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07.18.19

EPO Looney Tunes – Part 4: G 2/19 – Faites Vos Jeux…

Posted in Courtroom, Europe, Law, Patents at 5:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Carl Josefsson

The Chairman of the Enlarged Board, Carl Josefsson

Part 1: EPO Looney Tunes – Part 1: Is D-Day Approaching for Battistelli’s “Difficult Legacy”?
Part 2: EPO Looney Tunes – Part 2: The “Difficult Legacy” and Its Dark Historical Shadow
Part 3: EPO Looney Tunes – Part 3: The Legal Line-up for G 2/19

Summary: “Josefsson needs to bring in the “desired result” for his political masters in the Administrative Council if he wants to be in with a chance of reappointment.”

The Chairman of the Enlarged Board, Carl Josefsson, is generally reckoned to be a “safe pair of hands” who does his best to please his political masters.

Most insiders are of the opinion that he is unlikely to advocate or support any course of action which might risk upsetting the apple cart (António Campinos has partial control over his position).

“The decisive question seems to be whether or not Josefsson can persuade a majority of the Board to row in behind him or whether the “contrarians” will carry the day.”So it seems like a safe bet that he will do his best to guide the proceedings in a direction that will enable the Board to dodge the awkward third and final “Haar question”.

Failing that, he can be expected to do his best to secure a decision confirming that the holding of oral proceedings in Haar is in compliance with the EPC.

The decisive question seems to be whether or not Josefsson can persuade a majority of the Board to row in behind him or whether the “contrarians” will carry the day.

EBA of EPO

The internal members of the Enlarged Board.
Top row: Legally qualified members, Ingo Beckedorf and Gérard Weiss
Bottom row: Technically qualified members, Gunnar Eliasson (no photo) and Pascal Gryczka

As far as the internal members are concerned, Josefsson can probably safely count on the support of his fellow Swede, the elusive Gunnar Eliasson.

“Eliasson is the Chairman of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03 which is reputed to take a relatively “soft” and “customer-friendly” line on software and business method patenting.”Eliasson acted as ad interim Chairman of the Enlarged Board (warning: epo.org link) during the interregnum following the departure of the former Vice-President of DG3, the Dutchman Wim “the Wimp” van der Eijk, who had is reported to have fallen out of grace with Battistelli. In this role Eliasson liased closely with Josefsson during the “handover” period when the latter assumed office as “President of the Boards of Appeal”.

Eliasson is the Chairman of the Technical Board of Appeal 3.4.03 which is reputed to take a relatively “soft” and “customer-friendly” line on software and business method patenting. By all accounts he seems like another managerially compliant “safe pair of hands” who can be depended on to dance to the Chairman’s tune.

The support of the other internal members for Josefsson’s line is less certain because at least some of them are known to have taken management-critical stances in the past.

“As far as the external members are concerned, they are “dark horses” and it is difficult to make any reliable prediction about the position which they might take.”Ingo Beckedorf joined the EPO in 2007 and has been a regular legally qualified member of the Enlarged Board of Appeal since 2012. Before joining the Boards of Appeal, he was an attaché de presse and deputy head of the Office of the European Parliament in Germany (2001-2003) and a judge at the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court of Hamburg (1997-2006).

Gérard Weiss, from Alsace, joined the EPO in 1982 as a legal advisor in the Patent Law Department. From 1990 to 2000 he was head of the Administrative Council Secretariat. He moved to the Boards of Appeal in 2001 and has been a legal member of the Enlarged Board since 2010.

Pascal Gryczka, who comes from Freyming-Merlebach in the Moselle region of France close to the German border, is a graduate of the University of Strasbourg (Battistelli works at CEIPI in Strasbourg now) and has been a Chairman of a Technical Board of Appeal since 2011.

EPO external

The external members of the Board.
Jochem Gröning (Germany) and Michael Sachs (Austria)

As far as the external members are concerned, they are “dark horses” and it is difficult to make any reliable prediction about the position which they might take.

These “external members” are members of a national judiciary of an EPO contracting state who are appointed to a panel for a (renewable) term of three years.

“Sachs has a reputation as a bon viveur and is a well known figure among the “champagne set” of Viennese High Society.”Jochem Gröning is a judge at the German Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe with a solid reputation in legal circles in his home country. He gives the impression that he can be relied upon to weigh up matters in a neutral manner and that he is unlikely to allow himself to be swayed too much by purely political considerations.

Michael Sachs is the Vice-President of the Austrian Federal Administrative Court in Vienna. Sachs has a reputation as a bon viveur and is a well known figure among the “champagne set” of Viennese High Society.

Michael Sachs

Judge Michael Sachs enjoying the good life at a champagne-tasting reception in Vienna

Austrian judicial appointments are notoriously political and the Federal Administrative Court which was established in 2014 is no exception to this general rule.

Michael Sachs is politically connected to the conservative Austrian Peoples’ Party (ÖVP) currently led by the “Wunderknabe” Sebastian Kurz. His colleague Harald Perl, the President of the Federal Administrative Court, is an appointee of the other main political party in Austria, the Socialist Party (SPÖ).

SPO VPO

Tweedledum and Tweedledee?
President of the Federal Administrative Court, Harald Perl (SPÖ)
and Vice-President Michael Sachs (VPÖ)

Since its inception in 2014, the Federal Administrative Court has been dogged by allegations of endemic cronyism and questionable appointments.

“In at least one case, it was confirmed that the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Vienna had opened a formal investigation into allegations of official misconduct.”Some disgruntled staff, including judges and lawyers, were sufficiently irritated to set up an “Association against Cronyism” (“Verein gegen Freunderlwirtschaft”) and even went so far as to file a number of criminal complaints about various goings-on which upset them.

In at least one case, it was confirmed that the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Vienna had opened a formal investigation into allegations of official misconduct.

In another case, allegations of abuse of office were raised against members of the Presidium of the Court who had proposed the judicial appointment of Hubert Keyl, a member of the far-right populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) founded by the controversial Jörg Haider and currently led by the equally controversial Heinz-Christian Strache. In that case, allegations were made against both Sachs and Perl who are members of the Presidium.

Coming from an environment where cronyism, intrigue and machination seem to be on the daily menu, Sachs gives the impression of being a much more “political animal” than Gröning who seems to be more of the “legal scholar” type.

“Coming from an environment where cronyism, intrigue and machination seem to be on the daily menu, Sachs gives the impression of being a much more “political animal” than Gröning who seems to be more of the “legal scholar” type.”If this impression is correct, then there is a greater probability that Sachs – in contrast to Gröning – might be more susceptible to the influence of political as opposed to strictly legal considerations.

All in all, it would seem to be an easier task to persuade Sachs to row in behind the Chairman and to refrain from supporting any “contrarian” course of action.

Assuming that Josefsson can get the internal member Eliasson and the external member Sachs on his side, then all that he would need for a majority would be to “flip” one of the undecided internal members.

Internal sources suggest that Beckedorf is very much his own man so in the end it all seems to come down to what position Weiss and Gryczka are going to take and whether or not Josefsson can persuade one or both of them to row in behind him.

“Internal sources suggest that Beckedorf is very much his own man so in the end it all seems to come down to what position Weiss and Gryczka are going to take and whether or not Josefsson can persuade one or both of them to row in behind him.”If he can, then he will have it in the bag and the “Haar question” can at least be avoided for the time being or – in the best case scenario for Josefsson – if he plays his cards right he might even manage to bury it entirely.

As he is about half-way through his current five-year term of office, it’s clear that Josefsson needs to bring in the “desired result” for his political masters in the Administrative Council if he wants to be in with a chance of reappointment.

This brings the current mini-series of EPO Looney Tunes to a close but we hope to be back with an update in the not too distant future after the Enlarged Board of Appeal has delivered its decision on referral G 2/19.

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