Last month, 91% (3,701) of 4062 of European Patent Office (EPO) employees voted for a one day strike to be held on April 7 at the EPO’s offices in Munich, The Hague, Berlin and Vienna. It thus adds to a number of strikes that has hit EPO since former Chairman of the Administrative Council of the EPO, Benoît Battistelli, acceded as President of the EPO in 2010.
During the recent years, tension and discontent has build up internally at the EPO due to Battistelli’s attempt to reform working practices at the EPO. Even worse, mistrust seems to thrive at the EPO and the latest restrictions of the strike regulation is not helping. Furthermore, Battistelli’s management methods have been strongly criticized and culminated in 2014 with the highly controversial suspension of a member of the office’s boards of appeal.
Last month’s thousands of votes in favour of a strike, however, may be a direct result of the disciplinary hearing decided by Battistelli against three representatives of the “Staff Union of the European Patent Office” (SUEPO). The recent decision to let off two and degrade one member of the trade union is based on supposition of leakage of confidential information. The leak was confirmed by an “investigative unit” set up by Battistelli, which included hidden cameras and key-logging software.
Certainly, the strike will cause disruption and delays in various services of the EPO including prosecution of patent applications but it is unlikely that Examiners will disrupt public functions such as Oral Proceedings during the strike. It has been debated whether the internal dispute has a negative effect on the quality of the work as a result of demotivated employees. External user survey and the extended ISO 9001 certification, however, indicate that the quality of services provided by EPO continues to be high.