The everyday work of an IP attorney may seem to amount largely to pencil pushing, but it does in fact involve a surprisingly large number of decisions, where moral issues have to be considered. For instance, can I take on this new client without risking to step on existing clients’ toes?
Events of the last weeks testify that such issues affect everybody in the IP business, also those at the very top.
First, we heard that the renowned Judge Randall Rader from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) had left his post as head of the CAFC. According to his own words the reason was that he had “crossed lines established for the purpose of maintaining a judicial process whose integrity must remain beyond question”. It appears that Judge Rader’s communication with attorneys appearing before his court had been a bit too friendly.
A few days later it came out that the Chairman of the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) of the European Patent Office (EPO) had taken the consequence of the decision in case R19/12. A series of tasks previously handled by the Chairman in his capacity as Vice-President of Directorate General 3 will be taken over by the President of the EPO and the Chairman will no longer be part of the President’s Management Committee.
The question at hand in R19/12 was whether the Chairman could reasonably be suspected of partiality due to his position on the Management Committee, where he could influence the work of the EPO divisions, whose decisions could later be appealed to the EBA. In a configuration without the Chairman the EBA decided that the suspicion of partiality was in fact legitimate.
Is it merely a coincidence that these stories turn up so soon after each other? Or is this a new wave of Puritanism sweeping over the IP community?
Vibeke Warberg Rohde, European Patent Attorney