back to article Euro Patent Office puts itself on Interpol's level, demands access to staff phones and laptops

The European Patent Office (EPO) is seeking new powers that it would allow it to search the bags and electronic devices of its staff and office visitors. Under proposed rule changes put forward by the organization's administration, security staff would be entitled to seize and search bags, phones and laptops at any of the EPO' …

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I voted to Remain, but...

It's this chap and all the chaps and chapesses in the EU who do this that made me tremble on the verge of a Brexit vote. This is NOT what I would ever want The lack of accountability in the EU means that autocracy and corruption are sky-high. The worst decision the fledgling EU made was to emulate the French civil service. I am hoping that the shock of the UK going will make them clear their house, but sadly i think they will justify their rightness by not changing a thing.

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Re: I voted to Remain, but...

@Hollerithevo

Are you aware of how many times it has been pointed out that the EPO is not an organ of the EU? That this has absolutely nothing to do with the EU? That if it was an EU body the issue would have likely been resolved long ago?

Your gripes about the EU may be very valid but this is not an example of them. It weakens your case.

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Re: I voted to Remain, but...

"Are you aware of how many times it has been pointed out that the EPO is not an organ of the EU?"

Yes

"That this has absolutely nothing to do with the EU?"

Yes

"That if it was an EU body the issue would have likely been resolved long ago?"

No. EU institutions and their staff enjoy similar privileges and immunities as at intra-governmental organisation like the EPO. Whilst only Director Generals enjoy full diplomatic immunity, staff members have immunity from national law in member states during the performance of their duties.

An example of this in action was what happened when Han-Martin Tillack exposed corruption in the EU and notably, by those supposed to stop it, at OLAF.

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FAIL

This is just sad.

It takes a lot of work to get a ZERO % vote of confidence from your workers. Even in the worst environments, there are usually 10% or 20% of employees who management pretty much leaves alone and who think that things aren't so bad.

And now the office wants to ban posters and leaflets without management review? You'd better not work at the EU Patent Office while trying to offer weekend piano lessons/kittens you want to give away/tickets to the local community theater production of "Camelot"/etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is just sad.

It takes a lot of work to get a ZERO % vote of confidence from your workers.

Oh, I've met a few of those idiots in my time. Most of them now work in banks (not *quite* a surprise :) )

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Re: This is just sad.

the local community theater production of "Camelot"/etc

It's true! It's true! The crown has made it clear.

The climate must be perfect all the year.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:

July and August cannot be too hot.

And there's a legal limit to the snow here

In Camelot.

The winter is forbidden till December

And exits March the second on the dot.

Sounds just like King B's EPO to me.

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Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

The UK leaving won't make a difference to us. Our inventors will still need to get Patent protection in Europe and therefore be running right into his Fiefdom.

The EU seemingly can't get rid of him. Why?

If there is one bit of the EU that needs fixing now this is one.

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

The EU seemingly can't get rid of him. Why?

Presumably he knows where the bodies are berried or it might be that the unelected EU president and staff all think like he does.

It does make one wonder why the EU accounts have never passed an audit.

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The EU seemingly can't get rid of him. Why?

"The EU seemingly can't get rid of him. Why?"

The danger is that if someone discovers a successful way of getting rid of one useless senior EU bureaucrat then they might use it to get rid of some more. Better to keep your head down.

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Headmaster

Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

Presumably he knows where the bodies are berried

Berried? Strawberry or raspberry?

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

Change that to French dictator of Italian ancestry and we can send him to Saint Helena.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

Just to point out that "EU accounts not passing the annual audit" has the same level of accuracy as "EU ban curved bananas/cucumbers".

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

@Steve Davies 3

You would be correct if the EPO were an EU body but it is not. Holding the EU responsible for something it has no control over is absurd.

Of course the EU cannot get rid of him. The EU has no authority over him; no capacity to hire or fire. What do you suggest "the EU" do?

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

The European Patent Organisation is set up in a way not dissimilar to the EU itself. It exists as a result of a treaty entered into by various separate sovereign nations, many (but not all) who have also signed up to the various treaties that underpin the EU.

And, like the EU and the European Commission, this makes the EPO effectively un-governable. Whilst it is in theory accountable to its member nations, it would take all of them to agree on a course of action if it's direction were to be forcibly changed, like sacking the head of the office.

The discussion surrounding BREXIT is fascinating. On the one hand there's a bunch of EU types promising a hard time for Britain, no trade deal, big divorce settlement, etc. On the either hand there's the German government who seemingly don't agree (they sell a lot of cars here), Sweden and Poland talking openly about having to do a deal with the UK, etc.

One way or other it's going to define who in Europe really pulls the strings; sovereign nations or the European Union / Commission? The treaties say that the nations have devolved many powers to the EU, including the power to arrange trade deals, but it's the member nations who have to decide on whether their (collective?) best interests are still being served by the EU. BREXIT is perhaps the first issue big enough to force all the member nations to truly, seriously consider that question. Here in the UK we're kinda dependent on them doing so.

Alas, the situation in the European Patent Office is so low down the list of priorities for the member nations of the EPO that it is unlikely it will be sorted out. This situation will continue to fester until the situation resolves itself "naturally", or until the Office has become so dysfunctional that politicians in the member nations are being badgered about problems with patents by companies in their own country.

Like many international treaties of this sort, there's very often little thought put into them to define what should happen when things go wrong, how indeed performance of the arrangements should be measured so as to know whether things are going wrong or not, etc. The treaties behind the Eurozone are classics of the genre, with nothing in them to define what happens when a member nation goes bust. Hence the improvised support for Greece, and soon Italy. Such ommissions in the Eurozone treaties were part of the reason why the British government ultimately deciding to not join in.

This always happens because when all the negotiators are sat in that one room talking about setting up the treaty, it's impolite to ask the awkward questions about "problems arising" which might be taken as an insult by others in the room. Appalling really.

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

This always happens because when all the negotiators are sat in that one room talking about setting up the treaty, it's impolite to ask the awkward questions about "problems arising" which might be taken as an insult by others in the room. Appalling really."

The same happens in business. The people at the top are often borderline psychopaths who can not only do no wrong but can't conceive of anything going wrong under their watch. And if it does go wrong, not only was it someone else's fault but it's not even a problem. It's just another "opportunity".

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

We're learning the hard way in the US that there really is a difference between business and politics. Ignoring Trump's numerous eccentricities for a moment what we have is someone used to sitting at the top of a business organization issuing diktats -- "You're Fired!" -- and having them obeyed without question. Or Else. Politics doesn't work like that, despite the superficial attractions of a dictatorship in reality being a leader is just being the chief cat herder. The EPO problem illustrates the fundamental problem with the EU -- what should be a federation of European states with well defined powers for the federal government is a sort of sloppily constructed business entity which spawns organizations that lack accountability and public control. The result may suit many, especially businesses, but it increasingly becomes an unwieldy dictatorship, one that lacks even a Big Brother to point the finger at.

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

@bazza

Thank you for your post. One of the more stimulating that I have read. Perhaps the first accurate assessment of the situation in and about Greater Europe that I have seen. Again, thank you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The EU seemingly can't get rid of him. Why?

There are plenty of ways of getting rid of him and the Italian Mafia are experts in most of them...

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Headmaster

Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

They bury the bodies with berries?

What kind of berries? Yew? African American? Raspberry? (....mmmm .... raspberry pie ...)

EMNTN etc etc

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

or maybe it's nothing to do with the EU

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Re: The EU seemingly can't get rid of him. Why?

or maybe it's nothing to do with the EU

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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

>The EU seemingly can't get rid of him. Why?

Ok now I'm confused. If the EPO is not an EU institution, the EU couldn't be expected to get rid of him.

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Battistelli crazy is the new batshit crazy and even seems to be outdoing certain politicians who will remain nameless. I have to wonder who's taking lessons from who here?

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Joke

Battistelli crazy is the new batshit crazy

If this daft dictator really thinks he has diplomatic immunity the answer's simple. Threaten to break off diplomatic relations and expel everyone from his offices.

If that doesn't work - declare war.

If the threat of war doesn't bring him to his senses, threaten to give his job to CRAPITA - and in true Trump style make him pay for it.

Maybe the only thing that will really shift him is deliberate official mockery. Or phenolphthalein in his tea.

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Anonymous Coward

This reminds me or Dolores Umbrage from Harry Potter.

Any chintz cushions in sight?

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Black Helicopters

Just wait...

In a few months time (when this particular news has blown over) we'll suddenly get some new positive stories about how much good work EPO is doing (I always thought EPO was illegal while cycling) and it'll probably soon followed by a bill.

Because this kind of quality obviously comes at a cost. These guys don't work for free you know.

And then a few months later you'll learn that it has all come to pass. Carefully kept outside the media.

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Einstein started as a patent attorney

And Hitler started as a house painter. Maybe the next genius to reshape physics is a house painter today, because this guy sure looks like he's in the driver's seat for being the next Hitler!

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Re: Einstein started as a patent attorney

...and Genrich Altshuller was a patent clerk sent to the Gulag by Stalin.

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"As far as anyone is aware none of Microsoft's patents have ever come in a folder marked "Top Secret"."

Can't speak for the EPO, but at a patent organisation I worked at some years back, they did indeed process some patents that were classified Top Secret. It's not unheard of for some genius to invent something, submit a patent for it only for the patent examiner to release it's for some novel weapons system or has defense implications and to forward it onto the DoD or DARPA or whoever and for them to decide to classify it. e.g. RADAR technologies, materials like Chobham armour, etc.

Just because something is Top Secret doesn't mean you can't get a patent on it. Companies that work in the defense industries will want patent coverage of anything they come up with, even if it's top secret, so that competitors can't build the same type of products.

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How can you be expected not to violate a patent if the patent is secret? Do you get to examine secret patents, to check if your development work may violate them, if you're cleared to work on defence projects?

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How can you be expected not to violate a patent if the patent is secret? Do you get to examine secret patents, to check if your development work may violate them, if you're cleared to work on defence projects?

Easy, you apply for the patent yourself and you'll be told that you've merely stumbled down the same avenue as someone else, now would you mind having a chat to these nice fellows about national security, the Official Secrets Act, etc, tea and biscuits provided.

Of course, the system relies on said inventor bothering to apply for the patent in the first place. If they simply just start flogging kit without bothering the patent office or the office that controls arms exports, then the nice chaps who talk about national security will pay the inventor a rather more urgent visit, probably late one night, definitely no tea-and-biscuits this time, followed by a possible prosecution concerning illegal arms / dual-use-items exports without a license.

Basically there's a whole load of laws governing what you can (fertiliser) and cannot (chemical weapons precursors) sell, and one cannot plead ignorance of those laws.

Of course, even governments don't necessarily patent everything they invent (can't trust those chaps in the patent office with everything). Rivest, Shamir and Adleman invented a public key encryption system, only to learn much later that Clifford Cocks at GCHQ had beaten them to it 4 years earlier, but GCHQ hadn't bothered doing anything with it.

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"Of course, the system relies on said inventor bothering to apply for the patent in the first place. If they simply just start flogging kit without bothering the patent office or the office that controls arms exports, then the nice chaps who talk about national security will pay the inventor a rather more urgent visit, probably late one night, definitely no tea-and-biscuits this time, followed by a possible prosecution concerning illegal arms / dual-use-items exports without a license."

You left out the key option - the defense contractor who DOES hold the patent will sue the arse off anyone who infringes (whether knowingly or not) before the government is even aware that someone might be breaching arms-trading laws...

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EPO must be paying ridiculously high wages

Why else would anyone still be working there?

Mind boggles that anyone would still be working for Battistelli.

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Re: EPO must be paying ridiculously high wages

Or maybe the employees normally like their jobs and are just waiting for Battistelli to be replaced.

I've worked in a couple of places where the management have a little difficulty realising that certain of their ilk are not fit for the job but unless they actually want to close the EPO then they will find a way of getting rid of this tosser.

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Re: EPO must be paying ridiculously high wages

@DownNotAcross

On the other hand, there will be much scope for promotion when he falls. The longer he is there the more damage to be repaired.

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The EPO is going cause serious poblems

A patent office with this much trouble is not one anyone in their right mind would consider trustworthy or reliable. This has serious consequences directly affecting science and technology progress and the secondary effect of affecting applied science and technology for commerce.

This problem needs to be fixed immediately. DO NOT let it become the USTPO.

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I hear a lot a bad things about "draconian" powers...

I have to wonder where the Draconians went, or what happened to them. There is probably a lessen in there for politicians and bureaucrats.

Personally, I'm hoping AI replacements progress quickly because we (at least) can program some logic into them.

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re. 'draconian'

It's a reference to Draco Malfoy, from the Harry Potter stories. It means to misuse your powers, arrogantly and for evil purposes in a place that isn't quite connected to reality.

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Re: re. 'draconian'

"It's a reference to Draco Malfoy, from the Harry Potter stories. It means to misuse your powers, arrogantly and for evil purposes in a place that isn't quite connected to reality."

Nice, and worthy of an upvote. For anyone who wants the non-alternative fact version, however, it's named after the first Greek legislator, Draco was a massive bellend, who hid his true agenda, got elected, and then made everything really terrible.

Absolutely no recent parallels there.

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|Eh?

more than 25 years ago my first McJob when I got to the big city was as a security guard on the front reception desk at an office building, starting at 6pm, with staff leaving over the next hour or two. We were trained to carry out random bag inspections, and we did sometimes carry them out too. I'm dead sure it was legal then because part of the training was a session on "these things are illegal, and if we catch you doing them we will hand you over to the police" (mostly about offensive weapons and use of force on suspects.) Seems unlikely the law's changed in that respect.

Personal phones, though, that's just outrageous and ridiculous, and they should carefully store that idea in the round file.

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Re: |Eh?

They did them in Belfast too, that was a security thing back then though (or at least that was the excuse) what with the IRA and their pesky urge to blow things up in both Belfast and actual UK cities.

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Heh

"The brakes on his bicycle were also cut while it was stored in the EPO's underground car park." Rules out the Sys Admins and other techies then.

Any fool with a BOFH brand knows that you don't cut the cables all the way through, you only cut them 3/4 through so that they work fine but fail when they're really needed and the rider is grabbing a handful to stop in a hurry (most likely to be during a dangerous situation).

Even a shiney from the training college PFY can get that right.

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