Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Leadership of European Patent Office pressures staff union to remove links to FOSS Patents blog

What's so outrageous about my two most recent posts on the EPO labor conflict (1, 2) that the Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO) had to remove its links to (and quotes from) those posts?

On SUEPO's homepage there are now at least two entries that used to point to this blog and now say the following:

Document temporarily removed due to threats of reprisals from EPO management. SUEPO is taking appropriate action to counter the threats.

Here's a screenshot (click on the image to enlarge):

It's not even the first act of censorship against an independent blog. In July it became known that the EPO blocked examiners' access to TechRights, another blog that calls the EPO leadership out on its wrongdoings.

This blog here is critical of what's going on at the EPO but far from SUEPO-aligned.

In the earlier one of the two posts, I actually concurred with EPO president Battistelli on the complicated issue of how SUEPO should deal with a suicide rate that appears to be more than twice as high as that of the average Dutch or German populations but still, in my opinion, is not necessarily attributable to the lamentable situation at the EPO (given that such small statistical samples are not reliable).

In the more recent one, published earlier today, I explained why I didn't agreed with SUEPO's choice to march to a local authority today, given that the EPO enjoys diplomatic immunity and local authorities can only enter the EPO's premises with the EPO president's consent.

What may have riled the EPO leadership is that I published documents from internal proceedings targeting the chairwoman of SUEPO's Munich chapter. The EPO's internal "ServRegs" contain some strict prohibition of such disclosures, which is acceptable in connection with what really needs to be kept confidential but unfortunately also used in areas where the EPO needs more transparency.

Article 20, Unauthorized disclosure: "A permanent employee shall exercise the greatest discretion with regard to all facts and information coming to his knowledge in the course of or in connection with his duties; he shall not in any manner whatsoever use or disclose to any unauthorized person any document or information not alreayd made public. A permanent employee shall not, whether alone or together with others, publish or cause to be published, without the permission of the president of the Office, any matter dealing with the work of the Organization."

Article 22, Disclosure in legal proceedings: "A permanent employee shall not without permission from the president of the Office disclose, on any grounds whatever, in any legal proceedings, information not alreadyy made public of which he has knowledge by reason of his duties. Permission may be refused only where the interests of the Organization or of a Contracting State so require. It may not, however, be refused if, in the opinion of the court, this would be likely to lead to a miscarriage of justice."

"Miscarriage of justice" is definitely a major concern with respect to legal proceedings relating to the EPO labor conflict.

Finally, some recommended reading for whomever at the EPO believes that it's a good idea to prohibit links to this blog: the Streisand effect.

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