The Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation held its 165th meeting as an e-meeting on 15 and 16 December 2020 under its Chairperson, Josef KRATOCHVÌL (CZ).
The Council noted the activities report of its Chairperson, as well as the reports of the respective chairpersons of the Boards of Appeal Committee (BoAC), the Committee on Patent Law (CPL), the Technical and Operational Steering Committee (TOSC), the Supervisory Board of the Reserve Funds on Pension and Social Security (RFPSS SB), the Supervisory Board of the Academy (A/SB), and the deputy chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC).
The President of the European Patent Office, António CAMPINOS, provided the Council with an extensive oral report on the Office's achievements in 2020 under each of the five main goals of the Strategic Plan 2023. He highlighted the prudent, long-term approach taken by the Office in the COVID-19 situation to ensure business continuity while moving towards a "New Normal." The Council expressed its deep appreciation for the Office's clear reporting of the results achieved under challenging circumstances and transmitted its warmest thanks to all staff.
Turning to 2021, the Council gave a unanimous favourable opinion to the EPO's Annual Work Plan for 2021 (CA/105/20), which was presented as a blueprint that may evolve over time in view of changes brought by the pandemic. It also approved the orientations for recruitment in 2021.
The agenda also included several highly important items, including the:
Improvement of the framework for the working agreements on search co-operation between the EPO and National Patent Offices of the European Patent Network (EPN), and extension of support for SMEs, universities, research centres and individual inventors;
Adoption of the first two recommendations on convergence of practices within the EPN on the examination of unity of invention and the designation of inventor (as well as corresponding amendments to Rules 19 and 143 EPC for the latter);
Amendment to the implementing regulations (Rules 117 and 118 EPC) allowing the taking of evidence by videoconference;
Positive developments regarding the ratification process of the Unified Patent Court Agreement in Germany and the call of the chairperson of the Select Committee to complete quickly the ratification of the Protocol on Provisional Application.
Turning to budgetary and financial matters, the Council unanimously approved the Organisation's EUR 2.5 bn budget for 2021, as well as the adjustment of salaries and other elements of the remuneration of employees of the European Patent Office and of pensions paid by the Office (+0.5% on average). The Council also approved the transfer from the Office's treasury to the Reserve Fund for Pensions and to the Salary Savings Plan of EUR 125m and almost EUR 2m respectively.
Finally, the Council took the following decisions on individual positions:
Re-appointment of Mr. Carl JOSEFSSON (SE) as the President of the Boards of Appeal and to his judicial functions with effect from 1 March 2022 for another five-year term;
Appointment of Mr. VIHER (EE) as Deputy Chair of the Budgetary and Finance Committee for a three year mandate;
Appointment of Mr SØRENSEN (DK) as member of the Board of the Administrative Council for a three year mandate;
Re-appointment of Sir MAHONEY, Mr VAN HOUTTE, Mr JANSEN, respectively as chair and vice-chairs for the next 3 years, and Ms FALCE and Mr MANTERE as members of the Appeals Committee of the Council for the next 2 years.
The Council also decided on the appointments, re-appointments and promotions of several members and chairpersons of the Boards of Appeal, based on proposals by the President of the Boards of Appeal and on his consultation or recommendations on proposals from the Chairperson of the Council.
Lastly, the Council bid a fond farewell to Mr KAUFHOLD and Ms FOSS, departing heads of the Luxemburgish and Norwegian delegations respectively.
The Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation held its 164th meeting in digital format on 13 October 2020 with Josef KRATOCHVÌL (CZ) as Chair.
The Council noted the detailed report given by the President of the European Patent Office, António CAMPINOS, on his activities. Following a broad exchange of views, the Council expressed its deep appreciation of the Office's achievements in the current exceptional circumstances. The progress made with regard to the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2023 was particularly welcomed, as well as the excellent results in efficiency and transparency in all areas. Moreover, the Council expressed its keen interest in the presentation of the analysis following the recent survey on "Shaping the new normal". It noted the progress of the ratification procedure of the Unified Patent Court Agreement in Germany.
The Council also noted the report of the President of the Boards of Appeal (BOA) covering all main aspects of the boards' activities for the first 6 months of 2020 and praised the BOA's successful achievements.
The Council further noted the report from the Chair of the Boards of Appeal's Committee on its 9th meeting.
The Council took a number of decisions on individual positions. It appointed Pascal FAURE (FR) as chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee, re-appointed Michel LIND (NL) as external member and chair, as well as Martin Paul WAGNER (CH) as external member of the Supervisory Board of the RFPSS. It also re-appointed Jérémie FENICHEL (FR) as member of the Supervisory Board of the Academy and decided on appointments and reappointments to the Boards of Appeal.
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.
The EPO's President and the Chairman of the Administrative Council have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on enhancing support for the Council.
The MoU reflects the growing diversity and complexity of the tasks performed by the Council in recent years. It will help us to achieve even higher governance standards in line with Goal 5 Key Initiative 1 of SP2023 and follows the Council's positive opinion expressed in December 2019 (CA/106/19).
The Council Secretariat features prominently in the MoU. It will benefit from greater access to Office services, and especially to DG5's legal expertise. In sensitive cases, the MoU underlines that the Council can request specialised external legal support too. Its Chairman will also be directly involved in Secretariat staff matters in the future.
The MoU reaffirms that the Office will bear the costs of the Council's various activities, as set out in Article 32 EPC.
Commenting on the MoU, President Campinos said: "This agreement marks another milestone on the road to even higher governance standards. It gives the Council all the resources it needs to exercise its functions effectively. We will nevertheless continue to seek new opportunities to further improve governance and efficiency as part of SP2023."
Council Chairman Kratochvíl also welcomed the agreement: "This MoU was prepared in close co-operation with the President of the Office and the President of the Boards of Appeal and was supported by the Council. For me, it strikes the right balance and provides the Council with the additional support that delegates expected. I look forward to its implementation."