The EPO Administrative Council met today and its meeting continues tomorrow. As regular readers of the blog will know, one of the most important items on the agenda is a proposal from the President, Mr Battistelli, to reform the Boards of Appeal, move it out of Munich, and create a new oversight structure.
Breaking, but unconfirmed, news
Unconfirmed reports are that Mr Battistelli's reform proposal has been rejected outright, which if true would be a major defeat for Mr Battistelli in his ongoing conflict with the Boards. Merpel will post again when she has confirmation of this news, or anything different emerges.
Another report, also unconfirmed this evening, is that the AC has told Mr Battistelli to remove the freeze on recruitment which has progressively crippled the Boards to the point where they are now missing about 20% of their full complement.
Four letters, one worrying theme
- Merpel learnt today that the President of epi -- the body which represents all European Patent Attorneys -- wrote to the Administrative Council detailing several fundamental criticisms of the reform proposal, and contradicting the narrative from Mr Battistelli, that there was broad support for his reforms. The letter is here, and is remarkable in that it appears to tell the AC that if it wants to know what was said by respondents to the consultation run by Mr Battistelli, they should read the responses for themselves rather than trusting the synopsis written by Mr Battistelli. There is far more to the letter than that, however, and all European Patent Attorneys at least should read it so that they understand the issues on which their body wants to be heard.
- Merpel also learnt of a letter from the Dutch group of AIPPI criticising Mr Battistelli in similar terms as regards the consultation and his presentation of the results to the AC, but going further, criticising his approach to the “increasing number of conflicts” emerging from the EPO, an approach which, it says, “tends to aggravate [the issues and conflicts] without necessity.” There’s plenty more in similar vein, which you can read here.
- Merpel previously reported that the Praesidium of the Boards wrote to the AC over Mr Battistelli’s head, complaining that it had not, contrary to what was presented to the AC, been properly consulted, and nor had its criticisms of the proposals been reflected in Mr Battistelli’s latest proposal.
- Then, a few days ago, the Association of Members of the Boards of Appeal (AMBA) which represents “nearly all” Board members wrote to the AC, also over the head of Mr Battistelli, to endorse what the Praesidium had said and to add some additional observations and criticisms of their own. Again, well worth a read if you want to understand the issues (but maybe you no longer need to, if the proposal is really dead in the water).
What to make of all this? It is worrying that four different but highly respected groups, most notably epi which is usually tactful and understated to a fault, feel the need to tell the AC directly that they cannot trust what Mr Battistelli has said. That the Boards of Appeal had to address the AC directly has been noted also in rather strong terms by the usually rather reserved Kluwer Patent Blog, in an excellent piece by German and European Patent Attorney Thorsten Bausch. It is, however, encouraging if the AC has in fact turned down the proposal, as it means the AC is taking its responsibilities seriously and is listening to views other than those presented to it behind closed doors. Merpel has seen false dawns before but hopes that the AC is stepping up to its responsibilities, something she has long called for. She will be the first to applaud them, and loudly, if this marks a turning point. The EPO needs a strong AC, as do all who interact with the EPO, whether as parties to proceedings, as attorneys, or as employees of the organisation.
It’s anyone’s guess where this will go next. Merpel’s guess, based on another rumour she has heard, is that the AC will take the reform of the Boards entirely out of the hands of Mr Battistelli, and will develop its own proposals, perhaps through a sub-committee or within Board 28 (its internal management committee).
Interestingly, Merpel notes that it’s just over a year since the “House Ban” story broke. What a turbulent twelve months they have been for so many people.
Rumours from the AC, and four remarkable letters Reviewed by Merpel on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 Rating: