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EPO President António Campinos has announced that from 1 January 2023 video conference (VICO) will be the default format of Oral Proceedings before the examining and opposition divisions, the Legal Division and the Receiving Section.
Oral Proceedings “…may be held on the premises of the European Patent Office, either at the request of a party or at the instigation of the division…” but only if “…there are serious reasons against holding the Oral Proceedings by videoconference.”
It remains to be seen what such a serious reason may be but the decision of the president also confirms that if technical problems prevent the Oral Proceedings by video conference from being conducted and cannot be overcome during the video conference, the division will issue a new summons to Oral Proceedings.
This announcement follows a successful pilot project for Oral Proceedings by video conference that has been run by the EPO for over two years. The pilot was originally launched in the wake of the COVID pandemic and extended a number of times to reflect the EPO’s continuing concern for the health and safety of staff and visitors on site.
The EPO also continued to improve their VICO offering during the pilot by introducing enhanced features such as digital whiteboards for attorneys to sketch diagrams in support of arguments (comparable to the traditional flipchart that would be present in every Oral Proceedings room). Additional audio channels were also made available to help with interpretation into French, English or German, and breakout rooms introduced to allow parties to confer in private during recesses. The EPO also offer extensive training on participating in Oral Proceedings by VICO.
The decision to default to VICO has been welcomed by CIPA (the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys), with President Alasdair Poore saying:
“This is an important step forward for access to justice and also supports the drive to make the legal system more sustainable”
We also welcome the decision. As well as being much more environmentally friendly and more inclusive to parties for which travel may be difficult, Oral Proceedings by VICO are much more accessible for the client, which can only be of benefit to all parties.
If you have any upcoming Oral Proceedings that you would like to discuss, or any other IP related queries, do not hesitate to get in touch with us through the contact details given above.
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