Special Report: Union Lawsuit Claims EPO Has Prevented It From Functioning; Office Claims Immunity11/07/2016 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch 2 CommentsDeteriorating relations between European Patent Office (EPO) management and staff union SUEPO have sparked another lawsuit in the district court in The Hague, Netherlands. The matter, which will be heard in a 15 July summary proceeding, alleges a pattern of threats, dismissals, suspensions from service and gagging of union members, said Prakken d’Oliveira attorney Liesbeth Zegveld, who represents SUEPO and its Dutch branch. Around one-third of union officials have been suspended, investigated or gagged, effectively preventing the union from functioning, she said in an interview.The lawsuits are just part of the ongoing turmoil affecting the EPO. Reform of the Boards of Appeal (BoA) has also proved controversial, and there are concerns about the reluctance of the Administrative Council to get a grip on the staff-management battle.The EPO said that, as an international organisation, it has immunity from such suits, as recently held by a German court. It defended its changes to the BoA, and announced an autumn conference for stakeholders to discuss an independent study on office social issues.