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The European Patent Office Explained by Insiders

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 9065ef7403ba87f52b479ff74b563f7a
What EPO Looks Like From Inside
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: European Patent Office (EPO) insiders, who represent thousands of members of staff, speak about what a cold place (literally cold, not just metaphorically cold) the EPO became; “the Office premises have become unattractive,” they assert, cautioning repeatedly about no “attractivity of working on the Office premises” or no “attractivity of the Office” (the workplace has become repellent for a lot of reasons)

THE video above has hopefully explained the EPO‘s HR crisis. The head of HR was recently promoted to deputy site manager, rewarding her for an utter failure. It is all about nepotism rather than qualifications; she leapt several levels after she had slept (and married) a Vice President who was a close confidant of Benoît Battistelli, the friend and appointer of António Campinos. Today’s EPO is basically run like a family business and staff is disgusted by it. That’s so demoralising.

The video shows the latest publication about “Bringing Teams Together” (misleading words) and the latest EPO crisis. Stakeholders already notice and are publicly speaking out about the collapse in quality — real quality — at the EPO. They’re not happy!

As noted in the video, today we reproduce as HTML (later plain text and GemText) the latest publication on this matter. It was issued this month. The Central Staff Committee said this:

Zentraler Personalausschuss
Central Staff Committee
Le Comité Central du Personnel


Revival of Bringing Teams Together

“Space not used is space not needed”

After implementation in the Isar Building, the administration intends to expand the project “Bringing Teams Together” to the other buildings in Munich and in the Hague. The aim appears to be to save on office space and make energy savings by closing parts of or whole EPO buildings. Line managers will be tasked to check history of presence of staff in the premises. The 3-day rule for being eligible to an allocated fixed workplace will cease to be a simple guideline and will become a strict criterion. This paper gives more details about what we learnt about the plans of the administration.

The project was initiated without proper consultation

“Bringing Teams Together” was announced on 2 June 2022 in the May MAC Report and aims at saving on Office space by closing EPO buildings. Despite our requests1 for proper consultation, the project was only submitted for information in the GCC meeting of 5 July 2022. Our opinion on the document (GCC/DOC 13/2022) project can be found here.

Implementation started first in the Isar building and was completed end of October. DG1 moves originally planned in the New Main and the Pschorr Höfe to take place in November/December would subsequently only take place as from January 2023.

The project remains unpopular

On 17 November, the Office announced the revival of the project. Now the moves were to start at the end of February 2023, following the completion of an accommodation plan in January 2023. We reacted by letter the following day.

We requested to be informed of the lessons learnt from previous projects such as the Isar Daylight Project and the Vienna relocation. The “Bringing Teams Together” project remains unpopular because the administration’s arguments in its defence remain unconvincing. The statement “it is very likely that everybody in these buildings will have to move” is not understandable for many teams which are already placed “together” according to the literal sense of the word.

1 LSCMN letter of 9 June 2022 (sc22014ml) and CSC letter of 14 June 2022 (sc22076cl)

The administration invited us to a meeting which took place on 21 November.

Report on the meeting of 21 November

The administration explained that after 10 weeks of “New Ways of Working” starting from 1 September, during which “staff had the full flexibility to work from the Office” premises, the building occupancy remained stable: 33% in Munich (but with peaks at 40% from Tuesday to Thursday) and 37% in The Hague. They further noted that even before the pandemic, the maximum occupancy was 70-80% on a given day (i.e. PHTW, sick/annual leave, etc), insinuating there was too much space already. We repeated that the “New Ways of Working” cannot be considered to have reached a steady state in such a short period. In our view, observations of staff working patterns can only be reliable over a longer period of at least one complete year. It is clear that the observation period of “New Ways of Working” must be a meaningful percentage of the preceding exception period (i.e. the 2-year pandemic), since staff was essentially requested to work from home and it is difficult to change habits especially when the Office premises have become unattractive.

We added that the Pschorr Höfe buildings 7 and 8 have no canteen and no cafeteria. The only available cafeteria in PH 1-4 is insufficient and causes long waiting times for a coffee or a snack. Repair works (e.g. lifts) and new installation (e.g. LED panels) are a source of not only inconvenience but also considerable acoustic pollution. These conditions, among other reasons (e.g., cold rooms), force many colleagues to switch to teleworking. The administration replied that some of the issues mentioned were specific to Munich only and The Hague actually had approximately the same occupancy rate.

The administration stressed that space not used by staff, is space not needed by staff. In their view, it does not make sense to heat rooms which remain empty. Buildings will be closed and the heating turned down to a minimum necessary, apparently below 15 °C.

The administration further explained that 80% of teams were “not together” when applying the strictest criterion of door-to-door neighbourhood. In our view, such a criterion is questionable.

Situation in the Hague

The administration explained that in The Hague, the New Main has a maximum of 1.950 workplaces corresponding also to the capacity of the ventilation installation. From these workplaces, 75% are single offices and 25% are shared workspace. The highest occupancy level on site since September was 1.100 among 2.400 overall staff members. In their view, the Shell building can be closed. The Data Centre would be moved to one or two meeting rooms on the first floor of the New Main. The future of the auditorium of the Shell will be examined. It was confirmed by management that the setup of the New Main would not be changed, therefore the current setup with around 1.455 single offices would remain.

Situation in Munich

The administration refused to explicitly say that PH1-4 would be closed but did not deny it either. From this and the evolution of the Bringing Teams Together project, we understand that it was their plan since the beginning. Indeed, the administration clarified that in the future not all buildings will be needed. We pointed out that if DG1 were to fully move to PH 5-6 and

8 (and 300 colleagues to 3 floors of the Isar building), they would need a canteen next to their workplaces. When we inquired where the canteen, presently situated in PH 1-4, would be in this case, the vague answer was that “a pragmatic solution” would be found.

History of presence vs. criterion

When initiating the project, the administration had originally announced that in order to keep an allocated fixed workplace, staff should be present at least 3 days per week on the premises. Later, the administration clarified that this criterion would only be regarded as a “guideline”.

From the meeting of 21 November, we understand that the 3-day rule will become a strict criterion again and line managers will be tasked to make use of the Planning Tool to determine the history of presence of their team members on the premises since September. To this end, line managers were reminded on 22 November by email from the administration to ensure that their team members make use of the tool “to help [...] evaluate the success of the New Ways of Working pilot.” We suspect that the data from the recent past will be used to determine staff’s future workplace setting.

We believe that this exercise, in the current context, will neither improve the working atmosphere in the Office nor increase confidence in the decision of the upper management.

Allocated fixed workplaces?

The administration clarified that a workplace shared at distinct times of the week (colleague A working Monday-Tuesday, colleague B working Thursday-Friday) would not be considered a workplace-for-the-day but would fall within the definition of an allocated fixed workplace. Colleagues in the latter situation who would then want to come on a different day than the predefined day(s), would have to book a workplace-for-the-day. According to the administration, certain specific needs (not defined yet) could however guarantee an access to an allocated fixed workplace.

In the meeting, an alarming statement was made by the administration that “there should not be two categories of staff”, namely on one side, those who have an allocated fixed workplace and on the other side, those who have to book a non-allocated workplace for coming. This came as a surprise. When we asked for clarification, the answer remained vague, but it appears that even if the staff member has an allocated fixed workplace, the workplace may be used during longer absences (e.g., parental leave, prolonged sick leave, longer holidays) by someone else.2

We pointed out that when one and the same workplace is used by different staff members a considerable time is wasted by adjusting ergonomic settings of the workplace. For example, the height of the chair, screen and table may have to be readjusted each time there is a change of occupant3. We pointed out that those colleagues who regularly work in the

2 A workplace, whether allocated fixed or not, will be cleaned every evening. Hence, personal belongings cannot stay on the desk. This of course also means that personal pictures on the wall etc. will not be possible.
3 In fact, this is reality for our colleagues in Vienna, where the Office has rented workplaces in a co-working space for them during the time of the renovation of the Vienna building. Coming to the office with an unclear workplace situation in the morning causes unnecessary stress, which eventually motivates the staff member to stay in home office, leading to a downward spiral effect regarding occupation.

premises should not be confronted to such inconvenience. Another point we brought forward is that keyboards, headsets and mice should remain personal and not be shared by people. As rooms will have no locks anymore, laptops and iPads have to be put into lockers.

Proposals by the staff representation

The staff representation believes that there is a better way to make the Office premises a great work place, a place where colleagues like to meet, do sports, and most importantly are given the best conditions to work in an efficient way: a welcoming place where people will like to spend time. Transforming the personalised workplaces as they are now into standardised, impersonal, unlocked offices, where each office is exactly the same, seems to us the worst idea since the installation of glass walls.

We propose that those people who come regularly to work should have an allocated fixed workplace including a key for the room. And those colleagues who choose to do parts of the 60 mandatory days of presence in a row should also be able to book a room for longer periods (including a key). Today, it is only possible to book a room for one day only which must be evacuated in the evening.

In this way, the Office premises would become again more personal and attractive. It would avoid timewasting lengthy adjustment of ergonomic settings, exchanging, or cleaning of keyboards and mouses, going to the locker to gather personal belongings, daily installation and de-installation of laptops and iPads etc.. Personal belongings such as family photos could then stay on the desk overnight. The Office would become again a place which can feel a little like home. We believe that these are easy steps with big effects on the attractivity of the Office.


The Communiqué of 21 November shows that “Bringing Teams Together” in the Isar building does not run without organisational problems: “some of the newly installed IT equipment and chairs in the Isar building have already gone missing.” Leaving offices without keys in which anyone can enter inevitably leads to such pitfalls. Possibly this is why the Boards of Appeal are not heading down this path, neither in Haar, nor in the new Boards of Appeal building (i.e. the present PH 7).

It is time for management to revise this project which will not improve the attractivity of working on the Office premises.

The administration invited us to a follow-up meeting but only beginning of next year.

The Central Staff Committee

The latest lies and propaganda (warning: epo.org link) from the EPO’s site are discussed towards the end of this video. They live in some parallel universe; maybe some of them even believe their own lies.

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