If, in the course of proceedings, a party requests oral proceedings, the competent department must grant this request. The EPO will not inform the party concerned of this right but will expect him – if he does not obtain satisfaction from the competent department – to request oral proceedings (if he so wishes) before a decision is reached.
Under Art. 116(1), parties can request oral proceedings at any time, provided a decision has not yet been issued. In particular, a request for oral proceedings made before the decision to grant or to limit has been handed over to the internal post has to be allowed (see T 556/95 and G 12/91).
Oral proceedings will take place before the Receiving Section at the request of the applicant only where the Receiving Section considers this to be expedient or where it envisages refusing the European patent application. Where the Receiving Section does not consider it necessary to hold oral proceedings, it must inform the applicant accordingly (see J 16/02).
The competent department will decide on the most appropriate date for the oral proceedings, which should only be held after the issues to be determined are sufficiently clear (see E-II, 5).
With a conditional request for oral proceedings, i.e. if the party concerned has indicated that the request for oral proceedings has been made solely as a precaution to cover the eventuality that the case he has put forward is not accepted, oral proceedings will be held only if a negative decision against the party concerned is envisaged.
With an unconditional request for oral proceedings, on the other hand, if the competent department considers that a decision on the matter may be reached on the basis of the written evidence obtained and intends to take a decision (e.g. in accordance with Art. 97, Art. 101 or Art. 105b) which fully concurs with the case put forward by the party or parties which requested the oral proceedings, the party or parties concerned should be informed accordingly and asked whether the request or requests for oral proceedings will be maintained even though the decision concurs with the case put forward. If the request is not expressly withdrawn, oral proceedings must be held.
A request to have oral proceedings held at an EPO site other than that indicated in the summons is not allowable (see T 1012/03).