15 November 2022
Today the EPO has published its final report on the pilot project for oral proceedings in opposition by videoconference (VICO). It summarises the progress made on many aspects - technical, legal, educational and procedural; it also shows user satisfaction has risen to its highest levels yet.
The report finds that provision of new digital tools in Zoom has made it even more effective for parties to argue their cases. Furthermore, the availability of skilled interpreters has increased thanks to remote access. Many parties also welcome the savings in time, cost and carbon emissions resulting from not having to travel; these are conservatively estimated at over 1 000 tonnes of CO2 in 2021.
This final report on the pilot project also includes an excerpt from those findings of the recent user satisfaction survey which related to oral proceedings in opposition by VICO. During the autumn this survey gathered responses from almost 400 users chosen at random from across a large sample of recent proprietors and opponents and their representatives. 77% of respondents found VICO to be "good" or "very good", up from 66% satisfaction in the survey of autumn 2021.
More parties (34%) also perceive hearings to be shorter when conducted by VICO than those who think they take longer (17%).
The deployment of VICO on a large scale was a necessary response to the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. In the last year the EPO has cleared its backlog of opposition cases and brought its stock of cases back down to pre-pandemic levels, steadily improving the timeliness of decisions. The outcomes of opposition proceedings have also returned to their typical relative distribution, showing that VICO has had no particular bias or impact on outcomes as a whole.
This report will provide the basis for deciding the future practice after the pilot project, which is due to end on 31 December 2022. A Decision of the EPO President is expected shortly.