26 January 2022
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EPO oppositions by videoconference only became possible relatively recently, in April 2020. In 2021 alone, Mewburn Ellis has handled nearly 100 EPO videoconference hearings and that number is increasing each week.  We have a bespoke videoconference hearing set-up in each of our five offices. Using our flexible set-up, as many as four participants in the same physical room can join, each with their own video-feed and microphone. This ensures the type of technical set-up which the EPO strongly prefers, whilst enabling the Mewburn client team to communicate with each other effectively during the hearing.

So far, the technical side of these videoconference hearings has run very smoothly almost without exception. The format works well for large multiparty hearings too: in one case we represented the patent proprietor in an opposition hearing which lasted five days with 9 opponents in attendance.

At present, Opposition Division (first instance) hearings are run exclusively by videoconference. This will continue until at least 31 December 2022. The EPO Opposition Divisions exclusively seem to use a “distributed” format, with each of the three members of the Division in a different location - usually their own home. By contrast, Appeal Board hearings have been possible in-person on EPO premises throughout the pandemic and the eventual format of each hearing depends on its specific circumstances (with last-minute format changes common). Appeal hearings also differ from Opposition Division hearings in that a “hybrid” format is possible, in which some parties attend in-person and others by videoconference link. 

At Mewburn Ellis we have been guiding our clients on this new opposition videoconference format since its inception. If you have an EPO videoconference opposition or appeal hearing in your calendar, feel free to download our guide for attending as a member of your party.

Katherine is a Partner and Patent Attorney at Mewburn Ellis. She specialises in EPO oppositions and appeals, particularly defending patents in complex opposition cases involving very large numbers of opponents. Katherine advises on European prosecution strategies for many important patent families, particularly divisional strategies for opposed patents. Her prosecution work includes advising on securing grant for the high-profile family of cases protecting CRISPR/Cas platform technology invented by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.

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