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Free Software Sentry – watching and reporting maneuvers of those threatened by software freedom
Updated: 1 hour 26 min ago

Raw: EPO Staff Union Illustrates Structural Deficiency of the EPO

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 11:55:27 AM

Original/full: Trias Politica [PDF]

Summary: SUEPO crafted the above diagram which shows the existing (top) and desirable (bottom) structure for the Administrative Council (AC) of the Organisation (EPOrg), the President, the Office (EPO), the Boards of Appeal (BoA), the internal appeals (IAC), the secret police (IU), staff, society, unions (SUEPO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO/AT)

Raw: Consultation Process at the EPO, Rooted in Basic Rules, Has Been Compromised and Stacked by Battistelli

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 11:36:33 AM

Original/full: English [PDF] | German [PDF]

Summary: In order to ensure that everything Benoît Battistelli wants becomes reality he not only compromised (stacked) the Administrative Council but also the GAC (General Advisory Committee) and GCC

Raw: Administrative Council of the EPO Was Warned 4 Years Ago About “Governance and Overall Reputation of the Organisation.”

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 11:00:35 AM

Summary: The EPO’s staff representatives warned about Battistelli, noting that “changes that have been implemented under his presidency will ultimately be considered illegal.”

CA/xxx/14
Orig.: en
Munich, 12.02.2014

SUBJECT: Governance of the EPO
SUBMITTED BY: President of the European Patent Office
ADDRESSEES: Administrative Council (for information)

_____________

SUMMARY

This document is submitted by the staff representatives via the President of the European Patent Office, in accordance with Article 9(2.2)(b) of the Administrative Council’s rules of procedure (see CA/D 8/06).

_____________

During his three years in office, Mr Battistelli has embarked upon an ambitious program of “reform” which appears to be primarily aimed at strengthening the position of the President of the Office vis-à-vis the two other main stakeholders: the Administrative Council and the Office staff. In his dealings with both these parties, he has adopted a highly authoritarian leadership style, typified by his apparent inability or unwillingness to enter into discussions or to even acknowledge opinions other than his own. In particular, staff discontent is quashed with increasingly repressive regulations. Social dialogue inside the Office has completely broken down.

The Central Staff Committee turns to the Administrative Council as the supervisory body ultimately responsible with overseeing the European Patent Office for support with re- establishing a proper balance in the Organisation’s governance and to restoring a better working environment within the Office for us all.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Subject
I. STRATEGIC/OPERATIONAL
II. RECOMMENDATION
III. MAJORITY NEEDED
IV. CONTEXT
V. ARGUMENTS
VI. ALTERNATIVES
VII. FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
VIII. LEGAL BASIS
IX. DOCUMENTS CITED
X. RECOMMENDATION FOR PUBLICATION

I. STRATEGIC/OPERATIONAL

1. Strategic

II. RECOMMENDATION

2. Not relevant

III. MAJORITY NEEDED

3. Not relevant

IV. CONTEXT

4. The ongoing social conflicts in the EPO

V. ARGUMENTS

Introduction

The European Patent Organisation was created with the classical governance structure prevailing at the time as the model for international organisations. Discussions about governance have been ongoing for many years1, but no real progress has ever been made on this issue. Within the Office, power remains centralized with the President who is accountable only to the Administrative Council.

Like many other international organisations, the EPO functions very much like a “state within a state”. Its premises are inviolate (Art. 1 PPI). Within the scope of its official activities, it has immunity from national jurisdiction (Art. 3 PPI). The EPO is not bound by the finance or the labour laws either of its host countries or of the EU. The Organisation has created its own financial regulations, its own labour law and its own social security system. The Staff Regulations can be changed at any time by the Organisation and the resulting changes unilaterally imposed on staff. This high level of staff dependency on the Organisation consequently imposes a high duty of care for staff on the Organisation. Amendments to the regulations are subject to only a very limited level of external checks and balances (see below). Once again, this puts an extra burden of responsibility onto the shoulders of the decision makers.

Unlike the governance model of most modern democratic states, the Organisation’s

_______
1 E.g. CA/93/07 submitted by the Central Staff Committee; B28/2/08 point 7 (« in conformity with the mandate given by the Council in June 2007 »), A/64/08.

governance lacks any genuine separation of powers. The primary function of the President of the Office is that of the Chief Executive. However, in practice he also functions as the legislative authority since proposals for legislative amendments submitted by him are almost invariably adopted by the Administrative Council. Within the Office, the President has additional roles such as head of the “Internal Police” (i.e. the Investigation Unit), chief prosecutor (initiating disciplinary proceedings) and ultimately as judge for the final decision.

Decisions adversely affecting staff can, at least in principle, be challenged at the Administrative Tribunal of ILO (Article 13 EPC). However, the Tribunal bases its judgments on the actual law in force in the Organisation and it exercises very little, if any, normative control on the legislation itself. Moreover, although the Organisation recognises the jurisdiction of the Tribunal pursuant to Article 13(1) EPC and is thereby formally obliged to abide to its rulings, the Tribunal lacks any means to enforce implementation of the judgments it hands down.

The Organisation: traditional checks & balances by the Administrative Council

The relations between the European Patent Office and its governing body, the Administrative Council, are complex:

- Since its founding, the Organisation has expanded from 7 to 38 Member States, all of whom have a single vote in the Council.
- The Heads of delegations in the Administrative Council are almost without exception also the Heads of their national patent offices.
- Historically, the growth of the EPO has been at the expense of the national patent offices since the EPO and the national offices compete to a certain extent for the same work.
- At the same time the national patent offices (particularly those of the larger Member States) depend financially on fees paid on patents granted by the EPO.
- Cooperation between the EPO and the national patent offices, largely financed by the EPO and mainly of benefit to the smaller member states, adds another level of interdependence.

The information about the Office made available to the Administration is almost exclusively provided by the President, who is also prominently present when the Administrative Council meets at the premises of the Office. This makes it difficult for the Administrative Council to form an independent opinion on developments in the Office.

The Organisation: traditional internal checks & balances

As in other international organisations, the internal checks & balances in the EPO are based simply on mutual respect. The General Advisory Committee, the Internal Appeals Committee, Disciplinary Committees and the Promotion Board are all advisory bodies. Ultimately, the decision-making power remains with the President of the EPO alone.

However, the ILO Tribunal has consistently ruled that opinions provided by such advisory bodies, in particular when unanimous, must be taken seriously by the international organization and it has normally ruled in favour of the complainant where this had not been done.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Abolition of the Audit Committee

The audit function traditionally comprises two elements:

- an external audit, carried out by an independent body reporting to shareholders (in the private sector) and to the governing body (in the public sector)
- and an internal audit established within the entity to provide a service to that entity and reporting usually to the highest level of the entity’s executive body.

A third element consisting of an (independent) Audit Committee has assumed increasing importance since the private-sector corporate debacles in the USA and Europe (e.g. Enron, Worldcom, Parmalat, etc.) resulting mostly from control/supervision/governance failures in the 1990s. The reaction of legislators and professional bodies was to establish a number of principles on corporate governance.

One of the main corrective actions was the strengthening of the audit process and the establishment of an independent audit committee. Such audit committees provide an additional level of assurance to stakeholders (in EPO’s case: the Administrative Council) in matters such as transparency, risk management and control, as well as managing internal and external audit.

In 2008 the Administrative Council, at that time with Mr Battistelli as its Chairman, decided in favour of the introduction of an Audit Committee. The reasons given included the following (taken from CA/140/08):

“An audit committee … would enhance a climate of mutual trust between the Office and the Council to the advantage of the whole Organisation and lastly of the

stakeholders (citizens and industry). It would also improve the trust of the staff in the top management and in the Council in enhancing high standards of integrity, transparency and fairness and in enabling effective fraud prevention mechanisms and a better response to sensitive issues”.

CA/140/08 also recommended strengthening the independence of the EPO’s Internal Audit (IA), inter alia “to ensure that the supervision of IA does not rely entirely on the President”.

One of Mr Battistelli’s first actions upon being appointed President of the EPO was to propose the abolition of the Audit Committee (CA/55/11), after only one year of operation. This proposal was accepted by the Administrative Council without any apparent opposition from any quarter. As a next step Mr Battistelli removed the then Head of Internal Audit from his post, a decision that would not have been possible without the agreement of the Audit Committee, had that body still been in existence.

Strengthening of Internal Audit

Mr Battistelli subsequently strengthened Internal Audit by the creation of an Investigative Unit. Internal Audit is a department that is directly under the authority of the President, reporting to and taking its orders exclusively from him.

However, the creation of the Investigative Unit and the introduction of the Investigation Guidelines were not introduced through amendments to the Service Regulations, duly enacted following a decision of the Administrative Council, as foreseen in Art. 33(2) of the EPC. In fact, they were promulgated unilaterally by the President by means of a simple Circular (342). The scope of Circular 342 is much more far-reaching than conventional circulars: it has the effective character of primary legislation, albeit in parallel to the Service Regulations rather than being incorporated therein. The Administrative Council has neither been informed about this Circular, nor (even worse) given the opportunity to decide upon it. By introducing the relevant measures in such a manner, the President effectively bypassed or usurped legislative powers from the Council.

Furthermore, in contrast to the disciplinary procedure (Art. 98(3) ServRegs) and the appeals procedure (Art. 111(1)(b) ServRegs), the investigation procedure does not foresee involvement of the Administrative Council when the subject concerned is an appointee of the Administrative Council pursuant to Article 11 EPC, i.e. principally Members and Chairmen of the Boards of Appeal, but also Vice-Presidents.

More generally, the Investigation Guidelines governing the investigation procedure fail to respect fundamental rights of staff such as the right to remain silent and the right to be

assisted by a lawyer. The Guidelines appear to encourage non-managerial staff and oblige managers to report any suspected “misconduct”, i.e. to denounce their colleagues. In this regard, the Guidelines make no distinction between types of misconduct which are properly the responsibility of the line manager (conduct at work), and other types of misconduct such as harassment or criminal matters (fraud) which would normally fall under the remit of the Personnel Department or external agencies such as the police. Without any distinction being made, this implies that all possible types of “misconduct” are now to be reported and dealt with centrally by Internal Audit, which, as noted above, operates directly and exclusively under the authority of the President without any other external oversight. Initial experience with the Investigative Unit suggests there is a serious lack of independence. However, due to the lack of transparency within which it operates, it is impossible to obtain more than a cursory overview.

The Investigation Guidelines have since been complemented by a Code of Conduct which demands that (emphasis added): “We act with loyalty and solely in the interest of the Office. We perform our tasks under the authority of the President of the Office …” The corresponding Article in the Service Regulations refers, however, to the interest of the Organisation and not of the Office.

Art. 14 ServRegs also puts this statement into context with a second half-sentence saying that a staff member: “shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government, organisation or person outside the Organisation.” This clarifying context has been omitted from the Code of Conduct and has been replaced by a reference to the authority of the President. This opens the door for the Office’s Administration to target any member of staff, including those appointed by the Council, for conduct considered not in harmony with the policies of the President.

More on loyalty

Since Mr Battistelli took-up office, about half a dozen managers have been transferred against their will, some of them to non-existent jobs. Meanwhile, persons considered “loyal” by the President have been appointed to key positions in the Office. Almost without exception, these “loyalists” are native French speakers, several of whom were colleagues of Mr Battistelli prior to his appointment as President of the EPO.

Weakening of the Internal Appeals system

Decisions of the Administration that adversely affect individual staff members or prejudice the collective rights of staff can always, at least in principle, be challenged by means of an

internal appeal. In 2012 the President announced a reform of the internal appeals system which included the introduction of a new, preliminary “management review” step. Ostensibly, this was to make the management department that was responsible for the contested decision reflect upon and possibly revise its decision. However, such a step was already foreseen in the existing procedure, even if it almost never actually led to a revision.

The new obligatory “management review” step in the procedure has not produced any change in this unsatisfactory state of affairs. Perhaps it is significant that almost all of the obligations associated with the current review procedure fall upon the appellant. In terms of its practical effect, the management review step seems to merely add a further 3 months delay to an already lengthy appeal procedure. Indeed, the internal appeals reform has failed to resolve the backlog in the internal appeals system which has grown to almost 700 by the end of 2013.

The President has thus far also failed to take effective measures to tackle the increasing backlog of EPO cases at the ILO-AT. One of the contributing factors to this problem, apart from the lack of capacity at the Tribunal, is the Administration’s unwillingness to concede any fault on its part in growing the backlog. It appears that VP4, by delegated power of the President, routinely ignores recommendations of the Internal Appeals Committee that are in favour of the appellants (i.e. staff).

Such actions on the part of the Administration offer a sole means of recourse for the staff member: they are obliged to lodge a complaint at the ILO-AT in order to seek judgment on their claims. This in turn adds to both the backlog of work and delays at the Tribunal.

The overall proceedings remain excruciatingly slow. The total duration of the appeals procedure (both internally and at the Tribunal) has increased from about 3 years to about 7 years for some of the most recently judged cases and will surely be even longer for newly filed appeals. The current measures taken to reduce the backlog merely mean that the overall duration will probably not exceed 15 years.

In any event, it remains very likely that the President will never be confronted with a judgment from the ILO-AT concerning a decision he makes during his term of office.

Moreover, as mentioned before, the Tribunal has no means to enforce its judgments upon the EPO and the President is known not to have followed judgments that were not appreciated by him2. The end result is that an important source of genuinely, independent external control which provides vital feedback to the EPO on the legality of the
_______
2 E.g. Judgment 2919 was not respected in that the required outsourcing policy was not delivered within the delay set and, more seriously, does not fulfil the requirements set by the Tribunal.

Administration’s decisions has effectively been rendered ineffective.

Weakening of the Statutory Bodies and the Consultation Process

The General Advisory Committee (GAC) is a statutory body with equal numbers of members appointed by the administration and by the staff committee that must be consulted by the President on any proposal which concerns the whole or part of the staff or the recipients of pensions” (Art. 38 ServRegs). The function of the GAC is to advise the President in order to enable him to take the best possible decision.

From the day that the EPO first opened its doors in 1977 until 2011, no President had ever nominated staff of grade higher than A6 to the GAC. In 2011 Mr Battistelli departed from this established practice and allegedly “strengthened” the GAC by nominating all Vice-Presidents to the body.

For a variety of reasons, such a change in composition of the GAC is not in line with its intended, non-partisan statutory function:

- As direct subordinates of the President, the Vice-Presidents can be and will be consulted by Mr. Battistelli at any time – such consultation does not require a GAC meeting.
- The Vice-Presidents are part of the senior management of the EPO and may deputize for the President, which means that as GAC members they are often essentially advising themselves.
- Their independence may also be adversely affected by the fact that they are appointed on the basis of 5-year contracts.
- At the time of their nomination to the GAC, three of the five Vice-Presidents were new to the Office. Such lack of experience with the Office and its staff has a negative impact on their ability to give a meaningful opinion on a whole range of significant matters affecting staff.

It is worth noting that since 2011, the GAC members nominated by the President have not ventured to give a single negative opinion on any proposal of the President. In the same time period, negative opinions expressed by the GAC members nominated by the Staff Committee have been ignored by the President. The obvious conclusion is that rather than strengthening the GAC, the President has in fact weakened it and in so doing has seriously eroded the credibility of the statutory consultation process.

Similar developments can be observed in the case of other statutory bodies:

- Mr Battistelli routinely ignores recommendations of the Internal Appeals Committee which are in favour of staff (see above).
- He has ignored the unanimous findings of invalidity by Medical Committees.
- In 2013 he also ignored the recommendations of a Disciplinary Committee and applied a sanction that was even more severe than that originally claimed by his Administration and recommended by the Committee.

Such routine rejection of reasoned recommendations is indicative of a fundamental lack of respect for the competent statutory bodies.

A further weakening of the statutory bodies, including the Staff Committee, is planned under the highly misleading banner of “Social Democracy”. This reform will be addressed in a separate document.

The President’s record on employment law

Mr Battistelli’s communication style often assumes an almost propagandistic character, with the apparent intention of playing down or putting an artificially positive spin on actions that will increase his level of control over staff while at the same time further degrade our working conditions.

A prime example is the President’s initiative labelled as “increasing well-being and staff working conditions” which essentially amounts to a repressive set of measures to intimidate staff with health problems to return to work prematurely and thereby reduce sick leave in the Office.

It is interesting to note that the relevant changes to Circular 22 go well beyond the normal level of implementing regulations and assume the character of primary law. A “duty to cooperate” obliges staff to give the Office access to their home, without any of the safeguards against such actions normally provided under national law. The relevant provisions have not been submitted to the Administrative Council for decision. The Administrative Council has, in fact, not even been informed about the Circular.

A similar situation has occurred with the new strike regulations unilaterally imposed by Mr Battistelli on staff during an ongoing social conflict. The new strike regulations foresee that the Administration (i.e. the employer) and not the Staff Union is entrusted with organising the strike ballot, while the corresponding Circular 347 allows the administration a period of one month to do this. At the same time it limits the duration of any strike action to a maximum of one month, independent of the number of actual days of strike within that period. Although the new strike regulations do not actually ban strikes (which would be

illegal), they make strikes almost impossible to organize and implement.

As happened with Circular 341 (Investigation Guidelines), again the Administrative Council has not been fully informed about the scope of these new strike regulations and their possible legal impact.

In the last three years the relations between the President of the EPO and staff have degraded to an historical low point. A Staff survey performed by SUEPO in 2013 showed that only 7% of the staff of the EPO trusts its President. Unfortunately, their trust in the Administrative Council is even lower, no doubt in part due to its perceived failure to restrain the President. Such an extremely low level of trust in governance is unheard of in any other national or international organization.

Staff participation in the ballot on a recent call to strike initiated as a grass roots initiative by a group of staff was at almost 70%, with 90% of staff voting in favour of strike. The eventual participation in the strike was much lower, no doubt due to the fact that strike participation was not (and could not be) anonymous and considerable pressure was exercised on various groups of staff (managers; staff in DG5) not to strike. The ballot itself should, however, be understood to be a massive vote of no confidence in the President.

Since then, strike initiatives continue to be launched by staff even within the restraints of the new strike regulations. Frustrated by a lack of access to internal legal remedies, staff and their representation have also turned to national courts to make their voice heard. These complaints have been successful insofar that the Courts ruled that the immunity of the EPO may be lifted if it fails to provide effective legal remedies itself.

It is perhaps significant that the President has decided not to carry-out the re-run of the EPO Staff Survey that was initially foreseen for 2013 and he does not seem intent on doing so in 2014. Suppressing the message does not, however, change the situation.

It is important to note that although the financial situation of the Organisation is better than it has ever been, staff have made no claims to improvements in their benefits. On the contrary, they have by a clear majority rejected the recent offer of a bonus as not appropriate, particularly at this time, in an international civil service organisation.

The current social conflict is about respect for staff and their fundamental rights e.g. to due process, access to courts and protection from arbitrary decisions. The reaction of the Administration has been to try and quash the unrest with threats and with increasingly repressive measures against those who complain.

Conclusions:

Mr Battistelli as President has shown a profound lack of respect for staff and their rights, including fundamental rights such as the right of due process. This has led to a massive yet still escalating social conflict. Any worsening of the situation risks impacting the external image and good-functioning of the Office.

It would appear that the Administrative Council has not been fully informed by the President of the EPO either of the underlying reasons of the current social unrest or of the possible risks that several of the changes that have been implemented under his presidency will ultimately be considered illegal. The Staff Committee has tried to make the Administrative Council aware that there are serious problems: the Administrative Council must have noticed the demonstrations of staff in front of its meetings.

However, simply being badly informed about the changes taking place in the EPO and the risks they engender does not take away the responsibility of the delegations in the Administrative Council vis à vis staff at the EPO and vis à vis their national governments.

The Staff Committee strongly urges the Administrative Council to become better informed of the decisions which have been or are being taken in its name, in particular any decisions that affect the rights of staff, some of which already seem to be in disaccord with commonly accepted legal principles, if not European law. The potential consequences of doing nothing may be grave for the functioning, governance and overall reputation of the Organisation.

The Staff Committee also requests the Administrative Council to take its responsibility and arrange mediation between the President and EPO staff in order to avoid further escalation of the situation.

VI. ALTERNATIVES

5. Not relevant

VII. FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

6. Not relevant

VIII. LEGAL BASIS

7. Not relevant

IX. DOCUMENTS CITED

8. None

X. RECOMMENDATION FOR PUBLICATION

9. Yes.

Raw: “The EPO is Redefining the Words “Social” and “Democracy”.”

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 09:32:44 AM

Original/full: Translation of Communiqué 48 – Meeting of President with the EPO Central Staff Committee [PDF]

Summary: As the interpreter of Battistelli’s statement put it, “any similarities between totalitarian states dead, alive or teetering on the brink is entirely coincidental”

Raw: EPO Classifies Staff Based on Perceived ‘Loyalty’ and Intimidates/Punishes Those Exercising Their Rights

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 09:08:01 AM

Original/full: A new management style in the EPO? [PDF]

Summary: The EPO resorts to “measures including fear, isolation, and punishment” and “all colleagues who dared to follow the duly called industrial actions after 1 July 2013 were threatened with disciplinary measures.”

Raw: Contents of Benoît Battistelli’s SLAPP Letters to Staff Representatives (Sent on Friday to Limit Access to Legal Advice)

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 08:44:31 AM

Original/full: Complete set of letters [PDF]

Related: Raw: EPO Had Sent to Staff Representatives Threatening Letters Similar to the Ones Sent to Techrights

Summary: Mostly identical threatening letters (sent in bulk just like a classic patent/copyright troll by Benoît Battistelli) to EPO staff representatives

Raw: The EPO Trusted and Used BigPulse Until the Question/Outcome No Longer Suited Benoît Battistelli

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 08:20:29 AM

Recent: EPO Budget (Users’ Money) Has Been Corrupting Media and Academia

Also: The EPO is Now Corrupting Academia, Wasting Stakeholders’ Money Lying to Stakeholders About the Unitary Patent (UPC)

Summary: Another fine example of the EPO trying to control the outcome of so-called ‘surveys’ and ‘studies’ in order to dominate the narrative (even if false)

CSC answer to Communiqué Nr.50

The Central Staff Committee (CSC) organised an opinion poll on the President’s proposals for “Social Democracy” with the company BigPulse, a firm the EPO and the CSC have used a number of times in the past for both surveys and elections. The poll was supposed to end today (Tuesday 18 February 2014) and thereby would not have interfered with the agreed strike ballot planned for Thursday this week.

With Communiqué Nr.50, the President calls into question the services offered by BigPulse and uses these doubts to both block staff from responding to the opinion poll and to postpone the planned ballot on strike. At the same time, he has issued individual, written threats to the CSC’s Chairman, Secretary and Vice-Chairmen for alleged breaches of data protection guidelines, despite the CSC simply exercising its right to communicate with the staff they represent.

In postponing the strike ballot, the President is either misled or disingenuous and risks failing to comply with his obligations under his own, albeit contested, strike regulations with regard to the deadline for carrying out the strike ballot. If the President no longer trusts the services of BigPulse, then rather than postpone the ballot, he should instead still run the ballot in time using the “tried and trusted” method of a paper ballot.

A truly democratic process should never avoid or unnecessarily delay seeking the opinion of those affected by its policies and decisions. If the President fails to organise the strike ballot called under the PEACES initiative, he again calls into question whether democratic principles really underlie his policy of Social Democracy.

The Central Staff Committee

On EPO-funded ‘study’ from PwC:

Raw: EPO Had Sent to Staff Representatives Threatening Letters Similar to the Ones Sent to Techrights

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 08:00:06 AM

(…on a Friday With Short Time to Reply so as to Strategically Prevent Access to Legal Advice)

Summary: Late Friday SLAPP (legal bullying) by the EPO is a tradition which predates threats against Techrights; and later they wonder about depression and suicides among staff…

Mr B. Battistelli
President of the EPO

R. 1081 Isar

Dear Mr. Battistelli,

The CSC has taken cognizance of the letters of 14.2.2014 you have sent to J. Michels, I. Brumme, J. Areso y Salinas, M. Sampels, J. Schaaf and S. Rolle requesting information concerning a survey conducted by BigPulse. At the same time you informed that “this situation is likely to lead to disciplinary proceedings for very serious misconduct and, as the case may arise, national proceedings.” You request an answer “at the latest” by 19.02.2014.

We fail to understand what serious misconduct you are referring to. Nevertheless the tone and the contents of your letter are highly threatening. Under the circumstances a delay of less than 3 working days seems inappropriate.

We therefore respectfully request an extension for the reply and will further respond to your letter as soon as we have sought appropriate legal advice.

Sincerely
The Central Staff Committee

Raw: EPO Paving the Way to Overstressed Patent Examiners and Decreased Patent Quality

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 07:39:29 AM

Original/full: English [PDF] | French [PDF]

Summary: A look at changes designed to further increase pressure on patent examiners (at the EPO’s Directorate-General 1) — changes that were criticised by people present, except those who were selected by Battistelli (“members nominated by the President gave a positive opinion on the proposal.”)

Raw: Before the EPO Blocked Techrights and Threatened to Sue It Also Blocked Its Staff Union’s Web-Based Platform and Threatened to Sue

Tuesday 26th of December 2017 07:13:38 AM

Original/full: Letter to delegates [PDF]

Summary: The pattern of EPO censorship followed by legal bullying goes a long way back, well before this was done (actually implemented) in two national courts against a judge

Links 25/12/2017: Linux 4.15 RC5 and New Stable Kernels

Monday 25th of December 2017 05:32:48 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Kernel Space
    • Linux 4.15-rc5

      Ok, so it’s not Sunday yet, but tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and while I’ve been in the US for over two decades, we still celebrate Christmas the only _right_ way – with Christmas Eve being the big day, and Christmas Day being just for recovery.

      So I’m doing the rc5 release a day early, in order to not have to do it during the actual Christmas festivities at our house.

      And it’s not like I expect to see a lot of patches or pull requests tomorrow anyway, so I guess it doesn’t really much matter when I do the rc release, the end result would look very similar even if I had done it on my normal Sunday schedule.

      This (shortened) week ended up being fairly normal for rc5, with the exception of the ongoing merging of the x86 low-level prep for kernel page table isolation that continues and is noticeable. In fact, about a third of the rc5 patch is x86 updates due to that. It all looks like very good cleanups, though, and it’s been through about two hundred iterations by now (no, seriously, Thomas has been keeping track of his iterative updates of the PTI series, and it apparently hit 196 in the last two months).

    • Linus Torvalds Releases Fifth Linux Kernel 4.15 Release Candidate for Christmas

      A day early than expected, Linus Torvalds released the fifth Release Candidate of the upcoming Linux 4.15 kernel for testing, just before the Christmas holidays.

      Because it’s almost Christmas, and the end of the year holidays are here, most Linux kernel developers took a short vacation to be with their family and friends, so Linux kernel 4.15 RC5 ended up being fairly normal, according to Linus Torvalds, except for an ongoing and noticeable merging of the x86 low-level preparation for kernel page table isolation. So a third of the RC5 patch is x86 updates.

    • Linux 4.15-rc5 Released Early For Torvalds’ Christmas Festivities

      As an early Christmas gift for those wanting to do some kernel testing this weekend, Linus Torvalds has done the release of Linux 4.15-rc5 a little bit early.

      Linus Torvalds explained in the release announcement he ended up releasing 4.14-rc5 early due to Christmas Eve being the “big day” per European traditions and the day after for recovery. So now 4.14-rc5 is out there and overall he’s happy with the relatively light code churn for the week.

    • Some holiday stable kernel updates

      The 4.14.9, 4.9.72, 4.4.108, and 3.18.90 stable kernel updates have been released with a large set of important fixes. The 4.14.9 update includes the kernel page-table isolation precursor patches that also just landed in 4.15-rc5.

    • Linux 4.14.9
    • Linux 4.9.72
    • 4.4.108
    • Linux 3.18.90
    • Graphics Stack
      • Chromium Embedded Framework Closer To Native Wayland Support

        Collabora’s latest Wayland enablement effort is on getting the Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) running nicely under Wayland with the Mus/Ozone infrastructure.

      • Intel Submits Last Batch Of i915 DRM Feature Updates For Linux 4.16

        Intel Open-Source Technology Center developers have sent in their last planned set of feature changes for DRM-Next that in turn is targeting the Linux 4.16 kernel merge window.

      • Semaphores Support Updated For RadeonSI Gallium3D

        Andres Rodriguez, one of Valve’s Linux GPU driver developers, has sent out his latest 22 patches for enabling semaphores support (GL_EXT_semaphore) within the RadeonSI driver.

      • NVIDIA May Be Trying To Prevent GeForce GPUs From Being Used In Data Centers

        Making the rounds on the Internet this holiday weekend is an updated NVIDIA GeForce software license agreement prohibiting the use of their drivers in data-center deployments for consumer GPUs.

      • Marek Boosts Glxgears Performance By 20% For Christmas

        Well known open-source AMD driver developer Marek Olšák has taken to some Christmas day hacking on Mesa with a significant performance improvement for AMD APU owners and those who care about glxgears.

        While glxgears is not a benchmark, all too often people still seem interested in glxgears. If you fall into that boat, you will now find better performance with RadeonSI Gallium3D. By not using fast color clears for small images, this simple chage makes glxgears about 20% faster on APUs and a little more for discrete GPUs.

      • AMD Queues More AMDKFD HSA Kernel Driver Changes For Linux 4.16

        More AMDKFD changes are being queued for the upcoming Linux 4.16 kernel merge window with this being the kernel HSA driver for ROCm support, etc.

        The big work ongoing is getting the discrete GPU support upstreamed so that the stock mainline Linux kernel could work with the user-space ROCm open-source packages for OpenCL support, etc. Unfortunately this latest AMDKFD pull request still doesn’t have all the dGPU changes as it’s still waiting on a patch for the PCI subsystem that introduces the needed PCI-E atomics support.

      • Freedreno Lands Context Priority Support

        Rob Clark of the Freedreno project has landed his context priority patches in Mesa that originate from this past October.

      • NVIDIA To Abandon All GPU Driver Support For 32-bit Operating Systems

        The time has come for gamers and enthusiasts to ditch their 32-bit operating system (assuming you haven’t already), because NVIDIA has announced that it will no longer support drivers for these operating systems. If you have been hobbling along on an old 32-bit version of an OS to save some money, perhaps Santa can bring you a 64-bit OS. NIVIDIA says that support will end after the 390 driver release.

    • Benchmarks
      • AMDVLK vs. RADV vs. AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 Vulkan Performance

        With AMD’s release on Friday of the long-awaited open-source “AMDVLK” Radeon Vulkan driver here are our initial benchmarks of this official Radeon open-source Vulkan driver compared to the unofficial RADV Mesa-based Vulkan driver and the similar AMDGPU-PRO 17.50 closed-source Vulkan driver.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • 4 Awesome Places to Find Beautiful Linux Themes and Icons

      Linux is easy to customize from the desktop manager, file manager, down to the kernel. If you love “freedom,” you’ll definitely love Linux because you are never locked down when it comes to customizing your OS.

      Once in a while, you may want to change the look and feel of your desktop. A common change people make is using different themes and icon packs rather than the default. This is usually necessary, as some Linux distros have barely satisfactory user interfaces. Mind you, it doesn’t mean they are nonfunctional. They are just lean in their interfaces.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • You Can Experiment With KDE 2.2.2 & Qt2 This Christmas

        If you find yourself with some extra time this holiday season and want to dive into a classic codebase on your modern Linux desktop, KDE developer Helio Castro has been working on his porting skills by porting KDE 2.2.2 and Qt2 to work on modern Linux systems.

        KDE 2 was released in 2000 with the use of the DCOP communication protocol, the still-living KIO I/O library, KHTML that at the time brought HTML 4.0 rendering, and Konqueror came as the default web-browser.

        So far he’s got kdelibs 2.2.2 working — tests are passing, graphics are working, and overall a bit beyond a “proof of concept” stage. As part of this “KDE 2 Restoration Project” he’s trying to maintain the original code as much as possible but along the way also replacing the Autotools build system with CMake.

      • Interview with Rositsa Zaharieva

        My name is Rositsa (also known as Roz) and I’m somewhat of a late blooming artist. When I was a kid I was constantly drawing and even wanted to become an artist. Later on I chose a slightly different path for my education and career and as a result I now have decent experience as a web and graphic designer, front end developer and copywriter. I am now completely sure that I want to devote myself entirely to art and that’s what I’m working towards.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • GNOME.Asia Summit 2017

        Thanks professors from university give us very good panel discussion, thanks Emily Chen to host this great panel discussion.
        It’s import to get support in university when we want to promote open source and freeware all the time.

  • Distributions
    • MX Linux 17 An Easy To Use Linux Distro For Noobs

      If you are looking for a Desktop Linux distribution that is simple yet different, reliable and runs well on legacy hardware, then MX Linux is a good choice. MX Linux is a cooperative venture between the antiX and former MEPIS Linux communities (hence the name MX). One can expect best of both worlds is put into MX Linux.

      MX Linux is a mid-weight operating system having Xfce as the desktop environment. The latest release MX Linux 17 has been released on Friday 15h December 17, 2017. MX Linux 17 is based on Debian 9.3 (Stretch) with Linux kernel version 4.13.0-1 and brings lot many changes when compared to its predecessor MX 16.1. Let us dig into further into MX Linux 17 (here onwards referred as MX 17) and see what its latest release offers to the Linux community.

    • New Releases
      • Merry Christmas: Black Lab Software Offers Free Copies of Linspire 7.0 Linux OS

        Black Lab Software’s CEO has informed Softpedia today that the company behind the Black Lab Linux operating system is offering free copies of the Linspire 7.0 Linux OS during the Christmas holidays.

        Linspire is a Debian/Ubuntu-based full-featured computer operating system designed to accommodate Microsoft Windows or macOS users who want to migrate to Linux. Besides security and reliability, Linspire offers easy installation of apps using a Click-N-Run (CNR) technology.

        Powered by Linux kernel 4.10, Linspire 7.0 comes with all the apps you need for your daily computing tasks, including a web browser (Firefox), an email, news and calendaring suite (Thunderbird), an office suite (LibreOffice), a virtualization software (VirtualBox), a media player (VLC), and Wine for running Windows apps and games.

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family
      • Eelo, the Mandrake of the Mobile World?

        Today, I visited the OpenMandriva site and found a piece of news that caught my eye. It seems that Gaël Duval, the founder of Mandrake (later Mandriva) Linux, has started an ambitious Kickstarter project: eelo, a mobile platform that uses FLOSS and focuses on keeping user data on the hands of users.

    • Red Hat Family
    • Debian Family
      • Slax 9.3 Is The Latest In Resurrecting This Longtime, Lightweight Linux Distribution

        Slax 9.3 is now available as the latest feature release for this long-time Linux distribution that focuses on delivering a lightweight yet featureful Linux desktop experience.

      • Slax 9.3 is here

        Most of you celebrate something today, so here is a little gift for you I’ve released Slax 9.3 just few minutes ago and I have to say that I am happy with the progress we are heading.

      • Debian-Based Slax 9.3 GNU/Linux Distribution Arrives Just in Time for Christmas

        Just in time for the Christmas holidays, Slax developer Tomas Matejicek announced on Christmas Eve the final release of the Debian-based Slax 9.3 GNU/Linux distribution.

        Slax 9.3 is the second stable update since the developer decided to give it another go after two years of hibernation, but this time based on Debian GNU/Linux instead of Slackware, to the disappointment of many. The latest version is based on Debian GNU/Linux 9.3 “Stretch.”

        “Most of you celebrate something today, so here is a little gift for you. I’ve released Slax 9.3 just few minutes ago and I have to say that I am happy with the progress we are heading,” writes developer Tomas Matejicek in the release announcement.

      • Free software log (November 2017)

        These are getting later and later despite the best of intentions, but I still have plans! Strategies! Intentions! Hopes! Next month’s might be a bit closer to on time.

        This month, I finally have some employer-sponsored free software work to report: overhauling the service account handling in Merou. Previously known as Grouper until I pointed out the Internet2 project of the same name, this is the system we use internally at Dropbox for privilege management. It’s essentially an account and group management framework with a delegated privilege model for assigning, managing, and auditing privileges.

      • Retiring bundle

        I adopted bundle to manage my personal systems and never quite got around to switching when we moved to Puppet for servers. (You can see my old notes on managing systems with bundle, which I left up as a historical curiosity.) But this year I finally finished the migration, and today I moved bundle into my obsolete software list and dropped the Debian package from the unstable section of my Debian repository.

      • Important Debian Stretch Linux Kernel Security Update Patches 18 Vulnerabilities

        Debian Project’s Ben Hutchings reports on a new Linux kernel security update for the Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” operating system series that fixes several vulnerabilities discovered recently.

        According to the latest DSA 4073-1 Debian Security Advisory, it would appear that a total of 18 security vulnerabilities ranging from information leaks, privilege escalation, and denial of service were fixed in the Linux 4.9 LTS kernel of the Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” operating system.

      • salsa.debian.org (git.debian.org replacement) going into beta

        Since summer we have worked on our git.debian.org replacement based on GitLab. I am really happy to say that we are launching the beta of our service today. Please keep in mind that it is a beta, we don’t expect any database resets, but under unexpected circumstances it might still happen.

        The new service is available at https://salsa.debian.org. Every active Debian Developer already has an account. Please request a password reset via https://salsa.debian.org/users/sign_in – your login is either your Debian login or Debian e-mail address.

      • Debian Salsa Is Served Out On A Beta Dish

        Rolling out as beta this Christmas is Debian Salsa.

        Debian Salsa (salsa.debian.org) is the project’s eventual replacement to git.debian.org. Debian Salsa is powered by GitLab and has been in development the past few months.

        Basically, Salsa is to be Debian’s collaborative development platform. GitLab is the open-source Git repository manager similar in nature to GitHub. GNOME and Debian have been among the free software projects working to migrate their development infrastructure around GitLab.

      • Salsa batch import

        Now that Salsa is in beta, it’s time to import projects (= GitLab speak for “repository”). This is probably best done automated.

      • Derivatives
        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Ubuntu Phones Will Soon Run Android Apps Thanks to Anbox, Says UBports

            Just a couple of days after releasing the OTA-3 software update for supported Ubuntu Phone devices, Ubuntu Touch maintainer UBports now teases users with upcoming support for Android apps.

            Remember Anbox (Android-in-a-Box)? It’s the open-source project that allows Linux users to run Android apps in a container inside their GNU/Linux distributions. Well, UBports has found a way to implement Anbox into the Ubuntu Touch mobile operating system to let Ubuntu Phone owners run Android apps too.

            “People have come to depend on certain applications that are not available on Ubuntu Touch. In order to become a full-featured and mainstream mobile operating system, Ubuntu Touch needs to offer its users the proprietary services they depend on, at least until the point when free and open source alternatives are viable,” writes Dalton Durst.

          • Flavours and Variants
            • Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia – Very nice

              Linux Mint 18.3 Sylvia is a very reasonable distribution. First, it’s better than most 2017 offerings by a long shot. But comparing to bad stuff is hardly useful. When we stack it against a few rare gems, it holds quite well. You get familiar looks, most if not all of the stuff you need out of the box, and the rest is just a click away. Good networking, media and smartphone support, elegant package management, excellent stability, easy customization. Lots of perks and smart touches.

              The negatives would be an odd glitch or two, and some visual dust. Mint feels a bit archaic, and font quality can be improved mostly by altering the default theme actually. But there are no showstoppers, no cardinal problems, nothing to make you want to cry in a dark corner of an abandoned warehouse. Solid, predictable, practical. Grade 9.7/10, and it really is one of the more refreshing distro releases recently. Well worth testing. So you should. Right now.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Blender 2.8 Xmas Report

    It’s that time of the year again. And what a year! Blender 2.8 is shaping up and made ready for use in daily production in a Blender open movie.

    Early in the year, we started sharing a daily build of 2.8 with all the latest changes. That lead to a great response by early adopters who embraced the potential of a real-time engine such as Eevee in Blender. We saw that in the demo we had at Siggraph, as well as the constant sharing of images and videos in social media.

    We also added a 2.8 hub on blender.org. A page where people could learn more about the 2.8 project. If you haven’t visited it, go check it out. You can find all the Siggraph demo files, as well as videos, documents and everything that is 2.8 related.

  • Blender 2.8 Is Coming In 2018 With Huge Improvements

    Developers behind the Blender 3D modeling software have shared a “Christmas update” about their ongoing work towards Blender 2.8 as the next major release for this open-source, cross-platform modeling software.

    Blender 2.8 will premiere with Eevee as the real-time engine integrated with the Blender viewport. Eevee supports PBR rendering, subsurface scattering, light probes, and many other features used by today’s 3D games.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • Strings Freeze For GIMP 2.10 Is Now O

      GIMP’s user interface is currently available in 80 languages. So far ca. 20 translations have been updated in the unstable branch since the beginning of the work on v2.10, and only 8 translations in the ‘po’ directory (where most translatable messages reside) are at least 90% complete. So clearly we need to give our translators a head start.

      This is why GIMP’s master branch is now entering a tentative strings freeze phase in preparation for 2.10 release. We expect further changes between today and the v2.10 final release to affect no more than 1% of translatable messages. So it’s safe to start updating user interface translations now.

    • GIMP 2.10 Steps Closer To Release With String Freeze

      The long-awaited GIMP 2.10 stable update should indeed materialize in 2018 with the release now being under a tentative string freeze.

      Released two weeks back was the GIMP 2.9.8 development release and since then more feature work has landed like support for the FreeDesktop.org screenshot API. But in trying to get translators jumping on the translation work for GIMP 2.10, a tentative string freeze is now in place with developers thinking not more than 1% of the translations should change ahead of the 2.10 release.

      While GIMP has support for 80+ languages, only 20 of them have been updated in the unstable branch for 2.10 and only eight languages have at least 90% completion.

    • Art Eavesdrops on Life and Pagers

      Pagers use a protocol — POCSAG — that predates our modern (and well-founded) obsession with privacy and security. That isn’t surprising although the idea that private medical data is flying through the air like this is. Decoding POCSAG isn’t hard. GNU Radio, for example, can easily handle the task.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Kernel hardening group’s suit against open source advocate thrown out

      A judge in San Francisco has granted a motion by noted open source advocate Bruce Perens to dismiss a defamation suit filed against him by Grsecurity, a group that supplies a patch for hardening the Linux kernel.

      Magistrate judge Laurel Beeler agreed to Perens’ (right, below) motion on Thursday but denied his bid to invoke the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law in California.

      This law deals with legal complaints that are directed at stopping public discussion and free speech. California put in place an anti-SLAPP law in 1992.

    • Court Throws Out Libel Lawsuit Brought by Open Source Security

      The defendant Bruce Perens — who is a respected programmer known for his founding of the Open Source Initiative — criticized OSS’s business model for distributing its security patches on the ground that it violated the open-source license and thus potentially subjected users to liability for copyright infringement or breach of contract. The plaintiffs [sued, basically for defamation -EV]….

Leftovers
  • Science
    • Universities cashing in on unconditional offers are doing great harm to our examinations system

      It is, of course, hard to see anything other than a commercial reason for universities doing this. One, which ‘held out’ for some years before recently capitulating, states ‘the fact that you received an unconditional offer will look pretty good on your CV!’

      And as the Select Committee were told, the rise has been dramatic. 40 percent more unconditional offers were made in the last application cycle than the year before; the rise has been from a few hundred in the years to 2012, to 2,985 in 2013-14, 36,825 in 2014-15 and 51,615 last year. Unconditional offers are now given in response to 5 percent of applications, [...]

  • Hardware
  • Health/Nutrition
    • Severe Complications for Women During Childbirth Are Skyrocketing — and Could Often Be Prevented

      Every year in the U.S., nearly 4 million women give birth, the vast majority without anything going amiss for themselves or their babies. But more than 135 expectant and new mothers a day — or more than 50,000 a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — endure dangerous and even life-threatening complications that often leave them wounded, weakened, traumatized, financially devastated, unable to bear more children or searching in vain for answers about what went wrong.

      For the past year, ProPublica and NPR have been examining why the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world. The 700 to 900 deaths each year related to pregnancy and childbirth, though, overshadow a more pervasive problem that experts call “severe maternal morbidity.” For every U.S. woman who dies as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth, up to 70 suffer hemorrhages, organ failure or other significant complications, amounting to more than 1 percent of all births. The annual cost to women, their families, taxpayers and the health care system runs into billions of dollars.

  • Security
    • Security Education in Uncertain Times: 2017 in Review

      We facilitated two webinars with the Electronic Frontier Alliance and learned more about the digital security training scene in various cities around the US. These conversations with trainers helped us to assess what seasoned digital security trainers are already doing, what kind of resources they are using, what kinds of resources are missing, and where more guidance is needed for newer teachers of digital security. We learned that many trainers use our Surveillance Self-Defense resources to inform their training, and we learned where trainers felt that these existing resources fell short. We shared these comments back with our SSD team, and we have worked hard to address these concerns.

      We decided to narrow our audience to new teachers of digital security who would be teaching to their friends and neighbors.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • ‘When Was the US Ever an Honest Broker?’

      Donald Trump’s decision to officially “recognize” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, including possibly moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, was widely reported as a surprising break with previous US policy. Not surprising in that overturning previous policy is Trump’s favorite thing, but perhaps in its potential to stir up questions that US policy and media often artfully avoid.

      Here to help us with some context for this recent move is Phyllis Bennis. She directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies; author of many titles, including Understanding the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict, now in its sixth, updated edition. She joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Phyllis Bennis.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Plans to thwack Official Secrets Acts smacked: Journo-gagging reform postponed

      Proposals to reform and rewrite Britain’s aged Official Secrets Acts have been postponed for at least a year, the government’s Law Commission has confirmed to The Register.

      Campaigners and media organisations now hope that the new “journalistic ice age” threatened earlier this year may not happen after all.

      As proposed, the plans would have threatened reporters, as well as whistleblowers, with jail sentences of up to 14 years, regardless of the public interest in revelations, and even if what was revealed was not likely to cause damage.

      The Commission’s plan for the “first overhaul of the Official Secrets Act in 100 years … to meet 21st century challenges” and using so-called “future proofed” laws will not now be completed until late 2018 at the earliest. Plans for new laws had initially been proposed for publication this summer, newspapers were told, but were then held back.

    • It Seems Like Julian Assange Deleted His Twitter

      For reasons unknown the official Twitter account of Julian Assange, the leader of disgraced transparency organization Wikileaks, has been deleted. The Internet Archive—or someone availing themselves of its services—appears to have been preserving snapshots of Assange’s account once every hour since September 18th of this year. Based on that information, it’s likely the @JulianAssange account was deleted between midnight and 1am GMT.

      The account does not appear to have been suspended by Twitter, and the most recent cached version of his account suggests he had not tweeted since Friday. Strangely, the official account of Wikileaks itself remains intact and has not commented on the disappearance of its founder from the platform.

    • Julian Assange Twitter DOWN – Wikileaks hacktivist ‘deletes account’ on Christmas

      Twitter is Mr Assange’s most public means of communication with the world outside London’s Ecuadorian embassy – where he has been holed up for five years over fears he will be arrested the moment he sets foot out the door.

      But the controversial figure’s account, @JulianAssange, mysteriously disappeared between 12-1am on Christmas Morning.

      Mr Assange’s last tweet was on the 22nd December, leaving not hint as to why the account may have been removed.

      His last post was a notable quote from the man himself, which read: “A knowledgeable public, is an empowered public, is a free public.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Renewable energy now makes up nearly third of all electricity generated in UK

      Electricity generation from renewable energy has reached a “record high”, according to new government statistics.

      The third quarter of 2017 saw the share of electricity generated from renewable sources increase by nearly 5 per cent from the same period last year, reaching 30 per cent.

      The latest record is “yet another nail in the coffin for the claim that renewables cannot be a sizeable part of the UK’s electricity mix”, according to Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

    • London Zoo reopens as staff confirm four meerkats were also killed in blaze that claimed life of Misha the aardvark

      The zoo was on lockdown on Saturday after a devastating blaze destroyed the Animal Adventures section of the wildlife park, forcing keepers to risk life and limb to get animals to safety.

      Sadly nine-year-old aardvark Misha was killed by the blaze which also claimed the lives of four meerkats, who were all brothers.

  • Finance
  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • After rough year, Facebook does damage control in DC

      The Russian interference in the 2016 election hovered over the company all year.

    • Behind the Pentagon Papers: The beginning of Nixon’s end
    • How We Got Into This Trumpian Mess and How We Get Out of It (Video)

      There’s too much yelling these days, so we made this a silent video. (The only casualty was my arm, which ached for days afterward.) Hope you find it helpful. Best wishes for a 2018 that’s better for America than 2017 was.

    • Vice Says It ‘Failed’ Employees as Misconduct Incidents Emerge
    • Poverty-stricken Trump supporters regret voting for him: ‘We’re stuck and he’s like a spoiled brat’

      Robin DeFabbio wants Donald Trump to delete his Twitter account. She said, “We’re wasting so much time. He’s like a very bad child that I’m glad I didn’t raise.”

      Numerous Wisconsin voters are fed up with the political landscape and the country’s landscape in general due to Trump’s presidency.

      Kari Walker said, “I am a political science major. I am starting to hate politics. Actually, not starting, I do hate politics: the vitriol and the vulgarity and the lack of willingness to talk to people.”

    • Rupert Murdoch and President Trump: A Friendship of Convenience
    • UN Members Show Spine in Rebuffing Trump

      When North Korea began the Korean War with an invasion of South Korea in June 1950, the armed response was waged under the flag of the United Nations thanks to the Soviet Union having absented itself from the Security Council. The Soviets were boycotting the council to protest the fact that China’s seat had not been given to Mao Zedong’s communists, who had won the Chinese civil war the previous October. With no Soviet veto in the way, the Security Council quickly passed the resolutions necessary to bestow U.N. sanction on the U.S.-led military resistance to the North’s aggression.

      [...]

      More generally, the result of the vote is one more illustration of how much less is the capacity of the United States to push the rest of the world around than those Americans of an assertive nationalist stripe seem to think. This discrepancy between reality and uber-nationalist belief predates Trump and has existed at least since the post-Cold War “unipolar moment” that was barely a moment, if that. Trump’s policies and rhetoric have caused international confidence in the United States to plummet to even lower depths. The United States’ pushing ability has dropped along with the confidence.

    • Donald Trump has spent a year lying shamelessly. It hasn’t worked

      The U.S. president’s lies have deceived millions, fomented hate and left the world unable to accept even the most trivial words of its most powerful person. The Star has been keeping track.

    • U.S. Commerce Official Still Holds Stake in Company Linked to Putin Associates

      The chief of staff for Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Wendy Teramoto, still owns a stake in a shipping company tied to associates of Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that her former role as a board member for the same company prompted six Senate Democrats to request an investigation into her apparent conflicts of interest last month.

      “We have not been notified, nor are we aware, of a formal investigation by the inspector general,” Commerce Department spokesperson James Rockas said in a statement. “But we continue to answer any questions that are raised by department ethics officials or the inspector general.” The statement said that Teramoto has recused herself from any matters relating to her investments. (The same senators also requested an investigation of Ross, who initially retained an estimated $3.4 million stake in the company, Navigator Holdings, but has since sold it.)

      As long as Teramoto hangs onto her own investments, she will likely remain under scrutiny, especially since there is evidence that her official actions are affecting the shipping industry, in which she is heavily invested.

      Teramoto previously worked for Ross at his private equity firm WL Ross & Co. She invested in funds that held Navigator stock, as well as owning shares directly, and also served on the board of the shipping company from 2014 to July 2017. From 2014 to 2016, Navigator did $68 million worth of business with a Russian petrochemicals company named Sibur. That company is partially owned by two billionaires in Putin’s inner circle, Kirill Shamalov and Gennady Timchenko.

      In its annual report filed in March, Navigator said Teramoto directly owned $118,000 of the company’s stock. The Commerce Department spokesperson confirmed that Teramoto had not sold her Navigator stake or interests in WL Ross funds that held other shipping companies, such as Diamond S. Shipping.

      One of the most valuable assets listed on Teramoto’s financial disclosure form, which she filed in July, is her carried interest — a cut of the managers’ profits — in a fund called WLR Recovery Fund IV, which she valued at between $1 million and $5 million. An examination of that holding demonstrates how easily Teramoto’s portfolio could pose conflicts of interest.

      WLR Recovery Fund IV counts Navigator, as well as other shipping interests, among its holdings. It also includes investments such as Amalgamated Bank and Exco Resources. Another entity in which Teramoto is invested, WLR Recovery Associates V, includes additional positions in shipping companies, as well as a stake in the Russia-connected Bank of Cyprus.

      If those funds perform well, they will make up a significant chunk of Teramoto’s net worth. In total, she listed personal net assets worth $6 million to $19.3 million on the disclosure.

    • ‘Whataboutism’ Runs Amok as Jake Tapper Rattles Off Trump Talking Points

      For over a year, US media have insisted that the tactic of deflecting criticism by pointing to others’ flaws was the devious Soviet tool of “whataboutism,” and anyone using it was practicing “one of Russia’s favorite propaganda tactics.” If so, when it came time for CNN’s Jake Tapper (12/21/17) to spin for the Trump administration’s provocative and deeply unpopular move of the US embassy in Israel, the most trusted name in news was peak Pravda.

      Borrowing straight from Trump administration talking points, Tapper reported on the UN voting 128 to 9 in an emergency session against the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—a gesture effectively solidifying 50 years of illegal military occupation—by heavily implying antisemitism was to blame. In the segment, Tapper employed a popular, superficially appealing pro-Israel talking point that the UN was “singling out” Israel at the expense of other Bad Countries. “Among the 128 countries that voted to condemn the US on this issue,” Tapper charged, “were some countries with some questionable records of their own.”

    • Democrats Need to Make Clear that Firing Mueller Triggers Impeachment

      Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, delivered a powerful warning to the Trump administration and its Republican allies this week, when he declared on the Senate floor that a move by the president to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or to undermine Mueller’s inquiry would cross one of the “red lines” that Congress must maintain.

      “Any attempt by this President to remove special counsel Mueller from his position or to pardon key witnesses in any effort to shield them from accountability or shut down the investigation would be a gross abuse of power and a flagrant violation of executive branch responsibilities and authorities. These truly are red lines and [Congress] simply cannot allow them to be crossed,” explained Warner. “Congress must make clear to the President that firing the special counsel or interfering with his investigation by issuing pardons of essential witnesses is unacceptable and would have immediate and significant consequences.”

      Warner’s right. Though Trump aides deny that the president is angling to shut down Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling with the 2016 presidential election—and a host of other issues that cut close to the president and his inner circle—there can be no question that the Trump team and its media allies have launched a campaign to discredit the special counsel. This has stirred speculation on Capitol Hill that Mueller and his investigation are being attacked in order to clear the way for a firing. So high marks to Warner, and to others who have raised concerns. It is vital to get ahead of these threats.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Julian Assange’s Twitter account goes mysteriously offline on Christmas and no one knows why

      In a mysterious turn of events, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s Twitter account has suddenly gone offline. Although it appears to have been just a couple of hours since the account went down, speculation about the account’s mysterious disappearance are already doing the rounds on Twitter.

      Gizmodo reported that Assange’s Twitter account was likely deleted between midnight and 1am GMT. While some of Assange’s die-hard supporters are outraged by what they consider to be Twitter’s censorship of free speech, others are celebrating the account’s disappearance.

      Assange joined Twitter in February this year and has been a fairly active user. Over the past year, Assange has tweeted out several provocative posts, including mysterious codes believed to be a “dead man’s switch”, a post teasing that he may run for UK parliament, and more.

    • West: Censorship at the CDC and beyond

      At a meeting earlier this month, analysts were reportedly given a list of seven words they were not going to be allowed to use when formulating their budget documents in 2018. The offending terms were, in no particular order, “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

    • Libertarians slam US ‘arbitrary censorship’ of foreign media & alternative views

      The DOJ demand for RT America to register as a foreign agent is an attempt to silence undesired voices, the Libertarian Party has said, echoing views that the move is the worst attack on press freedom since the McCarthy era.

      Forcing RT America to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) under the pretext of its alleged links to perceived Russian meddling in the US 2016 elections, de facto amounts to government “censorship,” the party said in a statement. US government officials are using FARA “in an effort to silence views they don’t like,” it said further.

      On Thursday, it was revealed by DOJ official Adam Hickey that the Department based its decision regarding RT America on the controversial report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) dating back to January. Riddled with factual inaccuracies and not providing any hard evidence, the report also featured a quite hollow 7-page annex devoted to RT.

      Hickey also outrageously disputed that RT America was somehow forced to register under FARA, claiming, instead, that it was a “voluntary decision” by the channel.

    • Judicial censorship violates our Constitution

      Recent cases in which courts have banned the press from reporting judicial proceedings violate India’s Constitution. Before his timely retirement, Justice C.S. Karnan made a series of shocking orders in two high courts against judges of the Supreme Court of India. He was sentenced to a term in prison for contempt of court. Then Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar made an order on May 9, 2017 forbidding the media from publishing the contents of the orders passed by Justice Karnan. The public surely has every right to know why he was sent to prison and the contents of his orders.

    • In an Era of Online Outrage, Do Sensitivity Readers Result in Better Books, or Censorship?

      Late last year, the novelist Keira Drake announced that her publisher was giving away copies of her upcoming young adult novel, “The Continent,” a fantasy set in a world where two nations have been at war for centuries. “It’s raining books!” she wrote.

      Her enthusiasm was quickly punctured. Online reviews poured in, and they were brutal. Readers pounced on what they saw as racially charged language in the descriptions of the warring tribes and blasted it as “racist trash,” “retrograde” and “offensive.” Ms. Drake and her publisher, Harlequin Teen, apologized and delayed the book’s publication.

      In the year since, “The Continent” has changed drastically. Harlequin hired two sensitivity readers, who vetted the narrative for harmful stereotypes and suggested changes. Ms. Drake spent six months rewriting the book, discarding descriptions like her characterization of one tribe as having reddish-brown skin and painted faces. The new version is due out in March.

      In today’s hair-trigger, hyperreactive social media landscape, where a tweet can set off a cascade of outrage and prompt calls for a book’s cancellation, children’s book authors and publishers are taking precautions to identify potential pitfalls in a novel’s premise or execution. Many are turning to sensitivity readers, who provide feedback on issues like race, religion, gender, sexuality, chronic illness and physical disabilities. The role that readers play in shaping children’s books has become a flash point in a fractious debate about diversity, cultural appropriation and representation, with some arguing that the reliance on sensitivity readers amounts to censorship.

    • The Long Arm Of The Chinese State: Employing Global Censorship, Subversion And Political Influence Around The World

      China, under Xi Jinping’s “new era” has attested to be the heir apparent of a world order erstwhile dominated by the United States of America since the Second World War. Claiming to export the “China model” globally (economic liberalisation minus political liberalisation) as an alternative to the liberal order established by the US, China has been working towards revising existing international institutions and creating new ones of its own design in order to facilitate its rise and influence.

      Shaping public opinion is also a key facet of that plan. The active shaping of the Chinese narrative is a “battlefield” upon which a highly disciplined political struggle must be waged and won. While domestically, the interpretation of this battlefield has been tested successfully through the web of information control and censorship, China aims to export this abroad in order to shape/manipulate its message.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Medical Privacy Under Attack: 2017 in Review

      If you care about maintaining privacy over medical records and prescriptions, this was not a good year.

      Both the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued disappointing decisions that declined to recognize a significant privacy interest in prescription records. In California, the state’s high court ruled that the Medical Board of California can rifle through records of prescriptions for controlled substances—used to treat anxiety, depression, pain, and insomnia—without notifying patients, obtaining a court order, or showing any suspicion of wrongdoing. The Ninth Circuit reversed on procedural grounds a good ruling out of Oregon, which found that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) couldn’t access sensitive prescription records without a warrant. Both courts punted to another day the question of whether the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement protects prescription records.

      This precedent is concerning, especially in an era of digital pills that use stomach acid to generate electronic data about exactly when you take your medication. Prescription records reveal our medical and mental health conditions and histories. They are a subset of our medical and mental health files, and they are just as sensitive as any other medical or mental health records, which are afforded a heightened degree of privacy protection. Prescription records should be, too. Just as with any other medical records, the government should need a warrant supported by probable cause before accessing them.

      The courts may be responding to the opioid crisis in declining to address whether law enforcement’s warrantless access of controlled-substance prescription records violates the Constitution, but everyone should be able to expect privacy in their drug prescriptions and law enforcement should be required to get a warrant to access those records. Thanks to technology, getting a warrant is easier than ever. And it’s not too much to ask when we are talking about highly sensitive medical information.

    • Rajkummar Rao: ‘It is for govt to take a stand on censorship’

      “As an actor or an artist, you should be socially responsible. I really don’t want to do films where I am spreading hatred. Or do something that will influence 10 more boys in small towns, who follow me… I am very aware of that,” Rajkummar Rao said at Express Adda in Mumbai on Saturday.

      There is little doubt that 2017 belongs to the 33-year-old actor, who has appeared in no less than seven feature films this year, including the critically acclaimed Trapped, and Newton, which was chosen as India’s entry for the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category.

    • ‘NSA backdoor spying on US citizens requires stringent controls & accountability’

      It’s time to push back on the US government’s “backdoor” spying on its citizens under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and introduce stricter controls to protect civil liberties, attorney Michael Flanagan believes.

    • Turn Your Android Smartphone Into A Personal Surveillance System With Snowden’s New App

      Now there is another addition to the list of ways you can reuse your old smartphone: by turning it into a personal surveillance system to catch any unexpected guest or intruder trying to circumvent your privacy and security.

    • The FBI and the New York Times warn that smart toys are emissaries from the Internet of Shit

      One by one, the New York Times warns of the dangers of every hot smart toy your kids are begging for this Xmas: Furbies, Cayla, kids’ smart watches, the ubiquitous Vtech toys (they omit the catastrophic Cloudpets, presumably because that company is out of business now).

      They warn of privacy dangers to your kids and your family, of adding vectors for attacks to your home network and its devices, and remind you that the FBI has issued a warning to parents not to buy these things.

    • Beating Back the Rise of Law Enforcement’s Digital Surveillance of Protestors: 2017 in Review

      In 2017, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of high-profile cases where law enforcement has deployed digital surveillance techniques against political activists. From the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of January 20, 2017 Inauguration Day (J20) protestors to the systematic targeting, surveilling and infiltration of Water Protectors in Standing Rock, North Dakota, and the Black Lives Matter Movement over social media, law enforcement and private security firms have taken advantage of the wealth of information available online to thwart activists’ credibility and efficacy.

      While government surveillance and investigation of opposition groups may not be anything new, the tools and methods for conducting such surveillance and the sheer scope of information that can be captured about these groups is staggering. The magnitude of information now available in the digital age via platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, continues to grow exponentially, documenting your location information, contact networks, calendars, and communications. Independently, consent-less access to these discrete data-points may seem little more than intrusive, but when aggregated together, this information creates a very intimate portrait of our day-to-day lives that law enforcement can and has used against dissenting voices.

    • Congress Is Debating Warrantless Surveillance in the Dark

      Several of the programs Snowden revealed are authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act. The 2008 law was scheduled to sunset on December 31, but in a last-ditch effort Thursday, Congress extend its authority through January 19.

      The Trump administration, meanwhile, believes that the authorization doesn’t really expire until April, leaving lawmakers several months to either reform or strengthen the provision. Hanging in the balance is the legal framework the government largely relies on to conduct mass surveillance of foreigners, and Americans who communicate with them. Which makes it all the more concerning that the fight over Section 702′s future has taken place largely in the dark.

    • Security News This Week: France Goes After WhatsApp For Sharing Data With Facebook

      At worst, WhatsApp faces a fine, which presumably it could easily afford. But the censure at least draws more attention to an already controversial move, and hopefully reminds people that if WhatsApp knows something about you, Facebook probably does too.

    • By ditching usernames, OKCupid is removing a crucial protective barrier

      In an ideal world, the trust and intimacy of allowing a stranger to know your sexual orientation, your religion, or your politics would be a welcome part of finding a potential partner. In reality, it requires more caution than that. OKCupid’s decision isn’t just ignoring what its users want; it’s mocking them while it takes that away. It’s dismantling their ability to stay safe, and it’s doing so with a sneer.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • The Criminalization of Gentrifying Neighborhoods

      In the early hours of Labor Day, Brooklynites woke up to the sound of steel-pan bands drumming along Flatbush Avenue, as hundreds of thousands of people gathered to celebrate J’ouvert, a roisterous Caribbean festival that commemorates emancipation from slavery. But having been marred by gang violence in recent years, this J’ouvert was markedly different, as The New York Times described. The event, which derives its name from a Creole term for “daybreak,” was heavily staffed by the New York City Police Department. Floodlights and security checkpoints were scattered along the parade route, and many revelers were piqued by what they saw as excessive police presence—an overwhelming show of force in response to a comparatively small number of bad actors.

      “There’s a criminalization of our neighborhood,” Imani Henry, the president of the police-accountability group Equality for Flatbush, told me recently. After the NYPD declined Henry’s public-information request about security ahead of and during the festival, citing safety concerns, his group decided to sue for it. (The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.)

    • Judge Sides With ACLU, Ruling American Detainee In Iraq Has Right To Lawyer

      “Somewhere in Iraq, a United States citizen has been in the custody of the U.S. armed forces for over three months.”

      That is how a federal Judge on Saturday begins her ruling, describing the situation of a never-charged American classified as an enemy combatant, as she ordered the Pentagon provide the prisoner with “immediate” access to a lawyer.

      The still-unnamed man was captured by the Syrian militia in mid-September and handed over to the U.S. military as a suspected member of the Islamic State.

      A couple weeks later, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas corpus petition and seeking to represent the man, who, by the government’s own account, requested an attorney after being read his Miranda rights.

      The Defense Department argued that the circumstances did not warrant the ACLU’s having immediate access to the detainee.

    • Stoked! Journalist Alexei Wood & First J20 Defendants Found “Not Guilty” as 188 Still Face Trial

      In a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to silence dissent, the first trial of people arrested at Inauguration Day “Disrupt J20” protests ended Thursday with all of the defendants found not guilty of all charges. Six people faced multiple felonies and 50 years in prison for just being in the area where anti-fascist and anti-capitalist protesters were marching. During the protest, police blockaded more than 200 people into a corner in a process known as “kettling” and carried out mass arrests of everyone nearby, including medics, legal observers and some journalists. This first case was closely watched as a bellwether for free speech, because one of the six people on trial was Alexei Wood, an independent photojournalist from San Antonio, Texas, whose work focuses on resistance movements. He came to document protests during the inauguration on January 20 and live-streamed the street detentions by police and even his own arrest. Alexei Wood joins us from Washington, D.C., and we speak with Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild.

    • Putin critic Navalny barred from Russian presidential election

      Russia’s central election commission voted on Monday to bar opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running in a presidential election next year, saying he was ineligible because of a past criminal conviction.

      The commission said the conviction, for which Navalny received a suspended sentence and which he has repeatedly described as politically-motivated, meant he could not run for president in March.

      Twelve members of the 13-member commission voted to bar Navalny. One member of the commission abstained, citing a possible conflict of interest.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Can net neutrality be a potent political issue for Democrats?

      The question is whether the outrage on Reddit forums can translate into votes for Democratic candidates next fall given the fact that younger people engaged on the issue are often the least reliable voters — particularly in midterm elections.

    • The Year the Open Internet Came Under Siege: 2017 Year in Review

      The fight between the Federal Communications Commission’s choice to abandon the principles of net neutrality and the majority of Americans started early in 2017 and continued into the very last month of the year. But even with the FCC’s bad vote coming so late, we fought all year to build up momentum that will allow us to fix their blunder in 2018.

      2017 started out with a warning: in his final address as chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler said that the future of a free and open Internet safeguarded by net neutrality was hanging by a thread. “All the press reports seem to indicate that the new commission will choose an ideologically based course,” said Wheeler. Wheeler also offered up the argument that “Network investment is up, investment in innovative services is up, and ISPs’ revenues—and stock prices—are at record levels. So, where’s the fire? Other than the desires of a few [providers] to be free of meaningful oversight, why the sudden rush to undo something that is demonstrably working?”

      That would be a constant question posed throughout 2017: why would the FCC, under its new chairman, former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, move to eliminate something as functional and popular as net neutrality? After all, net neutrality protections guarantee that all information transmitted over the Internet be treated equally, preventing Internet service providers from prioritizing, say, their own content over that of competitors. It’s a logical set of rules that preserves the Internet as we know it. Net neutrality has been protected by the FCC for over a decade, culminating in the 2015 Open Internet Order, which we worked hard to get adopted in the first place.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Copyrights
      • Piracy Notices Can Mess With Your Thermostat, ISP Warns

        US Internet provider Armstrong warns that persistent pirates can have their Internet access throttled. As a result, they may no longer have full control over their thermostats. Those who continue pirating after an obligatory copyright education may have their full service terminated.

      • Might Google Class “Torrent” a Dirty Word? France is About to Find Out

        A dispute between the French recording industry and search engines Google and Bing could find the latter pair filtering searches containing the word torrent, initially in connection with three local artists. The issue is currently under discussion by the parties’ lawyers. Meanwhile, a blocking injunction has just been handed down targeting several popular torrent sites.

Raw: Philip Cordery Urged France to Withdraw/End Battistelli’s Presidency at the EPO

Monday 25th of December 2017 03:06:37 PM

It remains to be seen what his successor (since June of this year), Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade (shown to the left), will do as the next EPO President (June next year) is also French

Summary: Translation of a letter composed by Philip Cordery about four years ago when there was an opportunity to salvage the EPO by removing Benoît Battistelli

For the attention of the Minister

Dear Sir,

I am writing to draw your attention to the extremely deleterious social climate which has prevailed for a number of months at the European Patent Office (EPO), the facilities of which are based at the Hague, Brussels, Vienna, Munich, and Berlin.

I have been approached by the staff union of the European Patent Office and by a number of French officials, who have expressly requested me to safeguard their anonymity in fear of reprisals, with regard to failure to respect the fundamental rights of the employees. A number of articles in the press have likewise been reporting on this in local newspapers.

The facts speak for themselves. The exercise of the right to strike has been violated and threats of disciplinary sanctions have been abusively applied in order to limit the right of
the staff to express themselves. The union has been muzzled, and disciplinary sanctions imposed on a dozen union representatives. Certain employees have likewise been subjected to suspension and demotion in status for reasons which are both abusive and fallacious. Two cases of suicide have even occurred in the past few years, one at the Hague during working hours.

The situation has become a matter of extreme concern for the vast majority of the 7,000 employees who work within the EPO without enjoying the protection accorded by national law in matters of the right to work, which has rendered them particularly vulnerable. A number of decisions taken recently by the organization are contrary to French and European law, which is totally unacceptable for an international organization based in the territory of the European Union.

This incurs the risk in due course of affecting the role and efficiency of the institution itself, in its mission of European and international public service. This antisocial policy, pursued by a former French functionary, is seriously damaging the image and reputation of France on the international level, far from enhancing it.

I would therefore ask you to instruct the French representative on the Board of Administration of the EPO to demand expressly that all the abusive disciplinary sanctions be lifted which to date have been imposed on the representatives of the personnel, and not to vote in favour of the changes to the rulings regarding the designation and organization of the representatives of the personnel, which are shortly to be submitted to the Board of Management.

In addition to this, in view of the facts described, I call upon you to reconsider France’s support for the renewal of the appointment of Mr. Battistelli to the Presidency of the EPO, which is due to be discussed at a forthcoming meeting of the Board of Management on 27 and 28 March or 25 and 26 June 2014.

I am appending to this letter all the documents in my possession, and I would inform you that legal action against the management of the EPO is currently under way.

I take the liberty of emphasising the urgent nature of the situation, and I am at your disposal to meet you and exchange views on this matter.

Yours faithfully
Philip Cordery

More from Cordery:

Raw: Battistelli’s Circle (Topić and Bergot) Undermines Justice at the European Patent Office

Monday 25th of December 2017 02:15:45 PM


Photo op from last year (Battistelli, Topić and Bergot shoulder to shoulder)

Summary: The managers of the European Patent Office (EPO) continue to demonstrate that the concept of justice seems outlandish to them

Mr Željko Topić
Vice-President DG4
ISAR – R.707

Request for information re appeals

Dear Mr Topić,

We continue to be approached by colleagues who inform us that their unanimous positive recommendation of the Internal Appeals Committee (IAC) has been rejected either by you or by PD4.3 (Ms Bergot). We have the same experience ourselves: in fact, we are not aware of a single positive opinion having been respected by you or your staff in 2013 and 2014.

Should the above perception prove to be correct, then this would amount to a systematic abuse of the internal appeal process and a denial of justice for EPO staff. The President (or person to which he has delegated this authority) is required to take the opinion of the Internal Appeal Committee fully into account when taking a final decision.

We are also informed that the backlog of internal appeals have exceeded 700 cases. We have understood that rather than taking measures to increase the capacity of the appeal system, the resources available have been reduced in 2013. At current expected processing rates of less than 100 cases per year, a complainant cannot expect to receive a final decision in less than 7 years.

The above problems undermine the integrity of the appeal process and may already represent a systematic failure of access to justice. One outcome will be an unnecessary increase in cases before the ILOAT. But is it also likely that an increasing number of cases will be filed in national courts since access to justice internally can no longer be guaranteed.

In order to clarify the situation, we request detailed information on the following:

- the number of cases treated in 2013
- the number of unanimous and majority positive opinions in 2013
- the number of these positive opinions not followed by the President.

At the same time, we remind you of a letter (copy attached) we sent to the Internal Appeals Committee on 15 November 2013, wherein we requested information on the case-load backlog. In their response, the Secretariat informed us that they were in the process of preparing a full report on their activities which was due to be finished “in early 2014”. Since this may provide at least a partial answer to some of our questions, we would appreciate receiving a copy of the report.

Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to receiving all pertinent information.

Yours sincerely,

Joachim Michels
Central Staff Committee

cc.: Mr Raimund Lutz, VP5,
Mr Dražen Petrović, Registrar ILO-AT
Open letter to staff

Raw: “Social Democracy” at the EPO Means Staff Gets to Comment on Changes That Have Already Been Implemented Anyway

Monday 25th of December 2017 01:50:37 PM

Original/full: Report on a meeting with members of the Working Group Career [PDF]

Summary: What the EPO’s management likes to refer to as “social democracy” is zero consultation with those affected, except after decisions have already been made to harm them

Raw: French-Led EPO Gives Air France Non-Exclusive Contract for All Staff Flights (Even Though EPO Lacks Branches in France)

Monday 25th of December 2017 01:32:52 PM

Reminder: The next President of the EPO will also be French (a lot of top-level management is already French, thanks to Battistelli’s shamelessness, and the President before his successor was French also)

Original/full: English [PDF] | French [PDF]

Summary: It’s getting hard for the EPO under Battistelli to even hide its French bias, especially with deals/arrangements like the above-mentioned one (EPO has one branch in Austria and two in Germany)

Raw: Before Battistelli Sacked Nearly a Handful of Staff Representatives He Warned a Dozen and Had Already Punished Some

Monday 25th of December 2017 01:08:00 PM

Policy fusion (Turkey too is an EPO member) not based on European standards

Posted last night:

Erdogan grants full immunity for any Turk who kills a member of a "Terrorist Organisation"

It is now open season in Turkey for Nationalist gangs to murder Kurds, Alevis, Trades Unionists, Gays Lesbians, Jews, Yazidis, Christians…

There will be another Genocide in Turkey soon https://t.co/C0r89ujtMy

— Doloroso – #FBPE (@Pyrmha108) December 24, 2017

Summary: A letter from the Central Staff Committee (CSC) of the EPO reveals just how far back attacks on staff representatives go

Your open letter dated 6th March 2014

Dear Mr Battistelli,

While paying lip service to social dialogue, you have consistently interfered with the legitimate activities of the Central Staff Committee (CSC). We refer to you recent decisions and consequent actions:

- A referendum on “social democracy” organised by the CSC was prematurely terminated by the administration.
- Six members of the CSC were threatened with heavy sanctions with respect to the organisation of this referendum.
- Twelve (!) elected staff representatives received written warnings and reprimands.
- A Munich staff representative was downgraded from A4 to A3, despite the unanimous recommendation from the Disciplinary Committee to stop the procedure and pay the subject her legal costs.
- A CSC expert was suspended for allegedly having helped the CSC with the above referendum.

In an open letter to all staff dated 06.03.2014, you now claim that the decision to organise the above referendum “had never, in fact, been discussed at CSC level”.

Please take note that the referendum was discussed and the decision was taken by the CSC.

Yours sincerely,

[omitted]

Raw: PEACES Initiative of the Staff Union of the EPO

Monday 25th of December 2017 12:43:40 PM

Summary: Staff representatives tackle Battistelli’s incoherent lies about reasons for unrest and dictatorial style of management which came under fire by staff

The Federal Circuit (CAFC) is Doing a Good Job, Which Means It’s Hated and Mocked by the Patent Microcosm

Monday 25th of December 2017 12:29:24 PM

Recent: A High US Court (CAFC) Continues Rejecting Software Patents (Even of Microsoft’s Patent Trolls)

Summary: Chief Judge Sharon Prost has turned the highest patent court below the Supreme Court into a decent court which respects the wishes of science and technology professionals (not law firms), which makes it the target of ridicule and criticism from law firms

THE Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has had a good year. As we said yesterday, CAFC helped eliminate software patents by consistently ruling against them this year. This will hopefully continue next year.

As one can expect, this makes patent maximalists rather hostile toward CAFC. A new sponsored ‘article’ (paid-for marketing) at IAM frames a good CAFC decision as injustice. “This decision is important for life sciences intellectual property,” it says, “and could significantly impact pharmaceutical compound patenting. Under this holding, existing claims to a large genus of antibodies are far more likely to be invalidated for lack of written description if challenged. ”

“Not only IAM keeps bashing CAFC.”Stop patenting life. It’s not an invention. It’s nature.

Not only IAM keeps bashing CAFC.

Crouch keeps writing about CAFC. When patents are associated with the actions of the controversial TSA, for example, Crouch says that one may “attribute TSA’s activities to the accused infringer Travel Sentry.”

He adds: “The problem with Tropp’s method claims is that they require both (1) supplying the special lock (done by Travel Sentry) and also (2) the TSA (“luggage screening entity”) using the provided master key. This is a problem because infringement ordinarily requires a single-entity who practices (or controls the practice) of every step of a method claim. Here, Travel Sentry performs step-1, but not step-2.”

“So patents are again being leveraged against the government itself. And the plaintiff loses. Again.”The context of it is worth considering; we now see patents creeping into the public sector which is funded by taxpayers. It may therefore relate to privatisation and protectionism with nepotism.

On another day Crouch wrote about American Innotek v US (CAFC). “The lawsuit here is against the U.S. government,” he said, and “as such, it was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims without right to jury trial, punitive damages or injunction. At the CFC, the court held the patent invalid – finding it obvious even as of its 1989 priority date. On appeal, the Federal Circuit has affirmed, although only after rejecting the lower court’s misapplication of obviousness law.”

So patents are again being leveraged against the government itself. And the plaintiff loses. Again.

Let’s remember what patents exist for and who for. They’re not supposed to just cushion the business model of ‘career litigators’.

Patent Justice Deficit Disorder

Monday 25th of December 2017 12:00:08 PM

Summary: Commentary about the perversion of patent systems and the worrying situation at the EPO, where patent justice is being replaced by sloppy examination (in hope of shifting all judgment to a UPC-type system which is not Constitutional)

THE questions of ethics in the patent system, often explored by this blogger in Patently-O (not Crouch), are definitely worth entertaining. The patent microcosm does not like to bring these up as that damages its reputation. The latest example:

You get sued and you’re thinking you’ll ultimately win big. Exceptional case. Fees shifted. And you do, and you get an award of $3 million in your favor. But, the patentee is basically a shell and so after a year of trying, you decide to go after its owners, allegedly its alter ego.

Patent shells are a subject we explore quite a lot. Quite a few large companies now operate through patent shells, sometimes patent trolls. When will this problem be tackled? Too many loopholes. We have been writing about this for over a decade.

People are led to believe that the patent system is as simple as an antiquated mythology: a classic inventor coming up with an idea, pursuing a patent, receiving protection from giants etc. The reality is quite different, however, as the lion’s share of patents (overwhelming majority in fact) gets granted to giants which then use these patents against rivals (or to cross-license with other giants). As for that “classic inventor”? That’s long gone. Nowadays those are mostly patent trolls; they either apply for some trivial patent (on a trivial idea) or buy a patent from a failing inventor/dying company, often in bulk. The sole purpose is thereafter extortion, not production.

Justice in today’s system is elusive. It seems like those with deeper pockets will almost always win at the end. They can just endlessly appeal a decision… until their opponent runs out of money. The system has evolved along those lines (facilitating endless disputes which typically benefit the rich, irrespective of guilt/innocence).

The EPO goes along similar trajectories, with overstressed examiners doing all the job and technical judges (with examination experience) being pushed to the brink. Is there even much left for examiners to enjoy in life? They recently lost 3 more holidays (not for the first time) and even though the EPO’s official account said that the Office would close until next year, it has just published some tweets; yes, on Christmas Day [1, 2]. These aren’t scheduled posts but actual staff that’s working on Christmas Day!

Meanwhile, over at IP Kat, various comments have surfaced which speak about the appeal boards (EPO judges). It’s self-explanatory:

a published decision of the Enlarged Board!

I haven’t come across any in the Official Journal in the last couple of years …

But instead the Enlarged Board declined to hear the case at all.

And how exactly were they supposed to “hear the case” when the President stated that he was not prepared to countenance the hearing of witnesses from the IU … ???

But instead the Enlarged Board declined to hear the case at all.

And under threat of disciplinary proceedings if doing a fact finding and deciding on facts…
After specific asking the AC, the chair of the AC did not give a guarantee to the independence of th EBA members for this case…
And they had a case right before them indicating that the AC has no interest in protecting the BA members from disciplinary measure by the president.

…I was using “published” in the sense of made available to the public – not officially published by the EPO (unless you count a brief mention in the White Book).

I’m not sure if the EPC says what happens if the President disobeys an order (eg to publish a decision) from the Enlarged Board. I doubt that the founding fathers of the EPC ever contemplated that this might happen.

Well, any founding fathers (of the EPC) who are still alive would probably say nothing. The EPO is now facing an existential threat. One reader told us this morning that the “EPO is problem that is really dragging on and on without corrective actions from the EU. I’m not sure but it may look like the whole EPO has become unsalvageable and ought to be dismantled. It is rather redundant with the national offices anyway. Is there really and value added by even having an EPO?”

I don’t share that sentiment, but this remark shows the sort of damage caused by Battistelli. People increasingly question the very existence of the EPO, which Europeans used to take pride in. There’s a legitimacy and public consent crisis.

Raw: EPO’s “Battistelli is Heading Directly Back to the Middle Ages.”

Monday 25th of December 2017 06:52:28 AM

Original/full: 2014 letter [PDF]

Summary: Another 2-page explainer (among many more) regarding the deterioration at the patent office and abuses perpetrated against staff

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