In the course of 2006 the EPO's boards of appeal registered 2 003 new cases, a 19% increase on the year before (2005: 1 684), and they settled 1 599 appeals (2005: 1 499). That brought the number of appeals filed since the EPO was established to 25 838, of which 22 025 have been settled. Fig. 1
The technical boards received 1 967 new appeals (2005: 1 625) and settled 1 553 cases (2005: 1 432). At the end of the year, 734 appeals had been pending for over two years, a 3% improvement (2005: 753). The number of new PCT protests filed with the technical boards was slightly up on the year before, 29 compared with 27, and 24 cases were settled. Fig. 2
Eighteen new appeals were brought before the Legal Board of Appeal (2005: 20), and 26 cases were settled (2005: 36), while the Disciplinary Board of Appeal received 15 new appeals (2005: 38) and settled 20 cases (2005: 27).
In 2006 there were three new referrals to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (2005: 1), but no outstanding cases were settled (2005: 4). Thus there are currently four cases pending before the Enlarged Board.
In cases G 1/05, G 3/06 and G 1/06, technical boards of appeal have referred questions concerning the validity of divisional applications. The question in G 1/05 is whether a divisional application which at its filing date extended beyond the content of the earlier application as filed can be amended in order to meet the requirements of Article 76(1) EPC, while the issue in G 3/06 is whether a patent granted on a divisional application having the same deficiency can be amended in order to overcome the ground of opposition under Article 100(c) EPC. G 1/06 is about how the requirements of Article 76(1) EPC are to be interpreted in the case of a sequence of divisional applications, each divided from its predecessor.
In the fourth pending case, G 2/06, the questions referred by a technical board concern the exclusion from patentability of human embryonic stem cell cultures prepared by a method which necessarily involves the destruction of the human embryos from which the cultures are derived.
When the EPC 2000 enters into force on 13 December 2007, the Enlarged Board will take on the new task of examining petitions for review of board of appeal decisions under Article 112a EPC in cases where fundamental procedural defects are alleged. Its Rules of Procedure have been amended to incorporate this new task.