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Oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal will continue to be provided in-person at the European Patent Office (EPO), or by video conference (VICO), or by mixed-mode upon request; the board decides on the mode and on any request for a change. The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic measures regulating the arrangement and conduct of in-person oral proceedings will be lifted as from 1 February 2023.
Oral proceedings conducted in person
Oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal on the premises of the EPO are currently subjected to coronavirus-related measures including a limit to the number of persons per party, and for the Haar building presentation of a negative coronavirus test, physical distancing and wearing of FFP2 mask in certain places. These will be lifted as from 1 February 2023. The EPO still recommends:
- informing the board without delay in case of symptoms that indicate a cold or COVID-19 infection,
- observing hand hygiene and further preventive measures to limit the spread of disease,
- act considerately if other visitors wish to wear a mask and prefer to maintain social distancing.
Self-tests and masks remain available at the reception desk. Oral proceedings currently planned to take place in the Isar building in 2023 will typically not be relocated. Nonetheless, changes of location between Haar premises and Isar building are not ruled out - parties are recommended to check the venue and time approximately three days before the oral proceedings.
Oral proceedings conducted by VICO
The board has discretion to summon parties to and conduct oral proceedings either in person or by VICO. Parties may, prior to and/or after the issuance of summons, submit a request and reasons to the board for a change in mode, and the board has discretion in deciding. Members of the public may follow oral proceedings held by VICO remotely with prior notice.
Mixed-mode oral proceedings
In "mixed-mode oral proceedings", some parties, representatives and/or accompanying persons attend by VICO while others are physically present in the oral proceedings room together with board members. Mixed-mode oral proceedings may be requested; a board has discretion in deciding. Members of the public can only attend in person.
Oral proceedings in non-Appeal cases
Since January 1, 2023 it has been a default of the EPO that oral proceedings before examining divisions, opposition divisions, the Legal Division and the Receiving Section ("the division") are held by VICO as reported here. However, oral proceedings may be held on the premises of the EPO, either at the request of a party or at the instigation of the division if there are serious reasons against holding the oral proceedings by videoconference. Where oral proceedings are held on the premises of the EPO, there are currently no COVID-19 restrictions.