Staff members of the European Patent Office will demonstrate in front of the Isar building in Munich during the meeting of the Administrative Council on 29 June 2022, where re-election of president António Campinos will be discussed.

The demonstration has been organised by trade union Suepo. According to an announcement distributed among Suepo members, Campinos was elected and mandated by the Administrative Council in 2018 to restore social dialogue at the EPO after the harsh years of president Benoit Battistelli, but failed to do so. ‘EPO staff hoped the new President elect would put an end to the breaches of fundamental rights’, but is instead ‘protecting Mr Battistelli’s inheritance as long as possible and at all costs’.

‘Mr Campinos continues the attacks against staff representation and trade unions by banning them from freely using mass-emails on EPO lines and disbanded in 2021 any secretarial support for staff representation. There are also warning signs that staff representation and unions will be hidden further clicks away in the new Intranet.

Since 2012, the EPO is consistently testing the limits of Employment Law and feels only governed by the Tribunal. In this respect, Mr Campinos continues to act along the line of his predecessor.’

Salary adjustment procedure

The protest is also aimed against a financial study of Oliver Wyman & Mercer commissioned by Campinos in 2019, which became the basis for a salary adjustment procedure. According to Suepo, which asked Ernst & Young to study the EPO’s financial situation as well, ‘Ernst & Young found that the 2019 study consistently took an overly conservative approach. It was clear that the EPO had no deficit. (…)

Mr Campinos ignored all arguments and put in place as of July 2020 his new salary adjustment procedure. Instead of the alleged deflation, inflation now materialized at the historical level of +11.1% in Germany since then. Again, it is difficult for a study to be more wrong. At the same time, EPO salaries were adjusted by only +0.5%. (…) In June 2022, the Coordinated Organisations (e.g. OECD, ESA, NATO, CoE) agreed to propose an interim adjustment of +7% for their staff retroactively to 1 March 2022. (…) EPO staff has no protection against high inflation.’

Mobility package

According to Suepo, the “Mobility Package” which will be decided about in the Administrative Council (AC) meeting of 29/30 June 2022, is creating a new lower category of staff called the “Young Professionals” with few rights and low salary, whereas there are generous rewards for national experts and EPO handpicked employees under the secondment policy.

‘The EPO intends to hire bachelors for a three-year program. They will be deprived of allowances such as the dependent and travel allowance, have no right to pension transfer and no salary savings plan. (…)

Contrary to the Young Professionals, the secondment policy will be generous. National experts coming to the EPO will benefit from their national salary paid by the EPO and an allowance of +€5.000 per month. The handful of EPO employees (from high management?) seconded to national offices will continue to earn their full EPO salary without performing any work for the EPO.

The project is conveniently tabled in the Administration Council meeting during which the re-election of Mr Campinos will be discussed. In his time, Mr Battistelli offered free dental care to Council delegates to have their support. Now, Mr Campinos is offering them generous national experts posts.’

Social dialogue

In its announcement, the Suepo also points at the lack of real social dialogue, of which the General Consultative Committee (GCC) of 26 April 2022 serves as an example. The GCC ‘confirmed to be neither an advisory body, nor a consultative body, but rather a promulgation body for rubber-stamping all proposals that come in. On the management’s side, high managers silently attend and vote yes on all the President’s reforms without formulating any reason. On the staff representation side, 99% of the documents either receive a negative opinion or an abstention because legal assessments and benchmarks are missing or the reforms are detrimental to staff without any justification. (…)

The trend deteriorated further in the GCC meeting of 26 April 2022 during which the atmosphere was abysmal. Mr Campinos used foul language throughout, using expletives in various languages, and insulted most of the speakers (…) Meetings with Mr Campinos in which arguments cannot not be exchanged and where questions could not be answered, cannot be considered to have provided a meaningful consultation. (…) On 18 May 2022, a General Assembly took place during which some of the events of said meeting were reported to staff. At the end, a poll was organized during which 96% of the participants voted in favour of the request to publish the recording of the 26 April 2022 GCC.

Mr Campinos rejected this request (…) Mr Campinos has now postponed the approval of the minutes after the AC meeting and his re-election when the delegations look away.’


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Kluwer IP Law
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18 comments

  1. After “winner takes all” now top managers takes all, the new mission statement of the EPO. Not really a surprise without any supervision, check and balances as it exist within the EU institutions in Bruxelles.

  2. Mr Campinos was elected to restore social peace within the EPO. He seems to clearly have failed to do that.

    In a reasonably functioning public institution, under such circumstances the deciding body would at least have to provide reasons or re-appointing the person who has not succeeded in their mission.

    But we are talking about the European Patent Organisation. I expect Mr Campinos to be re-elected, and any demonstration, petition and questions from this blog to be given the silent treatment by the AC. The lack of accountability is one of the major issues of this institution.

  3. If SUEPO has accurately characterised the key provisions of the “Mobility Package” (CA 32/22), then it is hard to interpret that document as anything other than an attempt by the President to provide himself with a significantly expanded range of “inducements” that he can offer to AC delegations in return for their support. In this respect, the timing of the “Mobility Package” (to be decided at the same AC meeting as the potential renewal of the current President’s contract) looks more than a little suspect.

    Got a shortage of examiners at your national office? No problem, the President can offer you as many fully funded patent examiners as you require!

    Fancy a break from the routine of your day job? No problem, the President can offer you a cushy secondment to Munich with few responsibilities but very generous remuneration!

    This is the kind of benefit (or benefit in kind) that, under normal circumstances, civil servants would be required to declare … and, if they had any role in the regulatory oversight of the benefactor, would almost certainly be obliged to decline. However, we are talking about the EPO here, and so normal rules (even rules governing blatant conflicts of interest) do not apply.

    Of course, the EPO really ought to have nothing to do with funding the operations of the national offices. Indeed, I rather suspect that those paying the official fees that fund the EPO might be rather cross to learn that the EPO is spending a chunk of its income on activities that have nothing to do with its core mission.

    On the other hand, one could question whether funding secondments to / from national offices falls within the scope of the EPO’s official activities. If not, then this might mean that such activities would not be exempt from national jurisdiction (Art. 3 PPI) or taxes (Art. 4 PPI).

    1. The Dutch Hoge Raad basically declared everything regarding the EPO to fall under immunity and impunity, even traffic rule violations, despite the PPI explicitly excluding immunity there,

      I wonder if other constitutional guards would be willing to decide differently?

  4. The tail has been wagging the dog for much too long and the last two tenants of the 10th floor have been very good at this game.

    When the EPO, like the EU, was enlarged by countries of Eastern Europe, it did not give itself the means to remain governable.
    The unanimity rule ruins a proper way of working. A qualified majority should be the rule. This would drastically restrain the wagging by the tail!

    The move to Haar was opposed by the big countries. The cooperation budget did marvels at the time and still does.

    Now the BA will move back to town. It shows at best that the move was absolutely unnecessary.

    Now the tenant of the 10th goes one step further and invites national offices to second staff to the EPO. What a perk!

    And this all to get a further appointment.
    What a shame. CA32/22 is like usual full of lovely sounding management buzzwords which are just there to hide reality.

    With his proposal the present tenant of the 10th floor will eventually kill the EPO, but this is secondary to his private interest.

    We should also not forget that the quality is deteriorating steadily. It is possible to produce a lot. This however requires proper training. Training time for examiners has been reduced by a third in order to fit the 5 years contracts.

    The young professional scheme is there to extend the probationary period for a further three years. Who will want to come to the EPO if it is not staff from national offices who will keep their ties with the national security and pension systems. Will the gratification they will get be tax free or not? As they are not staff members it will probably not be tax free. Taxation in Germany is anything but a piece of cake!

    The silence of institutions like epi in view of the degradation of service, and the constant degradation of staff regulations, which has already occurred and which will continue, is quite deafening, exactly as for the move of the BA to Haar!

    When will those people realise that they are sawing the branch on which they are sitting?

    What perspective is offered to the new entrants in the profession of representative?

  5. sorry but from the outside it resembles a war between privileged people, the EPO staff against external professionals going to the EPO and usurping their privileges, this is the impression the whole debate on the secondment programs is giving. I would like to be one of you and have this kind of work issues, or to get 7% wage increase (in Germany managers will get at most 3% increase end of 2022)

    1. Agree. They’re debating First World problems. It seems that this is the worst situation they are in, yet they still have more priviledges/rights/salary increases than any job in any of the EPC Contracting States.

    2. interesting numbers.
      My management gave me different ones….

      Can I get the numbers you propose? They sound much, much, very much better than what management will give us…
      (besides the cuts on school reimbursements being done at the same time)

    3. The point of principle every one could perhaps agree on is not to destroy the working conditions of producing staff to attribute happy few top managers selected under unclear rules questionnable bonusses and functional allowances.

      Also seeing deteriorating the conditions of some with the non-argument that others have less somewhere else is no argument. do not hesitate to send application if you think that the EPO is the best employer in EU

      Finally if the issue does not interest you, you remain free to shift to another post on Kluwer Blog to not inflict you to read on subject that are not of your taste.

      1. “do not hesitate to send application if you think that the EPO is the best employer in EU”.
        well, instead of making lot of noise trying to regain elitarist priviledges, EPO employees can send applications to other firms/organizations if they do not deem their working conditions good enough.
        truth is, they won’t do it because they won’t find anything as good as the EPO from a standpoint of salary, of privileges/rights, and of workload

  6. – EPO employees do NOT get a 7% but 0,5%.
    – These persons are NOT “external professionals”, but “experts” arbitrarily chosen by each national state and generously paid by the EPO.

    Please stop with this “privileges” BS. Why don’t you apply at the EPO? Not going to be easy, in view of your difficulties to understand a short written text.

  7. @ Law sniffer and Bitter Worker,

    You seem to ignore or do not want to realise that the EPO is not any longer the employer it used to be. It has great difficulties in recruiting people and the general salary level and other benefits has gone down drastically in recent years. The pension is not any longer guaranteed but depends on the development of financial markets.

    A good scientist or engineer, with a good mastering of foreign languages can find an attractive job in many more places than at the EPO. The “managers” at the EPO seem to ignore those basis facts.

    In view of the difficulties in recruiting, the language requirements when hiring at the EPO will be lowered according to CA32/22.

    As the work will nevertheless have to be done, the brilliant idea of CA32/22 is to second staff members of national offices, who will remain employees of their national office and just receive an extra payment from the office. They bring with them their national health and pension system. I wish those people good luck for getting medical treatment in Munich or The Hague. Those people are in principle not allowed to participate in any body mentioned under Art 15, but who will check?

    The 5 years contracts have now permeated into all levels at the office. Originally 5 years contracts were only foreseen for the BA, for whatever reason. With the reform of 2016, members of the BA have to show a given “performance” in order to be re-appointed. Re-appointment has never been a problem in the past. For a judicial body, the minimum would be that the performance criteria are public. This is not the case. Do you think it is a coincidence that about 1/3 of the members of the BA are German?

    Then the 5 years contracts were applied at Principal Director level under the pretext that they already exist for the members of the BA (sic). Later they were applied at Director level. Now they have reached examiner level. What a perfect tool to keep people in tow. One comment disliked by the hierarchy and you will not be reappointed for a further 5 years period. Have you thought of all this?

    Would you both be ready to leave your country of origin, sever all the ties with your national health and pension system to come to Munich or The Hague on the basis of a 5 years contract and only having the perspective of a life contract after a second period of 5 years that is 10 years in total?

    The problems is often compounded when there is a wife or a partner. They have no guarantee to find a job in Munich or The Hague. With kids it is even worse. They will have to get into the German, Dutch or the European school system which are all quite different from national systems in the country of origin. And if you are not successful at the EPO you will go back to your country of origin without any health insurance to start with.

    If you are not prepared to accept those conditions and only lurk at pretended advantages/privileges without realising that there is a high price to pay for you and your family, you better keep quite!

    Your both comments is the kind of comments which will find full support by the “managers” of the EPO and will encourage them to persevere in their doings.

    Last but not least, what staff at the EPO is doing is not defending advantages/privileges, but defending an international convention which does not deserve to be ill-treated as it is just for the benefit of a person who thinks it can do whatever it wants.

    1. Attentive, I think that you need to realise that the comments to which you have responded likely fall under the category of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. Interesting to see quite how much time and effort (and money?) the EPO is prepared to dedicate to efforts to undermine the public’s perception of SUEPO (and the staff that it represents).

      1. Dear Concerned observer,

        I have realised “that the comments to which [I] have responded likely fall under the category of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour””.

        I found those two comments particularly obnoxious and they could not remain without any reply.

        Such type of comments come up very regularly, and even in older times they were not justified.

        A former influent member of SUEPO, who later changed sides and even became Principal Director after taking a management degree, once said: “there are two football clubs in Munich, Bayern and 1860. They play in a different league and the difference in wages are justified”.

        Those times have gone as the wages at the EPO are not any longer what they used to be, but the comparison remains valid.

        It is clear the EPO’s management wants to belittle as much as possible “the public’s perception of SUEPO (and the staff that it represents)”.

        It is however also clear that SUEPO’s positions during the Corsican area was more that of wanting to go through the wall than trying to get a minimum for the staff. With the staff regulations and the way the joint bodies work at the EPO, this was not really inducing any positive result for staff. It only comforted EPO’s management in its negative attitude towards staff. This is actually continuing today.

        It did however not justify at all the retaliatory measures taken by the then tenant of the 10th floor against some SUEPO members. Only the ILO-AT in Geneva brought the situation back to normal after a manifest excess of power.

        It is worth noting that a lot of people very active in SUEPO in the early days ended up at Director or even Principal Director level. With one exception, they were certainly not “bought” by management but showed that they could work in the interest of all. But at the time, EPO’s management was not drunk on power.

        Another “union” was even created in The Hague and was well received by EPO’s management. I remember seeing a picture of the then head of the EPO, his HR (?) manager and the members of the bureau of this “union” with wide grins. This “union” never made it to the joint bodies and to Munich and I think that by now it faltered in oblivion.

        The only body which is still active and cannot be muzzled is the staff committee and especially the central staff committee. There are no discussions in this instance as the representatives of the administration mow down any comments from the side of staff representatives. As it has only a consultative role, the administration can actually do what it wants.

  8. I will for sure send an application in some time, but I will first enjoy my current (low-paid) research project on patent economics, what wonders me is rather the opposite: how does it come that so unhappy and enraged employees are still remaining at the EPO, if you are quite young complaining for other 20 years will be not so good for your health, and if you are not so far from retiring, wouldn’t it be better to anticipate by some years? I am quite sure that it should be possible in such structures

  9. just wonder why then you dont leave the EPO if so bad, it must be terrible to stay in such a hell on earth, and I usually dont trust pretended idealism and holy vocation for law and convention (I guess you mean the EPC) knowing that patents represent only a very minor leverage for our society and economy, besides the positive effect of encouraging research and progress. I consider the ones in charge of scrutinizing patents when standing as untouchable judges above any kind of financial or political consideration, as just trying to protect their privileged working condition and usurped independence and disconnection from the real world (for example I read here of a campaign to invalidate patents if the description is not fully complying with certain strict criteria: but this means additional hurdles and costs for companies which are then necessarily charged on the price to the end consumer, and this only in Europe: who can arrogantly take such a decision at the expense of each of us only for making at the end his own life easier at work??)

  10. The situation at the EPO was bad and is worsening.

    The money discussion overlooks a huge number of facts:
    – the salaries paid in any international organisation have to be competitive with the highest salary of a member state. Otherwise, persons from this state will not apply. Local salaries will normally be lower.

    – the salaries paid have to provide the same standard of living regardless of the location. This goes back to the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations. Some countries have higher expenses than others. This is where inflation kicks in. The point is not whether EPO employees have their salaries adjusted in line with inflation. The point is why inflation is ignored for national civil servants and also for subsidies paid (e.g. Hartz IV in Germany) or when determining how much tax you have to pay.
    Law Sniffer & Bitter Worker: You have your real income nibbled away by inflation, and you seem to believe this is ok and should be done everywhere.

    – The EPO has a huge surplus, see the blog. And if there still were a shortage, one may reasonably ask why the EPO share of post-grant renewal fees is only at 50%. Article 39 EPC allows to go up to 75%. The EPO share was at 60% until 1984. But the national offices want to keep this free money, and their heads are sitting in the Administrative Council.

    – employees of an international organisation give up their rights. There is no fast track route involving an independent decision making body. The only such body is ILO-AT in Geneva, you get a decision roughly 6 to 8 years after the dispute has started. Justice delayed for this amount of time is justice denied.
    Law Sniffer & Bitter Worker: You think it is ok to get sacked while holding a position as elected staff representative, and then you have to wait for about 5 (FIVE) years for a decision from an independent court?

    – It seems to have been completely forgotten that EPO employees for about 8 (EIGHT) years were allowed to strike only after approval of the EPO President. It also seems to have been forgotten that the same President interfered with a decision from the Enlarged Board of Appeal, see G2301/16, headnote “threat of disciplinary measures against the members of the Enlarged Board”.

    Whatever a President of the EPO does, the signals are clear: it will not have consequences. We see this not only in the past, but also in ongoing developments: forcing applicants and parties to opposition proceedings into video conferences – the emphasis is on “forcing”: whoever wants life oral proceedings should simply get them, for all others, video is fine.

    My higher layers – as far as I can judge – live in blissed ignorance on what a patent application is, what a “search” is and how a search can and should be done (that depends on the case). The recent developments focus on machine based searches providing many documents, you have to apply some filters to reduce the number, you browse them and then you stop. This is a paradigm shift from a “finder” – someone who knows the area of technology and keeps hunting until something is found – to a “searcher” – someone who follows a predefined approach and stops regardless of the result.

    Typcially, a “searcher” does not have in-depth experience in the area of technology and lacks the needed gut feeling. It takes about a decade to build this gut feeling. Frequent changes of the area of technology are not supportive. I recall a management meeting where the work of a substantive examiner was compared to the work of a post office: weighing letters, selling stamps, and so on. This comparison left me flabbergasted and insulted.

    My Vice President is not technically skilled (DG1 – Steve Rowan, legally skilled, a bachelor, if I remember correctly). The person in charge of search and examination lacks the qualification necessary to understand an application. We are getting more and more instructions on procedure, probably because that is what Steve feels comfortable with. I personally disagree with this approach. Procedure is important, yes, but applicants do not file to have a good procedure. They file to have a good search and then a thorough examination. Procedural violations are very rare.

    Last, if want to learn where a major problem is, please move to the EPO intranet site, “about us”-> “our leadership and management” -> “the management advisory committee”. There are way too many chiefs who do not have any purpose enshrined in Articles 10, 11 or 15 EPC. Thorsten touched on this topic in an earlier blog.
    I am a member of an examining division, enshrined in Article 15 and 18 EPC. I do not need any of those chiefs to carry out my tasks. I believe we could with a quarter of those chiefs without even noting that the others have gone.

  11. The naivety of the decision makers is highly worrying. In time e.g. Chinese applicants flood the patent office with applications, all is done to lower the examination standards in order safe money, increase the renewal fees and maximize the income. That this policy may lead to low quality patents the European industry will have to deal with later on is simply not understood. Should a patent office really maximize its income at all costs? If yes, costs could also be saved by reducing the ever growing number of managers, communicators etc.

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