J.4 Disciplinary matters
Additional Rules of Procedure of the Disciplinary Board of the European Patent Office
Version consolidating the text published in OJ EPO 1980, 183 with amendments published in OJ EPO 2007, 552, 555
The Disciplinary Board of the European Patent Office provided for in Article 5(b) of the Regulation on discipline for professional representatives of 21 October 1977 (hereinafter called the "Discipline Regulation") hereby adopts, under Article 25, paragraph 2, thereof, the following Additional Rules of Procedure:
Business distribution scheme
(1) The Chairman of the Disciplinary Board shall, at the beginning of each working year, draw up a scheme for handling all matters to be dealt with during the year, designating the members responsible for the examination of all matters and their alternates and including a rota drawn up in accordance with Article 10, paragraph 4, of the Discipline Regulation. The scheme may be amended during the working year.
(2) Where, in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 1, of the Discipline Regulation, the President of the European Patent Office has set up more than one Board, the Chairmen of the Boards shall, at the beginning of each working year, jointly designate the Board responsible for each matter to be dealt with during the year.
Replacement of members
(1) Reasons for replacement by alternates shall, in particular, include conflicting interests, sickness, excessive workload and commitments which cannot be avoided.
(2) Any member requesting to be replaced by an alternate shall inform the Chairman of the Disciplinary Board of his unavailability without delay.
(3) The Chairman of the Disciplinary Board may designate another legally qualified member of the Disciplinary Board to replace him or her as Chairman in accordance with the business distribution scheme.
Exclusion and objection
(1) If the Disciplinary Board has knowledge of a possible reason for exclusion or objection which does not originate from the member himself or from the professional representative concerned, then the Disciplinary Board shall decide as to the action to be taken without the participation of the member concerned shall be replaced by his alternate.
(2) The member concerned shall be invited to present his comments as to whether there is a reason for exclusion.
(3) Before a decision is taken on the exclusion of a member, there shall be no further proceedings in the case.
(1) The Chairman of the Disciplinary Board shall appoint an employee of the European Patent Office to act as Registrar to the Disciplinary Board. A further employee of the European Patent Office shall be appointed by the Chairman to act as a deputy Registrar where the Registrar is unable to act.
(2) The Registrar shall, in particular, monitor any time limits relating to matters before the Disciplinary Board, including the time limit prescribed in Article 6, paragraph 3, of the Discipline Regulation.
(1) The Chairman of the Disciplinary Board shall for each matter designate a legally qualified member, or himself, as rapporteur.
(2) The rapporteur may conduct preparatory inquiries in accordance with Articles 15 and 25, paragraph 1, of the Discipline Regulation; he shall prepare draft communications, carry out other preliminary work and draft decisions.
(3) Draft communications and decisions shall be sent to the other members of the Disciplinary Board, who shall either approve them or make suggestions for amendment. If no agreement can be reached by this can be reached by this means, the Board shall meet to decide jointly on the final text.
(4) Communications shall be signed by the rapporteur on behalf of the Disciplinary Board.
(5) The rapporteur shall make the preparations for meetings and oral proceedings. He will set out the issues that need to be determined and, if necessary, send a communication to the professional representative concerned to this effect.
(6) If the rapporteur considers that his knowledge of the language of the proceedings is insufficient for drafting communications or decisions, he may draft these in one of the other official languages of the European Patent Office. The drafts shall be translated by the European Patent Office into the language of the proceedings and the translations shall be checked by the rapporteur or by another member of the Disciplinary Board.
Transmission of documents
To effect a transfer under Article 6, paragraph 4(b), of the Discipline Regulation, the Chairman of the Disciplinary Board shall:
(a) notify the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee and the professional representative concerned of the transfer;
(b) set the Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee and the professional representative a time limit for the transmission of:
(i) the name and address of the professional representative concerned;
(ii) the complaint;
(iii) any defence filed;
(iv) any comments of members of the Chamber and of the Presidents of the Council of the Institute of Professional representatives and the European Patent Office respectively;
(v) an indication of the language of the proceedings (if any);
(vi) the decision taken by the Chamber;
(vii) any other documents which the Chamber considers relevant.
(1) Minutes of oral proceedings and of the taking of evidence shall be drawn up by the Registrar or such other employee of the European Patent Office as the Chairman of the Disciplinary Board may nominate. Rule 124 EPC shall apply mutatis mutandis to the taking of such minutes.
(2) The Chairman of the Disciplinary Board may direct that tape recordings of any oral evidence and of any oral statements may be made in addition to minutes of such evidence and statements.
Language of the proceedings
(1) The language of proceedings shall be the official language of the European Patent Office in which the proceedings were conducted before the Disciplinary Committee of the Institute of Professional Representatives but Rule 4 EPC shall apply mutatis mutandis to proceedings before the Disciplinary Board.
(2) Where no proceedings have been conducted before the Disciplinary Committee or in circumstances where no language of the proceedings has been designated, the Disciplinary Board shall decide on the language of the proceedings.
(3) If the professional representative concerned so requires, he shall receive translations into his own language of all documents relating to his case and he may defend himself in his own language.
(4) If required, the Chairman of the Disciplinary Board shall make arrangements for interpretation during oral proceedings, the taking of evidence and the deliberations of the Disciplinary Board.
Change in the composition of the Board
(1) If the composition of the Disciplinary Board is changed after oral proceedings, the professional representative concerned shall be informed that, at his request, fresh oral proceedings shall be held before the Board in its new composition. Fresh oral proceedings shall also be held if so requested by the new member and if the other members of the Board have given their agreement.
(2) The new member shall be bound to the same extent as the other members by an interim decision which has already been taken.
(3) If, when the Board has already reached a final decision a member of the Board is unable to act, he shall not be replaced by his alternate. If the Chairman is unable to act, the legally qualified member of the Board having the longer service on the Board, or in the case where members have the same length of service, the elder member, shall sign the decision on behalf of the Chairman.
Consolidation of proceedings
(1) If several matters relating to the same professional representative are pending before the Disciplinary Board, these matters may be considered in the same proceedings.
(2) If several complaints relating to different professional representatives are designated to be considered by the Disciplinary Board in a common composition, the Disciplinary Board may deal with these complaints in consolidated proceedings with the consent of the professional representatives concerned. Such consent shall not be required in cases dealing only with failure to pay subscriptions in accordance with Article 6, paragraph 1, of the Regulation on the Establishment of an Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office, hereinafter called the "Establishment Regulation".
(1) If oral proceedings are to take place, the Disciplinary Board shall endeavour to ensure that all relevant information and documents have been provided before the hearing.
(2) The Board may send with the summons to oral proceedings a communication drawing attention to matters which seem to be of special significance, or to the fact that questions appear no longer to be contentious, or containing other observations that may help concentration on essentials during the oral proceedings.
(3) If oral proceedings take place, the Board shall endeavour to ensure that each case is ready for decision at the conclusion of the oral proceedings, unless there are special reasons to the contrary.
Communications to the professional representative concerned
If, before a decision is taken, the Disciplinary Board deems it expedient to communicate with the professional representative concerned regarding a possible appreciation of substantive or legal matters, such communication shall be made in such a way as not to imply that the Board is in any way bound by it.
Deliberations preceding decisions
If the members of the Disciplinary Board are not all of the same opinion, the Board shall meet to deliberate regarding the decision to be taken. No other person except the Registrar and any interpreters attending in accordance with Article 8 hereof may be present during deliberations of the Board.
Order of voting
(1) During the deliberations between members of the Disciplinary Board, the rapporteur's opinion shall be heard first and, if the rapporteur is not the Chairman, the Chairman's last.
(2) If voting is necessary, votes shall be taken in the same sequence; even if the Chairman is the rapporteur, he shall vote last. Abstentions shall not be permitted.
(1) Unless the matter is dismissed, the decision shall state which Rule of Professional Conduct has been violated and which, if any, recommendation, made in accordance with Article 4(c) of the Establishment Regulation, has not been observed. Rules 102 and 111, paragraph 2, EPC shall apply mutatis mutandis.
(2) A decision shall be signed by the Chairman of the Disciplinary Board and by the Registrar.
Publication of decisions
It shall be within the discretionary power of the Disciplinary Board to publish decisions without, however, revealing the identity of the professional representative concerned or the complainant, unless they respectively consent to be named.
Entry into force
These Additional Rules of Procedure shall enter into force on the date on which they are approved by the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation.
Done at Munich, 9 April 1980.
For the Disciplinary Board of the European Patent Office