Report on the 152nd meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (28 and 29 June 2017)
The Administrative Council's 152nd meeting was held in The Hague, with Jesper Kongstad (DK) presiding.
After hearing its chairman report on the Board 28's previous meeting, the Council noted the activities report presented by the President of the European Patent Office, Benoît Battistelli. It carried out an exchange of views on progress of the social agenda and once again it was pleased with the Office's outstanding results in terms of production, productivity and quality.
Under the heading of general affairs, the Council took note of the Office-wide re-organisation of services which had just started, as well as its underlying rationale. It agreed to the re-adjustment of the Vice-President DG2’s portfolio of activities and therefore nominated Alberto Casado Cerviňo to the new position of Vice-President DG1 in charge of search, examination, oppositions and receiving section activities, from 1 July 2017. The Council also bid farewell to Guillaume Minnoye, Vice-President DG1, who is leaving on 30 June.
The Council noted oral reports from those chairing its various advisory bodies: Roland Grossenbacher (CH) for the Boards of Appeal Committee, Habip Asan (TR) for the Technical and Operational Support Committee (TOSC), Matthias Bank (DE) for the Supervisory Board of the Reserve Funds for Pensions and Social Security (RFPSS), Jérôme Debrulle (BE) for the Select Committee, Sean Dennehey (GB) for the Committee on Patent Law and Christoph Ernst (DE) for the Budget and Finance Committee. In this context the Council took note of the latest developments and progress on the Unitary Patent, including the particular events in the United Kingdom and Germany.
The Council then proceeded with a series of appointments and elections. It firstly unanimously elected Christoph Ernst (DE) to become Chairman of the Council for 3 years, starting on 1 October 2017, and paid tribute to Jesper Kongstad (DK) who will step down as Chairman on 30 September. It also re-appointed Ola Hollum (NO) to the Board of Auditors.
The Council also decided to reappoint 12 members of the Boards of Appeal, and not to reappoint any other person, hence following the reasoned opinion of the President of the Boards of Appeal. It further agreed to the procedure for designating the deputy of the President of the Boards of Appeal in the future, and took note of the intended procedure to handle after-service activities of former board members.
In personnel matters, the Council welcomed the comprehensive and balanced proposal for revised Service Regulations, submitted by the Office. The proposal covers the standards of conduct and ethics and the reform of the internal justice system, as a step forward in improving the social situation. The Council thus unanimously adopted the proposal and indicated that a review of the progress achieved should take place in due course i.e. within 2 to 3 years from now, based on experience gathered in the meantime.
Under legal and international affairs, the Council took note of the significant development of validation agreements and approved an amendment to the EPC Implementing Regulations regarding the expert solution (Rules 32 and 33 EPC). It then had a broad exchange of views on the exclusion from patentability of plants and animals produced by essentially biological processes, complementing the discussion in the latest meeting of the Committee on Patent Law and reflecting inter alia the recent production by the European Commission of a notice on the issue. The Council approved the Office proposal to amend the EPC Implementing Regulations in order to ensure very swiftly as much harmonisation and legal certainty as possible. It further took note of the forthcoming adjustments to the Guidelines for Examination as a consequence of this decision, and indicated that it would return to the issue in due course, when experience has been gathered with the new provisions.
Lastly, the Council turned to financial matters. It firstly welcomed the outstanding results achieved by the Reserve Funds for Pensions and Social Security (RFPSS) and deferred its decision on proposals for a revised composition and competence profile of the RFPSS Supervisory Board. The Council then unanimously approved the Financial Statements for 2016, together with the Board of Auditors' annual report on the 2016 accounting period, and discharged the President of the Office and the Administrator of the RFPSS. It further delivered a positive opinion on the initial 2018 budgetary orientations.