09 May 2017
Strasbourg
Reporter: Barney Dixon
SUEPO takes the Netherlands to human rights court over EPO tension
The Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO) has brought the Netherlands to the European Court of Human Rights amid rising tensions and alleged abuse at the EPO.

In a blog post on 9 May, SUEPO said that it previously sought protection from the Dutch courts in the form of an injunction to prevent the violation of EPO workers’ rights.

But the Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld the EPO’s immunity, failing to “discharge their duty of care, thereby allowing a breach of fundamental rights on their soil and de facto condoning, if not endorsing, the EPO’s abuses”.

“When the legal system applicable to an international organisation does not provide for protection in the form of an injunction, which is essential to prevent irreparable damage, and even worse when it is virtually indisputable that the organisation is violating rights, the host state has a serious difficulty.”

“In our opinion, it has only two options: either to lift the immunity of the organisation for the benefit of a party aggrieved, or to take itself action against the rogue organisation by resorting to international arbitration.”

SUEPO said the Netherlands has done neither, and forced its hand in filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.

In March, the International and European Public Services Organisation contacted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raising its “extreme concern” with the EPO.

Senior IPSO officials said that EPO president Benoît Battistelli has conducted “massive abuses” of power, and that the EPO’s administrative council has adopted “passive attitude”, and even supported his initiatives and provided more power.

They argued that the EPO is currently experiencing “authoritarian, indeed dictatorial, attitudes”.

SUEPO held a demonstration in November last year, in solidarity with dismissed senior official Laurent Prunier, and have continued regularly.

Battistelli was criticised for attempting to change work practices at the EPO, including an end to fixed wage increases and a move to promotions by seniority rather than work performance. SUEPO resisted these changes and said it was met with severe harassment and intimidation.

Staff strikes were then banned, but SUEPO engaged regardless, leading to disciplinary proceedings against its three main representatives.

Last month, Union Syndicale Fédérale (USF) wrote to members of the European Parliament, drawing their attention to the “seriously deteriorated situation at the EPO”.

“Countless reports in the media about dismissed staff representatives, other scandals and a total loss of trust of the staff in the current EPO president, Mr Battistelli, are evidence of the seriousness of the situation at the EPO.”

The candidacy procedure for the post of president of the EPO is to be launched soon, with the position to be filled on 1 July 2018.

The EPO declined to comment.

More Europe news
The latest news from IPPro Patents
Join Our Newsletter

Sign up today and never
miss the latest news or an issue again

Subscribe now
SUEPO takes the Netherlands to human rights court over EPO tension
09 May 2017 | Strasbourg | Reporter: Barney Dixon
SUEPO said that the Netherlands had upheld the EPO’s immunity “allowing a breach of fundamental rights on their soil”
UK IP Unjustified Threats Bill receives royal assent
04 May 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
The bill will provide protection for legal advisors and IP owners who face damages for “unjustified threats”
Brunel University London scientists develop prior art checker
28 April 2017 | London | Reporter: Mark Dugdale
The tool, which currently has the working title of the Design Assistant for Semantic Comparison of Intellectual Property, could prevent costly patent litigation
Law firm sees rise in fintech patents
20 April 2017 | London | Reporter: Mark Dugdale
EMW's research revealed that the number of fintech patents filed worldwide is continuing to rise sharply, reaching 9,545 in 2016, up 6 percent from the 9,045 filed the year before
Patent trolls on the rise in EU, says coalition
06 April 2017 | Brussels | Reporter: Barney Dixon
There has been an ‘explosion’ of lawsuits from so-called trolls in Europe, according to IP2Innovate
Unwired Planet wins twice in one week
05 April 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
The licensing company has secured two upper court rulings this week, one in the UK - with the country's first ever FRAND ruling - and another in the US
Apple ends Imagination deal
03 April 2017 | Hertfordshire | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Apple has ended a long-term licensing agreement with GPU manufacturer Imagination Technologies