EPO oral proceedings

by videoconference

One of the most significant changes to policy at the European Patent Office in recent years has been the switch from in-person hearings, mostly held in Munich and the Hague, to videoconferencing.

On 22 November, EPO President António Campinos announced that videoconference (VICO) would become the default format of oral proceedings in opposition from 1 January 2023.

President Alasdair Poore welcomed the news, saying: ‘This is an important step forward for access to justice and also supports the drive to make the legal system more sustainable.

‘CIPA 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.

President Campinos’s announcement followed the publication, on 15 November, of the EPO’s final report into oral proceedings by videoconference, in which more than three-quarters of users supported the use of the technology.

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

The EPO introduced a VICO pilot at the start of the pandemic and, in April 2022, extended the pilot to 31 December. The EPO’s final report included details of a user survey which 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.

The report also stated that:

  • The provision of new digital tools in Zoom had made it even more effective for parties to argue their cases
  • The availability of skilled interpreters had increased thanks to remote access
  • Many parties welcomed the savings in time, cost and carbon emissions resulting from not having to travel

Download Annual Report 2022

In PDF Format

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