4.7. Computer-generated presentations and other visual aids

In T 1122/01 the board explained that a PowerPoint presentation was essentially a written presentation of information, thus enabling a party to present written arguments in addition to its oral statements. It could also be a way of introducing new means of evidence, or it could lead to a completely new and unexpected presentation of the case by a party. There was therefore a risk of the other parties being caught unawares by this, of new procedural issues being raised, and of the oral proceedings becoming protracted. The board explained that the principles relating to the use of visual aids such as flip charts should also be applied to PowerPoint presentations. A party wishing to use such a presentation should announce this intention early enough before the oral proceedings and should send both the board and the other parties a copy. Any objections could then be raised and considered at the oral proceedings before the presentation was given, and a decision could be made if need be.

In T 1110/03 (OJ 2005, 302) one of the opponents had been permitted to argue his case at oral proceedings before the opposition division by means of an hour-long computer-generated slideshow presentation containing many complex slides. The board concurred with the view expressed in decision T 1122/01 that there was a danger of a degree of unfairness creeping in in the unrestricted use of computer-generated slideshow presentations in oral proceedings. This potential unfairness could be mitigated by providing the other parties and the division or board with copies of the material to be presented in good time before the oral proceedings.

In T 555/06 the board held that a computer-generated slideshow presentation was, in principle, not distinguishable from other presentations using more conventional technology such as flip-charts or overhead projectors. The practice mentioned in T 1110/03 placed certain restrictions on the timing of a party's preparation for oral proceedings but had no influence on the content. In the case at issue the opponent's representative had informed the opposition division prior to the oral proceedings that the computer-generated slideshow presentations would contain only information which was already in the file and therefore would act only as a visual aid. Nevertheless, the opponent failed to respect the opposition division's instruction to file a copy of the content in advance. In the light of the concerns raised in T 1110/03, the division's action in refusing the presentation was both entirely understandable and reasonable.

In T 373/05, a few days prior to oral proceedings before the board the appellant/proprietor asked for a screen for showing PowerPoint slides at the hearing, without however saying what the slides were about. At the start of the oral proceedings, it distributed paper versions of the slides, setting out arguments about the admissibility of the respondent's opposition and regarding sufficiency of disclosure. The board took the view that since they contained no new facts, their late submission was no reason to disregard them under Art. 114(2) EPC 1973. On the contrary, it felt that presenting the appellant's arguments visually on paper had also helped the respondents to prepare their responses.

In the board's view in T 1556/06, the opposition division has discretion as to the way oral proceedings were conducted. It was not a wrongful exercise of this discretion, and thus not a procedural violation, to refuse to allow a party to use a PowerPoint presentation during oral proceedings if the party was not thereby prevented from presenting its arguments orally.

In T 608/08 the appellant had complained that the opposition division had not allowed its request for a daylight projector to be provided. The board found that Art. 116 EPC, which enshrines in specific terms the general right to be heard laid down in Art. 113(1) EPC, confers only a right to make oral statements, but not to the use of technical aids such as a daylight projector. Since the appellant was able to make oral statements at the oral proceedings, the failure to provide a daylight projector was not in breach of its entitlement to oral proceedings or its right to be heard.

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