The President of the European Patent Office (EPO) recently announced that, as a rule, oral proceedings will be held by videoconference. This decision enters into force on 4 January 2021 and applies to both oral proceedings before examining divisions and before opposition divisions.
Oral proceedings before examining and opposition divisions may only be held on the premises of the European Patent Office if there are serious reasons against holding them by videoconference. These reasons have to be substantiated on a case-by-case basis. 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. Kutzenberger Wolff & Partner expects such requests will only rarely be granted.
Still many parties prefer oral proceedings held on the premises of the EPO over oral proceedings held by videoconference. Reasons for this are the fear of technical problems in videoconferences and the missing direct contact to the members of the competent division.
Likely, the decision of the President of the EPO will encourage parties to increase their efforts in the written part of the proceedings. Thereby, parties sceptical of videoconferences will try to increase their chances to receive a positive preliminary opinion before oral proceedings.