Insights Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) publishes response to the European Patent Office’s consultation on the use of video conferencing for oral proceedings


CIPA says that the UK Patent Attorney profession has been heavily involved in video conferencing (ViCo) proceedings at the EPO including examination, opposition (opponent or proprietor) and appeal proceedings. It has invested significantly as a profession in ViCo training, running extremely well-attended webinars, providing training materials and collaborating closely with the EPO to share relevant information and expertise.

CIPA says that the overall view has been that the platform is fit for purpose, permitting the parties to share their views clearly and effectively. The proceedings have been fair and efficient. CIPA also believes that use of ViCo has been particularly beneficial for those who cannot travel for example for health or family reasons and for bringing true transparency to the proceedings, allowing parties from all over the globe to attend proceedings without the requirement for costly and time-consuming travel arrangements. In addition to this, reduction in overall travel is both attractive to EPO users and environmentally highly beneficial.

CIPA says that it strongly believes that ViCo is the medium of choice for the majority of oral proceedings before the EPO with potential exceptions around health issues, cases where handling of evidence is specifically relevant and high-value or complex cases where all parties agree on attending. CIPA has significant concerns over “hybrid” proceedings; as experience of remote interaction has increased it becomes clear that such hybrid proceedings can be detrimental to both the real world and virtual parties. In other words, it is the worst of both worlds.

CIPA urges the EPO to continue to strive for complete clarity in relation to summons to oral proceedings as it has significant concerns over gaming of the system under the present set of rules. CIPA strongly supports ViCo which now has proved fit for purpose for the vast majority of cases, as it appears to be proportionate, fair and provides full access to justice.

CIPA says that if all parties want in-person hearings, Opposition Proceedings should be in-person; if all parties want ViCo they should be ViCo; but if the parties do not agree, then the EPO should make the decision. The decision (to impose either ViCo or in-person) should be made on the basis of transparent criteria/clear, published, guidelines. It is likely that they will generally default to ViCo, CIPA says, but not necessarily: they should take all relevant factors into account. To read CIPA’s response on its website, click here.