According to a decision by the EPO president on November 10, 2020 (EPO OJ 2020, A121), all oral proceedings before opposition divisions from January 4, 2021 onwards are to be conducted in form of a video conference, even if one or more parties do not agree to the form of a video conference. From January 1, 2021 onwards, also the EPO Boards of Appeal may conduct oral proceedings by video conference even without the agreement of the parties concerned (Art. 15a RPBA).
Before the introduction of these regulations, oral proceedings in the form of a videoconference could only be conducted if all parties agreed thereto. In the interlocutory decision T 1807/15 of March 12, 2021, the Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.02 referred the following question to the Enlarged Board of Appeal, which will be handled under G 1/21:
“Is the conduct of oral proceedings in the form of a videoconference compatible with the right to oral proceedings as enshrined in Article 116 (1) EPC 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?”
Oral proceedings before the Enlarged Board are already scheduled for May 28, 2021. The Enlarged Board has invited the EPO president to comment on in writing on the points of law referred to it by April 27, 2021. This referral will likely resolve the current legal uncertainty associated with video conferences in inter partes proceedings before the EPO in cases where one or more of the parties disagree to the form of a video conference.