Reports on meetings of the Administrative Council
Report on the 120th meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (8 to 11 December 2009)
The Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation held its 120th meeting in Munich from 8 to 11 December 2009, with Alberto Casado Cerviño (ES) presiding. [At its 118th meeting, in June 2009, the Council had temporarily released its chairman and deputy chairman from their respective offices with effect from 1 July 2009, and appointed Mr Casado Cerviño as interim chairman with effect from the same date].
The Council noted its chairman's oral activities report. It then noted the President's activities report – also presented orally – for the second half of 2009, and congratulated Alison Brimelow and all EPO staff on the Office's good results in 2009. These, it felt, were clearly due in part to the work being done to establish real social partnership at the Office; the Council encouraged her to continue with it in 2010. It also noted with satisfaction that rigorous management had enabled the Office to contain costs, thereby alleviating the negative effects of the global economic crisis on its finances.
Next, the Council exchanged information about trends in business at national offices and the EPO.
One major agenda item was the election of Ms Brimelow's successor as EPO President. The procedure initiated in June 2009 was resumed, but did not reach a conclusion. However, the Council decided to try again with the same procedure and candidates – apart from Jesper Kongstad (DK), who announced during the meeting that he was withdrawing – at an extraordinary meeting on 2 and 3 February 2010. In view of Mr Kongstad's withdrawal, the Council noted that the conditions which had led it in June 2009 to appoint an interim chairman had ceased to exist; it therefore reinstated Mr Kongstad as deputy chairman with effect from 1 January 2010. Also, recognising that prolonged uncertainty about the election of a new EPO President could have undesirable consequences, the Council mandated its chairman to extend Ms Brimelow's contract for a period of not more than six months. It also noted Ms Brimelow's assurance that, in the event of an early decision concerning her successor, she would leave the Office before the end of that six-month period.
Turning to further EPO senior management issues, the Council decided to extend the contract of Thomas Hammer (DE) as Vice-President for Directorate-General 1, for a period starting on 1 January 2010 and ending when a new Vice-President DG 1 took up his duties, or on 31 December 2010 at the latest. It also appointed Wim van der Eijk (NL) as Vice-President for Directorate-General 5 from 1 January 2010, on the understanding that he would serve in that capacity until such time as a new Vice-President DG 5 was appointed, or until 31 December 2010 at the latest.
The Council agreed to epi's request for observer status on the Technical and Operational Support Committee. It then appointed Viktor Cyprus (AT), Geoffrey Drage (GB), Paul Ernst (DE) and Wim Schellekens (NL) as members of its Audit Committee for three-year terms with effect from 1 January 2010. It also appointed Jürgen Schade (DE), Don Mildenhall (GB) and Sean Fitzpatrick (IE) as members of its Performance Committee for the period 1 January to 31 December 2010, and elected Otto Scharff (NO) as deputy member of the Supervisory Board of the Academy of the European Patent Organisation for a three-year term with immediate effect. Lastly, it appointed Rolf Stefan Wibergh (SE) as chairman of a board of appeal and technically qualified member of the Enlarged Board of Appeal with effect from 1 January 2010, and Lukas Christian Bühler (CH/DE) as legally qualified member of the boards of appeal with effect from a date between 1 January and 1 July 2010 to be agreed between Mr Bühler and the President.
On legal and international affairs, the Council heard an oral report from the delegation of Sweden, holder of the rotating EU presidency for the second half of 2009, and expressed particular satisfaction at significant recent developments auguring well for the eventual establishment of a single patent for the EU (hitherto: "Community patent") and a new EU court system for patent litigation in Europe. It also noted information given by the delegation of Spain, the country taking over the EU presidency on 1 January 2010, about expected further developments on this issue. In the same context, the Council noted an oral report from Lex Kaufhold (LU), one of the three co-chairmen of the Working Party on Litigation, on the latter's 14th meeting, held in Munich on 9 December 2009.
The Council concluded that the work regarding the possible introduction of a system of deferred examination should not be pursued further for the time being.
The Council was informed that Albania would be joining the European Patent Organisation in the first few months of 2010. It also authorised the President to enter into negotiations on a validation agreement with the Kingdom of Morocco.
The Council took a number of staff-related decisions, and in particular approved amended conditions of employment for EPO contract staff. It was also briefed on the Office's thinking about health-insurance reform and moving from pay-as-you-go to a funded scheme.
Lastly, the Council heard a report from the President on regional workshops organised as part of the discussions on fee reform and sustainable financing of the European patent system initiated in spring 2009. It then approved the Office's business plan for 2010-2014, adopted the 2010 budget (amounting to EUR 1 622 480 000) and table of posts, and approved the financial plan for 2011-2014.