Insights European Patent Office publishes report on opposition oral proceedings by videoconference


The report looks at how opposition oral proceedings by videoconference have developed over the last year.

The EPO notes that, since January 2021, the consent of the parties to videoconference has ceased to be a limitation and the EPO has been working steadily to clear the backlog of cases that built up last summer, hearing over 350 cases each month in 2021. The EPO is on track to return to a pre-pandemic state as regards the number and timeliness of cases decided in opposition later next year. The experience of Zoom as the preferred platform has been positive, such that it will be expanded in the coming weeks to encompass all oral proceedings, i.e., in examination and before the Receiving Section and Legal Division as well.

The EPO says that feedback from the patent profession has been central to the success of the pilot project, enabling the EPO to adapt and refine its approach to maintain access to justice, improve efficiency and increase transparency. One consequence of the move to videoconference has been a more than tenfold increase in the number of observers at public oral proceedings in opposition.

The EPO says that the transition to videoconference was initially met with considerable resistance and scepticism, but the benefits in terms of legal certainty, timeliness, accessibility and sustainability are now winning over many members of the patent profession.

The report also sets out the next steps in the pilot project. The EPO will be conducting a user consultation during the autumn, the results of which will be analysed and used to prepare for 2022. At the moment, the current practice of conducting oral proceedings exclusively by videoconference is expected to continue until 31 January 2022. To read the EPO’s press release in full and for access to the report, click here.