10.07.15

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EPO Staff to Disrupt Administrative Council Meeting With Public Demonstration That Raises Awareness of Abuses

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Manchester architecture

Summary: The perception of collusion between the Administrative Council (AC) and the European Patent Office (EPO) leads to staff actions demanding investigation of illegal Board of Appeal (BoA) suspension/s (among many other things)

“Actions continue at the European Patent Office (EPO),” wrote SUEPO today, following a familiar script (the previous such call for action was accidentally posted this morning, either prematurely or while writing the latest call). This is probably designed to overlap with the Administrative Council’s meeting, which is due to take place starting on the very same date, as we noted before. Here is SUEPO’s message:

The next demonstration will take place on Wednesday 14 October, starting at 12.30h in front of the Isar building of the EPO in Munich.

According to SUEPO, the EPO has been transformed into a totalitarian state where the rights of staff and of those who defend the rights of staff or simply adhere to common sense are being crushed to the benefit of a few, mainly French, who are making rocket careers. The EPO is a civil service organisation and not a self-service organisation.

We wish to remind the Council delegates and the governments of the Member States that they are responsible for the European Patent Organisation, its mission and its staff.

The Administrative Council is too close (and loyal) to Benoît Battistelli, so without serious pressure there will just be more coverup, no regulatory action. They only interrogate the messengers — those who have the courage to complain about the abuses and call for action.

Van der Eijk’s situation was covered here before (in [1, 2]) and “sources suggest that Mr Wim van der Eijk, Chairman of the Enlarged Boards of Appeal is on long term absence,” SUEPO claims (probably citing either us or the sources that we, in turn, cited). Van der Eijk is Chairman of the Enlarged Board of Appeal (highest position at the top board), but he is not showing up for work anymore. The need for action in this case is imperative, e.g. the Council must investigate these illegal suspensions, at least that of a judge last year (it might not have been the only one), but it’s one that complaints were raised about).

SUEPO now highlights an article from the summer (a little outdated because of more recent developments), published by World Intellectual Property Review (WIPR). This was shared and archived locally (the full text) at SUEPO’s Web site. “Back in August,” says SUEPO, “WIPR reported on the events at the European Patent Office and especially on the lack of independence of the EPO’s appeal boards which is under public scrutiny since the house ban imposed on one of its members” (nothing was known about Wim van der Eijk at the time and we are still waiting for conformation about the status of this affair). To quote WIPR:

The independence of the EPO’s appeal boards appears to be under scrutiny, but establishing how to make them more autonomous is proving tricky, as WIPR reports.

A way from the strike action, demonstrations, and the continuing dispute between the European Patent Office’s (EPO) staff and management, it is easy to forget that the office actually has a job to do.

During much of the last year or so accusations were levelled against both EPO president Benoît Battistelli and his senior management.

Leaked documents apparently showing changes to staff guidelines, notices of strikes, public condemnation of the office’s management by its staff union, and murmurings of suspensions have punctuated what should have been an exciting few months for the EPO as it prepares for the arrival of the unitary patent.

SUEPO quotes text from behind the paywall/artificial limitation at WIPR, namely: “Battistelli has tried to increase the independence of the boards without actually amending the EPC itself, but his efforts are “not satisfactory. [...] Increasing the board’s independence without amending the EPC depends on Battistelli delegating the powers he has to the boards of appeal, but how permanent would that delegation be? If he can take the decision to delegate powers he can also undo it, so it is not the best guarantee. [...] with the EPC in its current form, there is an argument that the EPO is not compliant with the TRIPS Agreement.[...] TRIPS says that you need to have two instances of appeal. But if the boards of appeal at the EPO are merely an administrative function run by the president you could say there is in fact no level of appeal at all.”

The TRIPS Agreement is itself an abomination, much like TPP and ACTA, which contained TRIPS within it (we wrote a lot about this back in the ACTA days).

On a separate note, there continues to be a disturbing trend when it comes to software patents in Europe. There are principle no software patents in India and in Europe, but the EPO has been working to change that since the Brimelow days. India’s new government too seems to be making these undemocratic errors; “The new guidelines,” says this report about Modi in The Times of India, “will make it easier for companies to file for software patents in India. But software patenting has become hugely controversial globally” (and especially so in India, where many software developers work, sometimes remotely).

Patent lawyers try to spin that article as Indian companies actually wanting software patents. This was mentioned when we wrote about patent trolls against Android in Europe just two days ago. We also mentioned at the same time the official joining of the UK into the UPC despite the possibility of Brexit. As Benjamin Henrion put it yesterday “UK ratification of the Unitary Patent does not make sense if the ECJ have the last word over patents, as it was confirmed bu en [sic] EC official” (the UK just ignores the law and already jump-starts a UPC patent court in London).

In the coming weeks we are likely to invest more time researching and writing about the UPC. This too deserves a public protest, not just TPP (or ACTA before it).

We support the actions of EPO staff against their management as this is long overdue and it gets members of the European Parliament increasingly involved. All the above collusions thrive in secrecy and the more information we can put out there in the public domain, the more true democracy one can enable.

“The European Patent Office is an executive organisation, it deals especially with patent applicants, as such, its view of the world may be biased. As an executive organisation, its interpretative powers are very limited. The European Patent Convention excludes computer programs, it is outside the EPO’s power to change this.”

Ante Wessels, FFII

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