EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal Backs Videoconference Hearings
Oral proceedings before the EPO Boards of Appeal can be held by videoconference, even without the consent of the parties, during a general emergency, according to a July 16 decision by the EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal (G1/21). The question about videoconferencing was referred to the EBA in March by a Technical Board of Appeal in Case T-1807/15. The EPO introduced hearings by videoconference (generally held via Zoom) last year as a result of the pandemic and travel restrictions. Since January 2021, some oral proceedings have been conducted without the consent of the parties. The EBA, which comprises members of the Boards of Appeal and judges from EPC member states, was asked to rule on whether this was compatible with the right to oral proceedings as enshrined in Article 116(1) of the European Patent Convention. The EPO claims that videoconference hearings are necessary to manage the workload and ensure efficient delivery of justice during the pandemic. They also mean that parties throughout the EPC’s 38 member states can participate on equal terms, without having to travel to Munich or The Hague.