Anti-EPO demo attracts 2,000, union member has ‘nervous breakdown’


Anti-EPO demo attracts 2,000, union member has ‘nervous breakdown’

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Around 2,000 people attended a demonstration yesterday at the European Patent Office (EPO) against the suspension of four members of the staff’s union.

The demonstration, outside the EPO’s Isar building in Munich, followed the suspension of Elizabeth Hardon, chair of the Staff Union of the European Patent Office’s (SUEPO) Munich branch, as well as three other union representatives.

Yesterday, November 18, board members of the Administrative Council (AC) met to discuss the “social situation” at the EPO amid a dispute between management and SUEPO.

Jesper Kongstad, chair of the AC, has allegedly implied previously that his organisation is looking to resume “trilateral talks” between EPO management, the AC and SUEPO.

However, SUEPO has said that “meaningful discussions” cannot happen while the four members remain suspended.

The EPO told WIPR yesterday that the four members were suspended because they had subjected high-ranking officials to “personal attacks” and harassment.

The demonstration follows allegations that members of SUEPO left a meeting with EPO management at The Hague office needing “medical treatment”.

According to a SUEPO leaflet dated November 16, one member left the meeting “visibly shaken” and “appeared to have suffered a nervous breakdown”.

Another member left the meeting, which took place on November 13, “noticeably distressed”.

SUEPO said it is unclear why the meeting took place, but stated it believes the discussion was in relation to its duties.

“Staff representatives and union officials should be able to perform their statutory tasks without the danger of reprisal, much less danger to their health ... Criminal endangerment of the health of staff members is a clear violation to the office’s duty of care and amounts to crossing a line,” SUEPO said.

SUEPO has confirmed it will host another demonstration on December 10, the 67th anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

See here for the EPO's response to the allegations.


EPO; SUEPO; patents; European Patent Office; Staff Union of the European Patent Office