In view of the ongoing disruptions caused by the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the European Patent Office (EPO) has implemented special measures for arrangement and conduct of oral proceedings. These measures are now updated with respect to oral proceedings before Opposition Divisions and Boards of Appeal. Oral proceedings in examination will continue to be held by videoconference.

Oral proceedings before Opposition Divisions

The EPO has decided to postpone oral proceedings in opposition scheduled until 31 December 2020 (previously until 14 September 2020).

Cases affected are those that have not already been confirmed to take place by videoconference or will be held by videoconference with the parties' consent under the Pilot Project for oral proceedings. Under the Pilot Project (Article 2 of the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 14 April 2020) oral proceedings before Opposition Divisions may be held by videoconference at the discretion of the Opposition Division and with the agreement of all parties. The parties will be informed about the postponement of oral proceedings in affected cases as soon as possible.

The EPO intends to maintain oral proceedings in opposition which have been scheduled to take place on the premises of the EPO on or after 4 January 2021.

See the official notice here.

Oral proceedings before Boards of Appeal

The EPO has also decided to discontinue the recently introduced practice of contacting parties to enquire whether they are able to attend oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal. If parties cannot attend oral proceedings for which they have been summoned, they will now have to request a change of date (Article 15(2) RPBA 2020).

In addition, owing to the need for physical distancing, venues and/or starting times for oral proceedings may be changed without informing parties. As such, changes may take place at short notice, and 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.

See the official notice here.

This update was prepared by HGF Senior European Patent Attorney Dr Alex Colman. If you would like further advice on this or any other matter, please contact Alex.  Alternatively, you can contact your usual HGF representative or visit our Contact page to get in touch with your nearest HGF office.