Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 16: Human rights in the case law of the EPO Boards of Appeal
The European Patent Organisation (EPOrg) has usually been perceived as a specialised international organisation with expertise in the technically dominated field of patent law. With the increasing strategic importance and economic significance of intangible assets, the importance of EPOrg’s executive agency, the European Patent Office (EPO), on the international arena has risen significantly. However, the elevation of the EPO to an international institution of political and socio-economic importance also raised questions relating to its governance and decision-making. An important dimension in this respect is formed by the Boards of Appeal (BoAs) of the EPO – the only judicial-type entities within the EPO’s system. This chapter analyses the Boards of Appeal’s jurisprudence in the context of the EPO’s consideration of human rights and observes that over time references to human rights norms have become more frequent and more profound. This section describes the institutional context and highlights the role of Boards of Appeal; section 2 maps the process of inclusion of considerations related to human rights into the jurisprudence of the EPO BoAs; section 3 presents a survey of constellations in which issues related to human rights arise; and finally, the concluding remarks include the consideration of the potential for future developments, especially stronger integration of human rights norms into the jurisprudence of the EPO BoA. The EPO is the executive branch of the EPOrg founded on the basis of the European Patent Convention (EPC).
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