The political environment at the EPO remains bumpy. Though some progress is made in relatively minor adjustments of the working conditions, the SUEPO trade union and staff committees remain largely ignored in major reforms.

SUEPO writes this in its Annual Report 2022, which was published this week: ‘Numerous meetings take place between staff representatives and the administration. They are often organized by the EPO with little time given to staff representatives for preparation and documents submitted by the administration at the last minute. The actual decision makers are usually absent from these discussions. (…) The consultation is therefore only pro-forma.’

The trade considers the Education and the Childcare Reform, which ‘was pushed through in the middle of the pandemic’ despite a ‘unanimous negative stance from the staff committees of all sites’, as a ‘token example of the manner in which our administration acts in very dogmatic ways.’

‘Similarly, (…) the EPO decided against following the unanimous positive opinions of the appeals committee regarding the NPS/SSP [New Pension System, Salary Savings Plan, ed.] (…). Both cases therefore need to proceed to another lengthy battle in front of ILOAT [ILO Administrative Tribunal].’

In its report, the SUEPO criticizes the ‘recent “capacity rush” where managers have been looking to increase available capacity by all means (…). The optimism of M&W [Mercer & Wyman financial study, ed.] in terms of productivity gains shows an extraordinary faith in the potential of AI and/or a disregard for the consequences on the health of staff and reduction in patent quality of further increasing work pressure.’

There is disappointment about Judgment 4711 of the ILOAT, which ‘missed the point on the arbitrariness, production-focused winner-take-all consequences’ of the EOP’s new career system (NCS). ‘In effect, the ILO accepted the minimal “pro forma” consultation process as ‘good to go’. (…) With the NCS now in place for nearly a decade, we observe year after year the demotivating effects it has on a large but mostly silent majority of staff. We can also observe the detrimental effect the career system has had on the legal certainty of granted patents, with external stakeholders being increasingly vocal about decreasing patent quality.’

This remark seems to refer, among others, to the Industry Patent Quality Charter (IPQC), a group representing a series of major and smaller international corporations, which has been criticizing the EPO for its perceived lack of attention for the deteriorating patent quality.

The report also points out that despite ILOAT Judgment 4551 of July 2022, the staff representation and SUEPO continue to be without access to mass e-mails. In the meantime,  a new SUEPO app has been introduced to modernize communication to SUEPO members and EPO staff.


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  1. education, childcare, pension, career, etc. these are the huge problems that grip EPO workforce and endangeour their health: honestly, I dont see how this has to do with a blog on patent law, but if so I can start enumerating the real issues that affect the employee’s condition ouside of the EPO bubble … however, I am of the opinion that neither both should be used to justify or explain a professional behaviour, and just a recommendation: eternally mentioning a contraposition between management and staff sounds only as a pretext and an excuse and does knowingly not help staff and employers, in first place because it disengages staff and makes them an enemy of their workplace and this can only lead to a desaster

    1. lovely post that EPO’s PR department could have written.
      Well done
      PS: do not hesitate to join EPO’s paradise for a ride: they are desperately looking for capable and loyal recruits.

      1. well, you will not have me, but a colleague of my firm joined the EPO some months ago, and I heard that there were other former patent attorneys joining the EPO in the past months, it cannot be that bad as you say, but I will ask again directly to my former colleague to have a better picture

    2. Yes, bt then, the actions of management regarding acknowledgement of staff speak much louder than their words.
      See last paragraph: when will my staff representation be allowed to send me messages?
      Without fear of disciplinary procedures?

    3. Dear Law Sniffer,

      EPO examiners are knowledge workers. It is next to impossible to check their work with reasonable effort. Better keep them happy, otherwise, quality may drop and you will not notice it. Quality has already dropped, and one reason is of course staff motivation.

      It appears that EPO management is driving staff motivation further down by ignoring not only recommendations from its internal appeal committee, but also by ignoring an  ILO-AT judgment. Bad communication and perceived lack of interest of EPO management also play a role. In short, the EPO turns a deaf ear and a blind eye to staff.

      You may have overlooked that the report does not ask for financial benefits. The report criticizes the approach from EPO management towards several issues highly relevant for staff. You may also have overlooked that the majority of EPO employees left their home country to work elsewhere. This is a high commitment, and people rightly expect to be treated with respect.

      The increasing gap between staff and management needs to be addressed. The current president was elected to close the gap and to restore social peace. The public and applicants should be kept informed of the progress on this tasl. You ask to stop reporting the bad news, basically, you shoot the messenger.

      The tone of your comment suggests that you are jealous about the EPO package. Feel free to apply. If you decide not to apply, then please refrain from further complaints.

  2. Question: what is the TRUE financial position of the EPO?

    More pertinently, how is it possible to square the circle between the gloomy PREDICTIONS in the “financial studies” commissioned by the EPO and the much healthier picture that emerges from each publication of ACTUAL financial results?

    This question has bugged me since the 2019 report, which relied upon a nonsensical assumption (ie no increases in EPO official fees over the course of about a decade) to predict large holes in the EPO’s finances.

    If SUEPO is correct, then those apparent holes have already been filled. Moreover, the above-mentioned annual report from SUEPO states that “It should be noted that the real finances of the EPO published every quarter and the actual results of the RFPSS and EPOTIF point to the excellent financial health of the EPO”.

    If this is true, then what will be the overall effect of regular hikes in the EPO’s official fees (including some significant increases in “early” renewal fees), combined with continued efforts by management to suppress the EPO’s cost base? Can we assume that an already healthy financial position will become even healthier? If so, what an earth does the EPO intend to do with the vast wealth that it is steadily accumulating?

  3. Applications are up, grants are down, resulting in:
    1. a growing backlog of pending applications.
    2. more stress on the examiners and ever decreasing work conditions.

    I guess the EPO just needs more examiners and raise the official fees in order to pay them.

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