On 16 July 2021, the EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal issued the order of its decision of G1/21 which concerned the legality of enforcing oral proceedings by videoconference. The order permits the Board of Appeal to hold Appeal hearing oral proceedings by video conference during the pandemic. The full order of the Enlarged Board of Appeal is as follows:
During a general emergency impairing the parties’ possibilities to attend in-person oral proceedings at the EPO premises, the conduct of oral proceedings before the boards of appeal in the form of a videoconference is compatible with the EPC even if not all of the parties to the proceedings have given their consent to the conduct of oral proceedings in the form of a videoconference.
Notably, the Enlarged Board of Appeal provided no comment on whether the right to be heard is breached if not all parties agree to oral proceedings by video conference in the absence of a “general emergency”. Moreover, there was no further clarification as to whether oral proceedings could go ahead without consent of both parties in examination and opposition first instance proceedings before the EPO.
It remains to be seen whether the Enlarged Board of Appeal will decide exactly when this period of “general emergency” will come to an end and whether video conference proceedings will be the new normal in a post-pandemic world.
HLK will report further when the full written decision has been issued by the Enlarged Board of Appeal.