Why Can’t Europe find a new EPO president?

The European Patent Office is unable to find a successor for Allison Brimelow, the current EPO President.  One of the leading candidates is said to be Benoît Battistelli, currently Director General of the French National Institute of Industrial Property.  Battistelli is again a representative of a national Patent Office, this time from France. Mrs. Brimelow was a former UK Patent Office president. No wonder, as most national patent offices want to remain a tight control over their role in the EPO for patent examinations.  Prof. Hal Wegner, a well known US patent law professor and proliferator of patent law news, maintains that Battistelli is a staunch opponent to the Patent Prosecution Highway (“PPH”), a set of initiatives for providing accelerated patent prosecution procedures by sharing information between some international (not solely European) patent offices.  It also permits each participating patent office to benefit from the work previously done by the other patent office, with the goal of reducing examination workload and improving patent quality. He thinks that election of Battistelli as EPO President would put Europe on a further path of isolationism from the Pacific Rim countries that represent the mainstay of the Patent Prosecution Highway.  Patent Prosecution Highway is seen as a threat to the PCT because the pathway of Patent Prosecution Highway is directed toward providing a much simplified global patenting regime where, ultimately, a global application can be prosecuted as a single “world” filing in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo or Alexandria – or in Munich, Copenhagen and Wales through national European offices in competition with the EPO.

Battistelli’s staunch opposition to the Patent Prosecution Highway is manifested by his blunt answer to “Question 5” raised by the Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office that “the PCT [ ] is the only truly multi-lateral option.”

Hal Wegner thinks that PCT needs to be reformed to (a) eliminate massive fee diversion of PCT user fees to WIPO expenses unrelated to PCT processing and (b) decentralize PCT functions of WIPO by delegating such functions to the various member states around the world that do not have the same massive overhead as in Geneva.  In the latter sphere, the major offices of the world could easily and more efficiently absorb the work now done in Geneva.  It makes every bit of common sense for WIPO to follow these two simple pathways.

So if Hal Wegner is right, who would be a more logical successor and likely supporter of the PPH? Does it really play a prominent role in Europe? We do not think being in favor or against PPH is a major isue in selecting the new EPO president.  It’s more likely that national interests prevail. After all this is Europe.

What does make difference? Tell us if you know.

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