Bonum Certa Men Certa

EPO: Language of Conflict

posted by Roy Schestowitz on May 13, 2024,
updated May 14, 2024

Risks to interpreting services at the EPO

Central Staff Committee tables/charts

Some weeks ago interpretation services were reportedly crushed by EPO management. There's now a more detailed publication about it. It comes from the Central Staff Committee and it contains a lot of tables/charts.

The core of the message is, as per today's communication: "The EPO relies on freelance interpreters who are considered to be employees of the Office for the time they work for the Office. Their conditions of employment put in place since 2002 (CA/136/02) helped to build a pool of 160 highly qualified interpreters specialised in Patent Law.

"The Office is now proposing to abolish the conditions of employment of interpreters and requests the Budget and Finance Committee for their opinion on CA/35/24. The Office did not consult any of its interpreters before tabling the document in the General Consultative Committee (GCC) and does not provide the legal basis for the change. Upon learning of the proposal, the EPO interpreters expressed deep concern about the potential consequences.

"In this open letter to the delegations in the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC), the Central Staff Committee (CSC) explains the shortcomings of the reform and recommends that the delegations request to be presented with the document for information only, so that alternatives can be considered."

A letter about this has already been sent to António Campinos and Heads of Delegation in the Budget and Finance Committee (which historically had very profound conflict of interest [1, 2]). To quote the letter alone (no annexes except in the original):

European Patent Office
80298 Munich
Germany

Central Staff Committee
Comité central du personnel
Zentraler Personalausschuss

centralSTCOM@epo.org

Reference: sc24026cl

Date: 08/05/2024

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

To: Heads of Delegation in the Budget and
Finance Committee

Cc: Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO

By email:
council@epo.org
president@epo.org

OPEN LETTER

Risks to interpretation services at the EPO

Dear Heads of Delegations in the Budget and Finance Committee,

The EPO shall offer interpretation services during oral proceedings in opposition proceedings1 and in appeal proceedings2. Interpretation services are also provided to the delegations during meetings of the Administrative Council.

Presently, the EPO relies on freelance interpreters who are considered to be employees of the Office for the time they work for the Office. Their conditions of employment put in place since 2002 (CA/136/02) helped to build a pool of 160 highly qualified interpreters specialised in Patent Law.

The Office is now proposing to abolish the conditions of employment of interpreters and requests the BFC for their opinion on (CA/35/24). The Office did not consult any of its interpreters before tabling the document in the General Consultative Committee and does not provide the legal basis for the change. Upon learning of the proposal, the EPO interpreters expressed deep concern about the potential consequences.

The document states that the tax authorities in a member state consider that interpreters should be covered by the EPO’s social security scheme, and as long as this is not the case, interpreters are covered under the national social security scheme of the member state in question for which

_______

1 Rule 4(5) Impl Reg. to Part I of the EPC

2 Article 7 RoP of the BoA


employers are obliged to pay employee insurance premiums for the benefit of their employees. In the GCC, reference was made to problems in the Netherlands where only 6 interpreters reside. Abolishing the conditions of employment for all interpreters is hence disproportionate and leads to several issues explained in a document prepared by a group of interpreters3:

First, if interpreters work for the EPO without employee status, they bear the risk of being considered under false (bogus) self-employment by the country where they reside. Interpreters would have to reduce their availability for the EPO to mitigate this risk4.

Second, if EPO interpreters’ fees become subject to national income tax, interpreters who optimise their income vis-à-vis national thresholds might limit their availability to the EPO. The proposed increase by 40% of the interpreters’ daily rates– according to them, would be insufficient to compensate the taxation5.

Third, the EPO would have to pay VAT in non-EU countries such as in the United Kingdom and Switzerland where 25% of interpreters are residents6.

Fourth, Article 14 of the PPI would no longer apply to interpreters. Interpreters would for example no longer enjoy the inviolability for all their official papers and documents, including EPO documents.

Fifth, the EPO would not be competitive in comparison with other international organisations still using a hybrid model like the one currently in place at the EPO (EU, UN, WTO, CoE…)7. The benchmark8 shows that the newly proposed model based on “framework contracts” would even put the EPO at the lowest place in the benchmark.

The specimen framework contract is not available. The reform is clearly not described in its entirety. In addition, the vast number of comments from the interpreters show that neither the legal nor the fiscal issues seem to have been properly considered in the document.

International institutions are already competing for a limited pool of interpreters. The EPO cannot afford to jeopardize its pool of interpreters specialised in Patent Law. A shortage of interpreters with the requisite skill set would ultimately result in risks to business continuity and quality of interpretation services for the users of the patent system.

The EPO should re-consider the planned change of the conditions due to the aforementioned shortcomings and properly consult the interpreters and the staff representation.

_____________

3 „EPO Accredited Interpreters Statement and Supporting Annexes“, 24-04-2024 [Annex 1]

4 see [Annex 1], page 10

5 see [Annex 1], page 7

6 see [Annex 1], page 5

7 see [Annex 1], page 2

8 “International organisations: comparative table” [Annex 2]


We recommend that the delegations request to be presented with document CA/35/24 for information only, so that alternatives can be considered.

Sincerely yours

Derek Kelly
Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

Annex 1: “Communication from EPO-accredited interpreters to Staff Representation”, 14-04-2024
Annex 2: “International organisations: comparative table”

One can hope that if more people (in this field) see this, the more resistance can - or will - intensify. With the illegal kangaroo court (UPC) not squashed yet, the greater the tragedy of unconstitutionality, based on language and so much more.

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