11.16.14

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How the EPO’s Executive Branch (Battistelli and Topić) Banned Scrutiny and Created Authoritarian Model of Control: Part X

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: A look at highly dubious moves by EPO President Battistelli and his right-hand man Topić, whose abuses are becoming hard to oversee or even report

EARLIER this month we asked European readers lodge complaints about EPO management that continues a long tradition of abuse. Some new sources have since come forward and provided us with more information about corruption, so this series will go on and on, lasting until next year. We welcome more whistle-blowers and informed sources to come forward if they know something that we have not yet covered and we, in return, promise anonymity.

Staff that has been involved in rogue practices would obviously like to prevent colleagues (and the public) from finding out about it. Today we would like to present Topić’s letter regarding data protection [PDF] and the accompanying body of text [PDF], signed by Benoît Battistelli, who himself has a lot to hide (for reasons we covered beforein numerous parts). An annotated document [PDF] is added, with highlighted text that reveals how Topić and Battistelli worked to prevent investigation of the EPO, essentially banning people from speaking to the press, conducting an audit, investigation, etc. Clearly, the Data Protection Guidelines at the EPO are of interest if one wishes to understand the lack of scrutiny and the lack of communication with the press. The corporate media largely abstained from covering very serious issues that are known but nobody really wishes to talk about. The EPO is corrupt. It’s a secretive institute, by design. Staff are actively discouraged from informing the public. Now, let’s dig a little deeper.

First of all a little bit of legal background.

Under Article 33(2)(b) EPC, the legislative competence to amend the EPO Service Regulations (i.e. the set of rules governing conditions of employment etc.) lies with the Administrative Council (AC). To quote The European Patent Convention: “The Administrative Council shall be competent, in conformity with this Convention, to adopt or amend: [...] (b)the Service Regulations for permanent employees and the conditions of employment of other employees of the European Patent Office, the salary scales of the said permanent and other employees, and also the nature of any supplementary benefits and the rules for granting them”

In plain English, this means that any changes to the Service Regulations are supposed to be subject to the oversight and scrutiny of the AC.

What Battistelli has done during his presidency is an introduction of certain wide-ranging internal measures by means of “Circulars” which are basically unilaterally-enacted Presidential decrees that have never been subject to any scrutiny or oversight by the AC. Not surprisingly, Battistelli is again imposing an authoritarian code of conduct inside the EPO.

One of these measures was Circular No. 342, the so-called “Investigation Guidelines” which effectively give the EPO President dictatorial powers to unilaterally initiate so-called “investigative processes”. He can even initiate “investigative processes” against senior EPO employees who have been appointed by the AC under Article 11 EPC.

Refer to the European Patent Convention which covers this in more details. In such cases he doesn’t even have to inform the individual concerned or the appointing authority (i.e. the AC) that an investigation has been initiated.

Circular 342 was never presented to the AC for approval. It was unilaterally enacted by Battistelli. This is again the hallmark of authoritarian reign. Of course this action on his part is completely illegal or “ultra vires” to use the appropriate legal jargon. The fact of the matter is that the AC no longer exercises any effective oversight over the President.

Whether this is due to stupidity or corruption, or maybe a combination of both, is an open question which we will not attempt to answer. Furthermore, challenges to these measures by EPO staff have to go to the ILOAT in Geneva which is completely clogged up. The current time required to process a case at the ILOAT has been estimated as 12-15 years. So staff can complain all they like about what Battistelli does but there is no longer any effective legal redress available to challenge unlawful acts by the EPO President.

The system of legal redress has become completely dysfunctional.

This state of affairs has led to some national courts starting to call the EPO’s jurisdictional immunity into question.

New DPGs at the EPO

Now let’s get back to the DPGs.

The most recent amendment of the EPO DPGs was announced by Mr. Topić on 2 April 2014 (see the PDF above). By a curious twist of irony, these Guidelines entered into force on 1 April 2014.

Although the EPO DGs pay lip-service to EU Data Protection Regulations, they are in fact much weaker. Under the EPO DPGs, all power is ultimately concentrated in the hands of the President.

For example look at Article 8, “Transmission to recipients outside the European Patent Organisation”. According to Article 8(4): “In cases of doubt, the President decides on the adequacy of the protection afforded by the relevant country or international organisation.”

According to the DPGs there is a Data Protection Officer (DPO) who enjoys “independence”. But this “independence is only nominal, i.e. it only exists on paper, because the DPO is a normal member of EPO staff appointed by the President and thus de facto under the control of the President.

There is no independent supervisory entity such as the European Data Protection Supervisor which exists under the EU Data Protection framework.

But there is an even more sinister aspect to the new DPGs which doesn’t get any mention in Topić’s announcement.

The new DPGs include a number of clauses which state that they do not apply in the case of “investigative processes”.

What this means in practice is the following:

  1. The President can at any time – unilaterally and subject to no oversight whatsoever – launch an “investigative process”.
  2. The practical effect of this is to override the DPGs.

In other words, the DPGs are subordinate to the “Investigation Guidelines”.

We think that this doesn’t require further comment or explanation on our part.

Credit: anonymous source.

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