Oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal – revision of the measures adopted due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
In the light of the developments in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Boards of Appeal have revised some of the measures regulating the arrangement and conduct of oral proceedings. Rules concerning access to the buildings continue to apply - see the section on access to oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal on the premises. With regard to the conduct of oral proceedings using videoconferencing (VICO) technology, see the section "Oral proceedings conducted by VICO" below.
Please note that these measures differ from those decided by the President of the European Patent Office for oral proceedings before examining and opposition divisions.
Access to oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal
Parties, representatives, accompanying persons and members of the public will be granted access to the Haar premises only if they can present a negative test result, on paper or in electronic form, based on:
- a PCR test, a PoC-PCR test, or a test by other methods of nucleic acid amplification technique performed 48 hours or less ago;
- A PoC antigen test performed 24 hours or less ago; or
- A supervised antigen test for self-administration by lay persons (self-testing) approved by the Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM) and performed no more than 24 hours ago.
Any person not fulfilling at least one of these conditions will be denied access to the Haar premises. The competent board will be informed about any persons denied entry and will then decide whether the oral proceedings can proceed without that person or whether they need to be postponed.
Anyone with symptoms matching those of COVID‑19 is kindly asked to refrain from entering the buildings, irrespective of whether they meet one of the abovementioned conditions.
Owing to the need for physical distancing, only a limited number of suitable rooms are available on the BoA premises in Haar. Therefore some oral proceedings may have to be held in the Isar building in Munich instead.
In addition, to ensure that the rules on minimum physical distancing can be respected, the starting times of oral proceedings may be staggered (9.00, 9.30, 10.00 hrs, etc.).
As a general rule, parties will not be sent a communication informing them of a change of venue or starting time. As such changes may take place at short notice, it is up to the parties to consult the online calendar approximately three days before their oral proceedings to check whether they will take place on the Haar premises or in the Isar building, and when exactly they are scheduled to start.
Maximum attendance: two persons per party
Owing again to the need for physical distancing, parties are asked to consider whether all representatives and accompanying persons need to attend. Attendance is generally restricted to a maximum of two people per party. Parties wishing to attend with more than two people should submit a reasoned request to that effect in advance of the oral proceedings. It will be for the board to decide on their request.
Strict hygiene measures are in place to ensure that oral proceedings are held in optimum conditions. These measures include, in particular, rules on minimum physical distancing. Wearing a face mask is required when 1.5 m distance cannot be kept. Inside the Haar premises wearing a FFP2 mask on the way to the oral proceedings room is required. Boards may also require the use of a FFP2 mask inside the oral proceedings room. Parties, representatives and other visitors are required to bring their own FFP2 mask.
Members of the public
It is possible for members of the public to attend oral proceedings. However, in view of the current circumstances, only limited places are available. Those interested in attending oral proceedings are therefore encouraged to announce this well in advance by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. See also the information in the section above on access to oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal on the premises.
Oral proceedings conducted by VICO
It is at the discretion of a board in each case to summon parties to and conduct oral proceedings either in person or by VICO. Parties may, prior and/or after the issuance of summons, submit reasons to the board why they have a preference for a particular type of oral proceedings. A board has discretion in deciding on those issues.
Oral proceedings to be conducted by VICO are also listed in the online oral proceedings calendar.
For information on technical aspects of the use of VICO technology, please see the information provided by the EPO.
Members of the public can always follow oral proceedings held by VICO remotely upon giving prior notice by email to email@example.com.
Members of the public are asked to log on in good time to avoid disturbing the conduct of the oral proceedings and to refrain from joining and leaving the proceedings while they are ongoing.
It is not permitted to make photographic images or sound recordings or to retransmit any part of the oral proceedings. Nor is it permitted to forward the link received for connecting to the oral proceedings.
Mixed-mode oral proceedings
In "mixed-mode oral proceedings", some parties, representatives and/or accompanying persons attend by videoconference while others are physically present in the oral proceedings room together with board members. Mixed-mode oral proceedings may be requested; a board has discretion in deciding whether to allow this request. Members of the public can only attend in person. For those attending oral proceedings on the premises, please see the section on access to oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal on the premises.
The President of the Boards of Appeal will continue to monitor developments in the COVID‑19 situation and take any appropriate measures necessary.
Given that this situation is still evolving, all parties to scheduled oral proceedings are advised to check the Boards of Appeal section of the EPO website regularly for updated information.
President of the Boards of Appeal