A request for the postponement of oral proceedings is allowable only if the party concerned can advance serious reasons which justify the fixing of a new date (see T 1080/99, T 300/04, J 4/03 and T 178/03). The request to fix another date must be filed as soon as possible after the grounds preventing the party concerned from attending the oral proceedings have arisen. It must be accompanied by a sufficiently substantiated written statement indicating these reasons (see OJ EPO 2009, 68; see also T 178/03).
Serious reasons to request a change of the date for oral proceedings may be, for instance:
If the grounds for postponing the oral proceedings submitted by a party do not meet the above criteria, the division will inform the parties that the oral proceedings will take place as set out in the summons.
The reasons that can be invoked for postponement only apply to those participants whose presence is essential to the oral proceedings, e.g. the representative or a witness.
If during the procedure substantive submissions were made by several representatives of a firm, an indication must be given why none of those who previously made such submissions can present the case at the oral proceedings, i.e. why the representative who cannot attend is essential or why the others are also unable to attend.
It should be noted that in opposition proceedings, in particular if more than one opponent is involved, a more strict approach may be applied to prevent a series of postponements (see T 1102/03).
Grounds which, as a rule, are not acceptable are, for instance:
In order to make effective use of the available meeting rooms, and as Mondays and Fridays are normal working days, oral proceedings will be scheduled for these days. The fact that the representative and/or the parties have to travel at weekends is not a sufficient reason to change the date of the oral proceedings. The departments of first instance will however, circumstances permitting, try to be flexible where there is a request to postpone the starting time in order to enable the party to travel on the same day.