More than three-quarters of users support video conferencing at the EPO

CIPA welcomes the publication today by the European Patent Office (EPO) of its final report into oral proceedings by video conference. More than three-quarters of users describe the technology as either “good” or “very good”.  

The EPO says that the switch from in-person to virtual hearings has achieved significant environmental benefits, making a “conservative estimate”  of over 1,000 tonnes of CO2 carbon emissions saved in 2021. EPO statement and full report.

The EPO introduced a video conference pilot at the start of the pandemic and, in April this year, extended the pilot until 31 December following positive user feedback. The results of the EPO’s latest user survey found that 77% supported continued use of the technology describing it as “good” or “very good”, with just 10% describing it as “poor” or worse. EPO President António Campinos is expected to make an announcement on the future of the pilot soon.

CIPA President Alasdair Poore said:

CIPA has invested significantly in helping its members develop world-leading skills to provide clients with the highest quality representation through videoconferencing. We look forward to continuing to work with colleagues at the EPO to enhance videoconferencing and hope that the Boards of Appeal will use the technology wherever they can.”

CIPA has strongly supported the EPO in its use of the technology from the outset, pointing out its multitude of benefits: greater transparency; reduced environmental impact; lower costs and access to all regardless of location, mobility and personal circumstance.

Back in December 2020 we published our response to the User Consultation by the Boards of Appeal on amendment of Article 15a RPBA in which our then President, Richard Mair, said: “The EPO and Boards of Appeal have shown leadership during the pandemic, and now have the opportunity to shape the future of the patent system in the EPC Contracting States.

“The technology supports adoption of ViCo now. The widely discussed benefits of efficiency, accessibility to users and reduced environmental impact, and the inclusion of all available talent regardless of location, confirm this as the correct course of action.”

To help the UK patent profession improve its world-leading expertise in virtual proceedings, CIPA held a series of monthly webinars from January to July 2021 and created a video conferencing toolkit to highlight best practice.

Each webinar attracted an audience of hundreds. The last event in the series was held with the EPO itself and included Vice-President Steve Rowan, Director of Business Analysis and Planning Yorick Lostetter, Director of Patent Law Heli Pihlajamaa, and Director, Office of the Vice-President DG Patent Granting Process Direction Pasquale Foglia. We also educated colleagues in countries outside of Europe in the new system.

When the EPO published a Progress Report in July 2021 evidencing the progress made in switching to videoconferencing, CIPA President Alicia Instone said: “We are proud of the lead we have taken in the promotion of videoconferencing as the future for our profession. The EPO’s ViCo progress report shows that feedback from the profession helped the EPO to adapt and refine its approach. Much of this feedback and support came from the UK.

“I am a strong advocate of measures to support equality and diversity and have been delighted to see the successful adoption of a technology that provides access to all regardless of personal circumstance or physical mobility.”

Date Published: 15 November 2022

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