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My 35th AC meeting

05 April 2011

Last week, I attended my third Administrative Council meeting as EPO President. But it was also my 35th AC, including those I took part in first as head of the French delegation, then as deputy chairman and lastly as chairman. For me, these meetings are always big occasions, because they provide opportunities to meet and talk with the 38 national delegations, representatives of the users we work for every day (Business Europe and the epi), our partner institutions (European Commission and WIPO) and EPO staff representatives.

If an AC meeting is to succeed, it must first be well prepared. It must then be conducted so as to give everyone enough time to explain or defend their positions whilst also giving rise to collective decisions. In that respect, informal discussions over coffee, lunch and dinner are probably at least as important as the formal sessions. At last week’s meeting, Jesper Kongstad’s effective chairmanship and time management played a positive role in its success.

The main agenda item was approval of the strategic orientations I am proposing for the EPO. In January, AC members had received two external studies on finance and IT which I commissioned upon taking office last year. At the start of the meeting, they were able to put any questions direct to the authors, ensuring that all information was shared in complete transparency. The full discussion lasted half a day, and showed the size of the challenges facing the EPO. I am very pleased to be able to say that the AC unanimously endorsed the orientations proposed, and which may be summarised as follows:

  • boosting the quality of EPO products and services
  • controlling costs
  • maintaining overall fee levels
  • developing our efficiency by implementing effective IT tools, simplifying our processes, introducing new forms of work (part-time home working) and improving working conditions (especially the new building project at The Hague)
  • developing the EPO’s leadership role in international co-operation
  • setting up a genuine EPN (European Patent Network) by means of intensified co-operation between the EPO and the national offices of our member states.

The meeting gave rise to a common awareness, shared also by the staff representatives, that placing the EPO’s future on a sound footing means both strengthening its operational capacity and ensuring the long-term financing of its social commitments, including pensions.

Strengthened by this support, we shall spend the next few weeks translating these strategic orientations into specific action programmes. We shall draw up concrete roadmaps for submission to the AC’s committees in May and June and to the Council itself at the end June.

As I reflect now on previous Council meetings, where divergences – between the member states or between the Council and the Office – sometimes outweighed the common ground, I believe that we have come a long way, and I am delighted at this broad consensus which is crucial to the Office’s success and its future.

Benoît Battistelli

President

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