02 March 2010

President of the EPO finally elected

Today the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation has elected the Director General of the French National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), Benoît Battistelli, to succeed Alison Brimelow as President of the European Patent Office. Mr. Battistelli's five-year term as President of the EPO will begin on 1. July 2010.

During his civil service career, which is now crowned with the EPO Presidency, Mr Battistelli has been

  • Vice-chairman of the OECD Committee on Industry and Business Environment,
  • Deputy Undersecretary for Industry especially in charge of innovation policy and competitiveness in the Ministry of Economic, Financial and Industrial Affairs, with specific responsibility for industrial property,
  • Chief Advisor to the Industry Minister, Nicole Fontaine, a former European Parliament’s President,
  • Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the European Patent Academy,
  • Chairman of the EPO's Administrative Council,
  • Director General of the French Institute for Industrial Property (INPI).
In a first reaction, the Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) congratulates Mr Battistelli and further analyses that 
the EPO has suffered as a result of the unfortunate "tandem presidency" of Mr Alain Pompidou and Ms Alison Brimelow, and emerges from it discredited and weakened. The election process that we have just seen seems to be a symptom of those last 6 years.
Since the professional career of Mr Battistelli suggests a strong attachment to Public Service, the EPO staff hopes that he will "respect the public service mission that has been accorded to the EPO and allow the EPO to concentrate on its raison d'être, namely the search, examination and granting of high quality patents".

This statement may demonstrate the critical feelings of the EPO staff against Ms Brimlows priorities as to "balancing the budget" and "social partnership", whereas the staff experienced to what extent "balancing the budget" takes priority over "social partnership" when 18 agency staff working at the EPO in Munich were told in the week before Easter 2009 that their employment would be discontinued at the end of that month. It is because of such experiences that the Staff Union hopes that Mr Battistelli "will demonstrate the sorely missed capacity of listening to his staff".

The Vice-Chairman of the Administratice Council, Mr Jesper Kongstad, who has earlier withdrawn his own candidacy for President and has then been re-instated as Vice-Chairman of the Administrative Council, is now considered in a good position to take over the chair from Mr Battistelli, now that he is President-elect of the EPO. Mr Kongstad would thus directly benefit from Mr Battistelli's victory under his chairing the election process, which is why the Staff Union considered Mr Kongstad to lack the neutrality required for chairing the election process.

In fact, this constellation (Mr Battistelli as President of the EPO and Mr Kongstad as Chairman of the Council) is exactly what the two candidates had proposed to the Council in a joint policy statement made during a Council meeting in October 2009. This issue has been raised by the EPO Central Staff Committee in an open letter to the Administrative Council, whereas the EPO Staff Union sent a letter to the Members of the European Parliament. In the meantime, by means of reply to the Central Staff Comittee, Mr Kongstad has simply made a promise to do his very best in a neutral and impartial way to find a solution.

We shall wait and see, how the relationship between the staff of the EPO and the office's administration further evolves under  the new President - and under the new Chaiman of the Administrative Council soon to be elected.