7.3. Oral proceedings held by video-conference

Oral proceedings can be held by video-conference before the examining division according to the Updated notice from the European Patent Office dated 15 November 2018 concerning interviews and oral proceedings to be held as a video-conference (OJ 2018, A96). The examining division's rejection of the applicant's request to hold oral proceedings by video-conference must be reasoned, R. 111(2) EPC (T 677/08).

Before the boards, several requests for oral proceedings to be held by video-conference have been made. When rejecting these requests, boards (starting with T 1266/07) have pointed to the lack of general framework on this matter. In particular, no provisions (e.g. in the RPBA) exist on this matter. In addition, oral proceedings held before the examining division are, in accordance with Art. 116(3) EPC, not public, whereas those before the boards of appeal are public, Art. 116(4) EPC. It would be necessary to ensure that the use of video conferencing is reconciled with the requirement that oral proceedings before the boards be public. See inter alia T 37/08, T 663/10, T 1930/12, T 1942/12, T 1081/12, T 2313/12, T 1529/14.

In T 2068/14 the board held that it had a discretion regarding the organisation of oral proceedings, including, in principle, holding them by video conference. This discretion was exercised according to the circumstances of the case, including, in particular, whether the case in hand was ex parte or inter partes. A further important issue was the availability of suitable rooms for oral proceedings before the board by video conference. This would typically require that provision also be made for the public (see T 1266/07). A video conference contained the essence of oral proceedings, namely that the board and the parties/representatives could communicate with each other simultaneously. The onus was on the appellant to persuade the board that conventional oral proceedings were not appropriate to properly present the appellant's case. In the case in hand, the board rejected the request (see also T 2468/10, T 928/11, T 1081/12, T 2313/12).

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