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12 November 2020
The European Patent Office (EPO) has recently enabled oral proceedings to be conducted by videoconference before opposition divisions, in the context of a pilot project launched on 4 May 2020.
Based on experiences gathered since the launch of this pilot project, the President of the European Patent Office has decided to extend the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions until 15 September 2021. This decision was issued on 10 November 2020.
The decision to modify and extend the Pilot Project will enter into force on 4 January 2021 and hence will be applicable to all oral proceedings before opposition divisions scheduled to take place on or after that date.
The decision of the EPO to extend the pilot project implies that opposition oral proceedings in person (currently postponed until 31 December 2020) will be further postponed until 15 September 2021, and that videoconference will be the default way of conducting oral proceedings in oppositions from 4 January 2021 onwards for the duration of the pilot project.
In a separate notice, also dated 10 November 2020, the EPO has provided updated and consolidated information about new conditions and practice when dealing with oral proceedings by videoconference, including before opposition divisions. Briefly summarised, particular attention should be given to following points:
- as a rule, where oral proceedings have been requested or are considered expedient by the opposition division under the aforementioned pilot project, the parties will be summoned to oral proceedings held by videoconference;
- the agreement of all parties to hold oral proceedings in opposition proceedings by videoconferencing will no longer be required under the pilot project;
- by way of exception, oral proceedings may still be held on the premises of the European Patent Office, either at the request of a party or at the instigation of the opposition division, but, serious reasons against holding the oral proceedings by videoconference will have to be presented to support such requests. It appears that objections against reliability or non-availability of videoconferencing technology would not qualify as serious reasons in this context. Requests to hold oral proceedings at the premises of the EPO should be filed as early as possible and granting thereof is at the discretion of the opposition division.
- parties, their representatives and any persons accompanying the parties or representatives can still connect to the videoconference from different locations. However, if this is the intention, the EPO should be informed as early as possible;
- members of the public can still follow oral proceedings held by videoconference on the premises of the EPO or remotely upon giving prior notice.
De Clercq & Partners will be closely monitoring the implementation of the new conditions and practices linked to the conduct of oral proceeding by videoconferencing in oppositions. While, we do understand that the EPO has introduced some of the above measures in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which imposes travel restrictions and health risks for in-person meetings, and in order to avoid or reduce an increase in the number of unsettled oppositions cases, we do believe that for complex matters requiring more time, longer pleadings, and/or involving multiple parties, oral proceedings through videoconference might not be the ideal solution.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. You can contact us via email@example.com or by dialing 0032 (0)9 280 23 40.
- Decision of the President of the EPO dated 10 November concerning the modification and extension of the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions
- Clarifying Notice issued by the EPO on 10 November concerning oral proceedings before examining and opposition divisions, and consultations, by videoconference