26 July 2021
In the light of the developments in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Boards of Appeal have revised some of their measures for the arrangement and conduct of oral proceedings. With regard to the conduct of oral proceedings using videoconferencing (VICO) technology, see the section "Oral proceedings conducted by VICO" below.
Please note that these measures differ from those decided by the President of the European Patent Office for oral proceedings before examining and opposition divisions.
If parties cannot attend oral proceedings for which they have been summoned, they have to request a change of date (see Article 15(2) RPBA 2020).
Parties, representatives, accompanying persons and members of the public wishing to enter the buildings must complete a simple self-declaration form, which they should do in advance of their arrival. For the third statement in the form, please refer to the regularly updated list of international risk areas on the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) website. Any person not confirming all statements will be denied access to both the Haar premises and the Isar building. The competent board will be informed accordingly and will then decide whether the oral proceedings can be held without that person or whether they will need to be postponed.
The third statement on the self-declaration form can also be confirmed by a person not coming from an area of variant of concern (as defined by the RKI):
Parties, representatives and accompanying persons can also confirm the third statement of the self-declaration form in accordance with the exception provided for by § 6(2), No. 1 a)dd), CoronaEinreiseV (German regulation laying down quarantine rules for inbound travellers). This provision releases parties, representatives and accompanying persons from mandatory quarantine in Germany. A condition for the exception is that the people concerned present a negative test result, on paper or in electronic form, meeting the requirements of § 2, No. 6, CoronaEinreiseV (for further information on test requirements, see either the website of the German Federal Foreign Office or the explanation provided by the RKI). According to § 6(2), second sentence, CoronaEinreiseV, this exception does not apply to parties, representatives and accompanying persons coming from an area of variant of concern.
Owing to the need for physical distancing, only a limited number of suitable rooms are available on the Boards of Appeal premises in Haar and therefore some oral proceedings may have to be held in the Isar building in Munich instead.
In addition, if necessary to ensure that the rules on minimum physical distancing can be respected, the starting times of oral proceedings may be staggered (9.00, 9.30, 10.00 hrs, etc.).
As a general rule, parties will not be sent a communication informing them of a change of venue or starting time. As such changes may take place at short notice, it is up to the parties to consult the online calendar approximately three days before their oral proceedings to check whether they will take place on the Haar premises or in the Isar building and when exactly they are scheduled to start. For more information, please see the Notice of the President of the Boards of Appeal dated 1 August 2020 concerning oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal on the premises in Haar and in the Isar building in Munich during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (OJ EPO 2020, A103).
Owing again to the need for physical distancing, parties are asked to consider whether all representatives and accompanying persons need to attend. Attendance is generally restricted to a maximum of two people per party. Parties wishing to attend with more than two people should submit a reasoned request to that effect in advance of the oral proceedings. It will be for the board to decide on their request.
Strict hygiene measures are in place to ensure that oral proceedings are held in optimum conditions. These measures include, in particular, rules on minimum physical distancing and the requirement to wear a face mask on the way to the oral proceedings room. Boards may also require the use of face masks inside the oral proceedings room. Parties, representatives and other visitors are required to bring their own face masks.
Parties, representatives and other visitors are strongly recommended to self-test for COVID-19 before visiting the premises of the Boards of Appeal in Haar or the Isar building.
It is possible for members of the public to attend oral proceedings. However, in view of the current circumstances, only limited places are available. Those interested in attending oral proceedings are therefore encouraged to announce this well in advance by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. See also the information under "Access to the buildings" above.
Oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal can also be conducted using VICO technology. Please note that on 16 July 2021 the Enlarged Board of Appeal issued the order of its decision in case G 1/21.
Oral proceedings to be conducted by VICO are also listed in the online oral proceedings calendar.
For information on technical aspects of the use of VICO technology, please see the information provided by the Office. Please note that from 1 October 2021 only Zoom will be used for oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal to be conducted by VICO. Any oral proceedings already scheduled to take place via Skype for Business will thus be converted to Zoom as of that date.
Members of the public wishing to follow oral proceedings conducted by VICO may do so in a dedicated room on the premises in Haar. In view of the current circumstances, however, only limited places will be available. Members of the public are encouraged to announce their plans to attend well in advance by email to email@example.com. As is the case generally for visitors to the Haar premises, members of the public wishing to attend oral proceedings conducted by VICO will be required to complete a self-declaration form (see also the information under "Access to the buildings" above).
Members of the public can always follow oral proceedings held by VICO remotely upon giving prior notice by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the public are asked to log on in good time in order to avoid disturbing the conduct of the oral proceedings and to refrain from joining and leaving the proceedings while they are ongoing.
It is not permitted to make photographic images or sound recordings or to retransmit any part of the oral proceedings. Nor is it permitted to forward the link received for connecting to the oral proceedings.
The President of the Boards of Appeal will continue to monitor developments in the COVID‑19 situation and take any appropriate measures in response.
Given that this situation is still evolving rapidly, all parties to scheduled oral proceedings are advised to check the web section of the Boards of Appeal regularly for updated information.