By way of an update, on 10 November 2020, the EPO has decided that all oral proceedings in opposition cases shall be held by videoconference as standard. Only if there are serious reasons preventing the use of video conference (e.g. if evidence needs to be taken directly), oral proceedings will be postponed until after 15 September 2021. It is important to note that the EPO will not allow mixed proceedings where one party attends in person and the other party attends by videoconference. However, contrary to the previous practice, it is no longer required that both parties need to agree to the videoconference.
The Boards of Appeal have resumed the holding of oral proceedings, to a limited extent, at their premises in Haar from Monday, 18 May 2020. Contrary to the previous practice where parties were contacted to confirm that they expect to be able to attend in person and that they do not anticipate being affected by travel restrictions, the parties now have to indicate on their own motion if they are not able to attend the oral proceedings. The maximum attendance is 2 (!) persons per party. Parties and representatives will be asked to complete a simple screening questionnaire upon arrival. Any person replying to one of the questions in the affirmative will be denied access to the Boards of Appeal premises. The competent board will be informed accordingly and will decide whether the oral proceedings can be held without that person or whether they will need to be postponed. Access of the public will be allowed but only for a limited number of people.
Oral proceedings in examination proceedings will continue to be held by videoconference unless - either at the request of the applicant or at the instigation of the examining division - there are serious reasons against holding the oral proceedings by videoconference such as, in particular, the need to take evidence directly.
During interviews and oral proceedings held by videoconference, submissions are to be made by email. The chairperson or, in the case of an interview, the first examiner will provide the applicant or representative with the email address to be used at the beginning of the oral proceedings.
Authored by Andreas Schmid