Amendments to the rules of procedure of the boards of appeal enter into force on 1st january 2024 which aim at reducing duration of appeal proceedings
The Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) are an independent body to which decisions made by the EPO can be appealed. Over several years now, a large backlog of appeal cases had been building up blocking the efficient conclusion of cases.
The Rules of Procedure for the Boards of Appeal (RPBA 2000) came into force on 1 January 2020 with the aim to increase: (1) the efficiency by reducing the number of issues to be treated; (2) the predictability for the parties; and (3) harmonisation.
The Rules of Procedure may be amended upon proposal by the President of the Boards of Appeal and approval by the Administrative Council (AC) of the EPO.
In the amendments of Articles 13(2), 15(1) and 15(9)(b), the President of the Boards of Appeal has taken into account users' valuable input that was among others provided in an online user consultation.
The amendments were approved during the AC meeting of 13 December 2023, and are related to the ambitious objective of the Boards of Appeal to improve timeliness and to eliminate the stock of backlog cases so that cases can ultimately be dealt with as soon as they come in. The new timeliness objective for the Boards of Appeal is ambitious and aims at a settling of 90% of cases within 24 months by the end of 2025. After evaluation, a further amendment of the timeline to reply under Article 12(1)(c) RPBA will be considered.
The amended provisions will enter into force on 1 January 2024 and apply to all appeal proceedings pending on or after that date.
Under new Article 13(2) RPBA, the notification of a summons to oral proceedings is replaced with a notification of a communication under Article 15, paragraph 1.
The amendment of Article 15(1) RPBA refers to a change in timelines when there is more than one party by deleting the second sentence: “In cases whether there is more than one party, the board shall endeavour to issue the summons no earlier than two months after receipt of the written reply or replies” and adding: “In cases where there is more than one party, the board shall issue the communication no earlier than one month after receipt of the written reply or replies referred to in Article 12 paragraph 1(c) RPBA.”
The amendment to Article 15(1) RPBA is the most important amendment. It enhances the timeliness of the appeal proceedings by enabling the Board to summon to oral proceedings at an earlier stage of the proceedings. Until now, in cases where there is more than one party, the Board had to endeavour to summon no earlier than two months after the respondent’s reply to the statement of grounds of appeal. This constraint will not apply to the summons anymore. Early summoning is also beneficial for parties and representatives, who can immediately make the necessary arrangements for the oral proceedings.
Article 15(9)(b) RPBA was amended to be harmonised with Article 15(9)(a) RPBA.
An overview of the procedure before the Boards of Appeal can be found here.
At De Clercq & Partners, we have experience in representing the Appealing partner, either from the side of the patent owner or from the side of the opponent. Many of our attorneys are qualified and experienced in litigating Appeal cases before the EPO. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.