The purpose of oral proceedings is to settle as far as possible all outstanding questions relevant to the decision. To this end proceedings will be carefully prepared after examination of all the written matter submitted and with this in mind the most appropriate date for conducting oral proceedings is chosen.
When preparing oral proceedings, particularly in opposition, the division considers carefully whether complex legal issues are likely to arise, and it may therefore decide to enlarge the division by adding a legally qualified member (Art. 18(2) and Art. 19(2)).
Insofar as certain questions relevant to the decision are considered by the EPO to require discussion, it will in many cases be expedient to inform the party or parties in a notice and possibly also to invite one or more of the parties to submit written observations or to produce evidence, where appropriate. Parties may produce evidence in support of their arguments on their own initiative. Where, however, the evidence is such as should have been put forward at an earlier stage, e.g. in opposition proceedings pursuant to D‑IV, 184.108.40.206(v) and D-IV, 5.4, it is for the competent body to consider whether the evidence not filed in due time is to be admitted (see E‑VI, 2). Any observations should be received in time for them to be communicated to the other parties at the latest one month before the oral proceedings. The time limit for submission of observations is fixed accordingly, particularly where the invitation to file observations is issued at the same time as the summons to oral proceedings.