EPO – Extended access to Administrative Council documents

Posted: November 13th, 2012

EPO improves transparency of legislative process – database still small

Legislative history is an important tool for interpreting the law. The travaux préparatoires for the EPC 1973 and for the EPC 2000 have been available for some time on the EPO’s website and contribute to a better understanding of the European patent system. By contrast, no comparable documentation existed for the ongoing legislative activity of the Administrative Council (AC) which is in particular competent to amend the Implementing Regulations and the Rules relating to Fees. Whereas the Boards of Appeal quite often cite documents like legislative proposals of the Office or minutes of the Patent Law Committee as background for the interpretation of law, the access to such documents was locked for the users of the EPO. The secretariat of the AC did not even respond to queries for copies of such documents.

As a rule, decisions of the AC are published by the EPO without explanation which can make it difficult to understand in which respect the legal situation has changed. An illustrative example is the recent decision of the Council of 25 October 2012 reducing the fee for the supplementary European search in certain cases (CA/D 14/12) which was published on the EPO’s website on 31 October 2012. Without knowing that the previous decision of the Council is temporary and will cease to apply it is difficult to recognize what is new. To get the context, the reader has to study the new decision, to find the previous one, and to understand its transitional provision in order to find out that nothing has changed in substance. Since November 12, 2012 the new access to the AC documents has been open and it contains not only doc. CA/D 14/12 but also the proposal of the EPO CA/90/12 on which the decision is based and which explains the background.

The new means of information is still limited. So far it contains only 6 documents, all dated 2012 and none of the previous decisions of the AC in this year. It is to be hoped that the database will be quickly expanded. International legislation should not be less transparent than national legislation.

URL to the database:
www.epo.org → About us → European Patent Organisation → Documentation → Administrative Council Documents
Reported by Rudolf Teschemacher

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