For some years now, oral proceedings before the examining division at the European Patent Office (EPO), in which a patent applicant negotiates alone with the Patent Office about the grantability of the requested patent, have been possible via videoconference.
In contrast, oral hearings before the opposition divisions continued to be held as face-to-face meetings. Recently, it has also become possible to conduct oral hearings before opposition divisions as videoconferences. A pilot project for this was approved by the President of the European Patent Office on 14 April 2020, the project being started on 4 May 2020 and being initially limited until 30 April 2021. It also includes oral hearings in appeal proceedings.
For videoconferences, the principle applies that documents, including powers of attorney, can be subsequently submitted by email. If the submitted documents must be signed, the signature may be placed on the documents contained in the attachment or on the accompanying email. Documents should be sent to an email address communicated by the examining division or opposition division or board of appeal and, if possible, to the email addresses indicated by the other parties to the proceedings. Amended application or patent documents may be filed as attachments in PDF format, provided they comply with the WIPO standard for electronic filing and processing. Other attachments may be submitted in any format that can be opened and reproduced in legible form by the EPO. Attachments which do not comply with the requirements described above will be deemed not to have been received if the deficiencies are not remedied within the time limit. Paper confirmation is not required to confirm documents submitted by email.
Oral hearings before Opposition Divisions and Boards of Appeal may, thus, be conducted by videoconference at the discretion of the opposition division or board and with the agreement of all parties. An oral hearing may not be conducted as a videoconference if the opposition division has decided to take evidence or if there are other serious reasons against it.
European Patent Office
EPO Official Journal 2020, A39, A41, A71