The boards of appeal, though integrated in the organisational structure of the EPO, are independent from the Office in their decisions and are bound only by the European Patent Convention.
There are currently 27 technical boards of appeal, plus the Legal Board of Appeal, the Enlarged Board of Appeal and the Disciplinary Board of Appeal. The members and chairmen are appointed for a term of five years.
The technical boards of appeal and the Legal Board examine appeals from the decisions of the receiving, examining, legal and opposition divisions of the Office. Details of the division of technical fields between the individual boards can be found in the "Business distribution scheme" documents in the Law & practice section of our website. Work is allocated according to the International Patent Classification.
To ensure uniform application of the law, or if an important point of law arises, a question can be referred to the Enlarged Board of Appeal, either by a board of appeal or by the President of the Office.
The Disciplinary Board of Appeal hears appeals against decisions of the epi Disciplinary Committee and the EPO Disciplinary Board on infringement of the rules of conduct for professional representatives before the EPO. The Disciplinary Board also deals with appeals against decisions of the EQE Examination Board and Secretariat.
The boards of appeal currently receive about 2 500 new cases per year and settle about 2 000 cases. The public is informed about the decisions of the boards via the European Patent Register and the Official Journal of the EPO; a database of decisions is also available online and on DVD in the ESPACE Legal series. A systematic overview is published regularly under the title "Case Law of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office".