Come in King Battistelli, your time at the Euro Patent Office is up

Dutch minister, International Labour Org signal they've had enough with EPO dysfunction

Time is running out for European Patent Office president Benoit Battistelli.

After years of turmoil at the international organization thanks to his heavy-handed reform efforts, it seems that patience at the political level is finally giving out.

In the past week, two documents have been posted online indicating that the Dutch government and the International Labour Organization have had enough of the Frenchman and are prepared to take steps to make sure he is ousted.

In the first – a February 23 letter [PDF, in Dutch] from the Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders to the chairman of its House of Representatives – Koenders reports that he has warned EPO's vice president Guillaume Minnoye that "the internal conflict has been going on for too long and the situation now demands rapid improvement."

He warns: "If no visible improvements take place in the short term in the relations within the EPO, I see no other option but to discuss the situation at a high political level with the member states of the European Patent Organization."

Although the language may seem soft, for a diplomatic letter it is tantamount to a declaration of war.


Only the EPO's Administrative Council – made up of representatives of European nations – can fire Battistelli before his term ends; a situation that imbues so much political inertia that Battistelli has been able to carry out a years-long attack on his organization.

After several of his reform efforts were fought by staff representatives and independent patent judges, Battistelli has embarked on a widely condemned campaign to silence critics, including: improper and prolonged investigations into individuals; sham disciplinary hearings; constant rewriting of rules to give himself more power over the organization; and a brusque personal attitude that has seen him storm out of meetings as well as refuse to consider both informal and formal rebukes.

When it was determined that the disciplinary hearings put in place by the president's team broke the laws of the countries in which the EPO has offices – including Holland – the EPO asserted that as an international organization it was not bound by those laws. It took the case to the Dutch Supreme Court where it ultimately prevailed after the Dutch government worried about the dangerous precedent it may set for other international organizations.

But, as Koenders points out in his letter: "This immunity does not prevent the host country from entering into discussion with the management of the EPO about the continuing conflict between management and staff of the EPO. Especially now that this conflict has become part of the public and political debate."

The clear anger of the Dutch government against Battistelli is matched by the French government, whose minister has also spoken in scathing terms about his tenure, and by the regional German government in Bavaria (where the EPO is headquartered), which put forward a lengthy sanction of Battistelli that called for the German state government to "take action accordingly."


In addition to politicians, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has also published an extraordinary paper to be considered at a meeting of its governing body later this month in Geneva.

The paper [PDF] is titled Update on discussions with the European Patent Organisation on possible future action to improve the Tribunal's caseload, and is focused on "the large volume of complaints filed by officials of the European Patent Office."

Last year, the ILO reached two damning decisions against the EPO and its Appeals Committee when it found not only that the EPO had improperly handled appeals, but the EPO's Appeals Committee itself was illegitimate.

Battistelli had placed four staff members – all union leaders – on administrative leave. When they appealed the decision he ended up stacking the appeals committee against them, breaking the organization's own rules.

The upshot of the ILO's decision was that every internal appeal since October 2014 would need to be reheard by a newly constituted appeals committee. But last month Battistelli responded by trying to coerce staff representatives onto a new committee, prompting staff to refuse to take part until he followed a directive by the EPO's administrative council to suspend investigations until they had been independently investigated.


The ILO paper to its governing board notes that the EPO's actions have "been the subject of hundreds of complaints already before the Tribunal" – representing 73 per cent of the total number of pending ILO cases.

Resolving them would result in "a significant decrease in the Tribunal's current caseload," it notes, while also warning, "if that system does not manage to deal with them appropriately," the cases are "likely to be referred back to the Tribunal."

The problem is so significant, it warns, that it is actually impairing the ability of the Tribunal to function. The paper, if approved, would authorize the ILO's Director-General to "explore all possible means for ensuring its effective and unhindered operation in the interest of all international organizations that have recognized its jurisdiction."

What this means in reality is that Battistelli's actions have started negatively impacting other organizations. As a result, an increasing number of high-level officials are planning to take the issue up with their peers across Europe.

Or in the simplest terms: the reign of King Battistelli is rapidly coming to an end. ®

Hat tip to Techrights for spotting the two letters.

Other stories you might like

  • Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal
    I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

    Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

    DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

    That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

    Continue reading
  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022