FAQ - Oral proceedings held by videoconference

Videoconferencing tool

Which videoconferencing tool is used for oral proceedings held by VICO?

The standard platform for oral proceedings held by videoconference (VICO) is Zoom.

For oral proceedings held by Zoom, the EPO supports the following technologies:

  • Zoom desktop client installation on Windows or Mac (regularly updated to the latest version)
  • Zoom mobile app for iOS or Android (regularly updated to the latest version)
  • Zoom web client (Chromium Edge 80 or higher, Google Chrome 53.0.2785 or higher, Firefox 76 or higher, Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Safari 10.0.602.1.50 or higher) for oral proceedings in opposition. As oral proceedings in examination held by Zoom are end-to-end encrypted, the Zoom web client is not suitable for oral proceedings in examination.

Is it possible to use the Zoom web client for oral proceedings held by VICO?

As oral proceedings in examination held by Zoom are end-to-end encrypted, the Zoom web client is not suitable for oral proceedings in examination.

The Zoom web client may, however, be used for oral proceedings in opposition, including for those involving simultaneous interpreting.

Visit Zoom support for more information on the Zoom web client's functionalities.

Can I choose between Zoom and Skype for Business?

No. Since 1 October 2021, Zoom has been the standard platform for oral proceedings held by VICO in both examination and opposition.

Has the EPO considered criticism of the Zoom platform relating to a lack of privacy, transparency and security?

The EPO has taken all possible steps to ensure the protection of personal data and safeguard the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.

Zoom has signed a binding agreement to comply with the data protection obligations stemming from the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the EPO's Data Protection Guidelines. For more information, see this EPO data protection statement, where you can find an explicit description of what data may be processed by Zoom, and for which purpose.

The criticism about the Zoom platform's security was based on versions of the Zoom software released from 2016 until early 2020. From April 2020, however, Zoom worked on improving security and addressed all of the essential concerns.

For more information on the processing of personal data by Zoom or its subcontractors, see the company's privacy policy. Zoom signs agreements with all its service providers in which it undertakes not to process data for its own purposes or for the purposes of any third party.

Does the EPO consider it safe to install the Zoom software?

In view of the significant security improvements in the Zoom platform, the EPO has approved the use of the software, within the controlled environment that is applied to any other commercial software. The EPO tests new versions before roll-out within a specific vulnerability management process, combined with a number of other security elements that are present in the EPO environment. The EPO is committed to a continual improvement cycle for its information security practices, as shown in the Strategic Plan 2023.

It remains important, of course, that users follow the best practices with regard to updating and patching all user software (including Zoom), and that tool selection is combined with the implementation of other technical security measures on the client side (firewalls, antivirus software, etc.).

Zoom VICOs in opposition proceedings are not end-to-end encrypted (E2EE). Does this pose a risk?

Zoom provides what the company calls "advanced encryption", which encrypts the network communication between each Zoom client and the Zoom servers. Zoom itself is able to decrypt the traffic at its servers, e.g. to provide recordings of the videoconference. This level of security is comparable to that offered by similar platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Skype. In all of these cases, eavesdropping by any third party is prevented by the encryption.

Since November 2020, Zoom has provided genuine end-to-end encryption where only the participants in the VICO can decrypt the video and audio streams, and eavesdropping even by the software provider is prevented. A version with E2EE was rolled out at the EPO in February 2021. However, E2EE is currently not compatible with some of Zoom's advanced features, such as breakout rooms, that are used for oral proceedings in opposition.

What will I see on the screen?

You should normally be able to see all the participants, although how many you can see at any one time will depend on the technology you use for connecting to the VICO. Visit Zoom support for more information.

All cameras (except for those of members of the public attending opposition VICOs) should be switched on at the beginning of the VICO in order to allow for the identities of the participants to be checked and should remain on so that all parties are visible throughout the entire proceedings. You should only switch on your microphone when you are given the floor by the chair.

Should I activate the "original sound" option in Zoom to improve my audio quality?

The audio part of the technical guidelines gives basic audio recommendations to allow simultaneous interpretation. However, if you wish to be heard with the best possible audio quality then the Zoom hi-fi and original sound function may be of interest to you.

Here are some tips on how to activate the Zoom hi-fi mode. It is important to be aware that the hi-fi mode will only work if you are using an external USB microphone (a unidirectional stand-alone microphone or a clip-on microphone in tandem with the appropriate sound card) or a fully professional headset connected to an outboard sound card that will not filter your voice in any way.

Please make sure that you use a headset or headphones as external speakers will generate feedback.

Download the latest version of the Zoom app and install on your computer (the following does not apply to mobile devices).

Go to Settings and select the Audio tab

  • clear Automatically adjust microphone volume – you can manually adjust as required during sound checks
  • select Original Sound
  • select High fidelity music mode and Stereo audio
  • clear Echo cancellation

If you are using Microsoft Windows, select Advanced and set Signal processing by Windows audio device drivers to Off.

Please be aware that with the original sound activated, ambient or background noise suppression is deactivated, so ensure that you mute your microphone when typing, going through your papers or having something to drink.

Can I use a virtual background?

Using virtual backgrounds can look more professional, but it has drawbacks. For example, faces may sometimes be partially obscured, and showing documents using a webcam may not be possible. Movements can also disrupt video streaming and negatively impact the proper conduct of the oral proceedings. Virtual backgrounds may also make interpreting more difficult. Participants may be asked by the division to disable their virtual backgrounds if these are considered to be obstructing the proper conduct of the oral proceedings.

Can I use the chat feature during oral proceedings?

The chat feature should be used for short, general messages such as "I need a break" or "I have connection issues". It should not be used for sharing content relating to substantive issues. As other participants can see what you have written, you should also refrain from entering any sensitive data such as contact details.

Depending on the technology you use, the full functionality of the chat feature may not be available. Please do not rely on the chat feature for communication between different virtual rooms.

Do the tools support the possibility of having more than one representative or technical expert present at the proceedings?

Yes, the tools support the possibility of having more than one representative or technical expert present at the proceedings. To assure good audio quality, it is preferred that parties, their representatives and any persons accompanying the parties or representatives connect in a distributed manner, i.e. from different locations or devices.

If two or more people who are physically present in the same room intend to speak during the proceedings, they should avoid echoes and each/all have their own individual headsets/microphones and cameras. If you wear a mask while speaking this can make interpreting difficult, if not impossible at times, so stay physically distanced so you can remove your mask when speaking. Array microphones or built-in microphones from a computer which capture multiple speakers also capture ambient sounds such as mouse clicks and pages being turned, all of which can make it difficult for the interpreters to hear what is being said. For more information, see ISO/PAS standard 24019: Simultaneous interpreting delivery platforms – Requirements and recommendations.

Each person should have their own camera. Alternatively, if multiple persons are present in a room with a single camera, the camera should automatically zoom in on the person speaking to help the interpreters see their facial expressions.

For oral proceedings in opposition, to help the division identify people at the beginning of a VICO and distinguish parties from members of the public, it is recommended that you enter a Zoom username giving an indication of the party you are representing before joining the meeting (e.g. PROP- Mr/Ms XYZ for the representative of the proprietor). The division will then be able to identify who is waiting in the virtual lobby.

Are digital deliberation or breakout rooms available in Zoom for parties' internal discussions?

To further enhance the user experience, the EPO will, upon request, enable digital breakout rooms for individual parties to opposition proceedings. Requests for breakout rooms should be submitted together with the contact details for the oral proceedings before the final date set under Rule 116 EPC. For technical reasons, late-filed requests for breakout rooms submitted shortly before or during oral proceedings will generally be rejected. Requests should include the names and email addresses of all participants associated with the party. Importantly, the email addresses need to be linked to configured Zoom accounts and each participant associated with the party must be signed in to their Zoom account linked to the email address provided before they connect to the oral proceedings videoconference.

During breaks in the oral proceedings, all participants associated with the party will be transferred to a breakout room where they can confer in private. Other participants (except the division) and the public will stay in the main oral proceedings session. On resumption of the oral proceedings, the breakout room will be closed and the participants transferred back to the main oral proceedings session.

Note that as the EPO is the host of the Zoom meeting, members of the opposition division have full control over and access to the breakout rooms by default. Members of the division will, however, refrain from accessing the breakout rooms of the parties.

Since breakout rooms are provided as a courtesy service for parties, no rights can be derived from their non-availability during oral proceedings (e.g. due to technical problems). Moreover, the opposition division has the discretion to deactivate breakout rooms for parties if they impair the efficient conduct of the oral proceedings.

Virtual breakout rooms are not currently available for parties for oral proceedings in examination.

Equipment requirements

Do I need special equipment for videoconferencing?

a. System

To prevent resource issues, we recommend that you use a powerful computer running a recent Windows or Macintosh operating system. The same applies to your mobile device if you want to use the Zoom mobile app for iOS or Android.

b. Bandwidth

Please make sure you have enough internet bandwidth. You should have at least 2Mbps of free up- and download bandwidth. A cabled network connection is more stable than a wireless connection.

c. Camera

We recommend using a good-quality webcam (HD 720p or above) positioned to provide a close-up head shot of the speaker. Most importantly, each person should have their own camera.

d. Audio

Microphone

Please use a high-quality microphone, namely a USB headset with integrated microphone or a unidirectional USB microphone (clip-on or stand-alone) with a frequency response of at least 125 Hz to 15 000 Hz and an echo-cancelling function.

Please use audio devices that are connected to the computer by USB cable. Devices connected to the computer using Bluetooth are only acceptable if an additional Bluetooth USB connector is used, and if the participant is alone in the room to avoid interference.

For VICOs involving interpreting in particular it is not recommended to use microphones built into a PC, wireless headsets connected to the computer via its built-in Bluetooth, phone earbuds (even if wired) or standard VICO room equipment with omnidirectional microphones, which are often shared. None of these perform adequately for remote interpreting. They do not cover the frequency range of 125 Hz to 15 000 Hz that simultaneous interpreters need in order to be able to listen and speak at the same time, as stipulated in ISO/PAS standard 24019.

If two or more people who are physically present in the same room intend to speak during the proceedings, they should avoid echoes and each have their own individual headset/microphone and camera. If feasible, they should take off their mask while speaking.

Always use "join with computer audio" when joining a Zoom meeting and check that you have selected the correct device in the Zoom audio settings.

Speakers

Please do not use external speakers as these can cause echoes. We recommend using a headset or headphones.

e. Monitor/screen

It is important to use a good-quality monitor/screen. Also, the larger the screen the better the visual experience. Check our technical guidelines.

Is there anything I can do to help the interpreters working in the VICO?

If you participate in a VICO with remote simultaneous interpreting, please use a high-quality microphone, namely either a USB headset with integrated microphone or a unidirectional USB microphone (clip-on or stand-alone) together with (separate) headphones for listening. Please do not use external speakers as these can cause echoes. Make sure you position the microphone at the right distance and speak directly into it, at a reasonable pace.

Please do not use microphones built into a computer, wireless headsets connected to the computer via its built-in Bluetooth, phone earbuds (even if wired) or standard VICO room equipment with omnidirectional, multi-party ‘spider’ microphones, which are often shared. None of these perform adequately for remote interpreting because they do not reproduce the frequency range of 125 Hz to 15000 Hz that simultaneous interpreters need in order to be able to listen and speak at the same time, as stipulated in ISO/PAS standard 24019: Simultaneous interpreting delivery platforms - Requirements and recommendations.
If two or more people are physically present in the same room and intend to speak during the proceedings, they should avoid echoes and each have their own individual headset/microphone and camera. If you wear a mask while speaking this can make interpreting difficult, if not impossible at times, so stay physically distanced so you can remove your mask when speaking. Omnidirectional microphones or microphones built into a computer may capture multiple speakers as well as ambient sounds such as mouse clicks and pages being turned, all of which can make it difficult for the interpreters to hear what is being said.

Please also make sure you wait a few seconds before starting to speak when you take the floor, because there is an inherent delay in Zoom in picking up the sound when there is a change of speaker and language.

What alternatives are there should the available internet connection not be suitable?

Should a VICO not be possible at a specific location due to an unsuitable internet connection, you may need to go to an alternative location nearby where there is a suitable internet connection.

Parties who are attending oral proceedings are strongly advised to arrange a test call before the date of the oral proceedings. This should be done in good time (preferably two to three weeks – but at least five working days – beforehand), but not more than a month in advance, because of potential software updates. Needless to say, the test call should be carried out from the location and with the equipment that will actually be used by the party during the proceedings.

To arrange a test call with us, please send an email to EPOvicotest@epo.org and include your preferred date, your application number and the name and contact details (phone number and email address) of each participant. We will then schedule a 30-minute test session (available Mondays to Fridays between 08.30 and 18.00 CET) and send you an invitation with the connection details for the call.

The test will be an opportunity to check that:

  • The VICO application works properly
  • The connection is stable and both audio and video are of adequate quality.
  • It is possible for both sides to present content.
  • If applicable, access to multiple voice channels is available for simultaneous interpreting.

Postponement of oral proceedings on the ground of the technical connection may be considered only where all reasonable efforts have been made to meet the technical requirements and a test call with all the parties demonstrates that a suitably reliable connection cannot be established.

Interpretation (for oral proceedings by VICO in opposition)

Does the pilot on holding oral proceedings in opposition by VICO include situations involving simultaneous interpreting?

Yes. Zoom supports simultaneous interpreting. Interpreters provide their own audio channels for the language they are interpreting into. Participants can then select the audio channel they require and can lower the volume of the original audio or mute it.

Why is high audio quality essential for simultaneous interpreting?

Good audio quality is essential for simultaneous interpreters because they have to listen and speak at the same time. If the sound is too compressed (i.e. the frequency range is limited), they cannot hear the original speaker over their own voice. That is why sound quality good enough for passive listening is not necessarily sufficient for simultaneous interpreting. In fact, many widely used microphones do not perform adequately for simultaneous interpreting. Complying with the technical guidelines and attending test calls will help you to ensure your audio set-up meets the requirements.

Why is live video of the speaker essential for simultaneous interpreting?

Interpreters not only need good audio quality to understand the message being conveyed; they also rely heavily on facial expressions and body language. The camera should provide a clear frontal view of the speaker.

Is there anything I can do to help the interpreters working in the VICO?

If you participate in a VICO with remote simultaneous interpreting, please use a high-quality microphone, namely either a USB headset with integrated microphone or a unidirectional USB microphone (clip-on or stand-alone) together with (separate) headphones for listening. Please do not use external speakers as these can cause echoes. Make sure you position the microphone at the right distance and speak directly into it, at a reasonable pace.

Please do not use microphones built into a computer, wireless headsets connected to the computer via its built-in Bluetooth, phone earbuds (even if wired) or standard VICO room equipment with omnidirectional, multi-party ‘spider’ microphones, which are often shared. None of these perform adequately for remote interpreting because they do not reproduce the frequency range of 125 Hz to 15000 Hz that simultaneous interpreters need in order to be able to listen and speak at the same time, as stipulated in ISO/PAS standard 24019: Simultaneous interpreting delivery platforms - Requirements and recommendations.

If two or more people are physically present in the same room and intend to speak during the proceedings, they should avoid echoes and each have their own individual headset/microphone and camera. If you wear a mask while speaking this can make interpreting difficult, if not impossible at times, so stay physically distanced so you can remove your mask when speaking. Omnidirectional microphones or microphones built into a computer may capture multiple speakers as well as ambient sounds such as mouse clicks and pages being turned, all of which can make it difficult for the interpreters to hear what is being said.

Please also make sure you wait a few seconds before starting to speak when you take the floor, because there is an inherent delay in Zoom in picking up the sound when there is a change of speaker and language.

Why do I have to wait a few seconds before I take the floor when interpreting channels are activated?

There is an inherent delay in Zoom in picking up the sound when there is a change of speaker and language. Therefore, please make sure you wait a few seconds before starting to speak when you take the floor.

Can I use non-official languages during oral proceedings in opposition held by VICO?

You may use one of the official languages of the EPC contracting states other than English, French or German on condition that you make provision for interpreting into the language of the proceedings. This means that you have to make arrangements for interpretation. On request, the EPO will set up extra audio channels for simultaneous interpreting in Zoom. The request should be submitted at least one month before the date of the oral proceedings (i.e. the time limit under Rule 4(1) EPC).

Please make sure that your interpreter connects to the oral proceedings at least 15 minutes in advance so that the extra audio channel can be set up before the oral proceedings start.

Since the provision of extra audio channels is a courtesy service, no rights can be derived from their non-availability during oral proceedings (e.g. due to technical problems). In such cases, the division will allow time for consecutive interpreting.

What should I do if there are problems with the interpreting?

If you experience any problems with interpretation, please inform the chair immediately.

Conduct of the oral proceedings

How will the EPO check the identity of the parties to the proceedings?

As a rule, only one representative/authorised employee per party has to have their ID document checked unless that person is personally known to at least one member of the division (see GL E‑III, 8.3.1). For other representatives, authorised employees and accompanying persons present for a given party, it is generally sufficient that their identity be confirmed orally by the representative/employee whose ID document was checked or who is personally known to at least one member of the division. This applies independently of whether a representative is a professional representative or a legal practitioner.

The division will continue to systematically check the ID documents of all parties, witnesses and experts summoned to give evidence before the EPO.

The proof of identity should take the form of a national ID card, a passport or an EPO badge.

The identity document may be presented in one of the following ways:

  • In the case of an EPO badge, by showing it to the camera at the beginning of the VICO, or
  • In the case of an ID card or a passport:
    • if only one representative or party is attending the videoconference, by showing it to the camera, or
    • if there is more than one representative or party, by showing it in a separate, private VICO session specifically for this purpose, or
  • By emailing a copy to the address provided to the parties at the beginning of the oral proceedings, or
  • Via the EPO online filing options no later than two days prior to the oral proceedings. Visit our online filing webpage for more information on electronic filing options.

In order for the division to be able to confirm the identity of the person concerned, the full name (first name and surname) and the picture of the ID should be visible. All the other information on the identification document can be kept hidden if so wished, as long as it is possible to recognise that it is an official identification document. For data protection reasons, copies of identification documents sent by email are deleted and are not included in the file. Copies submitted via online filing are put in the non-public part of the file.

Showing EPO badges to the camera or submitting copies of identity documents via EPO online filing options is encouraged to save time during the ID check at the beginning of the proceedings. Note that EPO badges can be requested online. The identity of the person concerned is then verified by means of a video call (see OJ EPO 2021, A79, for further information).

Can I leave my microphone on the whole time? There is often a delay when switching it back on.

The chair will decide how to conduct the oral proceedings but, in order to avoid background noise, the microphones of all participants other than the chair should normally be muted.

The parties and members of the division other than the chair should switch on their microphones when they are given the floor by the chair. Delays in activation of the microphone will be taken into account.

Can I take a break if I get tired of speaking to the screen?

As in proceedings where the participants are physically present, you should let the chair know if you need a break. You do not need to give any medical reasons for requesting a break.

Is there a limit on the number or length of breaks?

Breaks are taken for deliberations of the division or upon request of any of the parties. In addition, there will normally be a lunch break. If longer or more frequent breaks are needed, please ask the chair.

How are the breaks organised?

During breaks in oral proceedings in opposition, the division will change to a non-public virtual deliberation room. The parties and any members of the public present will remain in the virtual oral proceedings room (unless a party has requested a private deliberation room, see below for more information on deliberation rooms). They can mute their microphones and switch off their video images.

In oral proceedings in examination, all those attending for the applicant will return to the waiting room during breaks. The examining division will deliberate in the virtual oral proceedings room. Before the oral proceedings are resumed, those attending for the applicant will be readmitted to the virtual oral proceedings room. In the waiting room it is not possible to communicate with one another via Zoom. However, the division can send messages to the participants in the waiting room, for instance to inform them of any changes in timings.

Will the system be shut down during the break and will we need to reconnect afterwards?

No, the system will not be shut down. Preferably, the participants should stay connected to the meeting.

Can accompanying persons join the VICO for only a part of the oral proceedings, or are they required to be continually present?

Accompanying persons speaking during the oral proceedings should preferably be present at the beginning of the proceedings. If this is not possible, the representative should inform the division as soon as possible that an accompanying person will join the VICO later.

Accompanying persons not speaking during the oral proceedings may attend a part of the VICO as long as they do not disrupt the proceedings. If they are not present at the beginning of the proceedings, they will be admitted at the latest during a break.

What happens if my connection or reconnection fails?

Prior to the proceedings, the parties will be asked to provide a telephone number to be used during the VICO in case technical issues arise.

The EPO will keep connection details as communicated by the parties as non-public information and they will not be exchanged through the chat.

At the beginning of the proceedings, the chair may also provide a telephone number for contacting the division.

If your connection/reconnection fails, the division will contact you by phone. Alternatively, you can send an email to the division or call them. Technical support will be on hand.

Where, notwithstanding all efforts of the participants, technical problems prevent the oral proceedings by VICO from being conducted, a new summons to oral proceedings will be issued. As a rule, such new oral proceedings will be held by VICO, unless there are serious reasons for not doing so.

Is there a virtual meeting etiquette for oral proceedings by VICO?

In addition to following the same etiquette as for face-to-face oral proceedings, you should also:

  • Make use of the EPO's advance test call service.
  • Ensure you will not be disturbed during the proceedings.
  • Connect on time so as not to delay the proceedings or miss important information.
  • Mute your microphone when you are not speaking.
  • Avoid speaking at the same time as another person.
  • Let the division know immediately if you experience any technical problems.
  • Make sure the room is properly lit. Either place your computer in front of a window or place a lamp behind your computer so that light is shed on your face. Avoid being lit from behind, e.g. with a window behind you.
  • Refrain from using virtual backgrounds that cause visual artifacts. These are both a distraction and can prevent the interpreters from faithfully reading the facial expressions of the speakers.
  • Make sure you use a high-quality USB microphone, especially for oral proceedings involving interpretation.
  • Refrain from using external speakers as these can cause echoes. We recommend using a headset or headphones.

Are there any restrictions regarding the physical location of the applicants/parties when they connect to a VICO?

The EPC does not require the applicant/parties to the proceedings to be physically in one of the member states in order to participate in oral proceedings by VICO.

How will the EPO deal with oral proceedings that cannot be completed within a single working day?

In such cases, the oral proceedings will be adjourned. Normally, new summons and minutes of the oral proceedings will be issued. If all parties agree and if the particular circumstances of the case permit so (e.g. if no simultaneous interpreting is required), oral proceedings may be adjourned to a date in the near future (e.g. the next day) without new summons and minutes of the oral proceedings being sent.

Submissions by the parties

How can I be sure that my personal data and connection details will be kept confidential?

All personal data managed by the EPO is processed in accordance with the EPO Data Protection Guidelines (visit our Data protection & privacy webpage).

The EPO will store the connection details communicated by the parties as non-public information and these will not be exchanged either via the chat feature or orally.

How can I present information during oral proceedings?

With the authorisation of the division, you can present information either by sharing your screen or by showing information on paper via the camera. Any items displayed in this way will not be considered to constitute a submitted document. Before the presentation, the division might ask you to submit the information so that it can be included in the minutes and/or distributed to the other parties.

For security reasons, screen sharing and the whiteboard functionality are not active by default in Zoom. They can, however, be activated by the chair at the parties' request and subject to the agreement of the division.

If the members of the division are in different locations, how will they all receive any documents I send by email at the same time?

At the beginning of the oral proceedings, the chair will explain how to file submissions, and the email addresses to be used by all parties will be provided (see Decision of the President of the EPO dated 13 May 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, A71)).

Please note that emails from external parties to the EPO pass through filters and can take a few minutes to arrive if they include attachments.

What requirements are in place for signing documents filed by email during a VICO?

For the requirements governing the signing of documents filed by email during a VICO, see Article 2 of the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 13 May 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, A71) concerning the filing of documents during telephone consultations and during interviews and oral proceedings held by videoconference.

What formats are accepted for email attachments (PDF only or other options such as photos from a smartphone)?

For accepted formats for email attachments, see Article 4 of the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 13 May 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, A71) concerning the filing of documents during telephone consultations and during interviews and oral proceedings held by VICO.

What measures are in place to counter difficulties with submissions?

Amended application and patent documents must be filed as attachments in PDF format and must comply with the WIPO Standard for Filing and Processing in Electronic Form (Annex F).

Where an attachment containing amended patent documents is not in PDF format, does not comply with the WIPO Standard for Filing and Processing in Electronic Form (Annex F) or is illegible or incomplete, the EPO will inform the party immediately. Where the deficiencies cannot be remedied during the VICO, the document or the part thereof that is illegible or incomplete will be deemed not to have been received.

Other attachments may be sent in any format which can be opened by the EPO and which can be reproduced in a legible form. Otherwise they will be deemed not to have been received.

If an attachment is infected with a computer virus or contains other malicious software, it will be deemed to be illegible. The EPO is not obliged to receive, open or process any such attachment.

Further information can be found in the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 13 May 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, A71).

What if one of the other parties files documents during oral proceedings in opposition by VICO and I don't receive them?

During opposition VICOs, parties wishing to submit documents must send them to the email address indicated by the opposition division. The opposition division will then email the documents to the other parties while the VICO is in progress. It is the responsibility of the chair to ensure that all parties are in possession of the latest version of the documents.

Please note that emails from EPO addresses can sometimes end up in your spam folder.

Can handwritten amendments be filed during oral proceedings in opposition by VICO?

Guidelines E-III, 8.7.3, apply to oral proceedings in opposition by VICO. The proprietor can submit patent documents with handwritten amendments. These documents must be filed as PDF attachments and comply with the WIPO Standard for Filing and Processing in Electronic Form (Annex F).

If the interlocutory decision of the opposition division is based on documents which do not comply with Rule 49(8) EPC, i.e. which contain handwritten amendments, the opposition division will invite the proprietor in the communication under Rule 82(2) EPC to file a formally compliant version of the amended text. The invitation will specify the formally deficient amended paragraphs and/or claims for which replacement paragraphs and/or claims need to be filed.

Instead of submitting handwritten amendments – which require scanning – you may submit typed amendments using the text available from the European Publication Server. Find out more in this tutorial.

Specifics of oral proceedings by VICO in examination

Can the applicant and/or the examining division cite "serious reasons" for holding the oral proceedings in person?

Yes. Where there are serious reasons for not holding the oral proceedings as a VICO, these can be given by either the examining division or the applicant. There must be a high degree of likelihood that these reasons will still apply on the day of the proceedings.

What is the legal basis for conducting oral proceedings by VICO?

The Enlarged Board of Appeal has confirmed that oral proceedings in the form of a VICO are oral proceedings within the meaning of Article 116 EPC and comply with the principles of fairness of proceedings (Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights) and the right to be heard under Article 113(1) EPC. While the Enlarged Board also found that oral proceedings by VICO are, at least for the time being, subject to certain limitations owing to the technology used, the parties' fundamental rights can normally be fully respected in oral proceedings by VICO.

The decision in G 1/21 is explicitly limited to oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal. In it the Enlarged Board concluded that oral proceedings can, during a period of general emergency impairing the parties' possibilities to attend in-person oral proceedings at the EPO premises, be held by videoconference without the consent of the parties.

Administrative measures concerning oral proceedings, such as determining the form of oral proceedings, are within the organisational powers of the President of the EPO under Article 10(2)(a) EPC. Article 10(2)(a) EPC together with the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 1 April 2020 concerning oral proceedings and interviews to be held by videoconference provide a sufficient legal basis for the introduction of "VICOs by default" (see also the Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 17 December 2020 concerning oral proceedings by videoconference before examining divisions, OJ EPO 2020, A134).

I want to submit a request for oral proceedings to be held on the premises of the EPO. When should I submit the request?

Requests for oral proceedings to be held by way of exception on the premises of the EPO should be filed as soon as possible, preferably together with the request for oral proceedings. The granting of a request for oral proceedings to be held on the premises of the EPO will be at the discretion of the competent division. If the request is received after the summons to oral proceedings and cannot be allowed, the division will inform the applicant that the oral proceedings will take place by VICO as set out in the summons and will provide a brief reasoning as to why the request cannot be granted. If the request is received before the summons has been issued, the reasons for the refusal will be given in the annex to the summons. In either case, no appealable decision will be issued on the matter. If a request for oral proceedings on the premises of the EPO is received after the summons to oral proceedings by VICO has been issued and the request is allowed, the applicant will be informed that oral proceedings will be held on the premises of the EPO as requested. In this case, the oral proceedings will be postponed until after 31 December 2022.

What happens if I cannot comply with the technical requirements or I am not able to install the necessary software? Would the proceedings then be held on the EPO's premises?

Sweeping objections to the reliability of VICO technology or the non-availability of VICO equipment do not normally qualify as serious reasons for the proceedings to be held on EPO premises. If it really is not possible for a party to meet the technical requirements for participating in a VICO with the EPO, a request for oral proceedings to be held by way of exception on the premises of the EPO should be filed as early as possible together with detailed reasons. The granting of requests for oral proceedings to be held on the premises of the EPO is at the discretion of the competent division.

Specifics of oral proceedings by VICO in opposition (pilot)

Is the agreement of all the parties required in order to hold oral proceedings by VICO?

In order to guarantee the timeliness in opposition which is critical for access to justice, the agreement of all the parties to hold oral proceedings in opposition by VICO has no longer been required for oral proceedings scheduled to take place on or after 4 January 2021 (see the Decisions of the President of the EPO dated 10 November 2020 (OJ EPO 2020, A121), 14 May 2021 (OJ EPO 2021, A41), 23 November 2021(OJ EPO 2021, A93) and 4 April 2022). Where oral proceedings have been requested or are considered expedient by the opposition division, they will normally be held by VICO.

The decision in G 1/21 on oral proceedings by VICO is explicitly limited to oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal. As far as oral proceedings by VICO before the EPO's opposition (and  examining) divisions are concerned, the following considerations can be derived from decision G 1/21: oral proceedings can, during a period of general emergency impairing the parties' possibilities to attend in-person oral proceedings at the EPO premises, be held by VICO without the consent of the parties. On a more general note, the Enlarged Board confirmed that oral proceedings in the form of a VICO are oral proceedings within the meaning of Article 116 EPC and comply with the principles of fairness of proceedings (Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights) and the right to be heard under Article 113(1) EPC. While the Enlarged Board also found that oral proceedings by VICO are, at least for the time being, subject to certain limitations owing to the technology used, the parties' fundamental rights can normally be fully respected in oral proceedings by VICO. The EPO will thus continue with the conduct of oral proceedings by VICO.

Is it possible to request oral proceedings on the premises of the EPO?

By way of exception, oral proceedings may be held on the premises of the EPO, either at the request of a party or at the instigation of the opposition division, if there are serious reasons for not holding them by VICO. In such cases, in accordance with the announcement that no in-person oral proceedings will be held in opposition until 31 December  2022 (previously until 31 May 2022), the oral proceedings will be postponed until after this date.

Examples of serious reasons for not holding the oral proceedings by VICO include reasons relating to a participant as an individual (e.g. a proven visual impairment that would prevent a representative from following the oral proceedings on screen) and reasons relating to the nature and subject-matter of the proceedings (e.g. where they involve the demonstration or inspection of an object where the haptic features are essential, to the extent that this is possible in accordance with the applicable provisions). Sweeping objections to the reliability of VICO technology or the non-availability of VICO equipment do not normally qualify as serious reasons in this regard.

Requests for oral proceedings to be held by way of exception on the premises of the EPO should be filed as soon as possible, preferably together with the request for oral proceedings. If medical certificates are provided, they will be excluded from file inspection in accordance with the Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 12 July 2007 concerning documents excluded from file inspection (see OJ EPO Special edition 3, 2007, J.3). The granting of a request for oral proceedings to be held on the premises of the EPO will be at the discretion of the division in question.

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. Under Article 106(2) EPC such refusals are not separately appealable.

If a request for oral proceedings on the premises of the EPO is allowable and is received after the summons to oral proceedings by VICO has been issued, the parties will be informed that oral proceedings will be held on the premises of the EPO as requested. In such cases, the oral proceedings will be postponed until after 31 December 2022.

Can witnesses be heard or other evidence be taken via VICO?

By decision dated 15 December 2020, the Administrative Council decided to amend Rules 117 and 118 EPC to allow evidence to be taken by videoconference (VICO) in proceedings before the EPO. The amendment took effect as of 1 January 2021. Evidence can be taken by videoconference regardless of whether the oral proceedings are held by VICO or on the EPO premises. For further information, see the Administrative Council decision (OJ EPO 2020, A132) and the Notice from the EPO dated 17 December 2020 concerning the taking of evidence by videoconference by examining and opposition divisions (OJ EPO 2020, A135).

What will be the effect of oral proceedings by VICO in the long term? Shouldn't this be evaluated first?

In consideration of our user needs regarding legal certainty and timely access to justice, and of the goals of the Strategic Plan, a pilot project for holding oral proceedings before opposition divisions by videoconference (VICO) was launched by the Decision of the President of the EPO of 14 April 2020.

A first progress report, published in November 2020, reviews the first six months of the pilot and explains the achievements and the trends in demand and includes recommendations for the next steps of the pilot.

A second progress report, published in July 2021, highlights the developments and achievements between November 2020 and June 2021 and outlines the next steps towards the final assessment of the pilot.

A user consultation throughout the month of September 2021 showed that two thirds of our users rate videoconferencing for oral proceedings in opposition positively.

A further report was published on 30 November 2021 taking account of the user input. It also informs readers of the extension of the pilot project for oral proceedings by VICO before opposition divisions in the face of rising COVID-19 cases in Europe. The President of the EPO has decided to extend the pilot project until 31 December 2022 (Decision of the President of the EPO dated 4 April 2022 concerning a further extension of the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions).

Participants are encouraged to provide feedback at the end of each VICO.

Oral proceedings held by videoconference might take longer than face to face oral proceedings. Will the EPO take this into account when scheduling oral proceedings?

If the division considers that the oral proceedings might take longer, it will summon for two or more consecutive days.

Does the EPO plan to introduce oral proceedings in which some parties are present and others join via VICO?

In view of COVID-19, oral proceedings requiring the presence of at least one party to the proceedings on the premises of the EPO are currently not permitted. The possible forms of oral proceedings will be considered towards the end of the pilot.

Am I allowed to share the connection details provided by the EPO with my client or any third party?

If your client wishes to attend the oral proceedings as an accompanying person, you may share the connection details with them. Note that the opposition division must be informed in advance of the attendance of your client as an accompanying person. See Guidelines E-III, 8.5, for information on requests for submissions by an accompanying person.

A request to attend oral proceedings as a member of the public must be filed by or on behalf of the person concerned. The connection details provided by the EPO for attending oral proceedings as a member of the public are intended for the sole use of the requester and must not be shared with anyone not mentioned in the request. The requester accepts full responsibility for any consequences arising from the unauthorised sharing of the connection details.

Further information about access to oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions

Will the EPO collect feedback on oral proceedings by VICO?

The opposition division will send the parties a link to a short feedback form. The link will be provided in the email providing the connection details to the parties or communicated at the beginning of the oral proceedings.

Individual feedback will be handled by the EPO Quality department in order to improve the VICO oral proceedings experience. The feedback will be treated confidentially: it will not be made public or shared with the opposition division, nor will any of the comments form part of the opposition file or proceedings.

Public attendance of oral proceedings in opposition

Where can I find a list of upcoming oral proceedings in opposition?

How can members of the public attend oral proceedings held by VICO?

For the moment members of the public can observe oral proceedings by requesting connection details from the EPO and registering to participate in the VICO.

Requests should be submitted via email to the EPO at support@epo.org at least three working days prior to the date indicated in the summons to the oral proceedings. The requirements for such requests and the conditions for remote attendance of oral proceedings by VICO are published on the EPO website (see https://www.epo.org/applying/online-services/proceedings/public-access.html).

Members of the public attending oral proceedings by VICO should identify themselves as such by entering a username starting with PUBLIC when launching the VICO platform and before entering the conference.

Can members of the public remain anonymous during oral proceedings before opposition divisions held by VICO?

Members of the public will not be asked to introduce themselves, and the opposition division will not check their ID documents. However, if so requested by the chair, they must temporarily switch on their camera to allow the videoconference participants to see who they are.

The name under which you wish to appear at the beginning of the Zoom VICO should be entered before joining the conference. It is helpful if you identify yourself as "PUBLIC".

If you use your Zoom account to access the VICO, your username will be visible. You may therefore wish to change it before entering the VICO.

Once participants have entered the Zoom VICO, only the members of the division can rename them. If you have not entered the conference with the name "PUBLIC" you may be renamed thus before the start of the oral proceedings.

Will documents submitted during the oral proceedings be forwarded to members of the public?

The opposition division does not forward copies of documents submitted during the oral proceedings to members of the public.

Are members of the public attending VICO oral proceedings free to join only part of the proceedings, or are they required to be continually present?

Members of the public may attend part of a VICO. When entering or leaving the VICO they should make every effort not to disrupt the oral proceedings. If they are not present at the beginning of the proceedings, they will be admitted at the latest during a break.

Is it possible to prevent members of the public from interrupting or interfering with the proceedings?

The participation of members of the public is restricted to listening to the audio and watching the images transmitted during the VICO. Members of the public may not switch on their microphone or camera unless asked to do so by the chair. They are not entitled to speak or otherwise become involved in the VICO, unless specifically invited to do so by the chair.

Any breach of these conditions may result in the exclusion of the member of the public from the oral proceedings. Where the chair finds that the above conditions have been/are being breached in a manner that would compromise the efficient conduct of the oral proceedings or adversely affect the rights of the other participants to the oral proceedings in an undue manner, or if other serious reasons so demand, they may ask the member of the public to leave the VICO and end the connection.

As in oral proceedings where the participants are physically present, it is the responsibility of the chair to ensure the proper conduct of the proceedings.

How will members of the public be prevented from recording oral proceedings?

At oral proceedings under Article 116 EPC, no persons other than EPO employees are allowed to introduce any kind of sound recording device into the room in which the proceedings are being held (see Notice of the Vice-Presidents Directorates-General 2 and 3 dated 25 February 1986, OJ EPO 1986, 63). The same applies to video recordings (see point 8 of the Notice from the EPO dated 1 April 2020 concerning oral proceedings and interviews to be held by videoconference, which prohibits the making or retransmission of any image or sound recording of any part of the proceedings). Both the parties and the public are expected to abide by these rules. The prohibition implies that there is no lawful way to record the oral proceedings and as such no use may be made of any such recording.

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