Alison Brimelow to step down

Via Intellectual Asset Management's IAM Blog comes news that the European Patent Office President, Alison Brimelow, will not stand for re-election when her current term expires at the end of June 2010. President since July 2007, Brimelow is reported to be unhappy at the quantity of politics that has invaded her senior administrative job description.

Formerly head of the UK's Patent Office, Brimelow earned a reputation as a firm but fair leader. At the EPO she has had to deal with protracted arguments over what to do about the unprecedented backlog of unexamined patent applications, as well as calls for the clarification, extension and abolition of the computer program "as such" exception to patentability.
Alison Brimelow to step down Alison Brimelow to step down Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, May 06, 2009 Rating: 5


  1. It is also a worrying sign that for several months already two vice-presidents posts are filled ad-interim and that the adminitrative council seems unable to agree on suitable candidates. Hoepfully the next president will be elected for at least five years, not as the couple Pompidou/Brimelow (three years each), so that some continuity is assured.

  2. In addition, a further vice-president mandate finishes this year. Which amounts to 4 top posts at the EPO requiring candidates with sufficient political support.

  3. This doesn't come entirely as a surprise: she's said to have some health trouble. Also, after the tortuous compromise between France and Britain six years ago, it'd have been tough to make the French accept her for five more years.

    Nevertheless, I find it a bit naïve to complain about politics invading the EPO president's "senior administrative job description". Since the EPO president has to deal with an Administrative Council made up of representatives of the EPO's direct competitors, EPO presidents have always needed Macchiavellian political skills more than anything else. Her two direct predecessors certainly were extremely smooth political operators. Brimelow possibly knows more about patents and their administration that the two of them put together, but she's definitely much more uncomfortable with the rather serpentine politics in and around the EPO.

    Now the question is, who will replace her? Since the three last presidents were, respectively, German, French and British, I guess that the next one will have to come from a "small" country.

  4. Leaving aside inter-country politics, let us hope that the new president has the courage and drive to make the EPO more pro entrepreneur. We need to encourage innovators and make it easier (cheaper, quicker) for them to get protection and thus investment based on it to dig us all out of recession. The recent EPO changes (punitive claims fees, harsher approach to inventive step without legal basis, motivating refusals with double points for examiners, procedural and searching issues) have added costs and hurdles to applicants. What we need is for the process to be easier and cheaper for applicants, with "protection of the public" being achieved by investing creatively in searching resources so that examiners have the information they need to reject applications for objectively sound reasons where appropriate, rather than creating adminstrative and procedural hurdles to discourage applicants somewhat arbitrarily. Whether the likelihood of a prospective candidate making this happen will feature highly in the consideration, I do not know.

  5. Well, whoever becomes president will need to take back control of the EPO from the Administrative Council which was lost by Pompidou and has been a constant problem for Alison Brimelow. Whatever else we might say about those gentlemen, Paul Braendli and Ingo Kober made it quite clear who was running the shop. Since Grossenbacher became ascendant, now followed by his acolyte Battistelli, the president has had to fight hard to retain any semblance of authority.

  6. I am sad for the leaving of the current President. I hoped that she could change the EPO, let the people work harder, fight nepotism and favoritism for relatives or friends in the selection of the personal and in the determination of the careers, and finally reduce the influence of the germans. The situation of the office is a mess. The time for procecution and opposition proceeding have not essential improved. For what the people know and do, they are really overpaid.
    Sometimes I think we need a political responsability for the EPO, a political control.

  7. @anonymous:
    "For what the people know and do, they are really overpaid."

    Can you elaborate a bit, for those with less inside knowledge ?
    The impression I have from their recruitment page is that the level of skill and language knowledge required are quite high.

  8. @anonymous 3:26 PM:

    Your contribution is not even wrong (here)

  9. “Brimelow earned a reputation as a firm but fair leader.”

    Not to mention her reputation as someone willing to at least try to understand the rationale for the patent system in the first place and to look at the economic theory and evidence and actual real world performance (and effects) of that system.

    Hardly surprising if the friction of such radical ideas rubbing up against the intellectually bankrupt ideology of some of her peers and colleagues has made her unhappy. :P

  10. Ms Brimelow is the primary victim of the EPO's huge success over the last 30 years. Her employers, the Administrative Council, are the Offices that compete with the EPO, so they grumble. When folks take employment at the EPO, they don't expect the sorts of pressure on their performance to which those in private industry are subject, so they grumble.

    But when she goes, we will all be secondary victims. I expect as her successor a politician, whose main skill is never to give offence to anybody. Stagnation follows. Embarrassment therafter, taking over from the pride we have all felt, up to now, at the great success of the EPO.

  11. M3,
    Sorry, but her replacement will lack political equanimity, be a former national patent office head and be a decentraliser with more than a little institutional bias to his/her national patent office. Pick your member state...

  12. Thank you for the obstruction of the Community Patent. Thank you very much, Mrs. Brimelow.

  13. Anonymous@9:25

    Actually, the only redeeming feature of the AC is that, since every member looks mainly for his/her own short-term self-interest, a candidate with too strong a bias in favour of one particular national office (to the detriment of the rest) is unlikely to gain much support. That's why I don't expect the next president to come from certain, particularly self-serving members of the AC.

    Indeed, as MaxDrei I rather expect the choice to fall on somebody with a particularly good talent for scattershot sycophancy.


    I'm not a Brimelow fan, but she can hardly be blamed for "obstructing" the Community patent, especially considering that the EPO is not a party to the negotiations. That blame falls mainly on Spain, and its refusal to consider dropping mandatory translation to Spanish, and Germany, and its equally obdurate refusal to countenance a Community patent judiciary that is anything but a carbon copy of the German system (preferably with German judges only).

  14. But the position of Spain would be weaker, when France and Germany would renounce to their languange and let only english as official languange of our patent system: in this case there would be no economic advantage for companies of specific countries. English is the language of the technology and of the buisness. Every company must be able to use it by filing and litigating patents. The situation is completely different now, where german and french companies can file opposition in their languange even if the languange of the proceeding was english.

  15. At least she lit the Software Patents touchpaper before leaving...


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