Applicants and their representatives can request that an interview or oral proceedings before an examining division be held as a video-conference . As from 1 May 2012, the EPO supports both ISDN and IP technology (SIP and H.323).
1. How to request a video-conference
Any request for an interview or oral proceedings to be held as a video-conference should be filed with the EPO in the same way as any other request concerning a pending European patent application. In particular, the number of the application concerned has to be indicated. The request should specify which technology (ISDN or IP) the applicant intends to use.
Oral proceedings held by video-conference are equivalent to oral proceedings held in the traditional manner on the premises of the EPO. Consequently a request for further oral proceedings before the same department (whether by video-conference or any other form) may be rejected where the parties and the subject of the proceedings are the same (Article 116(1) EPC). As indicated in the previous announcement on this subject (OJ EPO 2006, 585), the practice of requiring that the applicant file a waiver declaration has been abandoned. It is however emphasised that the decision to accept the request for video-conference oral proceedings falls under the discretion of the examining division (see point 2).
In order to facilitate room booking, a request for holding an interview or oral proceedings as a video-conference should be filed as early as possible, preferably together with the request for an interview or oral proceedings. Please note that if the date of an interview or oral proceedings has already been scheduled when a video-conference is requested, the unavailability of video-conference facilities on that date is not a valid reason for postponement.
2. How the EPO will deal with a request for a video-conference
The request will be forwarded to the primary examiner in charge of the corresponding file for decision. In the case of oral proceedings to be held as a video-conference, the competence for the decision lies with the examining division. The first examiner or the examining division, as the case may be, has a discretionary power and will, on a case‑by‑case basis, decide on the suitability of video-conferencing. If the request cannot be allowed, the person making the request will be informed by a communication indicating the reasons for the refusal. No appealable decision will be issued on the matter.
If the request is allowed, the person making the request will be contacted in order to arrange the date and time of the video-conference, which has to be on a working day within EPO working hours. This will be confirmed by a written communication or fax containing any further appropriate information. In parallel, the internal procedure for reserving video-conference studios will be followed.
3. Equipment required
Please note that the EPO video-conference studios are for internal use only and therefore are not available for the applicant's or representative's own use.
The EPO video-conference studios employ both ISDN technology (H.261/H.320 ITU compatible, channel bonding or H.244, videocoding CIF H.261, H.263, H.264, audiocoding G.711, G.722, max. transmission rate 768 Kbit/s using 12 channels) and IP technology (SIP or H.323, videocoding CIF H.261, H.263, H.264, audiocoding G.711, G.722, max. transmission rate 1024 Kbit/s). Each studio has a fax machine; a document camera with zoom function can be made available on request. Video-conferences must be carried out at a transmission rate of at least 256 Kbit/s, but at least 384 Kbit/s is preferred. The maximum transmission rate is 768 Kbit/s for ISDN and 1024 Kbit/s for IP, but will increase as the technologies develop. Up-to-date information will be available under the support number indicated in the communication allowing the video-conference. The applicant or representative has to ensure that his video-conference equipment will meet the above requirements.
The applicant or representative is encouraged to set up a connection to a demonstration system well before the oral proceedings take place. The contact details for this system and a support number are indicated in the communication allowing the video-conference.
4. Location of the video-conference studios of the EPO
Examining divisions have video-conference studios at the EPO in Munich, The Hague and Berlin for European patent grant proceedings. The video-conference contact details (for ISDN: dial-up number; for IP: SIP URI or H.323 ID) to be used by the applicant will be indicated in the communication allowing the video-conference.
The EPO does not require the payment of a specific fee for holding an interview or oral proceedings as a video-conference. For ISDN connection, the person making the request will have to bear the transmission costs, and will be asked by the EPO to dial the indicated number of the video-conference studio on the date and at the time which have been agreed. For IP connection, the person making the request bears only the costs for his own connection to the internet.