3.2.3 Time limits in pending proceedings

In T 392/97 the would-be interveners requested that the date for the appointed oral proceedings be postponed and submitted that they had not been duly summoned to the oral proceedings in accordance with R. 71(1), second sentence, EPC 1973 which stipulated at least two months' notice. In the board's view, R. 71(1) EPC 1973 did not stipulate that the requirement of a two­month period also applied if, subsequent to a duly effected summons, there was an intervention by a third party. As a general principle, an intervener entered the proceedings at the stage they were at on the date of intervention, including pending time limits. Issuing a further summons or adjourning the date would in this case clearly conflict with the previous agreement between the opponent and the patentee as to the fixing of the oral proceedings and with the legitimate interest of the parties in bringing the proceedings before the EPO to a conclusion. The request for postponement of the appointed oral proceedings was therefore rejected.

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