Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 14 April 2020 concerning the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions
Scope of the pilot project
(1) The European Patent Office will conduct a pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions.
(2) The pilot project will extend to all oral proceedings before opposition divisions that are scheduled to take place after the entry into force of the present decision.
(3) The pilot project will start on the date on which this decision enters into force and will run until 30 April 2021.
Oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions
(1) Oral proceedings before opposition divisions may be held by videoconference at the discretion of the opposition division and with the agreement of all parties.
(2) Oral proceedings by videoconference are equivalent to oral proceedings held on the premises of the European Patent Office.
(3) Oral proceedings may not be held by videoconference if
(a) the opposition division has decided to take evidence (Rule 117 EPC) or
(b) there are other serious reasons for not doing so.
Remote participation of the members of an opposition division in oral proceedings by videoconference
(1) In the event that oral proceedings are held by videoconference, the members of the opposition division may connect to the oral proceedings remotely from different locations. In such cases, the members of the division will deliberate and vote among themselves by separate videoconference.
(2) The parties will be informed of the remote participation of members of the opposition division before the start of the oral proceedings.
(3) The venue of the oral proceedings will be deemed to be the location where the opposition division is set up.
Participation of parties and accompanying persons
The opposition division may allow the parties, their representatives and any persons accompanying the parties or representatives to connect to the videoconference from different locations, if so requested by the final date for making written submissions set in accordance with Rule 116 EPC, and on condition that the number of additional participants does not impair the efficient conduct of the proceedings.
Admission of the public
Oral proceedings before the opposition divisions are public. Members of the public can follow oral proceedings held by videoconference either remotely upon giving prior notice or on the premises of the European Patent Office in the location where the opposition division is set up, as determined by the European Patent Office.
Submissions and their transmission during oral proceedings by videoconference
(1) Where oral proceedings before an opposition division are held by videoconference, documents are to be filed by means of electronic communication in accordance with the substantive provisions of the relevant decision of the President of the European Patent Office. Where those provisions refer to proceedings before an examining division, they apply mutatis mutandis.
(2) Where oral proceedings before an opposition division are held by videoconference, documents submitted by one of the parties in accordance with paragraph 1 will be transmitted to the other parties by email to the email address specified by each of those parties during the videoconference.
(3) If the opposition division consents, a party may present its screen for illustrative purposes; an item displayed in that way will not be considered to constitute a document submitted by that party.
(1) No evidence may be taken during oral proceedings by videoconference.
(2) If the opposition division decides to take evidence during oral proceedings by videoconference, those oral proceedings will be adjourned and the parties will be summoned to oral proceedings on the premises of the European Patent Office.
If technical problems preventing the oral proceedings by videoconference from being conducted in accordance with the parties' rights under Articles 113 and 116 EPC cannot be overcome during the videoconference, the opposition division will issue a new summons to oral proceedings.
Non-attendance at oral proceedings by videoconference
If a party fails to connect to the oral proceedings by videoconference for reasons other than technical problems, the proceedings may continue in accordance with Rule 115(2) EPC.
Entry into force
This decision enters into force on 4 May 2020.
Done at Munich, 14 April 2020