11.23.15

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NRC Handelsblad (Dutch Evening Newspaper) Speaks About EPO’s Refusal to Accept Court Orders From The Hague

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NRC Handelsblad

Summary: Article explains the depths of the issues inside the EPO and the unacceptable immunity that management at the EPO continues to exploit, shaming or discrediting the very notion of the rule of law in Europe

wikipedia says that NRC Handelsblad enjoys a circulation of 188,500 people/households/offices (as of 2014). It is considered a liberal daily newspaper and it recently published this article about the EPO. We have asked for a translation and finally we have it.

Here’s the English translation of the NRC article:

European Patent Office scrutinizes trade union members

“There is a conspiracy against our president”, says the patent office. “No, they want to silence us”, says the trade union.

By Eppo König, 18 November 2015

Picture caption: A glass office complex for about 200 MEUR is being erected in Rijswijk for the EPO.

“The office is not subject to Dutch legislation and therefore didn’t feel previously compelled to recognise a union for formal consultations over working conditions.”The ongoing conflict between the management of the European Patent Office and the SUEPO trade union is developing into a hard confrontation.

The patent office has initiated investigations of several employees who are active members of the trade union as well as members of the staff representation — and who are threatened with dismissal. The trade union suspended out of protest the “social dialogue” with the patent office management.

The patent office, with its 38 member states and approximately 7000 employees, is the largest intergovernmental agency in Europe after the European Union. The office examines national [sic] patent applications from inventors and grants European patents. Beside the head office in Munich, there is a branch at The Hague, among other sites.

“According to Hardon’s lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, there are ongoing cases against six members of the staff representation and of the union.”The office is however especially in the news for its row with the non-recognised trade union SUEPO. [SUEPO] claims to have 3000 members, of which nearly half work in Rijswijk. The office is not subject to Dutch legislation and therefore didn’t feel previously compelled to recognise a union for formal consultations over working conditions.

This week it became internally known that Els Hardon, the Dutch chairwoman of trade union at the department in Munich, [is submitted to] a “disciplinary procedure” which can terminate in dismissal. The patent office says that she conspired against president Benoît Battistelli and a vice-president, together with a high-ranking “patent judge” who was put on leave by the patent office. Hardon would have also intimated member of the staff representation who weren’t SUEPO members.

Blamed for a climate of terror

According to Hardon’s lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, there are ongoing cases against six members of the staff representation and of the union. Zegveld speaks of “intimidation” and says that the investigation procedures of the office “not to be worthy of the 21st century and wouldn’t stand up in any way before a court”. Hardon was given one and one half hour to prepare for an official interrogation, without being allowed to consult her lawyer. “The patent office is busy silencing the trade union. In three months there [won't be] SUEPO anymore, and this is precisely what they want”.

“Zegveld speaks of “intimidation” and says that the investigation procedures of the office “not to be worthy of the 21st century and wouldn’t stand up in any way before a court”.”The union has accused for some time Battistelli of introducing a climate of terror. SUEPO believes that high work pressure contributed to the suicides of five employees in three years. Battistelli speaks of a defamation campaign by the trade union to frustrate reforms for making work more efficient. Opponents are also attempting to block the introduction of the European unitary patent, which would provide one-stop coverage in almost the entire EU. Presently patents must still be individually filed [sic] in every state, which brings in more money. In an interview with this newspaper, Battistelli described SUEPO as “a mixture of French trade unions and of German efficiency: a dangerous cocktail”.

“The union has accused for some time Battistelli of introducing a climate of terror.”

The court of appeal ordered that the patent office must accept the trade union

The court of appeal at The Hague ordered earlier this year that the patent office must accept the trade union. The office must allow the union at consultations concerning working conditions and should stop meddling in strike allots. Battistelli brushed aside the decision, for the patent office isn’t subjected to Dutch law. The office will appeal early 2016 together with the State of the Netherlands [to the Supreme Court]. The Netherlands want to be a good host country for international organisations, and finds that these must be able to operate “independently, safely and without any impediments”.

“SUEPO believes that high work pressure contributed to the suicides of five employees in three years.”The judgment of the Supreme Court can have consequences for the legal position of approximately 35 international organisations in the Netherlands, as well as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. “The question is how far does the immunity of the patent office extends”, says Zegveld. “Is immunity more important than fundamental rights such as the right to association, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike?” The patent office wants to continue the social dialogue in order to recognise SUEPO according to its own conditions. Should SUEPO not want to resume the dialogue, then the office could also [chose to] recognise only the smaller union FFPE-EPO.

We have some more article translations on their way and we thank kind readers for helping with these translations. It helps make important information more easily accessible to more politicians, patent lawyers, examiners, etc.

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