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An EPO Administrative Council Exposé -- Part I: A New EPO Balkan Affair?

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A New EPO Balkan Affair?

Summary: Recent research has provided indications of a fresh "Balkan Affair" affecting the EPO Administrative Council

Someone with a sensitive nose recently detected a curious odour coming from the tightly sealed closet of the EPO's Administrative Council.

In the meantime olefactory experts have confirmed that it is most probably the smell of a fresh "corpse" and well-informed insiders are whispering about a new "Balkan Affair".

This time, the focus of attention is not Croatia but North Macedonia.

"Almost two decades after it first applied for membership of the EU, North Macedonia is still awaiting admission."For readers who are unfamiliar with the Balkan region, North Macedonia is one of the successor states of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which gained its independence in 1991. In those days it was known as "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM).

It is a landlocked country bordering with Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, Albania to the west and Kosovo to the northwest. Skopje, the capital and largest city, is home to a quarter of the country's 2.08 million population. The majority of the residents are ethnic Macedonians, a Slavic people, with Albanians forming a significant minority at around 25%.

Almost two decades after it first applied for membership of the EU, North Macedonia is still awaiting admission. For many years, progress in negotiations with the EU was obstructed by a long-running name dispute with its southern neighbour Greece. This eventually resulted in a compromise according which the former Yugoslav state officially known as FYROM agreed to rebrand itself as "North Macedonia".

"But if North Macedonia has been left languishing in the waiting room of the EU, the European Patent Organisation showed itself to be more accommodating."In 2019, the EU accession negotiations encountered a further obstacle when France complained about deficiencies in the accession process and requested a thorough review before any new members were accepted.

More recently, Bulgaria has been blocking North Macedonia's EU entry with demands that it acknowledge that the language spoken by the country's Slav majority is not a separate "Macedonian" language but rather Bulgarian - or a regional dialect thereof.

Appointment of Safet EmruliBut if North Macedonia has been left languishing in the waiting room of the EU, the European Patent Organisation showed itself to be more accommodating.

North Macedonia was permitted to become a member of the EPO on 1 January 2009.

The President of the European Patent Office at that time was the former UKIPO boss Alison Brimelow and the Chairman of the Administrative Council during the negotiations was the Swiss delegate Roland Grossenbacher.

At the first Administrative Council meeting attended by the North Macedonian delegation in March 2009, the representatives of the new contracting state were formally welcomed by the Council Chairman - this time Grossenbacher's successor, a certain Benoît Battistelli who needs no introduction to readers of Techrights.

Back in 2009 the North Macedonian delegation was headed by a gentleman called Safet Emruli, who had been appointed as Director of the State Office of Industrial Property (SOIP) in 2008 [PDF] and was destined to remain in this position until October 2020.

Goran Gerasimovski, General Director of the (SOIP) of North MacedoniaOn 15 and 16 December 2020, at the 165th meeting of the EPO's Administrative Council - which in keeping with the times was held as an "e-Meeting" - a fresh face representing North Macedonia suddenly appeared.

The newcomer was Mr Goran Gerasimovski, the freshly appointed General Director of the (SOIP) of North Macedonia, who had mysteriously replaced the longtime incumbent, Safet Emruli.

For some unknown reason, Gerasimovski's début at the December 2020 meeting doesn't seem to have attracted as much as a fleeting mention from the Council Chairman, Josef Kratochvíl.

It's normal for the Chairman to greet new arrivals as a matter of courtesy but in this case, the sudden appearance of the new kid on the block seems to have been overlooked.

As for Emruli, he departed just as precipitously and without any advance warning.

EPO Council Chairman, Josef KratochvílThe last Administrative Council meeting which Emruli attended was the 164th meeting, held as an e-meeting on 13 October 2020.

Normally when a long-serving Council delegate leaves there are some words of leave-taking from the Chairman to wish them well, be it in retirement or in the course of whatever new duties they might be about to take up. But on this occasion Emruli seems to have slipped out through the back door without anybody noticing.

So what exactly was going on here?

Stay tuned as we delve behind the scenes and try to get to the bottom of the latest EPO "Balkan Affair"...

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