Greater independence and improved efficiency for the EPO’s Boards of Appeal

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1 July 2016

In a landmark decision, the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation agreed to reform its Boards of Appeal (BoA) within the framework of the European Patent Convention.

Approved with an overwhelming majority of votes the member states of the European Patent Organisation accepted a comprehensive reform proposal of the Office to strengthen the perception of the BoA's independence, in particular by increasing their managerial autonomy, and to improve their efficiency. The BoA  is the body that takes decisions on appeals against decisions of the European Patent Office concerning European patent applications and European patents.

"The decision taken yesterday finally achieves a reform of the EPO's appeal system which was envisaged for many years. After two attempts of reform which failed in 1995 and 2004, this is a historic achievement", EPO President Battistelli said. "Increasing both the perception of independence and the efficiency of the BOA is essential for securing trust and confidence in the EPO's appeal system and for maintaining its long-term sustainability", the EPO President explained.

Under the reform the current BoA will be restructured into a Boards of Appeal Unit within the EPO managed by a President of the Boards of Appeal - a new position -, who is solely responsible to the Administrative Council and not to the EPO President. A newly created subsidiary committee of the Administrative Council, the Boards of Appeal Committee (BoAC), will create a link between the BoA and the Administrative Council and advise the President of the Boards of Appeal on managerial and organisational issues, including general guidance on performance of the BoA.

The EPO President will delegate to the President of the Boards of Appeal all managerial powers relating to the Boards of Appeal Unit. The President of the Boards of Appeal will also serve as Chairman of the Enlarged Board of Appeal. The reform moreover aims to increase the cost coverage of the BoA within the next years mainly by increasing the efficiency of the BoA.

The institutional reform will be accompanied by a specific career system for the members and chairmen of the BoA, and a new location in Munich for the Boards of Appeal Unit with a separate building. Moreover, new provisions relating to post-service employment of BoA members and chairmen take into account the need to safeguard the integrity of the EPO's appeal system by preventing any risk of potential conflicts of interest.

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