The Annexes are illuminating. Annex 1 is the timeline for the changes to be introduced, by 1 January 2016. Merpel notes how little time there is for debate, consultation, or indeed any alteration of the proposals.
Statistics BOA (1)
The EPO BOA consist of 28 Technical Boards (TBOA), 1 Legal Board, the Disciplinary Board and the Enlarged Board (EBOA). The work of the TBOA is allocated according to technical areas and subject-matter (based on the IPC classification). Staffing levels have been stable (2014: 167 members, 2015: 177 members – CA/50/14, page 181), as has the number of appeals settled per member or chair per year: around 13 (or around 9 not counting withdrawals). The work involved in technical appeals relies very much on the rapporteur, who is a technically qualified member. The number of technical appeals settled per technically qualified member per year is around 21 (or around 14 not counting withdrawals). The cases are dealt with by experts in the respective technical areas, working in the language of the proceedings (English, French or German) without any need for translation. The average duration of technical appeals in 2014 was 34.3 months (+8.2% compared with 2013).
Statistics of other courts
At the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which currently has 28 judges at both the General Court (GC) and the Court of Justice (CJ), the number of cases dealt with in 2014 (2) was 719 by the CJEU and 814 by the GC.
The average duration of proceedings was:
- at the CJ (2014): 14,5 months for appeals, 15 months for referrals for preliminary rulings, and 20 months for direct actions;
- at the GC (2013): 13.9 months for appeals, 18.7 months for intellectual property cases (Community trademarks and designs), and 24.9 months for other direct actions (see the CJEU's Annual report 2013, at www.curia.europa.eu).
Neither the CJ nor the GC is a specialised court; they both deal with a wide variety of fields of law. Furthermore, the proceedings can be in any one of the EU's 24 official languages, but the CJEU's working language is French. As a result, translations have to be done (from the language of the proceedings into French and then back into the language of the proceedings), which delays the proceedings accordingly.
At the end of 2013, according to its annual report, the German Bundespatentgericht (Federal Patent Court) had 117 judges who dealt with 2 320 cases altogether. The average duration of proceedings was 23.56 months for nullity cases.
(Footnote 1) Data provided by DG3 – on TBOA cases only.
(Footnote 2) Data from the CJEU (www.curia.europa.eu), Annual Report 2013 and Press Release No 27/15 of 3.3.2015.
Annex 3 sets out the proposed governance chart for the Boards of Appeal under the new proposals.
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