If, in the course of proceedings, a party requests oral proceedings, the competent department must grant this request as further explained in this section. The EPO will not inform any party concerned of this right but will expect them – if they do not obtain satisfaction from the competent department – to request oral proceedings (if they so wish) before a decision is reached.
Under Art. 116(1), parties can request oral proceedings at any time, provided a decision has not yet been issued. In particular, a request for oral proceedings made before the decision to grant or to limit has been handed over to the internal post has to be allowed (see T 556/95 and G 12/91).
Oral proceedings will take place before the Receiving Section at the request of the applicant only where the Receiving Section considers this to be expedient or where it envisages refusing the European patent application. Where the Receiving Section does not consider it necessary to hold oral proceedings, it must inform the applicant accordingly (see J 16/02).
The competent department will decide on the most appropriate date for the oral proceedings, which will only be held after the issues to be determined are sufficiently clear (see E‑III, 5).
With a conditional request for oral proceedings, i.e. if any party concerned has indicated that the request for oral proceedings has been made solely as a precaution to cover the eventuality that the case they have put forward is not accepted, oral proceedings will be held only if a negative decision against the party concerned is envisaged.
With an unconditional request for oral proceedings, if the competent department considers that a decision on the matter may be reached on the basis of the written evidence on file and intends to take a decision (e.g. in accordance with Art. 97, Art. 101 or Art. 105b) which fully concurs with the case put forward by the party or parties having unconditionally requested the oral proceedings, and providing there is no valid request for oral proceedings from a party adversely affected by the decision envisaged, the decision may be is issued in writing without oral proceedings being held (T 1050/09).
A request to hold oral proceedings at a particular EPO site is not admissible; a refusal by the competent department to accept such a request is not subject to appeal (see T 1142/12).