Is the EPO weaponising the media?
Summary: Rumour that the EPO spends almost as much as a million US dollars “with some selected press agencies to refurbish the image of the EPO”
LIKE a lot of large organisations out there, the EPO wishes to guard its image and even hires accordingly. Since the EPO is a public body that receives subsidies from taxpayers, it is imperative that the public gets told how this money gets spent.
Months ago we pointed out that the EPO was preparing a propaganda campaign trying to cast/frame staff as "happy" even though everyone we hear from is unhappy and the ‘loyal’ committee is clearly not happy either [1, 2]. For all we know, even EPO management is unhappy right now, but that’s mostly because of the negative press it receives. Recently we have seen some character assassination articles prepared in coordination with EPO management, shamelessly (and with little concrete evidence) framing its opponents as armed Nazis. Later on people like Battistelli send this tripe to various people in high places, as private letters serve to demonstrate. The EPO’s management views this as an information war (as if it has done nothing wrong) and it now distorts the media, turning journalists into PR marionettes and weaponising newspapers with high circulation in Germany, Holland, and sometimes even France (where French EPO managers probably dread negative publicity).
“Recently we have seen some character assassination articles prepared in coordination with EPO management, shamelessly (and with little concrete evidence) framing its opponents as armed Nazis.”Last night we received comments with mere claims (not yet verified) from a regular commenter whose track record has been reasonably good (accurate). The comment says: “Inquire about a contract of over 800.000€ with some selected press agencies to refurbish the image of the EPO after the alllegedly [sic] “damaging campaign by few employees and mad bloggers”. Someone has seen the signed contract passing from desk to desk at the EPO (readers please provide confirmation or evidence). A further misuse of public money.”
A later comment said: “I do not know who was the beneficiary of the contract, only that its purpose was to restore the “damaged” reputation of the EPO by way of favourable press articles and media contributions (Les Echoes is just an example). For a favourable coverage, the simple resignation of BB [Battistelli] would suffice. This would be very cheap for the EPO. I was also told that the EPO might buy an armoured limousine for the safety of President who has already a number of body guards. If true, it would be another useless expenditure of public money.”
“Staff of the EPO has long been concerned about the EPO’s manipulation of the media in its favour.”We welcome any confirmatory evidence people can provide. Staff of the EPO has long been concerned about the EPO’s manipulation of the media in its favour. And at whose expense? The European public whose brightest engineers, biologists, programmers etc. are abused by the EPO?
As a side note, regarding our previous post about why Battistelli equates his opposition to Unitary Patent (UP) opposition, a reader wrote to tell us that the article “was mentioning TR, NO and CH, which did not participate in the UP, and thus helped justified the continued existence of the EPO in its present form.
“To be exhaustive, one should add to that non-EU, non UP, list: IS, AL, FY, SM and RS [Iceland, Albania, FYROM, San Marino and Serbia].
“Extremely few applications are filed from theses countries, and European patents are also seldom validated there.
“And each of these states possess one full vote on the EPO AC, even though these states count for nothing in the European IP system.”
We hope that someone can provide us with some documents to show abuse and waste of public funds, possibly to the tune of €800,000 (to be funneled to the media or given to people who meddle with the media), a la French ‘news’ paper Les Échos [1, 2, 3], which has become Battistelli's mouthpiece, not just a so-called ‘media partner’ (euphemism). █
“A desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man.”
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By unknown, who is intimately familiar with EPO matters
1888 (in public domain): American cartoon of John Bull (England) as an Imperial Octopus with its arms (with hands) in – or contemplating being in – various regions.
Summary: Remarks on the Unitary Patent (UP) and the lesser-known aspects of the EPO and EPC, where the “real issue is money, about which very little is discussed in public…”
THE staff of the EPO generally longed for and supported the creation of a community patent, as thought that it would have meant a cure for many of the original sins of the EPC.
It was believed, or hoped, that the EPO could become in the process an organ of the European Union, which, despite all its flaws, would have most probably brought an improvement in the governance of the organisation and the lot of the staff.
“The staff of the EPO generally longed for and supported the creation of a community patent, as thought that it would have meant a cure for many of the original sins of the EPC.”Just look at the shabby display given every quarter by the dysfunctional EPOrg’s Administrative Council, dominated as it is by a self-serving clique that cows it into submission through arm twisting and client politics.
Becoming a part of the EU could have meant for staff improved conditions in matters such as taxes, pensions, union recognition and collective bargaining, legal protection, conflict resolution…
“To sum it up, the implementing regulations are rubber-stamped by minor bureaucrats dwelling way down the food chain, and not decided by national parliaments.”As for the citizens of Europe, it could have brought improvements in its control of patent law, as changing an EU Directive or Regulation is still vastly simpler than amending the European Patent Convention through a diplomatic conference, and involves some form of debate in the EU parliament.
Then there are also the EPC implementing regulations, into which many sections of the convention were transferred with the EPC 2000 revision. Like the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”, and such details are created by the EPO’s legal department under instructions of the President, and submitted for approval to the AC [see above...]. And then the AC is essentially composed of civil servants from National Patent Offices and/or National Departments for Trade and Industry.
To sum it up, the implementing regulations are rubber-stamped by minor bureaucrats dwelling way down the food chain, and not decided by national parliaments. These bureaucrats have at heart a Sir Humphrey like interest in preserving their little fiefs [e.g. the Croatian patent office], which should have been wound up long ago had there been a real will for a truly European patent.
“If those bloody foreigners can roam around your territory without needing your permission, why make more of a fuss when it comes to patents?”Among the roadblocks to a proper EU patent were inter alia languages: the EPO accepts applications in DE, EN, FR. The EU must function in 24 languages. I think that a compromise could have been found in which all languages could have been accommodated, as the number of applications stemming from Europe which are not in the three EPC official languages aren’t wholly unreasonable. TR, GR, and IT already translate their national applications before sending them on to the EPO for prior art searches and opinions on patentability.
Then there was the issue of EU membership. EPC members TR, CH, and NO do not [currently] belong to the grand design, but this didn’t have to be an insurmountable problem. These countries already accept that a foreign body, the EPO, decides on whether a patent has legal force over their territory. This organisation is already EU-dominated, and even then, the parliaments [or strongmen...] of TR+CH+NO have presently next to zilch influence in the running of the EPO.
“My feeling is that the real issue is money, about which very little is discussed in public…”Then there is the fact CH+NO are part of that other EU-invented club called “Schengen”. If those bloody foreigners can roam around your territory without needing your permission, why make more of a fuss when it comes to patents?
My feeling is that the real issue is money, about which very little is discussed in public…
“Something must yield to make work that Unitary Patent monstrosity they came up with, and that is the EPO’s staff.”Something must yield to make work that Unitary Patent monstrosity they came up with, and that is the EPO’s staff. For the language and membership issues, the EPO must remain this autonomous death start which has been hovering above the continent for 40 years. And Battleship Eponia’s “independence” is essential for making staff become what they call in French a “variable d’ajustement”, i.e., the fudge factor which will mop up all the inconsistencies in that unitary contraption.
“This could explain why Battistelli equates any sign of resistance against his iron will to be opposition to the UP.”This could explain why Battistelli equates any sign of resistance against his iron will to be opposition to the UP. Is that association even conscious? █
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The imperialist ambitions of a patent office result in growing neglect of local actors
Management takeover by Team Battistelli similar to French coup d’état of 1851
Summary: Some timely perspective on what’s needed at the European Patent Office, which was detabilised by ‘virtue’ of making tyrants its official figureheads
THE main concern I have always had regarding the EPO was potential granting of software patents in Europe. I even wrote a letter to the Enlarged Board of Appeal about it (that was half a decade ago). As a software engineer surrounded by other software engineers I know that people who write software (computer programs) don’t want to bother with patents. They needn’t worry about who got a monopoly on which algorithm (copyright law is more than sufficient here). This worry is further accentuated when dealing with Free/Open Source software, where a lot of compartmentalised code gets imported/grafted (not licensed per se), and it is infeasible to start checking what line of code may infringe which patent. It would be lunacy to review hundreds of thousands of US patents before undertaking the simple task of writing a program. It would also put one at greater risk (higher damages due to willful infringement).
“It would be lunacy to review hundreds of thousands of US patents before undertaking the simple task of writing a program.”EPO management would have to lie (with a straight face even!) if it persisted in portraying its opposition as aiming to ‘destabilise’ the Office. There is a big difference between destabilisation and reform. There are many abuses taking place inside the EPO, putting aside our concern about software patents. The need to obey the law or the efforts to compel the EPO’s managers to obey European laws aren’t ‘destabilisation’ efforts. Imagine a political parable; dictatorships like to say that their opposition is ‘destabilising’ a nation, or trying to cause chaos. Any dictatorship that deems itself ‘benevolent’ (which dictatorship has ever believed otherwise about itself?) will always insist on crushing opposition. That’s why elections are imperative (with time limits for one single individual to run) and there is a clear separation between media and governance for instance — a separation which EPO evidently no longer respects.
“Contrary to misleading portrayals from Team Battistelli, EPO staff is not violent. The aggressor here is actually the management.”The EPO took many decades to acquire its reputation (quickly eroded by Team Battistelli, in just a few years), so efforts to fix the EPO are actually defensive and they are intended to rescue the EPO’s integrity. Sometimes from a temporary/localised destruction (e.g. of tyranny at the top) comes liberation. Sometimes it’s known as revolution, although the word revolution has negative connotations (with blood and violence).
Contrary to misleading portrayals from Team Battistelli, EPO staff is not violent. The aggressor here is actually the management.
“The EPO can learn from the failings of lesser successful patent systems — systems which the EPO’s current managers increasingly emulate.”EPO staff continues to receive a salary and it would in no way help this staff if it saw the EPO going away (pensions too may be at stake). What definitely would harm this staff — in the long term — is an EPO that suffers reputation erosion, due in part to poor patents (too broad or easily invalided in courts, e.g. using prior art which examiners overlooked). They would devalue EPO patents, which would no longer be able to justify their high and ever-rising cost. To shield the integrity of the EPO the management needs to:
- Stop harassing staff, as it makes recruitment of talented examiners a lot harder and leads to a loss of many skilled and experienced patent examiners
- Re-examine the scope of patents because in some domains (e.g. software) patents do more societal and professional harm than good
- Re-examine the pace of patenting because quality should come before quantity and too many patents merely saturate the market, diluting/reducing each patent’s worth
- Restore patent neutrality, meaning that large corporations should no longer receive preferential treatment
There are many more points to be made, but this is just a very partial list. Reform is needed and the current management — not the staff — is resistant to a reform. It’s funny just how the management reversed this whole situation, painting the examiners as Luddites. Who’s really the Luddite here? It’s Orwellian spin.
“It’s funny just how the management reversed this whole situation, painting the examiners as Luddites.”The EPO can learn from the failings of less successful patent systems — systems which the EPO’s current managers increasingly emulate. Publicly posing or liaising with Chinese patent officials, for instance, is no triumph but arguably an embarrassment for a number of reasons (beyond the scope of this post). TechDirt, which wrote about Techrights yesterday, has many articles on this subject. In fact, it wrote several such articles yesterday.
TechDirt now shows evidence of the strategy of accumulating a massive number of junk patents  (when about 92% of applications get patents granted at the end, what is the role of examination really?) to then attack rivals in the domestic market  in China (just like the USPTO and ITC enable). With UPC, widespread injunctions (a la ITC) would become possible and patent scope would likely expand, not just in the domain sense but also the geographical sense (making more parties liable and thus subjected to legal threats, if not outright actions).
Today’s EPO management is bad for science, bad for lawyers (especially in the long term), bad for examiners, and even bad for European businesses, which it discriminates against. Who is the EPO good for? Evidence serve to suggest that it serves multinational conglomerates. It’s like an imperial institution, complete with mass surveillance, witch-hunting, and mental torture (so-called ‘interrogation’ of perceived dissent which poses a threat to the empire). █
Related/contextual items from the news:
There are two serious problems with this patent. First, the claims are directed to a mind-numbingly mundane business practice and should have been rejected as obvious. Obvious uses or combinations of existing technology are not patentable. Second, the claims are ineligible for patent protection under the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Alice v. CLS Bank—this is a recent Supreme Court decision that holds that an abstract idea (like contacting potential third-party payers) doesn’t become eligible for a patent simply because it is implemented using generic technology. That the system failed to register either of these defects shows deep dysfunction.
For many years now, Western governments have been complaining about China’s supposed lack of respect for intellectual monopolies, and constantly pushing the country’s politicians to tighten the legal framework protecting them. To anyone not blinded by an unquestioning belief in the virtues of copyright and patent maximalism, it was pretty clear where this strategy would end. Indeed, over five years ago, Mike warned where this was leading: towards China repeatedly punishing foreign companies to protect domestic Chinese firms — in other words, leveraging patents as a tool for protectionism.
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“If all I say is “I’m in favor of freedom”, I have not really tackled the difficult issue, because it’s very easy to say: “I stand for freedom”, even Bush says he stands for freedom, and Bush doesn’t even recognize freedom after he’s crushed it.”
Summary: A showing of dissent even from the representatives whom the EPO tightly controls and why the latest union-busting goes a lot further than most people realise
OUR previous post presented a new document and provided a first glimpse at the true mess inside the EPO, where not only SUEPO but also the Staff Committee has concerns. There is also FFPE-EPO, which yesterday expressed solidarity for SUEPO in its official statement. Here is the same document in all languages
(much larger file).
One might rightly ask, who are in this committee anyway? Well, it is not a closely-guarded secret, so here is who’s involved. Everyone in the EPO’s management knows them and in case there will ever be some altercation (like EPO managers trying to punish or intimidate representatives), we will be better at identifying possible motivations, causes, ulterior motives etc.
These people too will probably need protection at some stage, judging by the modus operandi of Team Battistelli.
Here is the complete opening, focusing on the English version/text of the document (more languages are in the original PDF):
European Patent Office
Central Staff Committee
scl527Ocp — 0.2.1/2.2/2.3
Questions on the EPO
A discussion paper on the independence of the departments in DG1
A structural reform of the Boards of Appeal is currently under discussion. This will be a main topic on one of the next Council meetings. The reform addresses the independence of the Boards. Independence is an indispensable requirement for legal certainty with regard to the decisions taken by the members of the Boards, but also by the examiners in DG1.
The annexed documents (English, French and German versions of the discussion paper) shall give further input to the discussion from another point of view. Some daily life situations of examiners in DG1 are reflected in a questionnaire. Many difficulties result from the hierarchical position of examiners within DG1.
As a huge part of EPO staff is allocated to other DGs than DG1 and DG3, the documents contain some background information on the current structure of DG1. This should help to increase mutual understanding of all EPO staff in all DGs. We.would like to encourage everybody to discuss the issues addressed therein with her/his colleagues and superiors.
We are interested in your feedback, which can be sent to email@example.com or to your preferred staff representative. We intend to publish a follow-up document so as to summarize your comments and to provide the administration with suitable proposals.
The Central Staff Committee
There are nearly 60 more pages in the original PDF. Please note that the Central Staff Committee uses
epo.org addresses, which, considering the mass surveillance inside the EPO (going as far as keyloggers and hidden cameras), very much limits one’s ability to independently operate. It’s a farcical body with no real, effective independence or autonomy. SUEPO overcame this issue by using its own domain,
suepo.org (EPO management now deletes or blocks E-mail from that domain, allegedly since 2013).
“Please note that the Central Staff Committee uses
epo.org addresses, which, considering the mass surveillance inside the EPO (going as far as keyloggers and hidden cameras), very much limits one’s ability to independently operate.”On another subject, let’s explain the severity of this whole situation. It is becoming ever more serious right now. It not only affects SUEPO. The suspension of the staff representatives is a real bombshell and there are many actions planned as a result (we have seen some details, but won’t publicly divulge them at this point).
Some of the details began to reach us with urgency as people inside the EPO were in panic. The EPO’s management too is in panic, but for different reasons. We were told the names of the parties involved and the shocking treatment of people at The Hague. We couldn’t reveal the names of the parties at the time, but both the Munich and The Hague staff committees later published the names of the parties (right before the scandal took the blogosphere by storm).
“The staff representation has NINE members, and FIVE of these have been suspended and/or “investigated”.”We are revealing the names not because we disregard privacy because they’re essential for understanding of just how terrible the EPO management became. Jesús Areso and Laurent Prunie can both be seen above, under The Hague. They were among those whom EPO managers (or their Stasi-esque unit) attacked. Malika Weaver and Brumme (under Munich) were also attacked. So was Michels (under Vienna). Why is this important?
The above image adds one piece of information which completes the picture which hasn’t been mentioned elsewhere to our knowledge:
The staff representation has NINE members, and FIVE of these have been suspended and/or “investigated”. That’s more than half! It’s only a matter of time until they figure out something for crushing the remaining four active members.
“We kindly ask readers to remember that these members were elected despite the rotten voting system unilaterally imposed by Battistelli in an attempt to sabotage the staff representation.”One can see for oneself the composition of the staff representation above.
We kindly ask readers to remember that these members were elected despite the rotten voting system unilaterally imposed by Battistelli in an attempt to sabotage the staff representation. We have covered this in passing already.
Who would even be brave enough to be a staff representative right now? Mr. Battistelli has achieved what even Vladimir Putin could not achieve. Battistelli made himself the Sun King. █
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Summary: The questions asked by the Central Staff Committee shared for the public to see that not only a single union is concerned about the management’s behaviour
THE EPO is not behaving well and even groups that are traditionally quite loyal to the management aren’t entirely happy. Based on this new document
[PDF], the Central Staff Committee has some tough questions for the EPO. It’s easy to see why the Central Staff Committee needs to tread carefully, or else risk being crushed like SUEPO. The roaring aggression of the EPO is now making people reluctant to say anything, even to colleagues (privately). It’s not just an atmosphere of fear; it’s a climate of terror from the man who purports to be fighting terrorism.
As one commenter said earlier today: “you have to be a bit careful about how you word something, and avoid accusations, but merely stick to facts in the public domain (damning enough). Could someone please let me know where it is said that you are not allowed to contact your delegate? I’m sure BB [Battistelli] does not like it, but that is not the same as it being against the Service Regulations. I have already done so a while ago on another matter. So far no comeback.”
“By the way,” this commenter added, “where are the patent attorneys in all this? They, or their professional organizations, should get active. Politicians cannot ignore representatives of industry as easily as they can civil servants.”
IP Kat is now sharing recommendation of books for patent lawyers or examiners, but there are some urgent matters we’ll attempt to address through the rest of this week. Please review the new PDF, on which we shall elaborate on a later occasion.
“It’s easy to see why the Central Staff Committee needs to tread carefully, or else risk being crushed like SUEPO. The roaring aggression of the EPO is now making people reluctant to say anything, even to colleagues (privately).”If anybody has information about a €800,000 contract, please consider sharing it with us.
It’s nice to have discovered a circulated message titled “Enemies everywhere”, wherein it stated: “The Blogger, Florian Müller, posted yesterday an article taking a clear view on the latest ac ons of the EPO, entitled “Shame on the European Patent Office for its legal threats against TechRights”: he notes that “with almost 20,000 blog posts, Dr. Schestowitz had not received a legal letter before an EPO lawyer sent him one.” and despite not being a great fan of the “opinionated” TechRights site (the latter has often attacked Mr. Müller), he adds he would personally “contribute money and lend an endorsement to a crowdfunding effort to finance his defence”.
Stay tuned for more exclusive coverage of EPO matters. █
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There’s the belief that from destruction come profit opportunities
Summary: The plague which is widely known as patent trolls (non-practicing entities that prey on practicing companies) is being spread to Europe, owing in part to misguided policies and patent maximalists
MANY people are very much familiar already with the “Broken Window” fallacy. To quote this short article about it, “natural disasters, wars, and other destructive events can boost an economy’s production because they create demand for rebuilding work.”
“The US patent system, much like the Chinese one, strives to maximise the number of patents (a misguided goal).”Last month we pointed out that patent trolls were entering Europe. These are parasites. They are usually confined to operate within the borders of the US, but a poorly-implemented (to benefit the rich) ‘globalisation’ of patent systems means that more of them can expand their arsenal, extend their horizons, and unleash rage upon European businesses. We have covered many examples in recent years.
The US patent system, much like the Chinese one, strives to maximise the number of patents (a misguided goal). How else can such incredibly high approval rates be explained? It’s no wonder that a lot of domains like programming can now suffer from patent lawsuits in the US. According to this new decision: “Following jury and bench trials, the court found that plaintiff’s network security patent was not invalid for lack of patentable subject matter and found the claims were not directed toward an abstract idea. “Plaintiff contends that contrary to Defendant’s overgeneralization of claim 1 of the [patent-in-suit], claim 1 covers a specific technique of protecting computer networks.”
See? Software patents. An abstract thing. Patented! Welcome to the alternative universe where programs that are reducible to a sequence of numbers (to be fed into a processor or processed/solved using pen and paper) are covered by broad patents, not just copyrights. Where would that leave science and technology in the long run? It would just leave science and technology on the run.
“The largest publicly traded patent-holding company will have to pay online retailer Newegg $15,000 after bringing a frivolous appeal.”
–Joe MullinAccording to some new reports, e.g. [1,2], Unwired Planet (formerly Openwave Systems, which we mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4]) now uses software patents pertaining to networks in order to troll Android (Linux-powered) players, namely Samsung and Huawei. Patent maximalists don’t seem to mind this. The significance of this is that it all happened in a UK court, not some distant district of Texas (the rocket docket for trolls).
Speaking of patent trolls, the Microsoft-connected troll Acacia (already attacked Red Hat several times over the years) is said to have lost again. As Joe Mullin put it: “The largest publicly traded patent-holding company will have to pay online retailer Newegg $15,000 after bringing a frivolous appeal.
“The order brings to a conclusion what was a once-classic example of sprawling “patent troll” litigation. In 2010, AdjustaCam LLC, a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corp., filed suit (PDF) in Eastern Texas against dozens of companies, saying that they infringed US Patent No. 5,855,343, which describes a type of movable camera clip. The list of defendants included camera makers like Gear Head and Creative Labs, as well as retailers like Amazon, Newegg, K-Mart, Overstock.com, and Wal-Mart.”
This happened in Eastern Texas, but now we see similar things happening in London. It’s not getting any better; it gets worse over time. People in Europe should watch these developments and trends with some concern.
Speaking of Eastern Texas, see this new article about trolls:
Texas Patent Law as If Roy Bean Were Still On the Bench: “Hang ‘Em First, Try ‘Em Later”
East Texas is really a very nice place. The people are friendly. Living is relatively easy amongst the “Piney Woods.” The region is more like the Old South, or the southeastern U.S., than the scrub brush and high plains that many usually think of when they think of Texas. Riddled with rivers, creeks and bayous the climate lends itself to the growth of Spanish moss and bald cypress. But recently it is another climate in East Texas that has attracted the most attention – its lawsuit climate.
The US Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform recently released its annual lawsuit climate survey and Texas continues to fail, recently dropping again after some slight improvement in the last couple years. The Lone Star ranks an embarrassing 40th out of the 50 states.
Given the direction of the EPO’s management, Europe might soon become the same, little by little. The UPC would certainly contribute to this, for reasons we explained here many times before. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
In March 2014, Unwired Planet sued several smartphone makers over various patents it had “acquired” from Ericsson. Actually, “acquired” misses the key commercial point here. In April I took a closer look at the related arrangements and couldn’t help but conclude that this was just a pseudo-sale of patents and simply an act of what is commonly referred to as “privateering.”
Licensing company Unwired Planet has scored a double victory at the English High Court after it ruled that one of the company’s 4G standard-essential patents (SEPs) is valid and was infringed by Samsung and Huawei.
Mr Justice Birss handed down his judgment today, November 23.
The judgment is the conclusion of the first of five trials concerning the validity and any scope of infringement of Unwired’s five European SEPs, as well as a non-SEP, by Samsung and Huawei
Samsung and Huawei argue that the patents are invalid.
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That’s a Scud by the way…
Summary: Our detailed remarks about French brainwash from the EPO’s media partner (with Benoît Battistelli extensively quoted) and the concerns increasingly raised by French politicians, who urge for national or even continental intervention
THE management of the EPO is very deep in a crisis, so it is now discouraging criticism if not demanding cessation thereof (similar to nastygrams in the slangy sense). This post will elaborate on what happened last week to a French minister (a longtime critic of the EPO [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]), but first we want to tackle some of the latest French propaganda from the EPO’s ‘media partner’ (euphemism for propaganda rag), Les Échos [1, 2, 3]. That’s because Benoît Battistelli is evidently citing this propaganda rag in private letters, in ‘support’ of his ludicrous, virtually indefensible side. As one commenter put it the other day: “In support of his argumentation, BB [Benoît Battistelli] also refers to recent press articles annexed to his letter, such as the paid-for article in EPO´s “media partner” Les Échos.”
Let’s look at what Les Échos has to say and annotate the text accordingly. “It is a sickening regurgitation of the Benoît Battistelli party line,” a reader told us, but nonetheless this reader translated the EPO-related part of the article:
Home -> Themes -> Transformation : put agility in your organisation Transformation: The “enemies” within
Yes, remember that the “enemy” is the staff. Not the management. The staff. That’s the premise.
Julie Le Bolzer | Le 19/11 à 11:39
Employees, unions and even bosses are sometimes so averse to change that the business transformation process is hindered. Some examples from the EPO, Air France KLM, and PSA.
We have already shown that PSA was altogether ‘airbrushed’ out of this article. The author loses credibility for not even mentioning this. Previously, parts that were critical of the EPO were also ‘airbrushed’ out of Les Échos articles.
As Benoît Battistelli, then director general of the [French] National Institute for Intellectual Property (INPI), took over in 2010 the leadership of the European Patent Office (EPO), his objectives were clearly defined. It was to reinforce and sustain the organisation’s competitiveness against its competitors from America and Asia, and to make it in the international office of record. Fact: the EPO, which had been created in the 1970s, has not evolved in 40 years, or very little. It is therefore necessary to profoundly reform it, at the structural, organisational and managerial levels.
“Competition with other patent offices,” we are told, is “management BS.” It’s not hard to see why given that the EPO enjoys a government-granted and government-protected monopoly inside Europe.
We are going to address and write about the roots of the EPO in some other article on some other day. The full story is rather embarrassing.
In concrete terms, Benoît Battistelli harnesses himself to a multi-pronged task: regulate salary increases (until then automatic), the right to strike and career progression (which are henceforth no longer based only on seniority but on performance), develop teleworking, implement a social agenda, adopt more transparency… And these were just the the internal transformations. On en external front, the EPO should differentiate itself from other international patent office (filing a patent in the United States costs 25% less). Amongst other innovations, the EPO supports the initiative of the countries of the European Union to create a unitary European patent, which is major progress for French and European businesses whose patents represent obvious competitive assets. The unitary patent is currently being ratified by national parliaments and could be implemented as early as next year in 26 different countries.
The thing about automatic “salary increases” is an “outright lies,” a reader told us. “Even in the “good old days” the god-damned production was #1 priority. The difference is that they can LEGALLY stand you up the wall, and they also do.”
Is the “unitary patent (UPC) a good thing? If so, for who? That’s like one of those articles boasting about the greatness of the TPP. A three-letter word on its own does not imply it’s good.
Now comes the worse propaganda:
European Patent Office : An in-house trade union is hostile to change
The problem might not be change itself but the kind of change. Big difference. They’re portraying staff as Luddites.
Here comes propaganda galore, as if Julie just did a copy-paste job without fact-check or research:
As of today, the transformation plan borne by Benoît Battistelli reveals its efficacy: an increase of 10% the productivity of the EPO and of 13% of the number of files handled (270,000 patent applications are received and nearly 70,000 are granted each year), an employer’s brand which has improved its images: more than 20,000 job applications were received for 200 positions to be filled…
As a reader put it:
“10% efficiency increase”? By what measure? Who can verify? How?
“270,000 applications” is the good ol’ pissing contest… This stupid trick was addressed repeatedly over the last few years in different blogs. The real number is about half of that. I don’t want to go in a course on patent law, but in a nutshell a large part of these applications never make it even to the doorstep of the EPO.
“The second part about Air France KLM seems a somewhat more balanced when compared to the first one,” our reader told us. “But should one trust it more than part one?”
Remember that Les Échos quietly remove the entire section about PSA. Completely too! To carry on with this puff piece:
But this process didn’t occur without resistance, nor even without grave disturbances, such as defamation campaigns, anonymous letters, personal attacks against the president and other office staff members. As any events which have left to disciplinary and judicial proceedings, some of which are still underway. The opponents to change, who are the root of opposition: certain SUEPO leaders, the in-house trade union worried by its dwindling influence over the 7000 employees, and which denounces the lack of checks and balances [literally: counter-powers] within the EPO.
Here’s a dictionary for the above paragraph:
Anonymous=afraid of reprisal from management.
Personal attacks=personal accounts.
Disciplinary and judicial proceedings=the EPO’s own Stasi-esque department (or "Gestapo"), the Investigative Unit [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]], bolstered by ‘British Blackwater’, CRG.
The part that says “worried by its dwindling influence over the 7000 employees” is a lie. SUEPO is empowered by growing support from more EPO employees; it’s only harmed by union-busting actions from EPO management. Julie obviously didn’t pay attention to protests which took place a day before she wrote this article. About 2,000 people attended these, including some Directors (so there are defections to the union’s side even at the top).
Here is the last part:
The formal recognition process of unions at the EPO is well underway, and should lead to the signature of a first agreement in the coming weeks. The trade unions will thus have a status. The social dialogue was opened last April. “The goal is to build transformation in a collegial manner”, emphasises Benoît Battistelli. In such a climate of tension and even of extreme pressure, how could one maintain the course on a reform of such magnitude? “All that is excessive is not credible”, relativises the EPO president; “in particular, I have a strong ability for resistance and my beliefs are just as strong. I am conviced that the transformation of the EPO constitutes an asset for our employees and more widely for the European economy.”
“All that is excessive is not credible,” Battistelli is quoted as saying (by translation). Oh, the hypocrisy! The rest is just window dressing. Why didn’t Julie approach a staff representative for comment? Or even arbitrary staff? See, the purpose of this whole piece is to be one sides and paint a picture where only ‘poor’ rich people are the victims, not those whom they crush.
If this is the kind of puff piece that Battistelli uses as ‘evidence’ (from his media partner, relayed by Julie), then we worry that some politicians might be easy to bamboozle and pacify.
Looking at SUEPO’s Web site, we now see several translations of several items, some of which we translated before. These come from Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ and the parts we don’t yet have are copied below for future reference and permanent retention. Here is the translation of the original blog post from the French MP, who SUEPO says “represents French nationals living in Germany and Austria (among other countries).”
Letter to Emmanuel Macron regarding the crisis at the European Patent Office
18 November 2015
I was informed last week of the actions being undertaken by the management of the European Patent Office (EPO) against a number of executives of the SUEPO staff union and representatives of the personnel. A considerable number of witnesses have also been in touch with me, as recently as yesterday. I find the aims being pursued and the methods of investigation described in these communications profoundly shocking. The state of health of the persons involved concerns me deeply, and likewise the anxiety felt by their families. I cannot accept that, under cover of immunity from outside legal intervention, the individual and collective rights of the staff of an international organization can be trodden underfoot with the aims and practices of another age. The attempts to re-establish and develop social dialogue are not disruptive. For three years I have been following with close attention the social conflict and crisis of management at the EPO. I have talked to all the parties concerned, and I have consciously sent limited reports about my meetings and the initiatives taken to ease the situation and to contribute to the efforts to find a compromise solution. What has occurred in the past few days at a number of EPO facilities, however, has shown me that all such efforts will remain in vain unless radical change is forthcoming.
I am therefore making public the letter which I sent this Wednesday to the Minister of the Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs, Emmanuel Macron, whose area of responsibility in the Government includes intellectual property, to draw his attention to the situation at the EPO and to call our country to action.
Here is the translations of the letter to Minister Macron:
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’
Deputy for French Citizens Abroad
Liberty – Equality – Fraternity
Mr. Emmanuel Macron
Minister of the Economy and Industry
Cologne, 18 November 2015
Re: Actions taken against representatives of the personnel of the European Patent Office
I am writing to draw your attention to the deterioration in social relations at the European Patent Office (EPO). Over the past few days, a number of EPO employees, among them active members of the EPO staff union (SUEPO) and representatives of the personnel, have been the target of actions initiated by the internal investigation unit. Witnesses who have come forward to me from a number of EPO facilities have been subjected to interrogations of unusual violence, which has left these persons in a state of shock and distress which is extremely detrimental to their well-being, involving medical treatment and leading to stoppages at work. I have received emotional messages from the persons concerned, as well as from their traumatised families and their distressed colleagues. A number of retired EPO staff have likewise approached me to inform me of their alarm and revulsion, feelings which I share. This situation is intolerable.
“Witnesses who have come forward to me from a number of EPO facilities have been subjected to interrogations of unusual violence, which has left these persons in a state of shock and distress which is extremely detrimental to their well-being, involving medical treatment and leading to stoppages at work.”For close to three years I have been consistently involved with the endless issues of social conflict which have been ravaging the EPO, engaging with the staff and the executive management of the organization. I have written to you on a number of occasions, and also to your predecessors. I am well aware of the challenge posed by managing such an important organization, with the numbers of staff involved and the high stakes at issue in the field of intellectual property. Conversely, I cannot in any manner condone the fact that intimidation and management by fear have taken the place of social dialogue. The immunity from outside legal intervention of an international organization cannot be allowed to lead to policies and practices being adopted which labour tribunals would condemn forthwith in any Member State of the Council of Europe, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter.
“More than 1,000 French citizens work at the EPO facilities, falling under my area of responsibility.”Labour law cannot be allowed to stop at the doors of the EPO. It is the responsibility of each Member State to take due note of the crisis of governance which has led the organization into this situation, which it must be clear to all cannot be allowed to shape the future. A social audit must be conducted without further delay, by an independent authority, recognized and chosen by the Administrative Council of the EPO. It is vital that the Administrative Council and therefore the Member States exercise close control over all the policies being applied at the EPO, including the social policy. I am expecting our country to engage with full commitment to this effect. The argument that prudence should be exercised simply because one of our compatriots is presiding over the destiny of the EPO is not pertinent. More than 1,000 French citizens work at the EPO facilities, falling under my area of responsibility. I am their deputy, and I intend to defend them.
“It is high time for France to act, side by side with other Member States, major purveyors of patents, and to make them aware of the situation.”I shall be meeting you next week in the company of other parliamentary colleagues. It is high time for France to act, side by side with other Member States, major purveyors of patents, and to make them aware of the situation. Too much time has been lost in useless discussion since the start of the conflict. The timid reservations and protests occasionally uttered have led to nothing. It is radical change in certain policies at the EPO, and therefore resolute action, which is at issue. An international organization cannot live a life divorced from, and contrary to, that of its Member States, and, likewise, divorced from and contrary to the rights of its personnel. The EPO is in need of the greatest and most urgent attention of those who created it. It is a formidable organization, which should be encouraged and maintained, and of which the staff, with their recognized skills and commitment, must be respected. I am confident in this respect that I can count on your full attention and understanding.
Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’
We already covered the two latter items, beating SUEPO to it by a number of days thanks to our kind French-speaking readers (definitely not EPO staff).
As SUEPO put it, Battistelli “wrote to the Minister of Economy M. Macron to report on the deteriorating situation at EPO following the suspension of 3 union officials in Munich and attacks on a further two representatives in The Hague.
“Read here the exchange of letters which followed publication of this alert: they seem to show Mr Battistelli has lost both his control and his capacity for discernment, all the while accusing SUEPO officials of any number of extravagant and extraordinary crimes.”
Battistelli and his team go not only after SUEPO, their lawyers, and politicians but also after bloggers. These thugs need to be stopped. They evidently think that in EPOnia they’re the judge and the executioner. █
“A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.”
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Summary: Tackling some emerging spin we have seen coming from Battistelli’s private letters — spin which strives to project the views of Techrights onto staff unions and why it’s very hypocritical a form of spin
THE highly (but shrewdly) misleading management of the EPO, some believe, is wrongly conflating SUEPO with Techrights whenever it suits the agenda, assuming that it’s true at all that Battistelli really pretends SUEPO is against the UPC (this recent letter from "Sun King" Battistelli to Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ says that there is an effort to "prevent the bringing into force of the Unitary Patent"). Just because I personally follow the SUEPO’s page (more regularly than before) does not mean I ever even spoke to anyone from SUEPO. As far as I’m aware, I never spoke to (or corresponded with) anyone from SUEPO. So please disregard the latest spin from the EPO. I do support a lot of what SUEPO is doing, seeing that the concerns raised in their site are legitimate concerns.
“…EPO have concluded that he must be part of the anti-UPC conspiracy and must be crushed using all resources available.”
–Anonymous“Dr. Schestowitz,” one person pointed out in a comment, “has often expressed misgivings about the UPC. Presumably management at the EPO have concluded that he must be part of the anti-UPC conspiracy and must be crushed using all resources available.”
This reminds me of 2006 and 2007 when people wrongly associated this site with the Free Software Foundation (FSF) just because we occasionally cited and agreed with the FSF. We sometimes openly disagree with the FSF. I even had to make it very clear in an article in 2007, having seen some blogs shamelessly perpetuating myths in order to shoot the messenger, thus discrediting the messages.
Techrights was never ever a front for anything or anyone. It never received money, except a few personal donations here in there (amounting, in total, to at most 400 pounds in 9 years, which on average means less than 50 pounds a year). Don’t ever fall to the illusions perpetrated by opponents of our causes. I don’t make any money from this site; it’s operating at ‘a loss’ (as if it’s actually a business) and I work full time in a completely separate field in order to subsidise the site’s hosting (about $1000 per year). There is no hidden motive here, it’s a platform for the expression of personal views. I care dearly about EPO staff these days (mostly technical people) because I see them crushed by non-technical brutes and I simply cannot step aside. It’s a cause I will continue to fight for no matter how much EPO management bullies me. Attempts to silence me have only made me more passionate.
“Is the present VP3, Mr Van der Eijk, still on unlimited sick leave and thus out of function? Is there any information about him?”
–AnonymousSpeaking of causes, we are still hoping to receive information about the status of Van der Eijk. We have asked repeatedly, but nobody got in touch privately or in the comments. In fact, one new comment asks: “Is the present VP3, Mr Van der Eijk, still on unlimited sick leave and thus out of function? Is there any information about him?”
In other comments we find growing concerns about how EPO managers now exploit the media for their own agenda. To quote one person: “What I find incredible is that the EPO continues to conduct its internal affairs on external blogs, in advertorials and in public letters to French politicians. What self-respecting management would be pig-headed enough to get itself into this situation?”
Here is a response in another comment that says:
I think you kind of answered your own question. Only management that is so arrogant, so blinkered by their own brilliance, and so confident in their ability to do anything they like with impunity, that’s the kind of management you’re looking at.
We normal members of staff are perpetually horrified and disgusted by the behaviour of our higher management, and can not believe the total bollocks that they keep coming out with. Every time they do something crass, we think, they can’t do anything more stupid, and then they do. It’s quite incredible really, and would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
We are dealing with ever-increasing targets (+10% and rising), which have no basis in reality, whilst at the same time seeing zero improvement in our tools (apart from the enormous amount of money spent with nothing to show for it).
Finally, says another commenter: “With regard to mgt fighting blog games, the actions of mgt are barely credible and the PR battle is going against them. For a long time they kept a lofty disregard but as the battles became uncomfortable they have signed up with agencies for tidy sums who are clearly trying for reputation mgt using a different tactic. It looks like a last stand with backs to the wall but maybe that’s wishful thinking.”
“Speaking of a cause we can support, SUEPO is chastising the EPO president for his selective ‘transparency’ again (favourable omissions).”If EPO managers were ever to accuse us of working for someone or acting as a messenger of something or someone, that would simply be a despicable act of projection. It’s the EPO that’s doing such things (with Les Échos for example [1, 2, 3]), not us.
Speaking of a cause we can support, SUEPO is chastising the EPO president for his selective ‘transparency’ again (favourable omissions). SUEPO points out “what is missing” and lists that as follows:
- Circular No. 347 Circular on Strikes
- Circular No. 355 Regulations for the Staff Committee elections
- Circular No. 356 Resources and facilities to be granted to the Staff Committee
- Circular No. 364 Implementation of the career system. Minimum qualifications for recruitment, grading on recruitment, promotion and other rewards
- Circular No. 365 General Guidelines on the EPO Competency Framework
- Circular No. 366 General Guidelines on Performance Management
- Circular No. 367 Absences for Health Reasons
According to SUEPO, the above, “as well as the Financial Regulations and the Tender Guidelines, amongst others, are missing. In the interest of potential job applicants and of the public in general, SUEPO calls upon Mr Battistelli to publish the missing parts.”
Better yet, if someone has access to these documents, consider ‘leaking’ them to us (it’s not even a case of civil disobedience because civil servants deserve no secrecy). In the interest of transparency, which Battistelli brags about in his now-infamous blog post, help us host these documents. These documents are in the public interest, they relate to a public body, and they should arguably all be in the public domain. Not only job applicants deserve to see these; the whole of the European Union (and other continent/countries where patent applicants come from) deserve access. From transparency comes accountability. From secrecy comes distrust and abuse. █
“Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of their arms.”
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