A transparent opposition procedure that provides legally valid decisions
The EPO's aim in its opposition procedure is to act with the utmost impartiality and deliver legally valid decisions on time. Each case is dealt with by an opposition division composed of three highly experienced examiners, who can be joined by a legal member when required.
Independent quality audits
Besides its audits of classification, search, and grant products every year, Directorate Quality Audit (DQA) audits opposition when mandated by the President. In 2022, 100 opposition decisions and procedures were audited, of which 12 had findings. In only four of these the auditor disagreed with the decision. This total of 12 decisions with findings can be seen as a slight improvement in quality compared with the 2018 results, when the total number with findings was 14 out of 90 decisions.
Timely access to legal certainty
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic meant that many oral proceedings in opposition scheduled for 2020 had to be postponed to 2021. This then led to a temporary decline in opposition timeliness in 2021 and 2022. However, by early 2022 the backlog had been cleared, returning to a steady state of 4 346 oppositions in stock by the end of the year. As we processed the backlog, timeliness – which is based on a rolling 12-month figure ‒ gradually started to improve, with a mean processing time of 19.6 months achieved for standard files by the end of 2022.
User satisfaction survey
The user satisfaction survey gives a reliable view of how our users rate opposition. Overall satisfaction levels in the 2022/2023 survey (satisfactory and very satisfactory ratings) were 70% for the opposition procedure. High satisfaction levels were noted in the areas of "Fair treatment", with 79% stating that performance in this respect was very good or good. With regard to duration of the procedure, a 54% satisfaction rate was recorded.
In 2022, we carried out a survey focusing on oral proceedings by videoconferencing (VICO). Over 77% of respondents found oral proceedings by VICO to be "good" or "very good", which is more than in the consultation conducted in September 2021.The format enhances transparency and accessibility in proceedings, contributing to the EPO's sustainability goals. The President of the EPO therefore decided in November 2022 that VICO should become the default format for oral proceedings in opposition from 1 January 2023.