19 December 2014
As the year draws to a close, it is time to look back on the achievements of the last twelve months. First, 2014 can be regarded as a very successful year for the EPO, as in many areas we reached our best ever performances. In terms of filings, we expect a 3% – 3.5% increase compared to 2013 (provisional figures for 2014 will be announced in mid-January). Our production, our productivity and our cost controls have all improved. The quality of our products and services, which is at the core of all our activities, has also steadily progressed. In terms of procedures, I was very pleased that our hard work led to international certification for both the patent granting process (ISO 9001 in December 2014) and the internal audit procedures (Deutsche Institute für Interne Revision in November 2014). The progress we made in managing ever more diverse prior art, especially from Asia, has been significant over these last months and will continue to enhance the legal security provided by European patents. The outcome of intensive international cooperation resulted in the launch of the Global Dossier in June 2014 whilst the steady extension of the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) further strengthens the patent system around the world.
A new career system based on merit rather than seniority is to be implemented on 1st January 2015. It will introduce notably individual quality indicators which will be monitored yearly as part of the overall performance of each employee. The Office is indeed more than ever a very attractive employer: in 2014 we received almost 20,000 applications for our vacancies. In The Hague, the construction of the new main building started in June 2014. I would also to take this opportunity to underline the work of our Administrative Council which has taken major decisions to support the long term sustainability of the Organisation and which are also quite favourable to EPO employees in the current economic climate. Indeed many AC delegates, coming from 38 different European countries, have often faced severe reforms at home, leading to budget cuts and staff reductions. But taking into account the particular situation of the EPO, they nevertheless supported a new salary adjustment method for the EPO staff for the coming 6 years and also the injection of €200 million into the pension reserve fund.
Finally, I would like to comment on a recent individual case involving a precautionary and provisional measure against a member of the EPO Boards of Appeal. Taking into account the status of the person concerned and the seriousness of prima facie evidence of misconduct which was discovered and brought to the attention of Administrative Council, the latter in its statement qualified the case as “an incident unique in the history of EPO”. The Administrative Council confirmed the precautionary and provisional measure pending the completion of the investigation. I insist firstly that whilst the investigation is still ongoing no definitive conclusions should be taken. Secondly I would like to stress that an individual case of misconduct can occur in any institution or group of people. It is therefore reassuring that our procedures and governance structure allow for a rapid, balanced and efficient reaction, and that the rule of law applies to all employees of the Office. I would also urge all commentators, especially those having a legal background, to be mindful in their public expression on a case which is still under investigation, in order to protect the rights of the defence and to guarantee the impartiality of the investigation under the supervision of the Administrative Council which is the decision making body. I would also remark that the present unfortunate case does in no way put into question the high quality of the work of the Boards of Appeal which is internationally recognized.
To conclude, 2014 has been a very busy and successful year. Thanks to the performance of our staff, the fruitful cooperation with our partners, some landmark decisions taken by our Council and the coming implementation of major projects, we have every reason to look forward to 2015 with confidence.