at the EPO

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the European Patent Office (EPO) increased the use of oral proceedings by videoconference (vico) to ensure that the wheels of innovation and economic activity kept turning.

The huge cultural shift from hearings in-person to the virtual world had a multitude of benefits: greater transparency; lower costs; speedier decisions; reduced environmental impact and access to all regardless of location, mobility, and personal circumstance.

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 and created a vico toolkit to highlight best practice.

Each webinar attracted hundreds of listeners, with a range of questions being raised on everything from how to share your screen correctly and audio advice, to how to set up lighting for a professional virtual meeting. The last webinar 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.

In July, the EPO published a report detailing how its staff, applicants and the patent profession successfully navigated the change.

Alicia Instone, CIPA President for 2020, 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 UK profession helped the EPO to adapt and refine its approach. 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.”

In September, the EPO launched a user survey on vico to gather feedback from the profession. Gwilym Roberts, Honorary Secretary, prepared CIPA’s response. He said:

“CIPA strongly believes that vico is the medium of choice for the majority of oral proceedings before the EPO, with a handful of potential exceptions.”

The results of the survey were published in November with the EPO confirming it attracted the largest-ever response to questions about EPO policy and practice. The results support our position that vico is fit-for-purpose and works well, showing that two-thirds of users rate vico for oral proceedings in opposition positively.

EPO President António Campinos said: “The responses suggest that, for a majority of our users, videoconferencing is becoming their format of choice for oral proceedings.”

It was announced in November 2021 that oral proceedings by vico will continue until 31 May 2022, due to worsening COVID-19 conditions in Europe.

Steve Rowan

Vice President
European Patent Office

CIPA has successfully navigated another pandemic year making full use of their impressive talents and creativity.

CIPA’s members and leadership have been generous with their feedback on many aspects of EPO policy and practice in 2021, especially with regard to oral proceedings by vico. This dialogue with a central stakeholder in Europe’s patent ecosystem is highly valued. I have been very pleased to participate in the Two IPs in a Pod podcast and various CIPA webinars during 2021, benefitting from the opportunity to engage with CIPA’s members and stakeholders from all over the world.

Download Annual Report 2021

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