4.9. Speaking time during oral proceedings

In T 601/05 (decision of 2 December 2009) the only substantive issue to be dealt with at the oral proceedings was Art. 83 EPC. In the evening of the second day of the oral proceedings, the board had limited the speaking time to ten minutes for each party for a "final round" of discussion with respect to a particular argument. In its decision the board held that the limitation of time was a necessary procedural measure by which the right to be heard pursuant to Art. 113(1) and 116 EPC had not been violated. On the one hand, it was the attorneys' responsibility to structure their pleadings in such a way that the time frame of the oral proceedings, which had been communicated to the parties with the summons and had not been objected by them, can be complied with. On the other hand, it was the board's responsibility to conduct oral proceedings in such a way that the time frame was kept to and to ensure that the case was ready for decision at the end of the oral proceedings. It followed from Art. 15(4) and 15(6) RPBA that the structuring of the oral proceedings was within the discretion of the board. The time to speak had been limited in the context of an issue that had already been presented in detail in the written submissions. Each party had altogether around forty minutes to plead on this issue. The board considered this amount of time sufficient for a skilled attorney to properly present her or his arguments, even if they might be complex.

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