Friday 21 March 2014

Strikes are in the air -- but not for us

"Unrest at the EPO -- strikes are in the air" is the title of blog-of-the-week from the IPKat's enthusiastic companion Merpel. At the time of composing this piece, Merpel's post has been viewed by thousands of readers and has received getting on for 60 readers' comments. Many express a large degree of whatever the absence of sympathy is for the European Patent Office employees who are intent upon industrial (in)action.

Some sectors of the IP community do not strike, the most obvious of which is the band of self-employed and small-scale IP private practitioners. With no employer (or no large, well-endowed and well-resourced employer) to whom one can make one's demands and/or threaten to withhold one's labour, solos and their colleagues just have to get on with their work as best they can. The reality is that they can't withhold their labour even when they're not working. How many times have holidays, family outings, precious leisure breaks and moments of intimacy been shattered by the intrusion of a client's call? How many times has the recipient of such a call made a swift calculation as to whether it's better (i) to tell the client to get lost or call back later or (ii) meekly pretend that he's been looking forward to the call all along?

The truth, it seems, is that medical practitioners, religious and spiritual leaders, parents of small children and solo IP practitioners are truly never off duty and have no chance, rightly or wrongly, to withhold their labour ...


  1. Is there a human right to strike and are solo practitioners deprived of it in someway. This seems to be Jeremy's suggestion. It is also sad to see so many unsympathetic comments on the ipkat site. The EPO contains a very large number of highly intelligent people. It needs to work like a community. Maybe, they should import some monks to temper this hotbed of individuals and mould them towards a more collegiate and cooperative spirit. They have an important job to do. They need to love each other and we need to show them a little more love

  2. Like other sole practitioners and owners of small firms, I have many bosses instead of one.

    I do, on occasion, strike.

    That means to say, that unless a client settles his bills, I will do no further work.

    I also sometimes 'go slow', for similar reasons. I prioritize other clients.

    If I fancy a day off, I just take it, workload permitting.

    I don't know the ins and outs of the EPO strike, but think that the EPO staff have a vey attractive tax status and their job description and terms compare favorably to those of patent office staff elsewhere. Certainly, it is better than that of Israel examiners.

    If there is a human right to strike, it is limited to employees. Anyone self-employed complaining about not being able to strike is a little like the campaigning for the rights of men to have babies in Life of Brian.

    The problem, in my opinion, is the scam perpetrated by large IP firms that rather than employ patent attorneys, pretend that they are self employed and have them giving tax invoices for payments. Those poor souls are denied the benefits of being employees whilst not enjoying the benefits of being self employed.

  3. Of course IP solo practitioners also have the benefit of not having to take holidays to suit others (and can take as many as their bank balance allows?).

  4. that last comment was not written by a solo practitioner. There is nothing like planning a holiday to make a new interesting and lucrative client appear on the horizon