14 September 2020
From 14 September 2020, as a development of the pilot project for oral proceedings in opposition by videoconference (VICO), the EPO will test the Zoom platform for the first time for oral proceedings involving multiple opponents and/or requiring simultaneous interpretation. This technical development will allow more cases to be concluded and thereby contribute to greater legal certainty; it also follows suggestions from user associations.
The Zoom platform has been widely adopted by many businesses already. It has proven popular because it is reliable and easy to use, does not require additional user licences and makes low demands on computers and bandwidth. Patent professionals will appreciate Zoom's ability to provide multiple distinct audio channels which enable simultaneous interpretation (required in about 30% of proceedings). In view of this, we encourage parties to consider agreeing to convert to VICO scheduled hearings that require interpretation. Skype for Business will remain the default platform for more straightforward opposition cases.
The user request to have "deliberation rooms" will be evaluated and practical experiences during the course of the current pilot project will be used to devise suitable solutions in the future. Furthermore during this testing phase data protection for parties to opposition VICO hearings is also being addressed and specific guidance for Zoom has been developed. This forms part of our commitment to improve our digital services and adapt our legal practices in response to users' needs in all areas of our business.
We are grateful to have so many "early adopters" involved in the pilot programme to help us develop and improve these VICO services for the benefit of all users. To assist more patentees, opponents and patent professionals to take advantage of the new opportunity, we have published new training materials and short videos focused on the particular features of Zoom. Furthermore, we will organise shortly live online seminars hosted by EPO experts offering practical instructions and advice to users.
The EPO remains committed to providing easy access to transparent, fair and efficient proceedings in a low-cost, safe, effective and environmentally-friendly manner. We aim to conclude pending opposition cases within the shortest possible time. The introduction of Zoom as an additional platform to Skype for Business provides users with more options for concluding their opposition hearings rather than postponing them. We are confident that VICO can become the format of choice for patentees, opponents and patent professionals in the future