• EPO board elects António Campinos as its next president, effective July 1 2018
  • Focus on human resources and staff morale to be a key focus in role
  • EUIPO deputy executive director and president of management board cited as possible replacements

António Campinos, executive director of the EUIPO, has been elected as the next president of the European Patent Office (EPO). He will serve a five year term from July 1 2018. Speculation is already mounting about his possible replacement in the EUIPO top spot, with a source telling World Trademark Review that his move to the EPO has been regarded as a fait accompli for some time.

In July, the EPO officially announced its search for Benoît Battistelli’s successor, with the incumbent president’s term in office due to end on June 30 2018. Writing at the time, our sister title IAM suggested that Campinos would fit the bill. Today – at the EPO’s latest board meeting – it emerged that Campinos was indeed a candidate for the role, apparently going head to head with Cuno Tarfusser, an Italian judge at the International Criminal Court. Given the IP experience of Campinos, he was the clear front runner and it has now been confirmed that the Administrative Council of the EPO has elected him to a five year term. Commenting on the appointment, Christoph Ernst, chair of the EPO Administrative Council, said: “I am happy that the Council was able to reach a decision today on this very important matter, and to find in Mr Campinos an excellent candidate. With him, I am confident that our organisation will add another thriving chapter to its continued success story."

In many respects, the move is a natural one for both Campinos and the EPO. Campinos has led a transformation of the EUIPO’s operations, overseeing the convergence programme, managing the integration of the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights into the office’s structure, expanding operations and working with national offices to facilitate the expansion of European Trademark and Design Network activities. There has also been the small matter of the ensuring that the office smoothly managed the changes required as part of the European Trademark Reform package (which included a rebrand of the organisation from OHIM to the EUIPO). With his current term due to expire in 2020, an exit now would allow a new director to take the reins in advance of the formulation of the office’s next five year strategic plan, and Campinos to leave with a solid list of achievements on his CV. For its part, in terms of leadership credentials, the EPO would be getting a president with a proven track record leading a major IP organisation.

Perhaps as much of an influence in terms of his suitability for the EPO role has been his focus on staff motivation. At the EUIPO, building a “dynamic and knowledgeable organisation” has been enshrined in the office’s strategic plan, with a stated focus on “talent management, collaborative working and further improvements both to HR processes and to the work environment in order to support new, more effective and sustainable ways of working”. At the EPO, employee unrest has been well chronicled, and Campinos’ track record in managing a significant number of staff will not have gone unnoticed.

German title Juve.de suggests that – according to several observers – some staff are concerned about Campinos’ "close proximity to Battistelli". However, the EPO board will be betting on his ability to turn that perception around once he takes up the role.

For those in the trademark space, the natural question will be who replaces him. It is worth noting that Campinos would not leave Alicante until the middle of next year, however speculation about possible successors is already underway. World Trademark Review spoke to industry sources who noted that speculation in Alicante has, in fact, been going on for some time, with the current deputy executive director, Christian Archambeau, deemed as likely to be in the running.

At the recent WIPO General Assembly in Geneva, Archambeau - who previously held a position at the EPO – attended in Campinos’ place and was a highly visible figure at the event. Given his experience at the office, and insight into its activities, he will likely garner internal support should he emerge as a formal candidate for the executive director role. World Trademark Review understands that Patricia García-Escudero Márquez, current president of the EUIPO management board – and director general of Spain’s Patent and Trademark Office – could also throw her hat into the ring.

With an eight month lead time, there is still a way to go before candidates are formally announced and a new executive director formally unveiled. In the meantime, practitioners will expect it to be ‘business as usual’ at the office.