This text is intended for publication in the Official Journal (OJ) of the EPO. It is made available in advance on the EPO website merely as a courtesy to the public. Only the text subsequently published in the officially certified PDF file of the OJ is authentic. It cannot be guaranteed that this advance version accurately replicates that text.
The European Patent Office has been conducting a pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions in accordance with the decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 14 April 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, A41). This pilot project is now extended to run until 15 September 2021 in accordance with the present decision.
(1) Oral proceedings before opposition divisions are held by videoconference.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph 1, oral proceedings may be held on the premises of the European Patent Office, either at the request of a party or at the instigation of the opposition division if there are serious reasons against holding the oral proceedings by videoconference. If a request to hold oral proceedings on the premises of the European Patent Office is refused, the parties will be informed of the reasons; such a refusal is not separately appealable.
(3) Oral proceedings by videoconference are equivalent to oral proceedings held on the premises of the European Patent Office.
(1) The members of the opposition division may connect to the videoconference remotely from different locations. In such cases, the members of the division will deliberate and vote among themselves via a separate communication channel.
(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.
Parties, their representatives and any persons accompanying the parties or representatives may connect to the videoconference from different locations, on condition that the number of additional participants does not impair the efficient conduct of the proceedings.
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, as determined by the European Patent Office.
(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 decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 13 May 2020 concerning the filing of documents during telephone consultations and during interviews and oral proceedings held by videoconference (OJ EPO 2020, A71).
(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.
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.
(1) 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.
(2) A party, witness or expert who is duly summoned to give evidence and fails to connect to the oral proceedings by videoconference as instructed will be deemed not to have appeared before the opposition division.
When this decision enters into force, the 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 (OJ EPO 2020, A41) will cease to have effect.
This decision enters into force on 4 January 2021. It applies to all oral proceedings before opposition divisions scheduled to take place on or after that date.
Done at Munich, 10 November 2020