Düsseldorf, 22.12.2020 - Oral proceedings before the European Patent Office (EPO) are to be conducted as video conferences in the future, even without the consent of the parties (see C&F press release of 12 November 2020). Contrary to previous expectations, the Boards of Appeal of the EPO will also be able to make use of this possibility as early as January 1, 2021.
This was the conclusion reached by the EPO's Board of Appeal Committee following a user consultation in which also representatives of Cohausz & Florack (C&F) participated. Despite the severe concerns expressed in the user consultation, the Committee has now allowed for the mandatory conduct of video hearings, even without the consent of the parties. To this end, a new Article 15a will be inserted in the Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal. The new provision is supposed to be applicable already from January 1, 2021 onwards, i.e. before the actual entry into force.
"We are disappointed by the EPO Board of Appeal's decision," says Dr. Natalie Kirchhofer, patent attorney and partner at C&F. "Video conferences are certainly helpful in many cases. But they can only ever be the second choice and should require the consent of all parties." C&F is particularly worried that the EPA may maintain these new provisions also beyond the Corona pandemic.
The EPO Boards of Appeals have announced a further user consultation after initial experience with the new rule has been gained. "We hope that the critical voices will then be listened to more and that the regulations will be improved in the interest of many parties involved," says Mathias Karlhuber, patent attorney and partner at C&F.
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