06.18.15

French Newspaper Les Echos Censors Criticism of Benoît Battistelli and the EPO (Updated)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Paragraphs critical of Battistelli and his EPO buddies are mysteriously removed (after publication) by leading French media

Les Echos is not an entirely terrible newspaper, or at least it wasn’t always the case (ownership has changed). It didn’t refuse to cover some important stories, such as this scoop about Microsoft lobbying French politicians for OOXML. When Les Echos covers the EPO it involves defending the EPO from perceived critics like a judge who said the truth about Željko Topić. We are once again seeing Les Echos carrying water for Battistelli.

Battistelli is undoubtedly an amazing president. It is amazing that he gets to keep his job (for now) after all these scandals at the EPO, including him breaking laws and his refusal to obey court rulings against him. Only a vain elitist would be capable of defending ones like Battistelli and considering the new ownership of Les Echos, it all seems to make sense.

“So it turns out that the EPO is now censoring newspapers, or that the newspapers are self-censoring for fear of the EPO’s thugs.”A reader has told us about the “European Inventor of the Year Award,” an article from the 11th of June, 2015.

“The report of the European Inventor of the Year Award,” says the reader, “which took place in Paris on 11 June 2015, might be of interest.

“It seems that the party was spoiled for Battistelli by the French State Secretary for Digital Economy, Axelle Lemaire who made some comments expressing the French government’s concern about the ongoing social conflict at the EPO.

“It also appears that the French newspaper Les Echos subsequently censored its report by eliminating an earlier mention of Ms. Lemaire’s comments. By a stroke of good fortune, somebody was quick enough to capture the earlier version of the report.”

Days ago we alluded to a Huffington Post article in French, noting that French politicians are getting fed up with Battistelli. He has become a national embarrassment to France, not a source of pride or respect. Some politicians openly speak about this, but will the media inform the French public? See this commentary [PDF] with hyperlinks, highlighting the latest scandal involving media censorship (or self-censorship):

LES ECHOS…. DE LA JOURNÉE DU PRIX DE L’INVENTEUR EUROPÉEN 2015

June 11th, 2015 was the day of THE party. Not the excellent Blake Edward’s 1968 film with Peter Sellers but Mr Battistelli’s lifetime’s achievement in the somptuous Palais Brogniart in Paris. The moderator paid him “the gracious Benoît Battistelli”… Etat de grâce? Well not quite.

The party was spoiled by none other than the French State Secretary for Digital Economy, Axelle Lemaire sent in replacement of the French Minister of Economy, Emmanuel Macron, who had
diplomatically declined the invitation.

First, according to sources among the organisers, Mr Battistelli did not want Ms Lemaire to speak but simply to hand out an award. Obviously, she refused. In her speech [1], she never mentioned the name of Mr Battistelli and dared to mention “the social conflict in the EPO and her concerns for the rights of EPO staff”. Bravo Madame!

“Les Echos”, a French newspaper acting as communication partner for the Office, had first reported on the event in the following way:

“Axelle Lemaire mentionne enfin les conflits sociaux qu’a connu, ces derniers mois, l’Office européen des brevets et rappelle son souci du bien-être des collaborateurs de l’Office.”

Colleagues of the EPO, who have a long tradition and solid expertise of finding quickly pertinent information found it (click here [2]) – just before the publication was censored (click here [3]) to suppress this “affront” to Mr Battistelli.

It does not end there.

Reliable insiders reported that at the end of the ceremony Ms Bergot (PD 43) rushed to the State Secretary to complain about her attitude, boldly stating that the Secretary had no idea how many great things were done at the EPO lately. The tone was such that Ms Lemaire had to remind Ms Bergot that she was addressing an official representative of France. Finally, no one had the courtesy to bid farewell to Ms Lemaire.

Un malheur n’arrivant jamais seul, in the “Huffington Post” (partly owned by “Le Monde”), three members of the French Parliament, three members of the French Senate, and a Member of the European Parliament published a tribune titled L’Organisation européenne des brevets, une zone de non droit en Europe? which reports on the troubled social situation at the EPO.

If one considers that according to members of top management speaking to us on confidential basis, about 2 Mio EUR of applicants’ money were spent (wasted?) this year for this “event”, we hope that the lunch served was at least good.


References:

[1] European Inventor Award 2015, Intervention of Axelle Lemaire, French State Secretary for Digital Economy, 11 June 2015, 12H45

Video available from :
European Commission A/V Services
starting from 109m40s

SUEPO archive
starting from 6m30s

« L’innovation c’est un impératif, un impératif économique. Et ce qui est vrai pour la technologie, l’est aussi pour l’innovation publique, les modes de gouvernance, l’innovation sociale. Et à ce titre, même si ce n’est pas l’objet de notre rencontre ce matin, le gouvernement français connaît les difficultés sociales qui s’expriment au sein de l’Office Européen des Brevets et à ce sujet, l’office a un devoir d’exemplarité, de transparence absolue dans le respect des droits des agents qui y travaillent. »

[2] Les Echos, “Deux Français vainqueurs du Prix de l’inventeur européen” published on 11 June 2015, at 13:10

[3] Les Echos, “Deux Français vainqueurs du Prix de l’inventeur européen” updated on 11 June 2015, at 14:43

The snapshot here [PDF] shows the difference. Here it is as a PNG file:

Les Echos

So it turns out that the EPO is now censoring newspapers, or that the newspapers are self-censoring for fear of the EPO’s thugs. Don’t forget that Željko Topić, Battistelli’s key thug, took people to court (costing them a fortune using highly notorious SLAPP), claiming “defamation” only to lose the case at the end, and not even pay for emotional damage, stress, etc. It’s an effective intimidation tactic — illegal in some US states — that ultimately results in deletionism (out of nervousness and terror). Another censorship scandal from a supposedly scientific institution?

Thankfully we received some enormously valuable information, including snapshots, showing Battistelli’s special treatment in the French media. This guy is a never-ending scandal.

Some tell us that they “don’t know exactly what caused Les Echos to alter its story-line but the following facts may give some clues:

Les Echos belongs to the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton – Moët Hennessy).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LVMH

The chairman and CEO of LVMH is the french “oligarch” Bernard Arnault:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Arnault#LVMH

At the time of the acquisition, the staff of Les Echos protested:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7080079.stm

Arnault stated that he would respect the paper’s editorial independence if his company LVMH bought it:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/07/05/industry-arnault-les-echos-dc-idUSL0416454220070705

According to French press reports Arnault is close to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

http://lexpansion.lexpress.fr/actualite-economique/bernard-arnault-et-nicolas-sarkozy-proches-depuis-longtemps_1158948.html

In the context of French politics, Battistelli is a member of Sarkozy’s party (formerly UMP, recently re-branded as “Les Républicains”): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_for_a_Popular_Movement

As a UMP member, Battistelli has some minor local political role on the town council of St. Germain-en-Laye:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beno%C3%AEt_Battistelli#Local_political_life

In the past, Les Echos has published the occasional “puff piece” about Battistelli and his role as President of the EPO.
For example:

http://www.lesechos.fr/30/09/2014/LesEchos/21782-159-ECH_benoit-battistelli-president-de-l-office-europeen-des-brevets–oeb-.htm

Against this background, it’s probable that Battistelli has some “hot line” to Les Echos which enables him to get unfavorable coverage pulled in the twinkling of an eye…

The source wishes to “stress that [there is] no information about what exactly happened behind the scenes here, but it’s possible to speculate…”

When I worked as a journalist for an external site with clients (advertisers) and corporate politics I saw entire paragraphs of mine removed. This is usually done by another person, e.g. an editor. Perhaps Battistelli has some powerful connections in the Les Echos offices.

Update: “In the mean time,” quite fortunately and in a very timely fashion, “IPKat has covered this incident” (to paraphrase a reader). According to this, European taxpayers’ money is wasted not only on self-glamourising events for the EPO’s public image but also media distortion, or yet more paid ‘placements’ (corrupting the media). Les Echos journalists wrongly assumed that they were in the business of journalism and attended the event to give fair coverage. Not so! Not allowed!

As IP Kat puts it right now, “the French newspaper Les Echos, chosen by the EPO as its media partner, acted like a newspaper rather than a “media partner” and initially released a report of the event including Ms. Lemaire’s criticisms. That quickly changed. The story was pulled and re-released in a more anodyne (and acceptable) form within hours, Ms. Lemaire’s comments disappearing from the edited report. Winston Smith would have counted it as a good day’s work.”

Wow! The EPO is once again paying big and influential newspapers to produce fake ‘coverage’. What a misuse of public money.

“Merpel feels sorry for the EPO management,” she says. “After all, if you’re spending about €2 million of applicants’ and patentees’ money on a showcase event, you’d expect everyone to know their place and bow the knee, non? More seriously, it is a very welcome sign that one of the major EPO member states is now publicly calling the EPO to account, and is publicly reminding the Office of its duty to uphold the rights of staff. Will other member states be as courageous, she wonders?”

To quote a reader of ours: “It seems that Les Echos was acting as a “media partner” for the EPO in providing coverage of the European Inventor of the Year Award.”

This means that Les Echos has effectively been reduced to articles for sale. The stakeholders even get to shape these articles as they see fit (post-publication).

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