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In a decision from the EPO president dated the 22 November 2022, the format of oral proceedings before examining divisions, opposition divisions, the Legal Division and the Receiving section of the European Patent Office (EPO) are to be held by videoconference from 1 January 2023.
Oral proceedings may still 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. Additionally, the President’s decision does not apply to oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal.
This decision was made in response to the publication of the final report on a pilot project, which found over 77% of respondents found oral proceeding by videoconferencing to be “good” or “very good”, with a majority of users (57%) also declaring that their most recent experience of oral proceedings by videoconferencing was better than in the past, or at least the same (36%).
The report also highlights some of the benefits of oral proceedings by video conferencing such as greater transparency and easier public participation, more participants, cost reduction for parties (such as travel, hotels etc.) and positive environmental impact.
The President of the EPO António Campinos had the following to say on the introduction of video conferencing:
“The pandemic has been a catalyst for change affecting many aspects of our patent granting process. Applicants and their representatives have already found that the widespread adoption of videoconferencing is permanently changing the way they do business. Most have welcomed the way in which we have embraced new technologies and the opportunities they provide to save time and money, and reduce carbon emissions, while still allowing them to argue their case effectively. The pilot has taught us all many valuable lessons and allowed us to test various ways of working. After more than two and a half years it is right that we now provide clarity and adopt VICOs as the standard format.”
We welcome this change in EPO procedure and have personally had positive experiences in conducting oral proceedings via videoconference. For example, conducting the proceedings via videoconference has greatly reduced costs for our clients as well as in many cases also provided the option for them to observe the proceedings, making the process much more accessible.
Consequently, we look forward to this new normal and the advantages that conducting oral proceedings via videoconference may provide. If you have any questions about this, please contact one of our attorneys.