Bonum Certa Men Certa

EPO Management Says Not a Word About Strike This Week, Not Informing Customers/Stakeholders Either

Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) seems to have adopted a "pretend nothing is happening" strategy when it comes to a general strike that's just a couple of days away

THE staff of the EPO is extremely upset at the management, based on an extensive recent survey. It's hardly surprising that the staff wishes to go on strike.



Does the EPO inform the world about the imminent strike or does it simply pretend that it's "business as usual"? Well, considering the fact the the EPO lies to journalists and to staff, don't expect any honesty or transparency. It's quite an irresponsible choice actually, as it will erode confidence among those who pay the EPO.

"It's quite an irresponsible choice actually, as it will erode confidence among those who pay the EPO."There's virtually nothing from the EPO in Twitter (on Monday/this week) except some brag about the number of followers (which many people are just buying these days, in order to give a false impression of popularity). This kind of inactivity is rather unusual (only one non-substantial tweet today). There is no word at all about this week's strike, not even in the EPO's news section, blog/s, etc. This is what the homepage of the EPO looks like right now:

EPO invention PR



We can't help but wonder if this year too there will be fake journalism at the event, with EPO-imposed self-censorship that lasts for a long time.

"How many people are scheduled (maybe with flight tickets) to come to the Office that day?"It's surely embarrassing to tell one's clients that thousands of one's staff (majority of them) voted in favour of a strike because of human rights violations by the management. It's even worse when they're told that over 90% of that staff voted for a strike. This would deepen the crisis, but then again, a surprise strike or unannounced interference to normal operation/service would harm the clients too. Quite a dilemma. How many people are scheduled (maybe with flight tickets) to come to the Office that day? What about hearing and appeals? How many people are to make phonecalls and send queries? Shouldn't they be told about what's coming just 2 days from now? How long can EPO management suppress the inevitable?

To quote WIPR's good new outline: "The strike is scheduled for April 7 and will take place at the EPO’s offices in Munich, The Hague, Berlin and Vienna. In a vote, 91% (3,701) of those who voted on the proposed strike backed industrial action. In order to strike, at least 40% of staff are required to vote on whether to take action. In total, 4,062 out of the EPO’s 6,738 total staff members voted, representing 60%. Once this has been achieved, at least 50% of those must vote in favour of action. Of the 4,062 voters, just 219 voted against strike action, while 142 members of staff said they had no opinion on the issue."

"It happened before... that they promised a response to scandals but never actually yielded any."The writer then added: "The EPO is preparing a statement and we will update the story shortly." By the end of the day there was no update from the PR team of the EPO (it's well after 1 AM here).

It happened before... that they promised a response to scandals but never actually yielded any. They chose silence because it was probably seen as a better option ("no comment" basically). They did this after WIPR had written about their lawsuit threats.

At 8 o'clock on Monday (night) Kieren McCarthy wrote about this as well and there's nothing there from EPO PR. Did they seriously think the media/press wouldn't notice and report this? McCarthy correctly notes: "If SUEPO signs the agreement [MuO] as currently written, it would effectively sign up to the very rules that it is protesting and which led to EPO's management aggressively targeting the union leaders when they opposed the changes."

Where's FTI Consulting at this time of crisis?

When we last wrote about the strike (more background therein about the strike) it was further reinforced that this strike would affect all sites on Thursday. SUEPO has just published this document [PDF] which we quoted here a while ago. It's about lawlessness at the EPO. That's what the strike is primarily about.

A week ago we mentioned Hans-Joachim Frieling's letter to Süddeutsche Zeitung (now increasingly famous for the Panama leaks), which has just been translated as follows [PDF]. It's about lawlessness and here is the English translation with our highlights added:

28 March 2016, 18:59

European Patent Office: Woeful lack of law



"A public authority on the brink of the abyss", of 3 March:

"European Patent Office" (EPO) is a “super authority” – at least according to the head office – which is established on the soil of Munich. But the power games being played out at the EPO go way beyond local considerations, beyond the intrigue aroused by an obviously power-obsessed boss, and well beyond the interests vested in Munich, Bavaria, and even Germany; they are of major (European-level) importance politically, and of major significance with regard to constitutional law. The cause and core of the scandalous spectacle being enacted on the bank of the River Isar appear to lie in the “immunity” which the EPO was granted in its foundation charter by the states which support it, as an authority which is most specifically not EU. Or the way in which EPO President Benoît Battistelli interprets and applies this "immunity" unimpeded by his Administrative Council, on which the Federal Minister of Justice actually sits; the clear establishment of total autonomy, exempt not only from all straightforward rules of law of the host and location country (such as the law relating to protection against dismissal, law relating to labour tribunals, and many more besides), but even exemption from all protection of basic rights, such as are enshrined in the Bavarian Constitution, the Basic Law (GG) of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in the European treaties and statutes.

It is bad enough that, in the heart of Bavaria, so proud of its constitution, as described by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a situation could come about in which the presidential will alone prevails, a wilful domination which commits aggressive abuses against, among others, Article 9 Para. 3 GG (Freedom of Formation and Action of Staff Unions); but it is utterly intolerable that the decisions by the President, taken against individuals against this spirit of freedom, which in individual cases threaten their very existence, are not subject to any appeal by way of any effective outside or independent means of legal recourse.

Every German politician, when journeying in totalitarian or otherwise suspect countries, is beset on all sides when on their travels by demands to push hard in favour of the Western “export asset of the state governed by law”. But at the same time, amazingly, they turn a blind eye to the fact that on their own soil an institution exists which denies thousands of employees the essential constituents of that notion of the state governed by law, such as the guarantee of legal recourse and the protection of basic rights. What this means is that, leaving aside all the complexities of international law, the status of the EPO becomes a matter of honour for all those whose task it is to promote the notion of the state governed by law to pursue this not only abroad, but right here, on their own territory, and, if necessary, as in this case, to bring it about. This includes, as a priority, the Minister of Justice, by virtue of his office. But every other constitutional patriot should be urged to this as well – and not least in the media. Even if the present issue could be “cleared up” by a potentially expensively purchased (the SZ reports rumours of a golden handshake of 18 million Euro) or forced departure of President Battistelli, the situation cannot be allowed to remain that the Member States allow their EPO to continue to operate outside the constitutional principles of Europe and of the individual states. Dr. Hans-Joachim Frieling, Munich


The above is also available as French [PDF] and as Dutch [PDF] text. The letter does mention rights, but what about privacy rights, which Germany is a lot more conscious of (because of its past) compared to most other nations? We recently found the following commentary which alludes to Süddeutsche Zeitung and goes as follows:

Data protection



The deficiencies in the EPO's data protection framework have been of concern to the national data protection authorities in Germany. Already in April 2014, the Bavarian Data Protection Commissioner, Dr Thomas Petri, informed the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Andrea Voßhoff, of the outcome of his preliminary investigation which concluded that true oversight of data protection issues was missing at the EPO. Ms Voßhoff brought these concerns to the attention of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and requested assistance in conducting an examination of measures to remedy the deficiencies, including a possible amendment of the EPC. The Ministry of Justice replied to the FDPC stating that Germany was “only one state of 38” on the Administrative Council and that an amendment of the EPC would require a diplomatic conference.

A year later (in June 2015) the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on the use of covert surveillance measures at the EPO. Ms Voßhoff sent another letter to the Chairperson of the Committee for Justice and Consumer Protection of the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) to inform the Bundestag. A copy of the letter was sent to the Federal Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, for information. The situation at the EPO was discussed during the 71st Session of the Bundestag Committee for Justice and Consumer Protection which took place on 14 October 2015. The report presented to the Committee by the Ministry of Justice uncritically relied on submissions made by Mr Lutz (VP5), who painted a rather one-sided and overly rosy picture of the state of data protection at the EPO.


There are also other forms of privacy abuses inside the EPO, as we noted in our series about Europatis:

  1. Jacques Michel (Former EPO VP1), Benoît Battistelli's EPO, and the Leak of Internal Staff Data to Michel's Private Venture
  2. Europatis: “Turnover of €211,800 and Zero Employees”
  3. Loose Data 'Protection' and Likely Privacy Infringements at the EPO: Here's Who Gets Employees' Internal Data
  4. Summary of the EPO-Europatis Series
  5. Revolving Doors of High-Level EPO Management: Jacques Michel and the Questel Deal With the EPO


Over the next few days we shall accelerate our coverage in order to remind EPO staff why going on strike is justified. There will also be more about privacy violations.

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