The BoA: New President, new era

03 March 2017

This week the EPO welcomed Carl Josefsson as the new President of the Boards of Appeal. It is a great opportunity for a judiciary that has been reformed to enhance its efficiency and to further assure users of its independence. This new era opens under the leadership of an experienced patent judge. Indeed, previous to his arrival, Carl Josefsson served as a Senior Judge of Appeal at the Swedish Patent and Market Court of Appeal.  He is also well known in the patent world from his former roles as a Deputy Director at the Swedish Ministry of Justice, Division for Intellectual Property and Transport Law, and as Chair of the Council working party on patents during Sweden’s 2009 EU Presidency, among others.  He has been particularly involved in the preparation phase of the Unified Patent Court, which is of particular interest for the evolution of the EPO BoA.

The start of Carl Josefsson’s mandate on 1 March 2017 also illustrates the quick and smooth implementation of a comprehensive reform which was adopted in June 2016. In effect, the reform is a package of concrete measures, each of which plays a role in ensuring improvements. Carl Josefsson assuming his duties is one of the more visible. Now – for the first time ever – the BoA has a President who will bear full responsibility for the administration and management of the Boards of Appeal Unit and its staff, following a delegation of powers from the President of the Office. Crucially, the holder of this post is hierarchically independent of the President of the Office and solely responsible to the Administrative Council. The support for such a role, however, has been bolstered by the creation of a new subsidiary body of the Administrative Council, the Boards of Appeal Committee, who will advise the new President in his role.

Together with other measures, such as a new location, rules on conflict of interest for its members, a specific career system and better cost coverage, the tools are now in place for the BoA to carry on their role as a highly respected, independent and efficient judiciary. There is now every chance that the Boards can better address some concerns of users regarding timeliness, predictability and consistency of the appeal procedure expressed during the reform process. The BoA, of course, has not been alone in facing such issues; judiciaries across the world have faced increased demand for their services and pressure to deliver more judgements while ensuring quality of work.  However, every effort has been made so that the EPO BoA are now better equipped and will continue to play an important role in European patent litigation.

That litigation will also evolve over the coming years as a logical consequence of the increasing number of patents being granted,. Reforming the BoA is therefore just one more aspect in making sure that the EPO and its bodies are equipped to deliver quality services well into the future. I wish Carl Josefsson and the BoA every success in their work.

Benoît Battistelli

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