7 April 2020

Oral proceedings scheduled in G/19

Proceedings in the G1/19 (CONNOR/Pedestrian Simulation) have surprisingly sprung back into life at a time when many would not expect it. Venner Shipley, namely our partner Pawel Piotrowicz, has been involved from the beginning: we drafted and prosecuted the application and have been handling the appeal before the EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal.

Every year there are hundreds of decisions made by the Boards of Appeal, but decisions of the Enlarged Board (which carry the greatest weight) are much rarer, with only two or three cases being referred a year. Regarding computer implemented inventions, there have been well over a thousand Boards of Appeal decisions about what is patentable, but no Enlarged Board has fully wrestled with the issue. This is therefore an extremely important matter for European patent law as a whole, and we are at the heart of it.

The proceedings of G1/19 had entered into a quiet phase. Questions on the patentability of computer-implemented simulations were referred to the Enlarged Board in February last year and the Enlarged Board invited observations from the appellant, interested parties and the EPO President by 1 September 2019.

Given that the patent application was filed in 2003 and patent term is limited to 20 years from the filing date of the application, it had always been expected that the Enlarged Board would move swiftly, particularly given that further work still needs to be done by the Technical Board of Appeal and possibly the Examining Division after the Enlarged Board has dealt with the referral.

The outbreak of the novel Corona virus (COVID-19), however, has caused much of Europe to go into lockdown. In line with this, oral proceedings before the EPO Boards of Appeal have been restricted.  In an EPO notice on 1 April, it was announced that oral proceedings will not be held on the premises of the Boards of Appeal until 30 April 2020. Despite this, the Enlarged Board ordered (on the same day as the notice) that oral proceedings should be scheduled for 15 July 2020.

The EPO notice acknowledges that the COVID-19 situation is evolving and that appropriate measures will be taken as the situation evolves. No doubt the same comments apply to the hearing on G1/19. Many, however, are keenly waiting to learn the outcome of the referral , as shown by the interest in this case and the volume of amicus curiae briefs received.

For more updates on the G1/19 case, click here.