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What does the European Patent Office (EPO) look like?

By Charl Goussard, NAIP Legal Research

You've probably heard of the EPO and maybe you've even filed a patent through the Office, but have you ever wondered how this organization operates?

In an attempt to get a better understanding of the EPO, we've done some investigation and what follows is our understanding and a summary of the most prominent offices within the EPO.

The Administrative Council:

The European Patent Organisation is an intergovernmental organisation that was set up on 7 October 1977 on the basis of the European Patent Convention (EPC) signed in Munich in 1973.

Currently the EPO consists of 36 contracting states. Each of these contracting states is entitled to appoint one representative and one alternate representative to the Administrative Council of the EPO.

The Administrative Council's powers include the right to amend the time limitations related to the examination process of patent applications, the right to amend the implementing regulations of the European Patent Convention, to adopt or amend financial regulations and any employment regulations for permanent employees, and to adopt or amend rules relating to fees. Furthermore it has the competency to authorise the EPO President to negotiate and conclude agreements on behalf of the EPO.

The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Administrative Council are elected by the members from among the representatives of the Administrative Council and they are elected for a non-renewable period of three years. Leading the Administrative Council currently is the Chairman (Benoit Batistelli), Deputy Chairman (Jesper Kongstad) and Honorary Chairman (Roland Grossenbacher).

European Patent Office Management Team

Ensuring the day-to-day management, the examination of patent applications, the grant of European patents and various other activities, such as the provision of patent information and training services, is a highly competent and efficient management team headed by the EPO President, Alison Brimelow. Alison’s management team comprises five Vice Presidents and three other directors.

Boards of Appeal

Independent from the Office in their decisions and bound only by the European Patent Convention is the boards of appeal.

There are currently 26 technical boards of appeal, plus the Legal Board of Appeal, the Enlarged Board of Appeal and the Disciplinary Board of Appeal. The members and chairmen are appointed for a term of five years.

The boards of appeal currently receive about 2 000 new cases per year and settle about 1 600 cases. The public is informed about the decisions of the boards via the European Patent Register and the Official Journal of the EPO.

The Employees of the EPO

Running an organisation the size and complexity of the EPO requires dedicated staff. The EPO is definitely such a place! Being the second largest European Organisation it employs roughly 6500 staff from over 30 different countries.

The EPO is headquartered in Munich, but also has a branch in The Hague, offices in Berlin and Vienna, and a liaison office in Brussels.

Now that we have a slightly better understanding of the structure of the EPO, we plan to tell you “Who’s who" in our next issue.


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