22 September 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. From 27 September 2021, access to the building will be granted only to vaccinated, recovered or tested individuals - see the section "Access to oral proceedings before Boards of Appeal on the premises"; the practice involving the self-declaration form used until now will be discontinued. 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 will be granted access to the buildings only if:
- a PCR test, a PoC-PCR test, or a test by other methods of nucleic acid amplification technique performed 48 hours or less ago;
- A PoC antigen test performed 24 hours or less ago; or
- A supervised antigen test for self-administration by lay persons (self-testing) approved by the Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM) and performed no more than 24 hours ago.
Any person not fulfilling at least one of these conditions 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.
Furthermore, anyone with symptoms matching those of COVID‑19 are kindly asked to refrain from entering the buildings, irrespective of whether they meet one of the abovementioned conditions.
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.
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.
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 oral proceedings before Boards of Appeal on the premises" 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. See also the information under "Access to oral proceedings before Boards of Appeal on the premises" 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.