The Administrative Council of the European Patent Office must act and support president António Campinos in initiatives to end ‘the persistent atmosphere of intimidation’ at the EPO.

That is the message of a letter which was sent to the heads of delegation of the Administrative Council (AC) earlier this week by the EPO-FLIER Team, ‘a group of concerned staff of the European Patent Office who wish to remain anonymous due to the prevailing harsh social climate at the Office.’ EPO-FLIER has been active since 2014.

António Campinos succeeded Benoît Battistelli as EPO president in July of this year. It was hoped he would do something about the harsh social climate and concerns about deteriorating patent quality, both remnants of the Battistelli era.

After hundred days in office, cautious optimism prevailed about Campinos’ actions to improve social relations. The president himself wrote on his blog about his many conversations with staff members. ‘In the meetings, a number of common themes have cropped up time and time again. It seems that there’s a common understanding of the challenges we face and the possible solutions that we might envisage in the future. (…) And this is just the start. These meetings will continue for the next few months and I will meet hundreds more staff members – over 900 have enrolled – as l seek to gather more input that will feed into the strategy of the Office. And this input is on top of an extensive staff survey which is currently in preparation and which will ultimately provide us with more valuable feedback.’

Earlier this month, Campions encouraged staff members who had come into conflict with EPO management over the last years and had pending cases before the Adminstrative Tribunal of the ILO to consider reaching an amicable settlement with the Office.

According to EPO-FLIER, it appreciates ‘that President Campinos has issued several promising declarations of intent, and hope[s] that they will now be swiftly followed by concrete actions.’

However, so far little or nothing has changed for people who came into conflict with Battistelli and were sanctioned, according to EPO-FLIER, which published a document on the status of EPO disciplinary cases earlier this month. ‘The staff considers most of the disciplinary measures taken by Mr Battistelli unfair, in particular those which targeted staff representatives, union officials and a Board of Appeal judge. During a general assembly this week, Munich staff [the Central Staff Committee] requested through a resolution that the damage done to their elected representatives be repaired and ongoing disciplinary proceedings be stopped. They also support the case of the staff representative and union official in The Hague whose case is currently pending at the ILO Tribunal.

Genuine social dialogue can obviously only take place when such restoration and compensation for the abuses of Mr Battistelli and his administration have taken place. Solving these issues would further help to overcome the persistent atmosphere of intimidation and allow the staff to fully focus on the work to be done.

Mr Campinos’ “trust capital” is already starting to erode. We therefore urge you to support him in introducing the changes the staff requests in its resolution’, EPO-FLIER wrote to the AC representatives of the EPO’s 38 member states, who act as the Office’s supervisory body.

Patent quality

It seems some action has been taken concerning the quality of EPO patents. In one of the meetings Campinos held over the last months, he spoke to representatives of 14 German law firms who had expressed concerns about EPO patent quality earlier this year in a letter. After the meeting a ‘constructive dialogue’ was announced, without any specification how this dialogue would be organised.

However, there is some clarity now: the epi published a report on its website on 16 November, announcing that it will engage in the quality management process and work out projects together with the EPO.


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6 comments

  1. Nothing is changing under Campinos since he has arrived last July.

    He merely finishes the job of Battistelli and this with the precious help of Battistelli’s protégée Elodie Bergo. It is no surprise that his trust capital is eroding fast since his lovely words are not fooling the highly educated EPO workforce.

    Also not to be forgotten, the production pressure on staff is not decreasing (so much for real patent quality), the exhaustion among staff remains at unsustainable levels coupled to fear of abusive sanctionings, which is the recipe for disaster (one may only wonder when the next suicide will occur only next time it will not be associated with Battistelli any longer).

    Many elderly staff are leaving the EPO sooner than they thought since they cannot stand the circus any more, and also worrying more and more new comers are leaving the sinking ship after 2 to 3 years only.

    I would advise all job applicants to have a look at this before applying
    https://www.glassdoor.de/%C3%9Cberblick/Arbeit-bei-EPO-EI_IE198808.11,14.htm

  2. constructive dialogue: „to remove causes of criticism“???? Wow! Am I the only one, noticing the euphemism?

  3. Wanting to speak directly with staff is certainly a good thing to do, provided the correct conclusions are not delayed to a point where they will have no effect.

    It is certainly difficult for a new President to change a lot shortly after arrival, he needs to get his bearings. However, if before the end of the year no reliable signs are given that the vast majority of the minions put in place by his predecessor have been pushed aside or given jobs where they cannot continue their harmful endeavours, the new president will not gain confidence from staff, at least from those who matter.

    The first who has to go is the Head of (In)human resources. Cooperation is as well not a tool to be misused in order to buy correct behaviour of member states in the administrative council.

    The former President of the EPO kept quiet, let’s say from 2010 to mid-2012. His negative actions started in 2013. In this he was supported by a group of vice-presidents who either had no spine, were in debt to him, or were allowed to bring into life their crazy ideas about examination.

    Between 2013 and 2018 a series of Potemkin’s villages have been set up, and it is high time to consider them as what they are: fakes!

    If the EPO was an employment which was worth seeking a few years ago, this is not any longer the case. The EPO has always suffered from the fact that recruitment was lopsided. For many years there has not been a good balance between recruiting people with some professional experience and fresh graduates. But it is more difficult and strenuous to get experienced people, and only if such people come in numbers it can be said that the EPO is a good employer.

    The whole employment policy is discouraging for motivated people. It might look modern to give only 5 years contracts, but when you see that this is the time a newcomer to need to be productive, then you realise how stupid this form of employment is harmful to the job of an examiner. And those with some experience and possibly having family, will never come under such conditions.

    Techrights: FINGERS OFF !!!!!!

  4. I find epi’s pledge now wanting to cooperate on the quality management process, hypocritical, to say the least.

    Have we heard epi all the years the former President of the EPO was making havoc? The drop in quality and the whole push for production, which were apparent to anybody wanting to look at the actual situation, has never been commented by epi. Some epi members took the courage to say something, but I have never seen any support coming from epi to those persons.

    Have we heard any voice from epi saying that what was done to the Boards of Appeal was a disgrace? I have not yet heard anything positive about the new venue of the Boards.

    Have we heard any protest from epi when the European Qualifying Examination was amended with the sole aim of allegedly saving money? It might look cheaper as it is set now, but the way the exam is cast presently has little to do with real life. And the savings are on the surface. Are the lengthy discussions in the committees and among trainers for free? Mixing chemistry and non-chemistry for papers A and B has nothing to bear with the way claims are drafted in those respective domains.

    Sticking to a pre-examination which has not helped in the slightest to increase the overall pass rate of the EQE, is ludicrous. Have hear epi on this? But what we hear and see is that epi is organising lots of meetings all over Europe in a lot of places….

    Techrights: FINGERS OFF !!!!!!

  5. The EPO in the spotlight at ILO-AT next week again

    http://www.ilo.org/tribunal/news/WCMS_650150/lang–en/index.htm

    127th Session – Exceptional public delivery

    The Tribunal will exceptionally deliver in public three judgments adopted at its 127th Session separately and earlier than the remaining 74 judgments also adopted at the same session.

    The three judgments concern an application for interpretation and review of Judgment 3928 filed by the Universal Postal Union and an application for execution of that judgment (AT4731 and 4743), one case against the European Patent Organisation (AT 3547) and one application for execution of Judgment 3871 against the World Health Organization (AT 4757) (the parties concerned have been informed).
    The Tribunal has considered for various reasons that those judgments should be delivered rapidly.

    They will be announced in public on Wednesday 28 November 2018 at 3 pm at the ILO (Room XI, floor R2) and will be published on the Tribunal’s website (ilo.org/trib) shortly after the public delivery.

    The remaining judgments adopted at the 127th Session will be delivered in public on Wednesday 6 February 2019.

    Geneva, 20 November 2018

    Dražen Petrović, Registrar

  6. AT 3547 was a decision in 2017 concerning UNIDO. Has the tribunal notification contained an error? Current decisions are numbered around 4700 (see the other decisions cited).

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