2.1. Notices of self-recusation

Under Art. 24(2) EPC, if, for one of the reasons mentioned in Art. 24(1) EPC, or for any other reason, a member of the Enlarged Board of Appeal considers that he should not take part in any appeal, he shall inform the Board accordingly.

In G 1/05 of 7 December 2006 (OJ 2007, 362) a member of the Enlarged Board of Appeal informed it that she ought not to be taking part in the referral, since one of the opponents in the underlying case was represented by the law firm in which her husband and her son were partners. The Enlarged Board held that if a member of a board of appeal in a notice of withdrawal under Art. 24(2) EPC 1973 gave a ground which could by its nature constitute a possible ground for an objection of partiality, that ground should normally be respected by the decision on replacement of the board member concerned because it could be expected that the member submitting the notice knew best whether or not a possible suspicion of partiality might arise.

In J 15/04 the board noted that board members' notices of self‑recusation did not automatically effect their final exclusion from the proceedings (see also R 2/15 of 21 October 2015, T 1627/09 of 14 September 2018). A notice of self-recusation only initiated the procedure under Art. 24(4) EPC 1973 but did not pre-empt the outcome of the decision to be taken. If one accepted that a notice of self-recusation would immediately and automatically exclude the member concerned, then the party's formal right to a hearing before a duly appointed member of the board as established by the EPC would be violated. The board stated that the grounds of possible partiality given by a board member in a notice of self-recusation should normally be respected by the decision. It could be expected that the member submitting a notice of self-recusation based on specific facts knew best whether or not a possible suspicion of partiality might arise. The public or a party should not suspect bias after a decision of a board of appeal finding no grounds of suspicion of partiality (see also T 584/09 of 1 March 2013).

In R 2/15 of 21 October 2015 the Enlarged Board held that in the case of a party's objection under Art. 24(3), first sentence, EPC (see in this chapter III.J.2.3.) it had to be established that there was subjective partiality or at least an appearance of partiality (objective partiality). In the case of self-recusation, however, it was sufficient that an appearance of partiality was at least arguable in the circumstances of the case.

In T 1627/09 of 14 September 2018 the board accepted the notices of recusation submitted by both the chair and the legal member of the board in accordance with Art. 24(2) EPC. They had both formed part of the board in T 1627/09 of 10 October 2013 (decision set aside by R 2/14 of 22 April 2016, which ordered the proceedings be re-opened) and they held that if they remained as members of the board, they would have to decide for a second time on the same issues. The board referred to the jurisprudence of the boards of appeal mentioned above in this chapter and held further that this was in accordance with Art. 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Art. 47(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR), both recognised as binding standards for proceedings before the boards. The board referred to the case law of the ECtHR on Art. 6(1) ECHR that only under very exceptional circumstances a notice of self-recusation shall not lead to a replacement (cf., inter alia, European Court of Human Rights, Rudnichenko v. Ukraine, no. 2775/07). As an example of national case law that followed the same lines the board referred to Austrian Supreme Court 4 Ob 186/11y EFSlg 131.987).

Quick Navigation