EPO: Organisational concerns in spite of performance gains
According to a news release of the EPO issued in mid-January, the "comprehensive reforms undertaken at the EPO in recent years have translated into unprecedented increases in the performance of the Office, with significant improvements in productivity, timeliness and quality in 2015". According to the EPO, its 4,200 examiners accomplished a performance increase of 14% compared to 2014. Some 68,400 European patents were granted in 2015, compared to 64,600 in 2014. The proportion of applications being granted amounted to approximately 48%. Over 85% of European first filing applications received a search report within six months from filing.
The news release reports that the backlog of searches decreased by two thirds, but is silent with respect to the development of the backlog of examination, opposition and appeal cases.
In its most recent meeting held in December 2015, the supervisory authority of the EPO, the Administrative Council, took note of the performance gains, but did at the same time express concerns about the "the deteriorated social climate" within the EPO and encouraged "all parties involved to seek compromise solutions to end a situation detrimental to the proper functioning of the Office and the public image of the whole Organisation". The situation referred to by the Administrative Council appears to reside in recent conflicts between staff unions and EPO management as well as the dismissal of an appeal board member in consequence of purported misconduct, in the wake of which a heated discussed relating to the distribution of powers within the organisational bodies of the EPO has arisen.
The Administrative Council also discussed the envisaged structural reform of the Boards of Appeal which may lead to a relocation of the Boards of Appeal to premises not shared with other departments of the EPO, possibly even remote from Munich, such as in Berlin or Vienna. Concrete proposals could be decided upon by the Administrative Council as early as at its March meeting.
Jakob Pade Frederiksen