A personal account on the oral proceedings I recently had before the Boards of Appeal
I recently had oral proceedings at the EPO’s Boards of Appeal for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe.
As many practitioners may be interested in how this is organized, I am happy to share my experiences:
- Approximately one month before the hearing, the Board asked the parties whether they can participate in the oral proceedings, or whether they are affected by any travel restrictions. As this was not the case, the date for the oral proceedings was maintained.
- Each party further had to indicate who was going to participate in the oral proceedings, and each party was requested to limit the number of participants as much as possible.
- On the day of the oral hearing, when entering the building of the Boards of Appeal, each participant had to complete this questionnaire.
- According to the information by the Board of Appeal, only 50% of the rooms for the oral proceedings are currently used. This reduces the overall number of people in the building. Further, the oral proceedings on a single day are scheduled for different times. This reduces the number of people arriving at the same time.
- When I arrived at the building, there was no queue, and I could immediately proceed with the safety check.
- For the times prior to the hearing and during the breaks, each party had a dedicated “attorneys’ room” to themselves.
- Whenever walking from one room to another (e.g., to the attorneys’ room, from the attorneys’ room to the room for the oral proceedings, etc.), everyone has to wear a face mask.
- In the room for the oral proceedings, there is plenty of space, and there are transparent screens between each chair.
- Approximately after each hour, the oral proceedings are interrupted and the room is ventilated.
- The restaurant/cafeteria is open, albeit with limited opening hours. Also, the spaces per table are limited (every second space has to be left empty), and one has to fill out a form indicating the time one was present in the cafeteria and contact information.
Overall, I found that the oral proceedings were very well organized, and I felt very safe.
I hope this information is useful for some fellow practitioners. Also feel free to reach out to me in case you have any additional question.
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Beside the restrictions due to the pandemic, it appears to have been quite a normal OP before the Boards.
It appears however much more interesting to know how oral proceedings by videoconference are experienced by the participants, whether in opposition or appeal, as there a videoconference is only takes this form if the parties agree.
OP in examination should always be held by videoconference as the president has decreed without consultation of the users.
I refer to the following publication on this blog:
Has the head of the EPO bothered to reply to the complaint from epi? I have doubts about this, as the new one like the old president are of the opinion that “l’OEB c’est moi”, as Louis XIV is meant to have said about the state.
The questionnaire specifies the following: “You can opt for not providing any information to the above points and not to attend the meeting/event.” Will a participant requested to attend the meeting, but refusing to fill in the questionnaire be considered as absent and a decision taken only on the basis of its written statements?
It would be an interesting question to any BA, but also to the EBA. For the latter, in view of a recent “dynamic interpretation” of the EPC, it would be possible not to get a reply at all, or a reply in accordance with the wishes of the president and the AC.
The questionnaire specifies that the data will be processed under the EPO Data Processing Guidelines. Could the EPO not simply abide by the EU Data protection guidelines GDPR, at least for its dealings with external people? After all, all places where the EPO has buildings are within the EU.
Another question: what happens to the electronic advance declaration needed if a party wants to assist to an OP in the form of a videoconference? This declaration should be automatically deleted at the end of the OP. It would be much better for the EPO to give a public link, then no declaration in advance would be needed.
Techrights and zoobab: FINGERS OFF!!
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