The new DG 1 merges the old DG 1 Operations and DG 2 Operational Support under the umbrella of DG 1 Patent Granting Process
According to the EPO, the merge will integrate support staff with teams of patent examiners to “reduce hand-over points”, where patent applications are passed between operation units.
The office also plans to create new specialised directorates to deal with opposition procedures.
EPO president Benoît Battistelli said that the completed merger would “help improve services for patent applications", by exploiting the EPO’s investment in IT and increasing automation at the office.
He added that the system will “give our users a more efficient system that delivers even higher quality patents and shorter processing times”.
In an internal memo, the Staff Union of the EPO (SUEPO) has described the merger as a “disaster in the making”, arguing that it has split patent administration staff into much smaller units of around four to seven members, which are required to provide the same service as the much larger units, which contained around 15 to 20 staff, used before the merge.
To cope with rising workloads, 18 months ago the now ex-director of patent administration at the EPO, Ciaran McGinley implemented a structure of hubs in which staff were regrouped into large units with “sufficient manpower and expertise”, according to SUEPO.
Of the new structure, the memo said: “Such division into small units creates obvious issues of unequally distributed expertise (individual patent administration staff cannot master perfectly the many necessary procedures).”
“Even the patent administration procedures that until now were centralised in a dedicated unit, like the receiving office for WIPO in the EPO, will be decentralised to the small units … expertise will be much more diluted than before.”
The memo added: “To solve the problem they have created, management has decided to train intensively all patent administration staff in basically all procedures. This is taking place while patent administration staff is already struggling with the workload, further increasing work strain. In any event, one cannot reasonably expect that a hasty training will allow building up the necessary level of expertise in all the small teams.”