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EPO – Structural Reform of the Boards of Appeal

14 Dec 2015

New proposals of the President of the EPO urge the Administrative Council to move the Boards to Vienna – Members of the Boards consider the proposed changes as detrimental to independence

Following a public consultation on first proposals of the President of the EPO for a structural reform of the Boards of Appeal (BoA), the President presented a further orientation paper on this topic (Doc. CA/98/15). In reaction, the Presidium of the Boards of Appeal wrote a letter to the members of the Administrative Council of the EPO (AC) complaining that the Presidium was not properly consulted and that the proposed measures did not achieve the declared aim of increasing the Boards autonomy. The letter was published by IPKat on December 4, 2015.

Before the meeting of the AC in which the President’s proposal will be discussed in the course of this week, the Association of the Members of the Boards of Appeal (AMBA) raises its voice and makes even more critical comments. According to AMBA, the new proposals manifestly take no account of AMBA’s submissions, despite assurances that they would be reflected in any proposal. Furthermore, they take no account of the comments of the AC members in the Council meeting of March, or of the user survey results; rather it misrepresents them.  All the changes are said to be detrimental to both actual and perceived independence. Instead they place considerably more power in the hands of the President of the Office.

A particularly sensitive point is the proposed integration of the Board members into the career system of the Office since judicial independence and security of tenure is incompatible with re-appointment based on performance. As to the relocation of the BoA to Vienna, strongly suggested by the President, AMBA notes that a move outside Munich appears to be against the Convention. In summary, AMBA appeals to the AC to stop any ad-hoc interim measures that impede the BoA’s functioning. In this respect, it may be added that the stop on recruitment since decision R 19/12 results in 7 of the 28 Boards lacking a chairman at the end of 2015 and corresponding percentages of unoccupied posts of legally and technically qualified members.

Read the AMBA paper at here.
Read document CA/98/15 here.