If the competent department considers that the matter has been sufficiently thoroughly discussed, it must decide on the subsequent procedure to be followed. Where the department consists of a number of members – as in the case of the examining or opposition divisions – they must, if necessary, deliberate on the matter in the absence of the parties. Where oral proceedings are held by videoconferences and the members connect to the oral proceedings from different locations (see E‑III, 18.104.22.168), the members will deliberate and vote among themselves via a separate communication channel. If new aspects emerge during the discussion and require further questions to be put to the parties, the proceedings may be restarted. Any person conducting the proceedings may thereafter give the decision of the department. Otherwise they inform the party or parties of the subsequent procedure and then close the oral proceedings.
While the department is bound by the decision it issues on substantive matters (see E‑III, 9), it is free, as a result of further reflection, to inform the parties that it intends to depart from the procedure which it has announced.
The subsequent procedure may, for example, consist in the department issuing a further communication, imposing certain requirements on one of the parties, or informing the parties that it intends to grant or maintain the patent in an amended form. As regards the delivery of a decision in the last case, see E‑III, 9.
If the patent is to be granted or maintained in an amended form, it is the aim to reach an agreement upon the final text in the oral proceedings. If, however, by way of exception the examining or opposition division indicates during the oral proceedings that it would be willing to grant or maintain a European patent provided that certain amendments are made which could not reasonably have been foreseen from the earlier procedure, the applicant or patent proprietor will be given a time limit of normally two to four months in which to submit such amendments. If the applicant or patent proprietor fails to do so, the application will be refused or the patent will be revoked.