By "oral proceedings" is meant formal proceedings within the meaning of Art. 116. The term does not include consultations such as occur in examination proceedings and limitation/revocation proceedings (see C‑VII, 2). In view of Rule 81(2), such consultations are not allowed in opposition proceedings in which more than one party is involved unless the consultations concern matters which do not affect the interests of other parties. An example is proceedings for examining the admissibility of opposition, provided this involves only the EPO and the opponent concerned.

Oral proceedings will take place before the competent body, e.g. within the Receiving Section before the appointed officer and during the examination and opposition procedure before the whole division. In matters lying within its competence, oral proceedings can be held before the Legal Division. The right to oral proceedings forms a substantial part of the right to be heard under Art. 113.

Oral proceedings can be held on the premises of the EPO or by videoconference, where so permitted. Oral proceedings by videoconference are equivalent to oral proceedings held on the premises of the European Patent Office (OJ EPO 2020, A134, Article 1(3); OJ EPO 2020, A121, Article 2(3)).

Oral proceedings before examining divisions, the Receiving Section and the Legal Division are generally held by videoconference, either at the request of the applicant or at the instigation of the examining division competent department unless there are serious reasons against holding the oral proceedings by videoconference (OJ EPO 2020, A134, Article 1(2); OJ EPO 2021, A49, Article 1(2); OJ EPO 2021, A50, Article 1(2)). Examples of serious reasons are, in particular, reasons relating to a participant to the oral proceedings as an individual (e.g. a proven visual impairment that prevents a representative from following oral proceedings on screen) and reasons related to the nature and subject-matter of the proceedings (e.g. where they involve the demonstration or inspection of an object where the haptic features are essential, to the extent that this is possible in accordance with the applicable provisions). Sweeping objections against the reliability of videoconferencing technology or the non-availability of videoconferencing equipment will, as a rule, not qualify as serious reasons in this regard.

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