The European Patent Office, also known as the EPO, is witnessing a power struggle between its tough-minded French president, Benoît Battistelli, and the employee organization SUEPO. The battle of wills is escalating in the run-up to Wednesday’s crisis session of the organization’s administrative council.
In an interview with Handelsblatt, Mr. Battistelli accused a senior SUEPO figure, Elizabeth Hardon, of running a campaign of defamation. “She intimidated elected staff representatives,” he said. “In some cases people were even threatened with violence.”
At the beginning of the year, Ms. Hardon, an EPO patent examiner, was fired at Mr. Battistelli’s insistence. Internal investigations, he said, had revealed severe breaches of EPO staff regulations. As part of the investigations, an Irish patent judge was also suspended from his position after two truncheons were discovered in his office, in addition to Nazi propaganda pamphlets. Ms. Hardon’s lawyer, who also represents the unnamed Irish judge, denies the accusations against both, calling them “invented allegations.”
The administrative council had asked Mr. Battistelli to defuse the conflict at the Patent Office, one of Europe’s most lavishly funded administrative organizations. But the president, who has been restructuring the office to cut runaway costs and speed up patent processing times, has refused to allow the trade union SUEPO to exercise a veto over his decisions. He insisted Ms. Hardon’s dismissal must stand.
SUEPO has responded by calling for a protest demonstration outside Wednesday’s council meeting in Munich.