit of staff and the Office, and as such a calendar of topic-specific meetings needs to be established urgently.

The present pandemic has led to a new working environment and following the latest survey by Willis Towers Watson on the “New Normal”, the SP2023 plan is being adapted to a “New Normal” situation – all without any input from the social partners. The career is in urgent need for a thorough review, not some mere quick fixes1 – the reform of the education and childcare allowances ought to be discussed in depth rather than stalling and focusing on transitional measures with an undefined final destination.

It is high time to truly engage with the social partners in finding the best way forward for staff and the Office, and each of these items warrants a calendar of topic-specific meetings. We would like to propose a series of meetings once every 6 weeks, each meeting dedicated to a single topic only. The meeting currently planned for 18 November 2020 could be used to draw up such a mutually agreed calendar.

In parallel, we are aware of some recent far-reaching opinions of the Appeals Committee, notably relating to the SUEPO facilities (incl. access to mass emails), the excessive strike deductions over weekends, and the “house arrest” under the health & sickness provisions2. Any meeting with SUEPO only makes sense if there is a clear and explicit willingness from your services to implement the necessary changes to the ServRegs as mandated by these

_______
1 “Input for the Working Group Performance Management”, CSC letter of 08.07.2019 sc19095cl
2 “Urgent amendment of Circular 367 and immediate suspension of ‘house arrest’”, CSC letter of 30.10.2020 sc20165cl


opinions. Without such a statement, any meeting with SUEPO remains a mere checkbox-ticking public relations exercise and risks to be a waste of time for all involved.

Also remaining on our agenda, where no tangible progress can be reported:

- The settlement of sanctions on former SUEPO officials and other Staff representatives;
- A review of the Rules for Strike and progress on a Memorandum of Understanding, where we are still looking forward to receiving a reaction to our proposal as submitted on 25-04-20153;

We can only observe that social dialogue has remained painfully slow on all fronts since the beginning of your mandate. Our position in nearly all matters (in particular Career System, Rules for Strike, MoU) has consistently been to follow the EU model – and staff deserves to know the position of the administration on these issues. We are not able to explain to staff why such reviews are delayed and why staff should be treated differently – and poorly – in comparison with staff in other EU agencies.

Genuine social dialogue should be our shared goal: working together we can arrive at agreements that foster social peace and prevent further litigation.

Yours sincerely,

Joachim Michels
Chairman of SUEPO Central

Copy: Mr Josef Kratochvíl; Chairman of the Administrative Council

_______
3 “Input to the WG on Union Recognition” – su15182cl – which includes our draft proposal for a MoU as submitted earlier on 05-02-2014 (su14020cl) and copies of agreements between the European Commission and the trade unions

The bottom line is, staff is still not being consulted and COVID-19 is gleefully exploited by management to do illegal things, retroactively justifying those things with bogus surveys and statements saying those things “have been broadly welcomed by the patent profession” (which is like saying that a war was “broadly welcomed by the military contractors”). The EPO’s staff deserves better than this anarchical management, which is defended by corrupt officials further up the chain.

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