Until May 2020, applicants could request for EPO examiner interviews and EPO Examining Division oral proceedings to be held by video-conference, but video-conferencing was not available for EPO Opposition Division and Board of Appeal oral proceedings.
However, as a result of the disruptions caused by the spread of Coronavirus, the EPO has changed these practices. Relevant EPO notices can be found here:
- https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/information-epo/archive/20201110.html (opposition)
- https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/2020/04/a40.html (examination)
Examining Division oral proceedings and interviews
All oral proceedings before Examining Divisions are now by video-conference, unless there are serious reasons against holding such oral proceedings by video-conference. An example of a serious reason is a need to take evidence directly which may require the oral proceedings to take place on the premises of the EPO.
Interviews in examination are also now held by video-conference as a matter of course.
Opposition Division oral proceedings
Under recently announced changes to the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before Opposition Divisions, oral proceedings before Oppositions Divisions will be held by video-conference effective 4 January 2021 until 15 September 2021. Opposition oral proceedings will be held on the premises of the EPO only if there are “serious reasons” against holding the oral proceedings by video-conference. The agreement of all parties for use of video-conference, which was required when the pilot project launched, will no longer be required as from 4 January 2021.
Related to this, all oral proceedings before Oppositions Divisions which are to take place on the premises of the EPO (i.e. not by video-conference) are currently postponed until 15 September 2021 because of the disruptions caused by the spread of Coronavirus.
Unless the Opposition Division decides that the oral proceedings are not public, members of the public can attend Opposition Division oral proceedings held by video-conference in a dedicated room on the premises of the EPO. Alternatively, members of the public may, upon giving prior notice, be provided with a link for connecting to the video-conference remotely.
Board of Appeal oral proceedings
Owing to the Coronavirus pandemic, conduct of oral proceedings before Boards of Appeal by video-conference is possible with the agreement of the parties concerned. It is not clear if this is a temporary measure while there are disruptions caused by the pandemic, or if it is a permanent change in practice of the Boards of Appeal.
Any member of the public wishing to attend oral proceedings before Boards of Appeal conducted by video-conference may do so in a dedicated room located at the premises of the Boards of Appeal in Haar, DE.
Use of our in-house video-conference facilities
All our offices have their own video-conference facilities which are compatible with those used by the EPO. These facilities are available for use by our attorneys in making video-conference calls to the EPO.
Submission and transmission of documents during a video-conference
Documents can be filed and received during a video-conference by email.
Video-conferencing from different locations
Examining Divisions and Opposition Divisions may, on request, allow a party, their representative and any persons accompanying the party or representative to connect to the video-conference from different locations. However, for Opposition Division oral proceedings, the request for multiple persons to connect from different locations must be filed by the final date for making written submissions.
What happens if there is a technical problem on the day?
If technical problems prevent the oral proceedings by video-conference from being conducted openly and fairly, then the oral proceedings will be terminated and a new summons to oral proceedings issued.
This information is simplified and must not be taken as a definitive statement of the law or practice.