Modification and extension of pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before EPO’s opposition divisions
The President of the EPO has issued on 10 November 2020 a decision to modify and to extend the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions until 15 September 2021.
Following the first decision of 14 April 2020 concerning the pilot project, oral proceedings before opposition divisions are conducted by videoconference, which are equivalent to oral proceedings held on the premises of the EPO. The first decision entered into force 4 May 2020 and provided that oral proceedings are held at the discretion of the opposition division and with the agreement of all parties.
The second decision of 10 November 2020 on the pilot project, which enters into force 4 January 2021, provides that the agreement of the parties to hold oral proceedings in opposition proceedings by videoconference is no longer required. Oral proceedings before the opposition division are to be held mandatorily by videoconference, provided there are no serious reasons against it.
Examples of serious reasons are a proven visual impairment of one participant or demonstration of an object where the haptic features are essential. A refused request by one of the parties to hold oral proceedings on the premises of the EPO is not separately appealable.
The decision of 10 November 2020 further specifies that evidence may be taken during the oral proceedings as opposed to the earlier decision, which only provided for taking evidence on the premises of the EPO.
It has been also clarified in the notice accompanying the new decision that the EPO does not require the payment of a specific fee for holding oral proceedings by videoconference. Participants bear only the costs for their connection to the internet and any technical facilities or software at their end.
For more details on the pilot project on oral proceedings via videoconference, it may be referred to the corresponding decision from the EPO available under https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/2020/11/a121/2020-a121.pdf and https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/2020/04/a42/2020-a42.pdf.