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Unitary patent system & EPO strikes – answers from the European Parliament

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EU flagBack in June IPcopy noted that there were three questions pending in front of the European Parliament from Marc Tarabella (Member of the European Parliament – see his biography here) that related to the unitary patent system. There was also a fourth question regarding relations between the EPO and the EU from another Member of the EU Parliament.

Answers to these questions were recently posted and are highlighted below.

Questions 1 – 3 – (1. link; 2. link ; 3. link)

The questions raised by Mr Tarabella all appeared to riff on the same general theme of bifurcation within the unitary patent system.  The European Parliament seemed to think so as well and issued a single response as follows:

Joint answer given by Mr Barnier on behalf of the Commission
Written questions :E-005062/14 , E-005064/14 , E-005065/14

The questions raised by the Honourable Member concern the on-going work on the creation of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and all raise similar concerns.

The Commission respectfully refers the Honourable Member to its reply to Written Question E-012200/13 and notes again that the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC) is an agreement concluded under international law and which, as such, is not part of EC law. As concerns the conditions for the granting of preliminary injunctions in the procedure before the UPC, in the abovementioned reply the Commission already provided the relevant factual information. In addition to that, the Commission may only reiterate that the Rules of Procedure in respect of the questions raised by the Honourable Member must provide for the requisite legal certainty. As to the measures taken by the court, they will have inter alia to comply with the basic principles of fairness, equitable treatment and proportionality.

Question 4

Nikolaos Chountis‘  question related to the functioning of the EPO and the right to strike/right to union representation. The question and the answer posted in reply to this question are noted below:

Q: Relations between the European Union and the European Patent Office

According to reports in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the administration of the European Patent Office has adopted internal operating rules that, inter alia, call into question basic democratic and trade union rights, such as the right to strike and the right to union representation. More specifically, according to the newspaper, workers’ right to strike is subject to the approval of the head of the European Patent Office, an arrangement that essentially abolishes any union freedom.

Given that the European Patent Office has a special and unique legal status and also has specific institutional relations with the European Union, will the Commission say:
1. Can it confirm these reports? [We think the newspaper report referred to in the question was this one.]
2. What is the regime governing relations between the European Patent Office and the European Union? What opportunities does it have to ensure that this unacceptable anti-labour regime finally ceases?

A: Answer given by Mr Barnier on behalf of the Commission

1. The Commission is aware of the press reports concerning the changes in the internal rules of the European Patent Office (EPO) affecting inter alia the staff representation. The Commission, however, is not in a position to assess the content of these reports as the EPO is a body of the European Patent Organisation — an international organisation established by the European Patent Convention (EPC) and entirely separate from the European Union. The privileges and immunities of the employees of the EPO are defined in Article 8 of the EPC and the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities annexed to the EPC. Further internal rules establishing the conditions of employment within the EPO also apply.

2. The European Union is an observer at the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation but the relations between the two organisations are not governed by any formal agreement.

The Commission strongly believes in active social policy and of course expects full respect of all employment rights at all times.

Mark Richardson 24 July 2014

 


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