EPO – Oral proceedings by Video Conference
As was widely expected, the EPO have now confirmed that oral proceedings will continue to be held by videoconference from 1 January 2023, except in exceptional circumstances.
By way of a decision on 22 November 2022, the EPO have set out that the default position surrounding oral proceedings is that they will be held virtually, rather than in person, unless “serious reasons” are provided by at least one party to the proceedings. Any decision to refuse an “in person” hearing will not be appealable.
The term “serious reason” is explained by the EPO as follows:
Examples of serious reasons are, in particular, reasons relating to a participant in the oral proceedings as an individual (e.g. a proven visual impairment that prevents a representative from following oral proceedings on screen) and reasons related to the nature and subject-matter of the proceedings (e.g. where they involve the demonstration or inspection of an object where the haptic features are essential or the inspection of an object that cannot be made available for inspection by videoconference). Sweeping objections based on the reliability of videoconferencing technology or the non-availability of videoconferencing equipment will, as a rule, not qualify as serious reasons in this regard.
This decision will help maintain easy accessibility to the process at the EPO, especially for applicants, as participants do not need to travel to The Hague, Munich or Berlin, thereby saving time and costs for all concerned.