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04.10.16

What is Known (and Not Known) About Attacks on Croatian Portal That Exposed Željko Topić, the Notorious EPO Vice-President

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 5:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

People on a mission to destroy/crush and accumulate more power in the process

“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”

Margaret Thatcher

Summary: Dnevno.hr, a popular news site which wrote many articles about Željko Topić (a locally-disgraced official), has encountered resistance and people from Croatia tell us more about it

THE problems at the EPO exacerbated after the HR department had foolishly hired Željko Topić. Maybe it didn’t do a proper background check, maybe he wasn’t honest enough about his background, or maybe the background was known all along but viewed as compatible with Battistelli’s iron-fisted monarchy-esque regime. Either way, Mr. Topić remains inside the EPO (for now) and it does nothing but discredit the Office (and by extension the entire Organisation).

“It’s hard to tell just how widespread this campaign of silencing really was.”The interesting thing about Željko Topić and other such goons is that they too (like the EPO) tried to take the articles down from a Croatian portal. We were told this by people close to the action and we previously saw what seemed like evidence that more than this one portal was targeted. It’s hard to tell just how widespread this campaign of silencing really was. Topić repeatedly lost a defamation case about it. See for instance some of the following articles (not a complete list):

What we know for a fact is that Topić actively suppresses criticism (by going directly after his critics). We are not sure if he is also behind DDOS attacks, as some people allege based on suspicion but not much more.

“We are not sure if he is also behind DDOS attacks, as some people allege based on suspicion but not much more.”A month ago someone from Croatia sent us an E-mail titled “Cyberattacks to web site Dnevno.hr” — an attack (or several attacks) which we already knew about because people told us about that more than a year ago. To quote just a portion, the “news portal dnevno.hr” had a “short conversation with” this messenger, who spoke to the portal’s “owner, Mr. Michael Ljubas and editor Mr. Drazen Boros.”

“In several topics for discussion,” we got told, “in one moment we open old cyberattack to web site dnevno.hr in period Dec 2014 to Jan 2015.”

“I have had a lot of issues such as the above (DDOS) since I started writing about Topić in 2014.”Based on the message, “there is a doubt/suspicion on the company Moscow Telecom Corp (COMCOR)” and we were advised to get in touch. As a reminder to those who haven’t been following this saga long enough, Techrights too came under DDOS attacks around that time and SUEPO suffered DDOS attacks. It submitted a formal complaint to Dutch authorities shortly thereafter, but nothing has been heard about it since.

We don’t want to relay rumours as nothing other than rumours or lay the blame without hard evidence, but another source of ours with other sources in Croatia suspected, based on what s/he had heard, that it could, in theory, be related to Topić. I have had a lot of issues such as the above (DDOS) since I started writing about Topić in 2014. I am eager to find out more about the correlation, if any, hence I attempted to contact people from Dnevno.hr. That was a month ago. The DDOS attacks against Dnevno.hr are not the subject which we deem news; rather, it was the attempt to convince the site to take articles about Topić offline (effectively deleting them). This reinforces suspicions because there is definitely motivation. Here is the message I sent to Dnevno.hr (with minor redactions), in spite of the likelihood that they don’t speak English:

Dear Dražen Boroš and Michael Ljubas (whose e-mail I don’t have),

I am contacting you regarding Mr. Topić, now EPO V-P and formerly a source of many Croatian scandals (with ongoing court cases). I occasionally post translations of your reports but I also became aware of attacks on your site. I understand that you spoke to [redacted] and were going to contact me too. I am trying to ascertain the details regarding cybergagging, which I heard about from numerous sources for over a year. My site too came under attacks, and only after I started publishing stuff that relates to Mr. Topić (not sure if timing was a pure coincidence and whether it’s Mr. Topić who drew ire).

My plan is to publish a report on the matter and I need further input before doing so.

Sadly, I have not heard back, but shortly afterwards another article about Topić was published in Dnevno.hr, citing Techrights twice. It’s good to see that not only Croatian media makes it into west Europe but also articles from west Europe make it back into Croatia, generally making people better aware of injustices. We published a German translation of the latest article (still no English version). Most EPO workers understand at least German, so this translation may still be helpful. Very few can grasp Croatian (even remotely). Article about the EPO should come out in greater numbers and more should be said about Željko Topić (of SIPO and EPO). There is a lot of information already out there, but it’s usually not accessible to most Europeans, not even 1% of them (Croatia is not a large country/population). We need more articles in English, French, Spanish and German translated from Croatian. One thing that the EPO and Željko Topić’s SIPO have in common is staff suicides, but how many people even know this? There are also WIPO suicides with some commonality to be found in causes. It’s about staff which speaks truth to power or rattles the status quo a little, even if for perfectly justifiable reasons. “The staff representatives,” we recently read about EPO staff representatives, “noted [they] did not share their [EPO's] vision of priority: the “house is burning” and the head of the HR department finds no more urgent things to talk with staff representatives than about their personal rewards? The staff representatives stressed that it was a wrong priority altogether: while there is indeed a large issue of resources of the Staff Representation altogether, and the administration should focus on the fact that many officials are threatened, investigated fired or sick…”

Or having committed suicide (see the WIPO and SIPO suicides).

03.14.16

EPO Rumours About Antonio Campinos as Replacement for Benoît Battistelli

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 9:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Antonio Campinos: potential EPO reformer or more of the same?

Antonio Campinos

Summary: Information about the man who is rumoured to be parachuted in to replace Battistelli and continue some of his less desirable legacy

Later this week the Administrative Council of the EPO (Organisation) will be gathering to speak about the Office, so I took a whole week off work (just so that I can properly cover the outcome). We have been receiving various EPO rumours recently, some easier to substantiate than others. Today we wish to share a particular strand of rumours. It’s about Battistelli’s succession, or rather his replacement (succession implies graceful transition without effective change in policy/direction).

“It’s about Battistelli’s succession, or rather his replacement (succession implies graceful transition without effective change in policy/direction).”We have already published many articles about Christoph Ernst [1, 2, 3, 4] and in particular his stance on software patents (which is of special interest to us). Scroll down to the part about Christoph Ernst in this post about the last Administrative Council meeting to see what he said about Battistelli

The relevant part is this:

To paraphrase Mr. Ernst, the Head of the German delegation (to the best of my knowledge): “The president reports positive developments. I do not
share this view.[...] The president has spoken 40 minutes, of which only 2 minutes on the social situation.”

That was 3 months ago and things have changed a lot, particularly in light of the Board 28 intervention with its leaked letter and leaked conclusions.

“A competent “outsider” with a credible track-record would probably be more acceptable to EPO staff but at the moment no such candidates are visible.”
      –Anonymous
We now believe — albeit with great caution — that we know about another candidate for Battistelli’s position (EPO presidency). “To try and sort out the current mess at the EPO,” one person told us, “you would probably need someone of mythical proportions like Hercules. As can be seen from the names which are currently being bandied about, any prospective candidates are likely to come from the “inner circle” of the Administrative Council. The problem here is that the Administrative Council is or at least appears to have been so heavily complicit in the activities of the current “regime” for so long now that all of its members are potentially “tainted”.

“In reality, the Administrative Council is a diverse body and there are undoubtedly some people there who have been critical of Battistelli’s misdeeds and excesses. So it’s probably a little unfair to tar all its members with the same brush. But the point is that EPO staff are likely to be understandably sceptical about any successor to Battistelli who comes from the ranks of the Administrative Council.”

It is worth noting here that even Battistelli himself came from the Administrative Council, where he’s alleged to have been one of the (perhaps) two “alpha-males” who pushed Brimelow out, paving the way to Battistelli’s ‘takeover’ with a secretive contract (Brimelow’s contract wasn’t secret). We wrote about this several times last year.

“During his time as President of the Directive Council of the Portugese National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), Campinos also sat on the Administrative Council of the EPO.”
      –Anonymous
“A competent “outsider” with a credible track-record would probably be more acceptable to EPO staff but at the moment no such candidates are visible,” a person told us. “Another name that we [collectively speaking] are starting to hear with increasing frequency as a potential replacement for Battistelli is that of the current President of OHIM: António Campinos. We [collectively speaking] are bit sceptical about Campinos because from what we [collectively speaking] have been able to gather he is another “insider” who also seems to have close connections to Battistelli and other members of the “inner circle”. Some information about Campinos follows.”

Suffice to say, this serves to legitimise claims that Campinos is in the rumour mill (we heard this before), if not a contender too. We kindly ask readers to treat this as coverage of the state of rumours, not necessarily of any concrete discussions, e.g. at the Administrative Council or Board 28. “Campinos is currently being mentioned as a possible replacement for Battistelli,” told us one source, “but so far these are only rumours.”

More background information about Campinos

As noted above, studying the background of potential future presidents is better off done before an appointment/announcement as this can leave room for veto power/opposition. Remember the bizarre, undemocratic, opaque process by which Battistelli inherited (if not stole) Brimelow’s position. We wrote about this before. Here is what a reader told us about Campinos:

António Campinos is the current President of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs).

OHIM is basically the “European Trademark Office”.

However, in contrast to the EPO, it is not an autonomous international organisation.

It is an EU agency entrusted with managing EU trade mark and design registration systems as well as promoting cooperation and convergence initiatives with national IP offices in the European Union.

For more information see the official website.


Campinos has been President of the OHIM since 2010.

He previously held the roles of IP Commissioner and President of the Directive Council of the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) of Portugal and Chairman of the Ad Hoc working group on the Legal Development of the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks.

From 2005 to 2007, he was head of the Portuguese delegation to OHIM’s Administrative Board, becoming Chairman in 2007, prior to his election as President. Since 2013, Mr Campinos has also served as President of the Administrative Council of the Centre d’Études Internationales de la Propiété Intellectuelle (CEIPI).

SOURCE: https://www.epo.org/learning-events/european-inventor/jury.html

During his time as President of the Directive Council of the Portugese National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), Campinos also sat on the Administrative Council of the EPO.


There is regular cross-contact between the OHIM and the EPO in the field of IP and Campinos often features in press releases with Battistelli or appears at the same IP events.

For example:

2011 – EPO and OHIM agree closer cooperation

https://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2011/20110504.html

December 05, 2013 – IP contribution study unveiled in Brussels

https://oami.europa.eu/ohimportal/sl/web/observatory/news?p_p_id=csnews_WAR_csnewsportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_count=2&journalId=520482&journalRelatedId=manual/

Official Launch of New EU-China Intellectual Property Cooperation

“Building on the solid foundations created by the previous EU-China projects IPR1 and IPR2, the a new action will be implemented over a period of three years by OHIM, the EU´s largest intellectual property agency, in partnership the European Patent Office as partner. On the Chinese side will be the Department of Treaty and Law of the Ministry of Commerce, coordinating the Chinese contribution to the cooperation action, with the participation of more than 15 Chinese IP authorities.”

http://www.ag-ip-news.com/news.aspx?id=31995&lang=en

Training Centre for European patent judges opened in Budapest

https://www.unified-patent-court.org/news/training-centre-european-patent-judges-opened-budapest

There isn’t necessarily anything suspicious about any of this.

It can be seen as part and parcel of routine professional contacts between the Directors of two intergovernmental European IP bodies.

However, it should be noticed that Campinos seems to have quite a cosy relationship with the EPO because he managed to get appointed as a jury member for the European Inventor Award which is one of Battistelli’s favourite annual extravaganzas.

European Inventor Award – Jury members

https://www.epo.org/learning-events/european-inventor/jury.html


It has been discovered that there is an even more interesting connection which involves the Menéndez Pelayo International University (UIMP) in Spain.

A key player here seems to be the former Director of the Spanish Intellectual Property Office and current EPO Vice-President, Alberto Casado Casado Cerviño who as people may recall got a mention in an article published in a Spanish newspaper last year:

http://www.elconfidencial.com/economia/2015-11-26/suicidios-espionaje-nepotismo-la-oficina-europea-de-patentes-es-un-polvorin_1107057/

What is interesting here is that Casado Cerviño, Battistelli and Campinos regularly appear as guest speakers at IP seminars organised by the UIMP.

http://www.uimp.es/agenda-link.html?id_actividad=62I9&anyaca=2015-16

[Editor’s note: we have decided to locally store the PDFs proving it [1, 2], including an English version, as these may become unavailable in the future]

These connections seem to go back to at least 2011 when Casado Cerviño was still Director of the Spanish Intellectual Property Office and a member of the Administrative Council and they have continued after his appointment as EPO Vice-President (see the attached PDFs).

Casado Cerviño was appointed as EPO Vice-President in 2012:

https://www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2012/20120905_de.html

By a curious coincidence, Battistelli was awarded with an honorary doctorate from the UIMP in July 2014:

http://www.uimp.es/institucional/doctorado-honoris-causa.html

Maybe Spanish contacts/readers can provide more information about these connections.


In his role as President of the OHIM, Campinos regularly meets with the Directors of national Intellectual Property Offices.

Some interesting photos can be found on the websites of these national Intellectual Property Offices.

For example:

http://www.dziv.hr/en/news/memorandum-of-understanding-signed-between-ohim-and-the-office-%28sipo%29,55.html

One can guess that Campinos was not amused to see this photo re-appear in an article entitled “Criminal proceedings pending against Topić in six cases” which was published by the Croatian news portal tjedno.hr in April 2012:

http://www.tjedno.hr/protiv-topia-se-vodi-est-postupaka/

That’s not suggesting that Campinos had any involvement in the alleged irregularities at the SIPO Croatia but we guess that it must have embarrassing for him to have his official photograph with Topic “recycled” in an article reporting about these matters.

An English translation of this article will be published at a later date.

Campinos and Battistelli: more information about EPO & OHIM cooperation

According to a 2010 article from James Nurton (MIP), Campinos won praises from WIPO. “At WIPO,” Nurton noted, “he won plaudits for his ability to encourage parties with different priorities to reach consensus.” Remember that Battistelli nearly became head of WIPO, which is now deep/mired in scandals of its own and may have other EPO connections. “Campinos was interviewed by Managing IP [MIP] in 2008,” Nurton concluded.

A reader added some bits to elaborate on/comment about possible overlaps between Campinos and Battistelli:

In 2013 EPO and OHIM jointly launched a Report on the economic performance of IP-intensive industries in the EU.

The report was subsequently criticised by Annette Kur and Dietmar Harhoff of the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition: “In September 2013, EPO and OHIM jointly launched a Report on the economic performance of IP-intensive industries in the EU. Ever since its publication, the Report has been cited as bearing proof to the economic importance of IP, thereby bolstering claims for further enforcement-enhancing measures and policies. However, the eagerness with which the Report is instrumentalized for political purposes ignores the fact that, as the economists performing the study themselves have emphasized, their findings do not provide evidence regarding the causal relationship between IP and the economic data. Instead of serving a better understanding of the economics of IP, such politically tainted over-interpretations might actually discredit the analytical results and the advances in setting up a comprehensive database of IPR utilization at the firm level.”

See also this article published by IP Watch, “Researchers Say EPO/OHIM Study Is A Tale Without A Message”

A PDF of the EPO/OHIM report bears the signatures of Battistelli and Campinos.


Based on information coming from reliable sources who are close to the action, Campinos seems to be the preferred successor candidate of the Battistelli-Kongstad axis inside the Administrative Council.

It has also been suggested that he may have political support at EU level.

Apparently some people in Brussels are getting worried that the current turbulent situation at the EPO could have an adverse effect on the planned timetable for the introduction of the Unitary Patent. In these circles it seems that Campinos is viewed as someone who could be parachuted in to stabilise the situation at the EPO.

If Battistelli’s position inside the EPO is so weakened that he is forced to depart prematurely, the “game plan” in these circles seems to be to install Campinos as a “safe pair of hands” who can be trusted to manage any fallout arising from the sudden “regime change”.

It also seems that those supporting Campinos on the Administrative Council (i.e the pro-Battistelli faction led by Kongstad) are hoping that he can be relied upon to keep as many skeletons as possible from the Battistelli era safely in their closets.

A copy of the critique by Annette Kur and Dietmar Harhoff has been made local for future reference and long-term preservation. It responds to a report signed both by Battistelli and Campinos.

The notion that Battistelli would need to be thrown aside while maintaining his agenda isn’t totally outlandish. As this one comment put it this morning, EPO policies may be “the very same ones where the TTIP was “negotiated”. [...] pump for the UPC.” Here is the comment in full:

I do not for one moment believe that it was the management of the EPO who decided anything. They are only the obedient “implementers” and certainly not the master strategists.

The “decisions” are more likely to have been made behind closed doors in some smoke-filled rooms in Brussels or elsewhere. Maybe the very same ones where the TTIP was “negotiated”.

Don’t forget: lots of “dodgy patents” increases the probability of litigation and could be seen as a handy way of priming the pump for the UPC.

In this context some senior appointments at the EPO in recent years might be worth a closer investigation.
Such as: http://www.managingip.com/Article/3016676/Moves-Margot-Frhlinger-joins-EPO.html

This relates to what we wrote about last night and responds to a comment quoted therein.

In summary, Antonio Campinos has a history of being on the side of Battistelli, whereas Christoph Ernst has an (at least recent) history of criticising Battistelli.

03.11.16

EPO Tells La Tribune That Benoît Battistelli’s Salary is “We Don’t Comment on Rumours”

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 6:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Liars

Summary: The contract of Benoît Battistelli remains a closely-guarded secret and his mouthpieces provide different answers from what he ‘namedrops’ on the media

IT is no secret that the EPO now lies to journalists and lies to EPO staff. We are still waiting for hard, concrete proof of Battistelli’s salary (including all the perks), which should be made apparent from his contract (that he insistently keeps secret, unlike his predecessor).

A new translation of this French article into English [PDF] is rather revealing and below we highlight some of the more important and unique bits:

Autocratic Frenchman under fire

By Florence Autret | 03/03/2016, 7:00 | 618 words

According to the Dutch daily De Telegraaf of 26 February, Benoît Battistelli is said to have demanded a golden handshake to speed up his departure (his term of office was renewed in 2015) of ….18
millions Euros
, which would correspond to ten years of service. (Credits: DR) Business at the European Patent has never been better. But discontent is growing against the President. Criticized for his authoritarian management style, accused of nepotism, Benoît Battistelli is said to have attempted to negotiate his own departure – at least, according to the Dutch press. On Thursday, at a press conference in Brussels, he denied this completely, and denounced what he called a “campaign of calumny”.

Article published on Thursday, 3 March 2016 at 7.00, updated at 18.00

On 3 March this 65-year-old graduate of the prestigious French National Business School came to Brussels to present the impeccable results of the organization which he has headed for six years: Last year, patent applications were up by 4.8% in relation to 2014. The European Patent Office, based in Munich since 1973, cashes in on 1.5 billion Euros per year when it comes to registering patents. Its biggest clients are in the United States (27% of the applications), Germany (17%), and Japan (13%), but China is gaining ground with 22% more applications than in 2014.

“This is a reflection of the internationalisation of its companies and a sign of how swiftly it is catching up,” was Benoît Battistelli’s response.

Last year the Chinese Huawei Group came in fourth position after the Dutch Philips and two Korean companies (Samsung and LG), and ahead of Germany’s Siemens. “Europe remains an attractive market for technologies,” as the President also notes. In other words, business is booming.

But in Munich, enough is enough!

But relations between the President and his personnel have never been very good. The Frenchman is accused of nepotism, having brought in as his chief executive a former colleague from the INPI, the National Institute for Intellectual Property, and whose wife has been appointed as director of human resources. The unrest within this organization of 7,000 people is no longer confined to gossip around the coffee machine. The facts are hard and plain: Burn-outs, suicides at the workplace, a whole range of contentious disciplinary procedures against staff representatives, and so on.

In January, following the departure of two union executives, thousands of EPO staff members left their offices to gather in front of the French consulate to demand the departure of the “Frenchman”. “It’s getting worse and worse,” says Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, French Socialist Deputy for French Citizens Abroad, who for more than two years has been monitoring the happenings at the EPO, and who, at the end of December, had an interview with Emmanuel Macron, the Minister of the Economy. In Paris he is said to have been given assurance that “no-one wants to wait for a fifth suicide to happen” before taking action. At Bercy, on the other hand, the response was “no comment.” A union source told La Tribune on Thursday that there were not four but five suicides in which there appeared to be a link between work and the lead-up to the act, and emphasised that the personnel, consisting essentially of engineers and legal experts, were subjected to “paradoxical constraints” between an intellectually highly demanding form of work and the pressures of performance.

In Germany, as in the Netherlands, where the Office employs 2700 people at the Rijswijk site near The Hague, President Battistelli has regularly featured in one or another of the media. On 2 March Bavarian television broadcast a documentary about the “nightmare” of one of the suicides in Munich.

“The suicides are personal tragedies. It is very difficult to give a reason for such a decision,” the President of the Office commented on Thursday. According to the Dutch daily De Telegraaf of 26 February, Benoît Battistelli is said to have demanded a golden handshake to speed up his departure (his term of office was renewed in 2015) of ….18 millions Euros, which would correspond to ten years of service.

“We don’t comment on rumours,” was the response on Wednesday by La Tribune, the mouthpiece of the EPO, which is one of the ever shrinking group of organizations which does not publish details of the salaries of its executives… Replying to a question from La Tribune, the President indicated that his annual salary, which is not officially published, was “300,000 Euros” annually. The rumours of his departure and the golden handshake, published by De Telegraaf, were “totally unfounded,” he maintained. These 18 million would correspond to the bonus distributed in 2015 to part of the personnel on the basis of performance indicators. “This is a political campaign”, and “calumny” says President Battistelli, who, incidentally was elected onto the municipal council of Saint-Germain en Laye on a list close to the Republicans.

For Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, the social crisis is only a reflection of the crisis in management. The rule of “one country, one vote” prevails on the governing body, the Administrative Council. “With that principle, you can create silence” by lumping together coalitions of small countries, the Deputy explains. He goes on: “It would be a welcome step if the Member States were to take the matter in hand” by attending a ministerial conference, which has not happened for fifteen years, he says. One country, one vote: “It is the basic rule for international organizations,” replies the President of the EPO. “If the Member States want to change it, I have no objection… but I wish them good luck.” The EPO, which has 38 Member States, is not actually an institution of the European Union, where the influence of the states is weighted according to their size. The situation remains that, as from 2017, it is supposed to deliver the “Unitary Patent”, an industrial and intellectual property instrument created by the European legislature.

The next meeting of the Administrative Council is scheduled for 16 March, and promises to be a stormy event. The revolt has spread from the departments within the Office and is gaining ground among the representatives of the 38 Member States of the organization. In a recent letter to his associate members of the European Union, the Director General of the Patent Office, Jesper Kongstad, a Dane, gave notice of the lodging of a motion demanding an independent audit of the organization, and the suspension of the contentious disciplinary proceedings being taken against the staff representatives. The EPO management has given assurance that the wording of the document which will be submitted to the Council will be “considerably softened.” The President has already announced the convening of a “social conference” in the autumn and the issue of an invitation to tender for the recruitment of an “independent expert” whose task will be to come up with answers about the social situation. On 4 March he is scheduled to meet Martijn Van Dam at The Hague. The Dutch Secretary of State for Economic Affairs has been briefed about the social situation at the Rijswijk site. “The Netherlands are one of the countries which benefits most from the activity of the EPO, both as an employer as well as by way of the number of patents registered by its companies,” was the President’s rejoinder on Thursday. The Netherlands are the fifth country in the organization in terms of patents registered, and Philips hold the lead among the companies involved. Watch this space.

We have had a lot of input about Battistelli’s secret contract (it’s not what Battistelli claims without providing any evidence to the media), but we still hope that someone can leak it to us because of what Battistelli said.

The Article Which Reinforces Rumours About Christoph Ernst Replacing President Battistelli at the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 10:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

News from Munich…

Munich tower

Summary: A somewhat belated translation of an important recent article from Süddeutsche Zeitung

THE EPO coverage will resume tonight (there’s much more on the way), but in the mean time, as we have just noticed a translation of this article over at SUEPO’s site, here is the English version [PDF] with bits highlighted:

2 March 2016, 19:01

Front Lines Hardening: A Public Authority Teetering on the Brink

Header

Strife at the European Patent Office between President and staff veering more and more out of control

By Katja Riedel

According to the announcement on Wednesday by Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office (EPO), it is supposed to be an “agreement that truly breaks new ground”. For the first time in the history of the international organization, the word is that a staff union is now being recognized as a social partner, and social peace with the workforce, which up to now has been decidedly hostile, accordingly appears to be just around the corner. However, the Office has chosen to overlook one minor detail: The union with which Battistelli has signed the memorandum of understanding is called FFPE, and, in the world of the EPO, with a workforce more than 7,000 strong, that union so far boasts less than 100 members. And at the Office headquarters in Munich, where some 4,000 people work, and a war has been raging for three years between staff representatives and the President, there is not one single FFPE member. The social dialogue accordingly resembles more of a monologue.

The fact is that in the patent world, which is all but closed to outsiders, another staff union is deeply rooted. This is called Suepo, and it represents about half of the personnel. For decades Suepo was very powerful, and what it said really counted. That is, until Battistelli came, and, on orders from the 38 Member States which had elected him, set about shaping the Office towards greater efficiency. Since then both sides have been engaged in a bitter power struggle, but with unfair resources. The President has far-reaching powers, and he is not afraid to use them, liberally, which has ultimately led from escalation to escalation. For three long years Suepo has been protesting, not just internally, against Battistelli and what they see as his excessive authoritarianism, against reforms which restrict the fundamental rights of staff members, and against Battistelli’s extremely high-handed and heavily centralized management style.

For everyone to see, staff members have marched in their thousands through Munich and to the consulates, seeking to push the Member States into at least debating Battistelli’s reforms with him. But the only body which can give orders to Battistelli has long shown itself to side with the President, and has been gentle in its admonishments, even extending his term of office during the dispute and before the expiry date, until 2018. But now it looks as if Battistelli has overstepped the mark. Since last autumn he has been hitting back hard, suspending a patent judge, who in fact, given the power structure, does not actually come under his jurisdiction at all, which has caused a considerable stir in the various governing bodies as well as on the patent scene in general. According to the findings of an internal investigation unit, the man is supposed to have used more than 20 aliases to conduct a campaign of defamation against the President and other leading executives, and thereby created major upset within the Office. The man disputes the accusations. At the beginning of the year, Battistelli then dismissed Suepo chief executive Elizabeth Hardon, due to alleged bullying and complicity with the judge. Two other members of the Suepo governing body went with her.

Currently doing the rounds in the Office is a letter from the head of the Administrative Council, Jesper Kongstad, a Dane, who once had his eyes on the Presidency. Since then, he has been a Battistelli man – or, more precisely, he was. Kongstad has indicated, on behalf of 28 Member States, that there was something of a showdown with the President within the close management circle at two meetings in February. The main issue appears to have been the social conflict within the Office. In particular, the governing body wanted to discuss the case of the dismissed union members with him. Regrettably, it seems that it was impossible to engage the President in a meaningful dialogue, according to Kongstad’s letter. During the meeting he apparently rejected the requests out of hand, because the Member States were trying to undermine his authority. These attempts included the disciplinary issues as well as allowing the work of the controversial investigation unit to be vetted by an outside source. Battistelli appears to have then left the meeting.

Header

According to some newspapers, such as the Dutch De Telegraaf, the word was that Battistelli had envisaged stepping down, and was negotiating a golden handshake of 18 million Euro. “Utter rubbish” was the response from the circle around the President, and things appear to have calmed down again. Battistelli is said to be prepared to compromise on four out of six issues, but significantly not with regard to disciplinary procedures and external monitoring – the key points. Suepo are accused of stirring up the conflict alone, in order to secure their own survival. The union apparently refused to have further dealings with Battistelli due to the dismissals, nor were they prepared to enter into any agreement which would de facto have caused them to forego further influence.

How things turn out for the Office, for Battistelli, and for social peace, could well be decided in mid-March. Specifically, the demands from the Administrative Council will be high on the formal agenda at the next meeting of its full body. A straightforward majority of 38 votes could then force the President to implement the demands. Should he not do so, the Administrative Council could then, at the next meeting in June, call for him to step down, which would require three-quarters of the votes. The name of a possible successor for the top job is in fact already being bandied about, that of the German member of the Administrative Council, Christoph Ernst, from the Federal Ministry of Justice. Word has it that Battistelli considers that not even to be an option. He is in the best of moods – so it is said.

There is something rather strange (infighting perhaps) going on at Süddeutsche Zeitung, but we’re likely to cover this some time in the future when there’s more clarity on the matter.

Over the weekend we plan to work on making local copies of the TV program which covered the EPO scandals earlier this month (making a wave in Germany and changing public opinion). The EPO’s high-level management is evidently desperate to make it go away, to no longer be accessible online (this has already happened) and gradually be forgotten.

03.10.16

Video Sheds Light on Policy/Stance of the Man Rumoured to be Battistelli’s Successor at the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour, Videos at 9:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dr. Ernst of EPO

Summary: An analysis of a presentation from Dr. Ernst, who is rumoured to be among the possible options for EPO leadership after Battistelli, who is stuck deep in or under the mud right now

TECHRIGHTS is interested in knowing whether the EPO will adhere to the EPC and refrain from granting software patents, which software professionals don’t want anyway (they already have copyrights).

Currently, the only person who is rumoured to be a contender to become Battistelli’s replacement is Dr. Ernst, whom we believed to have been among the opposition to Battistelli in the last meeting of the Administrative Council (December 2015).

“What is interesting is not his presentation but that the roundtable was chaired by Julia Reda.”
      –Anonymous
“I’ve been looking a little more,” told us a reader (FOSS person), “and still not finding anything aside from neutral, political statements. Some are even issued through his lawyer. I did spot the following though. What is interesting is not his presentation but that the roundtable was chaired by Julia Reda. I do not know her but I do know that she’s been doing excellent work in the parliament. Maybe she is one of the people that could say what position Ernst has.”

We asked her yesterday, but have not yet received a response. A few months ago she warned that TPP would bring software patents to Europe and she knows the perils of software patents, being more technically literate than a lot of politicians out there.

Our reader found this video and asked about Dr. Ernst: “Is this him?”

“At 18:00 he seems to dodge naming software patents.”
      –Anonymous
Well, it sure looks like it. He mentioned the EPC too.

“The part about patents starts at 12:15 to 19:00 and he talks about EPC,” our reader says. “At 18:00 he seems to dodge naming software patents. At about 20:00 he begins about copyright.”

Here is the full video, which can be streamed non-sequentially.

When Battistelli leaves the Office and goes back to Corsica where he comes from (or rejoin his political allies who are Sarkozy-connected) it’ll be interesting to see if the EPO removes the ban on Techrights.

03.09.16

Rumours and Unverified Claims Suggest That EPO President is “Bribing” for Perceived Support

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 7:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Battistelli wouldn’t do what Blatter did, would he?

Whispering
Whispering about what people close to Battistelli (his ‘clergymen’) have allegedly been whispering to directors at the EPO

Summary: A growing number of claims that directors at the EPO are being promised big favours in exchange for the pretense that they support the megalomaniacal President, whose days are numbered

SOME things are mere rumours, but when heard from several sources that agree with one another independently, then these “rumours” may in fact be real, or something close enough to a reality.

For quite some time we’ve abstained from remarking about rumours sent to us in comments. It’s about potentially more alleged bribery at the EPO. Several people have told us that Battistelli uses not only scare tactics and intimidation to get support but also bribes. Based on some of the latest rumours, Battistelli is more or less bribing people (e.g. with promotion) to support him. If anyone can leak material proof to us, that would help a great deal, but all we have for now are the claims sent to us, as well as the following new comment:

How can you work for an organisation, where the so called President is trying to bribe senior managers and directors, and vice presidents to support him against his fight with the Administrative Council, Unions and staff?

I happened to be in an area last week, where a vice president was speaking with some directors, and I heard him say “The president will reward you for your support during this matter”. What is that meant to mean, that the President is paying for support, as he knows that he has overstepped the mark this time, and certainly not the first time. Unfortunately, it is not his personal money that he pays with, no it’s the office money, which he is giving away as though there is an endless supply.

Another new comment says:

Not all employers are allowed to vote.

Anyway it states that 91 per cent of the 4062 employees who voted, voted to strike.

We have had enough, as now the Vice Presidents are using bribery as their new weapon. “You support the President, and l will see that you are rewarded”.

Time for a change, not just the President, but also the Vice Presidents!

We have been getting even more reports that the EPO’s President, Battistelli, is incentivising/bribing managers, but concrete proof is needed. Here is another new comment which relates to the documents we leaked an hour ago:

According to an article in the SDZ

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/behoerde-in-muenchen-europaeisches-patentamt-behoerde-am-abgrund-1.2889015

“Battistelli is said to be prepared to compromise on four out of six issues [of the letter of Board 28], but significantly not with regard to disciplinary procedures and external monitoring – the key points.”

It’s a lose-lose situation for him: either straightforward reject any request of review and risk dismissal by the AC now, or accept an independent review that will show the disgraceful way in which the staff reps were dismissed, and suffer a public humiliation AND dismissal later.

And we have not yet heard about the fate of the DG3 member: a second failure in obtaining his dismissal would only add to the embarrassment of the AC that was misled by the president …

Grab the popcorns and a beer, sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the next AC …

There will be a protest that day.

03.04.16

Why the Letter in Support of Battistelli is Worse Than a Lie and Should be Thrown to the Wastebasket by the Organisation’s Administrative Council

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 10:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A replacement to Battistelli should be chosen before the damage becomes irreparable

Christoph Ernst, EPOSummary: The letter in ‘support’ of Battistelli is not a genuine letter of support, the imminent strike is under attack (more so after the FFPE-EPO MoU), and new rumours about Battistelli’s successor are beginning to circulate (Christoph Ernst, on the left)

THERE is no denying that the EPO (both the Office and the Organisation) are in a state of crisis, but a lot of it can be resolved if the Organisation removes Team Battistelli from the Office. The folly has gone way too far and it’s time to undo the coup. The EPO (Organisation) needs to start afresh and acknowledge this past failure to the world, including to stakeholders whose money keeps the EPO alive.

Christina Schulze wrote yet another strongly-worded article about Benoît Battistelli over at Juve (translations would be more than welcome) while other German (or Austrian) media did something similar this week, with few exceptions*. Thankfully, despite all the propaganda (notably unions and results), the press stays focused on the real stories, not the distractions from FTI Consulting (peripheral PR reinforcement) and the EPO's in-house PR team that habitually resorts to lying.

“The folly has gone way too far and it’s time to undo the coup.”Some talking points, other than the unions and results, say that Battistelli magically won back the support of the Council. This is a lie.

“What PD Roberta Romano G is up to,” according to our source, is no good. According to information that we privately received, “PD Roberta Romano-Götsch abuses her position as principal director to “volunteer” subordinates to sign the letter in support of Battistelli. Dozens have been intimidated into signing the letter. Collecting signatures under duress is a scandal in an international organization that should lead by example. My prayer to the AC: deliver us from Battistelli!”

“Thankfully, despite all the propaganda (notably unions and results), the press stays focused on the real stories, not the distractions from FTI Consulting (peripheral PR reinforcement) and the EPO’s in-house PR team that habitually resorts to lying.”Reading between the lines and looking deeper inside documents, we have learned that Battistelli gets Minnoye’s help in this crisis. This isn’t too shocking given Minnoye's epic television appearance. “These event triggered several reactions from the Office management,” we heard. “First, between Thursday 18.02 to 23.02, the President and in first instance the VP of DG1, Mr. Minnoye started a call to all managers to stand behind them as one man by signing a petition at the attention of the AC. As far as we are informed the signature reaction is, at best, sluggish. In the majority of the Office, the managers seem to be unwilling to sign the call. Secondly on Friday 19, the head of HR (PD 4.3) invited all elected Staff Committee members (central and local) to a meeting on Wednesday 25.”

This is very much indicative of a disaster.

“Some talking points, other than the unions and results, say that Battistelli magically won back the support of the Council. This is a lie.”There is a strike coming (Battistelli keeps spinning this in the media by saying there were no strikes last year) and Team Battistelli is trying quite aggressively to prevent the strike from happening (see these documents which we published last night — mentioned before, now available as text). It may seem expected, but such moves mostly serve to alienate the staff and motivate stronger action against the management which strives to prevent basis rights, such as the right to strike.

Someone has leaked to us a CSC (Central Staff Committee) document which we present below without comment:

Information on the call for strike “Lawfulness at the EPO”

As a reaction to the recent disciplinary procedures and resulting decisions of the President to dismiss two elected Staff Representatives and to severely downgrade a third, a call for strike was formally initiated mid-January across the Office. The petitioners mandated an external lawyer to act on their behalf as their interlocutor, but the Office refused to accept this nomination, although they did not provide any legal basis for this. The lawyer therefore proposed to delegate his mandate to the CSC for all further action with regard to any upcoming procedural steps foreseen by the EPO administration. The CSC has informed the Administration that we agreed to act as interlocutor for the strike petitioners.

In a meeting on 24 February, the Staff Representation met the Administration, headed by PD 4.3, to discuss the claims raised in the call for strike. Coincidentally and in parallel to this channel, similar requests to the ones raised by the strike petitioners have been made by the Board 28.

Results of the exchange of views

a. Immediate suspension of the disciplinary measures

The administration merely referred to the option for the disciplined colleagues to file requests for review of the decisions and, if necessary, ultimately address their cases to the ILOAT. They showed no intention to quickly deescalate the current, tense situation by suspending these measures straightaway.

b. Independent review of the disciplinary cases

The Administration asserted to be in full compliance with Office rules and therefore saw no need to comply with this request.

c. Revocation of recent changes to Service Regulations

The Administration – without any substantial discussion on any of the listed reforms – claimed that a social study was underway which would identify defects and deficiencies which could then be worked in collaboration with all stakeholders. Apparently, revocation of any of the reforms is not an option.

d. Use of a Mediator to facilitate negotiations between the management and staff representatives

The Administration commented that “Mediation is a waste of time” and saw no need to engage any external support to resolve the current deadlock.

Conclusion

No meaningful progress has been made during this meeting with regards to the requests as set out in the call for strike. Therefore, a strike ballot will take place on 8 March 2016.

“For the strike ballot” we learned, “the CSC nominated two staff members to overview the process. On the background of key-loggers and other recent past events, the confidentiality of the vote cannot be guaranteed at this stage. The Administration declared that if the turn out was low, this was simply a “sign of lack of support” for the claims.”

“It may seem expected, but such moves mostly serve to alienate the staff and motivate stronger action against the management which strives to prevent basis rights, such as the right to strike. “So there is pressure to vote, not boycott the vote and go on strike in spite of it. This is union-busting again.

“It was declared that the administration saw no necessity,” we learned, “and had no me to run a paper ballot. And again, the SR took note that the simple administrative request made by the CSC to make sure the exercise was meaningful was turned down by the administration. As a general conclusion, the SR assembled expressed their disappointment that the attempt to find common ground had failed and that the organisation of the strike ballot should proceed.”

“This is union-busting again.”Any outsider can see what Battistelli thinks not only of unions but also of democracy. No wonder he's with Sarkozy. Although it may be too early to say anything about Battistelli’s expected departure (whether by resignation of by sacking), one reader pointed to this article and said that “the last passage of the article is the most interesting: ‘Tatsächlich kursiert bereits der Name eines möglichen Nachfolgers an der Amtsspitze, der des deutschen Verwaltungsratsmitglieds Christoph Ernst aus dem Bundesjustizministerium. Battistelli selbst, so ist zu hören, soll das für ausgeschlossen halten. Er sei allerbester Laune, heißt es.’”

“It says that there are already rumours about the next president who’s supposed to be the German representative Christoph Ernst from the federal ministry of justice,” we were told. “This is new rumour and if we add this article to the BR programme one can imagine that there are some forces behind. It is rumoured that there are already 22 delegations in favour of ousting Battistelli. All will be decided probably soon.

“Any outsider can see what Battistelli thinks not only of unions but also of democracy.”“One could say: The sooner the better (for everybody). The longer the thing drags on, the angrier the delegations will be and Battistelli’s conditions will get worse.”

Based on the EPO’s own site, Christoph Ernst was “elected chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee” less than a year ago (epo.org link), so presumably he knows Battistelli’s real salary. Mr. Kongstad knows it too.
______
* At least one English language paper is writing about Austria and repeats the EPO's latest propaganda (ignoring the real story), plus the German-speaking Austrian press, in addition to few other publications that we cited here before, the latest being the Financial Times (London).

03.02.16

EPO at Boiling Point: Why Battistelli is Believed to be Paid About $2,000,000 Per Year and Who Created and Circulated a Letter in His Support

Posted in Europe, Patents, Rumour at 6:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO scandals keep piling up

Golden parachute with money
Reference: Golden parachute, defined as “an agreement between a company and an employee (usually upper executive) specifying that the employee will receive certain significant benefits if employment is terminated.” (like Microsoft’s Elop inside Nokia)
Photo credit: Money Crashers

Summary: More details (not just rumours) surface in the ongoing aftermath of the Battistelli regime, which is fighting to keep itself together

“Wow,” wrote Florian Müller this morning, “tonight (9 PM) even Bavarian state-owned TV will report on the EPO crisis.” He also said that “Bavarian state-owned radio (B5) just reporting on EPO labor dispute.”

We received several E-mails about it this morning (at least 3), as it has a profound impact on the legal community, not just EPO staff. We mentioned some of this before (prior E-mails we received about it) and today is an important day because German media coverage is starting to become a reality. It’s even on television and there are detailed programs on it, not just brief reports. To be frank, I am still pressuring some German publications behind the scenes, in order for them to do proper coverage of recent events; not sure if this will have an effect or not, but gradually we escalate the severity/tone and it appears to be working. We will say more about it in our next post.

“It’s even on television and there are detailed programs on it, not just brief reports.”Regarding Battistelli´s salary, told us one source, “I´ve said a long time ago that it´s supposed to be those 250-300k according to the scale (he acknowledged around 250k but I guess it´s a bit higher). The important part of his remuneration is the bonus, which was rumoured to be around 1.4-1.5 million. Together it would amount to the 1.8 million which multiplied by ten would give his alleged claim of 18 million for retiring.”

This is still the subject of an ongoing investigation here; we have a lot of data from many sources and we assure readers that once it becomes a confirmed fact (or leak) it’ll be a big scandal. Regarding the support letter (in support of Battistelli), our source told us: “Most of the directors refused to sign it. It was drafted by PD Roberta Romano-Goetsch at the instigation of VP Minnoye. I guess she couldn´t say no, having just been promoted. I hope it will surface one of these days.”

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