Peter Messerli – 15 years serving the European patent system

18 November 2011

Last Tuesday, the EPO held a ceremony to bid farewell to Peter Messerli, its vice-president in charge of the boards of appeal (“VP3”), who is retiring at the end of this month.

During three 5-year terms from 1996 onwards, Peter has been instrumental in establishing the boards’ excellent reputation worldwide. The award for outstanding achievement conferred on him earlier this year by “Managing Intellectual Property” magazine is just one token of the high esteem in which Peter is held by his peers and in the IP profession generally.

The job of VP3 at the EPO is a rather special one, requiring not only high levels of legal expertise but also the managerial skills to ensure that the 28 boards function smoothly whilst respecting the complete independence of their 250 members in the decision-making process. Here it is perhaps worth underlining that Peter Messerli has publicly stated that “never in all these years has an EPO President tried to influence the boards’ decisions in any way”. Certainly I attach the greatest importance to the boards’ independence, their work being not only an essential filter for the European patent system but also a barometer of the quality of the European patents we grant.

Over the years, the Enlarged Board has found itself increasingly in the public eye, for example in connection with the patentability of stem cells and computer-implemented inventions, and the ongoing “broccoli” and “tomato” referrals. Under Peter’s chairmanship, it has issued thirty landmark rulings developing the case law on European patents.

Peter’s successor is Wim van der Eijk, who starts work as VP3 on 1 December. He too is a highly regarded patent lawyer, and I have no doubt that he will bring all his expertise and experience to bear in helping the boards to meet the challenges ahead. I wish him every success in his new position.

My last words go to Peter, who leaves us with my warmest thanks for all he has done for the European patent system and with my very best wishes for his new life after the EPO.

Benoît Battistelli

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