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Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office

Experience from a Mock ViCo Oral Proceedings [updated May 13, 2020]

May 08, 2020

On Tuesday 5th May, four epi members (David Brophy, Bart van Wezenbeek, John Gray and Chris Mercer) took part in a recorded mock opposition division oral proceedings by videoconference.
The recorded mock OP module is now online!

Two epi members took the parts of the representatives of the Proprietor and the Opponent and the other two took the parts of the clients. The Opposition Division were all in different locations. There were many “members of the public”, mainly from the EPO. The case we dealt with was simple and involved arguments about novelty and the admissibility and allowability of a late-filed auxiliary request. It thus required the Proprietor to submit the auxiliary request by email. The system used for the videoconference was the one being used at the moment by the EPO, Skype for Business. At the same time, the Proprietor and his client and the Opponent and his client were connected via entirely separate systems.

The oral proceedings mainly went smoothly but there were a few technical glitches which needed to be sorted out during the oral proceedings. However, there were a few technical limitations which could not be sorted out. These did not make it impossible to complete the oral proceedings but did make the oral proceedings less satisfactory for the representatives. The epi members will be preparing a detailed note on the experience so that we can feedback to the EPO suggestions for improvement of the system.

The event showed that, for many examination division and possibly for simple opposition division cases, it is possible to hold a satisfactory oral proceedings by videoconference using the present system. However, it was also clear that there are features which the present system does not possess to make it possible to have satisfactory oral proceedings in complex or multiparty opposition division oral proceedings. Even for cases which are suitable for videoconference oral proceedings, there are some disadvantages, especially if a party wished to have a number of people virtually present but at different physical locations.

The outcome was encouraging but, as the system has disadvantages as well as advantages, parties to proceedings at the EPO will need to consider carefully in each case whether oral proceedings by videoconference is appropriate for any particular case.

The EPO has now published its module on the mock oral proceedings.
This can be found at e-courses.epo.org/course/view.php?id=196

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