03.15.16

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Overthrowing Battistelli Only Part of a Bigger Job (Restoration of Quality and Human Decency at the European Patent Office)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A revolution

Summary: A status report one day before the staff’s demonstration and readers’ thoughts on what may be needed at the European Patent Office in order to attain peace

THE EPO is in a transitory phase right now. Battistelli’s job is at stake and more clarify will be given/provided tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Philip Cordery wrote about this yesterday and we require an accurate translation of it. Based on the opening paragraph (automated translation from Google): “At my request, the European Affairs Committee held a hearing on March 1 the President of the European Patent Organisation (EPO), Mr. Battistelli. This was the question the functioning of the office, on the eve of the introduction of the unitary patent, but also on the social situation deteriorated in the Intergovernmental office.”

“Battistelli’s job is at stake and more clarify will be given/provided tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”In French (until there is a proper translation this will be a more accurate text): “A ma demande, la Commission des affaires européennes a auditionné le 1er mars dernier le président de l’Organisation européenne des Brevets (OEB), Monsieur Battistelli. Il s’agissait de l’interroger sur le fonctionnement de l’office, à la veille de l’introduction du brevet unitaire, mais aussi sur la situation sociale dégradée au sein de l’office intergouvernemental.”

There is also coverage in Handelsblatt right now (newspaper published in Düsseldorf): “Der 68-jährige Franzose Benoît Battistelli leitet seit 2010 das Europäische Patentamt, kurz EPA. Battistelli antwortet erstmals in einem deutschen Medium auf die massive Kritik an ihm. Zum Interview lädt er in die EPA-Zentrale in München. In der Chefetage im zehnten Stock ist der Ausblick auf die Landeshauptstadt prächtig.”

In the English media, especially patents-centric media, one article speaks about tomorrow’s demonstration. As MIP put it: “EPO staff have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action, but the SUEPO union has postponed organising a strike until after this week’s meeting of the Administrative Council” (summary).

Here is how IP Watch put it:

Over several years, Battistelli has angered SUEPO members by making changes to, among other things, employee strike, health and sick leave rules, internal appeals and investigation guidelines, and by firing three of the union’s representatives, SUEPO said in a 9 March statement.

The last demonstration took place on 17 February, the same day as a meeting of the AC Board, a sub-group of the full panel. The board gave Battistelli a document seen by IP Watch setting out its “very precise expectations from the Office management” on social and disciplinary issues, according to a 17 February summary of conclusions.

The document was necessary “as it appears that there are no other means of conveying the Council’s recurring concerns expressed over the past months,” it said. The board “has to deplore an obvious lack of willingness from the part of the President to embark on an overdue open discussion with the Council on contentious issues – foremost the social dialogue.”

[...]

Staff representatives are “all just waiting” to see what happens this week, said the knowledgeable source. Something is moving in the AC but what and why is unclear, the source said. In any case, the union will not strike without trying again to find a solution, the source added.

As we noted earlier on, Battistelli has received another chance, which he is likely to throw away based on his attitude towards Board 28. Patent quality is definitely getting worse at the EPO, as the previous post already explained (and the EPO ‘results’ are basically bunk). From a technical perspective alone, Battistelli has been a failure, so why was his term even extended at all? Just so that he can finish his effort trying to implement the UPC, which he so badly craves and lobbies for?

“The last rumours on Campinos as a likely successor of Battistelli at the EPO urge me to get this out of my chest,” one reader told us.

“Regardless of this last rumour,” the reader added, “it’s been a while [so] I wanted to vent this out and in fact I think Suepo and possibly most of the staff at EPO should be made aware of it (for what is possible to conceive the making “aware” such a union).”

“The downward spiral had been started, at least, with president Ingo Kober at the end of ’90s.”
      –Anonymous
“My statement is simple,” told us the reader, “kicking out and/or replacing Battistelli would now actually turn into an easy way out for the largest number of managers to keep the status quo as far as possible. And a lot of them do have this interest.”

We have been hearing the same kind of opinions for quite some time. It does not, however, mean that nothing whatsoever will change after Battistelli is out of the building. There are other people who have been the source of various problems and we named some of them before. Not all have been brought in (mostly as imports from France) by Battistelli.

“The general increasing pressure for productivity has since then selected, with a common and anthropologically natural set of mechanisms, a whole little army of “willing executioners” in all lines of management, in every department.”
      –Anonymous
To put it with some names in the words of an anonymous reader: “The state of things with incompetent management, understaffed and exploited or unemployed personnel, all things affecting human resources, productivity pressure, decreasing quality, personal exploitation, personal favours, nepotism, other obscure or parallel or somehow hidden networks, such as freemasonry, have a long history in EPO. The downward spiral had been started, at least, with president Ingo Kober at the end of ’90s. The general increasing pressure for productivity has since then selected, with a common and anthropologically natural set of mechanisms, a whole little army of “willing executioners” in all lines of management, in every department. Some of them have become well established household names, such as Willy Minnoye, Yann Chabod, Karin Seegert, Patrick Bodard, Ludwig Kirst, Albert Koopman, Oswald Schröder, Milena Lonati, Christian Archambeau, Ebe Campi, Theano Evangelou, Omer Bullens, Jacques Michel, Richard Flammer, the entire platoons of directors of the examining departments and clerk units, which are the first line of management above examiners and clerks. Some of them might have lost their state of grace after entering in conflict with their once protectors or simply after that these had changed, some other left the office, often for the same reason, other times, having found better things to do. It’s the case of Schröder, Lonati, Campi, Michel, Archambeau. But most of them are still there, even if in another place and function.

“Not all names above have have had anything to do with most heinous practices (but chances are high that they all have witnessed them, at least), but they are just examples that the uncontrollably harsh reality at EPO is older than Battistelli’s office terms and is made possible by a plethora of otherwise still obscure names, which every day do their bit for their own personal cause at expense of others. And they are many.

“We might be very wrong if we think we are just talking about petty misdemeanor here: old mean corridor rumours, gambits to gain favors, to step ahead of others, to serve superiors and get from them a pat on the shoulders, a nice sentence or a higher marking on your notation.”
      –Anonymous
“They were there already, long before Battistelli came, they had been nicely selected, placed and replaced by previous administrations. They made possible all the abusive and unrefrained behaviour of a number of managers, directors and principal directors before and now they made possible for Battistelli and his court to do what they do. In essence they are their tools. All these apparently minor characters are responsible every day: they actively take decisions to submit the request of disciplinary procedures to the president, spy on people, issue threats, break rules of the internal Statute (the EPO Service Regulations), manipulate and falsify minutes and reports, bend the procedures of internal appeals, break any rule that otherwise would automatically have the local Police alerted and operating, steal and falsify documents, enter and manipulate digital accounts and computer hard disks, stalk employees at home and wherever possible, (at times simply by using the skills of Control Risks, other times on their own means, using local manpowers, who can be easily bought or easily intimidated: doctors, mail couriers, local bureaucracy…).

“They all do what they do without having Battistelli or any of his strict associate lurking over their heads in their offices. They all do these things actively and willingly: that means within their full discretionary power. They could refrain from such practices, if they only wanted. Once they receive an instruction, they still can chose time and context for it. If they had just a decent threshold for humane values they could surely contribute to de-escalation of what has caused years of pain and abuse to so many people (the suicides being only the tip of an iceberg. But no, why not please the boss? Only because a colleague seems under stress? So they go for it. After all, what else do they have in their lives…

“They had been behaving this way for decades, only more increasingly and relentlessly in recent times time and indeed at a wonderful rate now, under brilliant B.

“At the time where another not too forgotten predecessor was in charge, Mr Lionel Baranes, a somehow exceptionally courageous Vice President, especially by the standards of EPO, who got so much in conflict with this boiling underground of “creative managers” that his term had to be curtailed by using the reason that he was of the same nationality of the President: that would not do. Oh, but that is not much of a problem now, is it? He left with an open letter to the Office with statements along the lines of “the human resources are in a disastrous state”. Didn’t he know enough?

“We might be very wrong if we think we are just talking about petty misdemeanor here: old mean corridor rumours, gambits to gain favors, to step ahead of others, to serve superiors and get from them a pat on the shoulders, a nice sentence or a higher marking on your notation.

“Sure, all this happens, but there are more consistent issues suffering from all this: think of all procedures at a higher scale and for higher purposes. They simply are shaped by the same type of mental habit. Also because they are made by the very same kind of people. If once you wanted a pat on your shoulders from your director, by harassing Mr and Ms, one day you might want to get, say Microsoft, Nestlé, Volkswagen or any other big corporation to pat on your shoulder and maybe show their appreciation more consistently…

“How can we think these thick layers of humanity that make the scaffold of EPO’s human resources and technical resources management will simply stop by changing the very tiny top of the pie? It would be a great mistake to believe it. And how about all those people who know, who always knew and saw and heard, but always kept looking away? Do we think they will become finally active on the good side? Not for one minute. On the opposite: it’s also their interest to keep hiding their past (and present) passive complicity.

“So if any interest in reforming EPO is to be taken seriously, it surely should go well beyond ditching Battistelli in the vain hope that it all will change for the better. Most likely it won’t unless further, deeper work is done.”
      –Anonymous
“Making Battistelli the scapegoat for what actually has happened at all levels in the EPO for two decades before his term can be a strong temptation. It would also serve the purpose to give off the façade, for the suddenly increased public attention, that an end is being put to maladministration, actually allowing the decades old tradition of mismanagement and abuses to go on as if nothing had happened.

“So if any interest in reforming EPO is to be taken seriously, it surely should go well beyond ditching Battistelli in the vain hope that it all will change for the better. Most likely it won’t unless further, deeper work is done.

“Now, to cast light into the deeds of older and less spotlight-loving management layers of EPO, is what Suepo and finally the Examiners should strive for.

“Especially the Examiners should finally stop being prey of their comfortable and well paid fears, by showing much more openly their direct support to protest and to the people directly hit by abusive unjust measures.”

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