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23 November 2022

EPO President confirms default format for opposition oral proceedings will be by videoconference (VICO)

The EPO President has decided that at the end of the current pilot project, VICOs should become the default format of oral proceedings in opposition. Only if “serious reasons” exist, and when the opposition division permits it, will oral proceedings in opposition be held in person. This will bring to an end the current pilot project and make the current arrangements for opposition oral proceedings permanent.

Oral proceedings by VICO were introduced as a pilot project in response to the pandemic and in announcing his decision the EPO President highlighted that the pandemic has affected many aspects of the EPO’s patent granting process and how more generally videoconferencing is changing the way we do business. The EPO stresses that it is keen to embrace “new technologies and the opportunities they provide to save time and money, and reduce carbon emissions, while still allowing them to argue their case”.

Following feedback received during the pilot project and in light of a customer survey report commissioned by the EPO, it has concluded that the pilot project was a success and will adopt videoconferencing as the default format for opposition oral proceedings when the current pilot project comes to an end, i.e. from 1 January 2023. This means now that oral proceedings before examining divisions, opposition divisions, the Legal Division and the Receiving Section are to be held by videoconference as default. Oral proceedings before the EPO’s Boards of Appeal are governed by separate regulations hence this announcement does not affect appeal hearings.

Venner Shipley’s team of attorneys has gained a substantial amount of experience representing our clients via videoconference as well as in person. From our perspective, the EPO has put a lot of effort into optimising the experience of oral proceedings via videoconference to mitigate any perceived downsides. We look forward to participating in future hearings both via videoconference and in person.