03.16.16

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Dutch Media (NRC) Cites Documents Leaked to Techrights and EPO Refuses to Comment on Them

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The protests are the least of Battistelli’s concerns at the moment

NRC on protest

Summary: The ‘damage control’ at the European Patent Office (EPO) continues as the mainstream media in Europe increasingly takes a side, and it’s not the side of the Office

THERE is plenty of unwanted attention for EPO management right now. It started with a semi-political meeting that pretty much had the EPO go ballistic (truly terrible diplomatic approach, Battistelli is an incompetent politician and lobbyist, just like the rest of his party) and then came the Administrative Council’s meetup. This is a subject that we begin to explore in this post. There is a lot more to come.

“It started with a semi-political meeting that pretty much had the EPO go ballistic (truly terrible diplomatic approach, Battistelli is an incompetent politician and lobbyist, just like the rest of his party) and then came the Administrative Council’s meetup.”We begin with a polite request to readers. There are many articles in German [1, 2, 3] and in Dutch right now. We only have a translation for the Dutch one, at least for now (plus another that we wrote about earlier), so that leaves 3 articles in German (plus the utterly poor one we mentioned last night, coming from Munich) that we could use translations of. Contact information and advice can be found here.

Petra Kramer worked on a translation of this article from NRC, which is a large Dutch broadcaster. Human-corrected machine translation of it can be found below. “Paywalled,” Kramer wrote, so “you know the drill.” Highlighted below are new(er) bits that are relatively unique:

It will be a painful meeting

European Patent Office Member States have to choose sides this week in the conflict between their appointed boss of the European Patent Office and the staff.

It was a brief and heated conversation between a critical Dutchman and an indignant Frenchman. So went the meeting between Secretary Martijn van Dam (Economic Affairs, Labour Party) and President Benoît Battistelli of the European Patent Office in early March, according to sources close to the organization.

Van Dam (38) and Battistelli (65) seemed to talk past each other. Van Dam expressed his concern about the conflict between Battistelli and union SUEPO. The Netherlands and many other member states of the patent office want an examination into sanctions against prominent members of both the union and the works council: two of them have been dismissed, one was reduced in salary.

But Battistelli denounced the “smear campaign” by the union and felt supported by Member States. When the State Secretary repeated his criticism, it was the last straw for Battistelli. The Frenchman got angry and left the office of Van Dam after half an hour. The State Secretary has already expressed concern, says a spokesman. This conversation brought “no new insights”.

The internal tensions at the patent office are to be fought on Wednesday and Thursday in Munich. That’s when the Administrative Council will meet, the highest body in which 38 Member States are represented. The Council wants to force Battistelli to be open about punitive measures against workers. A leaked draft proposal of Battistelli’s supervisors reveals they intend to file a motion of disapproval.

Private investigation service

The conflict at the European Patent Office, which in addition Rijswijk also has offices in Munich, Berlin, Vienna and Brussels affects many interests. The Office established in 1977 adopts patent applications and grants patents valid from Iceland to Turkey. Thus, the agency protects the products and the competitiveness of multinationals like Philips, Samsung, and Siemens, but also those by private inventors.

Under Battistelli, the number of patent examinations of 7,000 employees rose by 14 percent last year, according to the patent office. But workers complain about stress and authoritarian control. The workload would be detrimental to the quality of patent protection and the health of workers. The office has a private investigative service which screens workers and labour inspections are barred from entrance. Even when someone killed themselves in 2013 by jumping out the window of their office on the seventh floor in Rijswijk.

As an international organization, the Agency neither recognizes the national labour laws nor trade union SUEPO. The Dutch government cannot intervene on its own territory, but also wants to remain a pleasant host to other international organizations, like the ICC and the European Space Agency. States are now compelled to speak out about the conflict because the attention of the international media is growing. But none of the critical countries dares to openly apostatize Battistelli – who they reappointed him until 2018 themselves.

Earlier this month Battistelli said in this newspaper that the relationship with member states is “excellent” and the proposal on the external investigation was off the table. But those involved and documents tell a different story. Battistelli would not have “the will” to implement “open discussion”.

For example, the blog Techrights published leaked minutes the management board February. These states that Battistelli has “a clear lack of will” to enter “an open discussion” on “contentious issues” – especially “social dialogue” with the union. The resolution could have been no surprise to the President: the management board had given him “many signs” for “a significant period”, it says.

Battistelli received sharp criticism last December when the management board met in Munich. The president presented beautiful annual figures and proudly told about the increase in productivity and decrease in the number of sick leave and in internal objections. There also were zero days of strike.

The delegates of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland were astonished. Yes, Battistelli earned praise for the beautiful business results, but why hasn’t the president said anything about the crisis? Member States were deeply concerned about the image of the patent office.

It is not surprising that there are no strikes because Battistelli has to authorize them, the Council continued. If employees want to make a career or want a bonus, they have to work harder. Both higher production and higher quality, does not exist. Volkswagen supposedly sold powerful and clean diesel cars – we know how that ended.

Borders of immunity investigated

All lies, Battistelli said. If there was a climate of fear, the numbers would not have been so beautiful. The president received support from Italy and Croatia, which called the image as portrayed in the media to be biased.

How the meeting in Munich will go cannot be predicted. The proposal has been watered down to gain more support among the Member States, sources say. Battistelli must ensure that punitive measures against employees are fair and he should consider access to external researchers. How to measure it, is still unclear. It could also be that Battistelli embraces the weakened proposal embraces himself.

Possibly the patent office will remain functioning without any changes, but the union and Member States will remain vigilant. Later this year a study on the working conditions will be published. The Supreme Court of the Netherlands is examining the limits of the immunity of the office.

The patent office says they do not comment on leaked documents nor on the meeting the state secretary. Spokesmen say that discussions between Member States are very common.

How convenient for them to just decline to comment because it’s not an ‘official’ announcement from them, like their lies about performance.

We look forward to more translations. In the mean time we shall work our way through newly-leaked material and publish to the best our ability/capacity (I’m personally using my holiday quota this week, in order to have more time to examine and report on the situation).

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