Effectiveness, international cooperation and staff relations are three main areas on which Antonio Campinos intends to focus as new president of the European Patent Office. Campinos, who started in office on 1 July 2018, wrote this in a message which was published today on the EPO website.

According to Campinos, it is ‘an immense honour to follow in the footsteps of some of the great characters who have shaped IP in Europe and beyond.’ He considers himself ‘privileged to lead an institution that is unquestionably a success story. 38 member states have been pulling in the same direction to create a strong international organisation. The EPO enjoys a reputation for being a leader in granting high quality patents. It also has nearly 7 000 highly qualified and experienced staff who have shown that they can increase the performance of the whole Office, particularly over the last few years.’

But ‘there is always room for improvement’, according to Campinos, who writes the EPO ‘has already shown itself to be a highly efficient organisation. (…) But I want to ask the question, can we be more effective by delivering services in the right way? That’s a question which we’re going to have to explore from a multitude of perspectives. Talent management, quality, automation, digital transformation, big data analytics and many others will play their role in facing challenges. (…)

Another area where we could assess the need for further action is in the field of co-operation. Part of our strength lies in the fact that we are an international organisation. We cannot therefore live in isolation, but instead form part of a rich IP ecosystem, with many different actors. That means we may have to assess the nature of that co-operation. For example, can we reinforce co-operation with our member states?’

Campinos also stresses the importance of ‘dialogue with staff. Earlier today, I sent a message to all our staff members in my capacity as their new President. I wanted to let them know immediately that staff engagement is among my top priorities, that I would welcome their ideas on any changes we might consider making to this Office.’

In June 2019 this should lead to the presentation to the Administrative Council of a ‘Strategic Plan that will present a multi-annual work programme for the EPO.’

Besides staff members, other EPO stakeholders, ‘including you’, can expect to be invited to consultations during the course of the next year ‘on how we tackle the strategic issues that face this organisation – whether you are a patent applicant, a national patent office or simply someone interested in following developments at the EPO through this blog.’

After only four days in office, it is hard to tell whether Campinos will bring change at the EPO after the controversial years of Benoit Battistelli’s leadership, which led to enormous social problems. But his announcement that ‘staff engagement is among my top priorities’, and his personal message to all staff members certainly seem positive steps. A first real test will likely be his handling of the cases of three SUEPO leaders, whose dismissals and downgrading were reversed last week by the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO, as well as the case of the Irish judge Patrick Corcoran.

Striking is Campinos’ focus on effectiveness, rather than efficiency, which could be a sign that the new EPO president is aware of complaints from users that the enormous increase in productivity under Battistelli has led to a decline of, or threatens patent quality at the EPO.

Remarkable, furthermore, is that his predecessor isn’t mentioned in Campinos’ message. And an almost revolutionary change is at the bottom, contrary to the blogposts of Benoit Battistelli and perhaps the most significant sign of change: Campinos has apparently decided that his contributions will be open for comments.

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  1. The message delivered by the new president let us all hope that things could become better at the EPO, but what will matter are not words, but facts.

    Whatever it means, “effectiveness” will become the new buzzword at the EPO. Talent management has to be given “flesh”, not be another buzz word. If it means quality, then it is quality vs. quantity and not quantity above all. Automation will not mean that examiners will be replaced by computers. Digital transformation is another modern buzzword, but unless there as well some flesh is given to it, it is meaningless.

    Cooperation with the users is something which was not really a preoccupation of his predecessor as some strategic decisions like grant as quickly as possible was never discussed with the users, and ended up with deferred certainty as the examiners shelves emptied rapidly. Cooperation with member states should mean something different than buying votes in the Administrative Council.

    Dialog with staff is may be the most important aspect. If talent management should have a meaning, then it is something different that merely demote directors, and only promote those who are on “party line”. It should also not end up in taking away any chances of promotion to directors for examiners and give them more than becoming “team leaders”. There should be a clear cut difference between an examiner and a person being in charge of a group of examiners, who can be fired at any moment. All staff deserve respect, and not to be considered as a mere nuisance which has to be kept under a whip.

    Confidence has to be restored with staff. In order to show his will in this matter, the new president should “promote” the head of HR to a post where her nuisance capability is near zero. Offering 5 year contracts to examiners should be stopped immediately, as nobody with some sense will leave his home country to hire at the EPO in order to be left without anything after 5 years. What is this advertising campaign trying to hire more people, see Linked In, while internally it is made clear that recruitment should stop until 2020 as there are not enough files for all examiners? Examiners are forced to work in technical areas where they have no qualification at all. This is not quality, but just caring for quantity.

    It is a gigantic task which is in front of the new president. He has a chance, and we have all hope that he will grab it. However, unless some tangible sign are given in this respect, it will remain a hope. Hope dies last, but once it has died, what then?

    Techrights: FINGERS OFF!!! Even by quoting excerpts. Nothing might be quoted, nope! When will you learn?

  2. Mr Campinos yesterday invited each of us to a one-to-one meeting with him to give inputs and ideas on “what can still be improved”. While being positively surprised for such a change of attitude, it will take a VERY long time until we begin to trust a President of the EPO again.

    Therefore, I dare posting here a couple of remarks [between square brackets below], sure that they will get to him somehow. In particular, I’ll just comment a few passages of the “Letter of Motivation” that he sent to the EPO when he applied for his post and that it was published on our Intranet yesterday.

    “Attracting, training, developing and retaining talent must be at the heart of EPO HR policies, as should be nurturing fairness, gender and nationality balances”.
    [Please do ask EPO HR the latest statistics on “attracting, training, developing and retaining” talents. Tell them that you’d like to see the ‘real numbers’]

    “The EPO should provide its staff with a clear understanding of its strategic goals, making their contributions more meaningful and thus developing a clear sense of professional purpose”.
    [Good point. For the time being we have no idea what the “strategic goal” and the “professional purpose” of firing out grants and running out of dossiers in most of the technical fields might have been]

    “Merit must be rewarded and celebrated”
    [Only the high-producers are rewarded. And nobody knows who they are].

    “Team work, and teleworking, where appropriate, should be developed”
    [Teamworking is dead. Teleworking is seen as a relief from seeing colleagues against which you have been obliged to compete in the same rat race].

    “Managers should be called upon to improve their communication skills, and through communication, ensure a better alignment within the organisation”.
    [Examiners have even become afraid of their directors. There are no directorate meetings anymore. All available time is to be devoted uniquely to ‘production’].

    “Social dialogue must be renewed and tensions eased, through the development of a culture that favours compromise, not losing sight of the EPO’s long term sustainability”. To this extent, I am sincerely committed to reach and hold common ground with the EPO’s social partners”.
    [Yes! This is the way to go. Good luck Mr President]

    I’d like to conclude with the last words he pronounced on his presentation video, made available yesterday as well: “If we are work together we can shape an EPO we are all proud of”

  3. A couple of days ago, I posted a congratulatory and encouraging message to the comments box of the EPO President’s blog. Till now though, the Blog continues to report “No comments”.

    Can anybody here give me any reassurance, that my message will one day appear?

    Readers, what do you think? Am I wasting my time, posting comments to the Campinos Blog? Perhaps comments to it, that are not obsequious enough for the blog-keepers, struggle to get through to publication? Perhaps to comment you anyway have to be an EPO employee?

    Who knows? Other than (of course) Mr Campinos and his innermost circle? Meanwhile, what’s the point of engaging, I ask myself?

  4. Do EPO insiders think that yesterday’s job adverts for new VPs for DG1, DG4 and DG5 are a hopeful start to the new president signalling a change of approach? Has there been any news internally about similar changes at the top of the HR function?

  5. EPO staff…. is right. Just two pence more:

    As far as recruitment and talent managing is concerned, it seems that the HR department of EPO delivers mixed messages. When looking at recruitment platforms, the EPO is still seeking people. Internally it appears that staff has been informed that recruitment is stopped until 2020.

    It has to be looked in parallel with on the one hand, a crazy push for “early certainty” and quick grant, and on the other hand, now examiner’s shelves are empty, a “deferred certainty” is to be proposed to applicants.

    That is not management, but simply play with users and staff for the sake of it and ruin a well established institution.

    But not to forget, quality has never been as high. It just depend on the measured parameter. On top of it, everything was honky dory at the EPO for the last 8 years…..

    In the past the EPO had a mission statement. It was laughed at, if not belittled, but at least there was a kind of vision going beyond simple accounting in all possible areas.

    The task of the new president is not to be envied!
    Mr President, please do the right thing and do not complete the destruction started 8 years ago.

    Techrights: FINGERS OFF!!!

    1. It seems that hiring has stopped but the recruitment not.(?!) Whether they just keep on going to maintain hr people busy or/ and to show a solid organization that continues doing well…From the view of an organisation such as this, it’s unprofessional
      and unethical (basically telling a lie to the public) nor the least, mismanaged (inviting candidates for interviews at the expenses of the Office for nothing)
      From the view of an applicant, it’s dishonest and cruel (expending time applying, wasting energy attending interviews, and stressing being anxious while waiting naively for an answer that just has a dead end)
      I hope the new president chooses to do the right thing for every issue going wrong on at EPO.

      Techrights: Fingers OFF.

  6. Sorry to spoil the party but according to reliabel insider information:

    1 – since the ILO-AT judgment which foresaw IMMEDIATE reinstatement of Mrs Weaver and Mr Brumme, to this very date (09.07.2018 at 18:52) NOTHING concrete has been done by Mrs Bergot, Principal Director HR who is vastly responsible for the social chaos at EPO, to execute the unambiguous judgment.

    2 – since his arrival at EPO one week ago, Mr Campinos has NO officially contacted (much less invited) staff reps and/or unions (but he started right away by circumventing them whilst meeting with “staff” directly (only a few of them and which one is unclear).

    For someone who has been elected on a “social” mandate this is quite disappointing.

    Future will soon tell if this changes for the better but since one has only one chance to make a first impression, the least that one can say is that Mr Campinos first impression is not impressive.

  7. I do not like the sound of this. Under his predecessor, cooperation has become an equivalent for transferring money to the small contracting states in exchange for unwavering support against all odds. No supervision at all, no accountability whatsoever. I guess Sepp Blatter was good at cooperation, too. The show must go on, only the croupier’s name changes.

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