The European Patent Office (EPO) has offered the possibility of oral proceedings by videoconference in examination since 1998.[ 1 ] With a view to extending this option to other procedures, the EPO is launching a pilot project to assess its suitability in opposition (see the Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 14 April 2020 concerning the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions, OJ EPO 2020, A41).
The present notice provides further information on the pilot project and explains specific aspects of oral proceedings by videoconference in opposition. Technical instructions relating to oral proceedings held by videoconference are provided in the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 1 April 2020 concerning oral proceedings and interviews to be held by videoconference (OJ EPO 2020, A39). Sections 1 (Status), 4 (Technical instructions for videoconferences), 5 (Equipment and costs), 6 (Remote connection of members of a division) and 10 (Technical problems) of that notice apply mutatis mutandis to oral proceedings held by videoconference in opposition.
1. Scope of the pilot project
Oral proceedings may be held by videoconference in opposition if all parties to be summoned to the oral proceedings and the opposition division agree.
Where the opposition division considers it expedient that oral proceedings be held by videoconference, it will instruct a formalities officer to contact the parties to explore whether they agree to the oral proceedings being held in that form. Parties will be encouraged to state as early as possible, preferably when filing the request for oral proceedings, if any, whether they agree to the oral proceedings being held by videoconference.
A request by a party for oral proceedings to be held by videoconference will be considered an expression of agreement. No appealable decision will be issued on such a request.
2. Information on the form of oral proceedings
Where an agreement on videoconferencing is reached before the summons to oral proceedings is issued, the summons will indicate that the oral proceedings are to be held by videoconference.
Where a summons has been issued to oral proceedings on the premises of the EPO and the parties express their agreement to the oral proceedings being held by videoconference only thereafter, the opposition division, if in agreement, will inform the parties that oral proceedings will be held by videoconference on the date indicated in the summons. If the opposition division does not agree, or if there is no agreement by all parties, the opposition division will inform the parties that the proceedings will be conducted as indicated in the summons.
The opposition division will not agree to hold oral proceedings by videoconference if the proceedings require the taking of evidence by hearing witnesses, parties or experts or by inspection, or if there are other serious reasons for not doing so. The need to consider written evidence, evidence in the form of printed images or video clips will not qualify as a serious reason.
Until such time as suitable technical infrastructure is put in place, the need to provide interpretation is considered to constitute a serious reason for not holding oral proceedings by videoconference.
4. Participation of parties
A party and their representative may be allowed to connect to oral proceedings held by videoconference from different locations, on condition that this does not have an impact on the stability on the videoconference connection.
5. Admission of the public
Oral proceedings in opposition proceedings are public (Article 116(4) EPC). Members of the public can attend oral proceedings held by videoconference in a dedicated room on the premises of the EPO. Alternatively, members of the public may, upon giving prior notice, be provided with a link for connecting to the videoconference. The way in which members of the public may attend oral proceedings held by videoconference will be announced on the EPO website.
Where the opposition division decides that the oral proceedings are not public, no videoconference connection will be provided to the members of the public.
6. No recording or retransmission
No image or sound recording, or retransmission, may be made of any part of the oral proceedings held by videoconference, other than by the EPO.
7. Submissions and their transmission
During oral proceedings held by videoconference, submissions are to be made by email or, exceptionally, by fax. The chairperson will provide the parties with the email address to be used at the beginning of the oral proceedings.
Submissions made by one of the parties will be transmitted to the other parties by electronic means, by forwarding the email with its attachments. Therefore, each party must communicate to the chairperson at the beginning of the oral proceedings the email address it wishes to use for receiving copies of such submissions.
8. Pilot period
The pilot will start with the entry into force of the Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 14 April 2020 concerning the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions (4 May 2020) and is due to run until 30 April 2021.
[ 1 ] For the most recent information, see the Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 1 April 2020 concerning oral proceedings by videoconference before examining divisions (OJ EPO 2020, A38) and the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 1 April 2020 concerning oral proceedings and interviews to be held by videoconference (OJ EPO 2020, A40).
Date retrieved: 19 May 2021