The Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation held its 163rd meeting in Munich on 30 June and 1 July 2020 under the chairmanship of its Chairman, Josef KRATOCHVÍL (CZ).
Due to the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, the meeting was held as the first-ever e-meeting of the Council. To this end, the Council amended its Rules of Procedures over the course of the spring. The Office, together with the Council Secretariat, also took several organisational, technical and IT measures within a short space of time to enable the e-meeting and facilitate new ways of working.
The Council noted the oral report given by its Chair on his activities. This covered the signature on 20 February 2020 of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council and the Office on the provision of reinforced support, the discussion of policies and measures taken by the Office in response to the pandemic, as well as the decision to move the 163rd meeting of the Council from March to June and hold it as an e-meeting. The Chairman also reported on the successful outcome of several written procedures carried-out in the spring.
The President of the European Patent Office, António CAMPINOS, reported on his activities in a video presentation. In line with the EPO's new reporting cycle in the context of its Strategic Plan SP2023, he presented the Annual Review 2019 together with five annexes: the Quality Report, Social Report, Engagement Report, Environmental Report, and the IT Report. The Office also briefed the Council on a staff survey conducted by an external consultant on working during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Council welcomed and praised the excellent results achieved by the EPO in 2019 and the impressive and timely response by the Office's management and staff to the challenges arising from the pandemic. It paid tribute to their engagement and to the President's management.
The Council also took note of the report by the Chairman of the Boards of Appeal Committee and the management report of the President of the Boards of Appeal, Carl JOSEFSSON, which had already been shared with delegates at a mock e-Council meeting on 25 March 2020. In a closed session, the Council also unanimously decided on appointments and re-appointments to and in the Boards of Appeal, as well as on the promotion and non-promotion of members of these boards.
This was followed by a review of financial matters. The Council firstly noted oral reports from the chairpersons of the Budget and Finance Committee and the Supervisory Board of the Reserve Funds for Pensions and Social Security, as well as a report by the Fund Administrator. The Council congratulated the RFPSS on the strong results achieved in very difficult circumstances and discharged the Fund Administrator's management for 2019.
The Office also presented a proposal to implement a bundle of six major measures to ensure its long-term sustainability. If all these measures realise their full potential, they could generate savings totalling EUR 6.4bn over a 20-year timeframe. This would cover the funding gap of EUR 5.8bn identified by a Financial Study commissioned by the Office in 2019. The Council signalled its unanimous support for the bundle, indicating general political support for the Office's prudent financial approach. Each measure - where relevant - is to be presented individually to the Council for its consideration. This was subsequently the case with CA/19/20, which proposed amendments to the procedure for adjusting the remuneration of EPO employees and was unanimously adopted.
The Council unanimously approved the accounts for 2019, together with the Board of Auditors' annual report on the 2019 accounting period and their unreserved audit opinion, and discharged the President of the Office. It also delivered a positive opinion on the initial 2021 budgetary orientations and welcomed the Office's cautious approach to financial planning given the bleak economic outlook. The Council also noted a statement from BusinessEurope on the necessity of monitoring the impact of decisions taken in today's uncertain economic climate.
Turning to legal and international affairs, the Council noted the report of the TOSC Chairman and unanimously approved the EPO's new co-operation policy and framework in line with the goals of SP2023. It also approved a mandate to conclude a working agreement on search co-operation with Albania and Croatia. Finally, it noted the reports delivered by Croatia and Germany, the countries holding the EU presidency in the first and second half of 2020 respectively, on the Unitary Patent, as well as the report by the Chairman of the Select Committee and an intervention by the EU.
Finally, the Council bid a fond farewell to Mr Per Foss, departing head of the Norwegian delegation, and congratulated Mr Leyder and Ms Vogelsang-Wenke on their re-appointment as President and Vice-president of the epi.