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Further Developments in Videoconference Proceedings at the EPO

The European Patent Office (EPO) has extended the use of video conference for oral proceedings in opposition until 31 January 2022.  Previously, the pilot project was due to end on 15 September 2021.  To date, Murgitroyd’s experience of videoconference proceedings has been a very positive one, and we welcome this extension, especially because of the continued uncertainties regarding international travel.

However, it is important to note that this extension does not apply to the Boards of Appeal.  While the Boards of Appeal have been conducting proceedings by videoconference in many cases, in-person proceedings have continued where restrictions allow.

We have previously reported on the ongoing referral to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) concerning the legality of holding oral proceedings by videoconference without the consent of all parties.  Oral proceedings for the submission of final arguments are scheduled for 28 May, with a decision expected very soon afterwards.  In an interlocutory decision issued by the EBA, the composition of the Enlarged Board of Appeal was changed because of potential partiality concerns, given the previous involvement of the members in question in drafting the rule changes now the subject of proceedings.

We look forward to the outcome of the referral, given its importance in shaping the approach taken by both the Boards of Appeal and opposition divisions in future oral proceedings.

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Dr Thomas Gibb

Head of Professional Practice
Southampton