EPO to conduct oral proceedings in opposition by videoconference
Until recently it was only possible to conduct oral proceedings by videoconference before examining divisions. With a view to extending this option to other procedures and in view of the current situation caused by the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the European Patent Office (EPO) has launched a pilot project to conduct oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions.
From May 4, 2020, oral proceedings may be held by videoconference in opposition if all parties to be summoned to the oral proceedings and the opposition division agree. The parties, their representatives and any persons accompanying the parties or representatives can connect to the videoconference from different locations. Also members of the public can follow oral proceedings held by videoconference in a dedicated room on the premises of the EPO or remotely upon giving prior notice. In addition to the use of Skype for Business as the default platform for more straightforward opposition cases, from 14 September 2020, the EPO also uses the Zoom platform for oral proceedings involving multiple opponents and/or requiring simultaneous interpretation (required in about 30% of proceedings).
De Clercq & Partners has already participated in a few oral proceedings conducted by videoconference. For the larger part, this has been a positive experience as proceedings are efficiently conducted following a well-thought-out procedure outline. Another advantage is the reduction of travel time and, consequently, costs for the parties involved. On the other hand we do believe that for complex matters where more time and more intricate, longer pleadings are necessary, oral proceedings through videoconference might not be the ideal solution. Although we do understand that the EPO and the Boards of Appeal are looking to make progress in these times where live meetings are to be avoided, the right to be heard should never be violated.
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