G1/21 – Oral proceedings via videoconference without the consent of the parties
The Enlarged Board of Appeal will consider referral G1/21 with the hearing scheduled for the 28th May 2021

Carpmaels & Ransford has filed an Amicus Brief with the Enlarged Board of Appeal with regard to the referral under reference G1/21.

The referral concerns whether oral proceedings may be held via videoconference without the consent of the parties. It is important to note that the referral does not concern the general question of whether oral proceedings via videoconference are compatible with the right to oral proceedings enshrined by Article 116(1) EPC, only the specific point about whether oral proceedings can be held by videoconference without the consent of the parties.

While oral proceedings have typically been held in person, the global pandemic has prevented representatives from attending and in order for cases to continue to be progressed it has been necessary to adapt working practices.

At Carpmaels we have created several custom designed EPO hearing suites. We have handled over 80 oral proceedings over videoconference since 1st March 2020. Our experience of videoconferencing for oral proceeding has been very positive and we have found the medium to be efficient and cost effective. Hearings by videoconference are more widely accessible as clients and members of the public can join from anywhere in the world. There is also an added benefit for our trainees who are able to gain valuable experience by observing public oral proceedings.

There are of course cases where videoconference will not be an appropriate medium to conduct oral proceedings. For example, cases that would require a significant amount of time to discuss all of the issues such as those with multiple parties, cases with intricate arguments and / or technically complex cases as well as those which require simultaneous interpretation. A party should have the right to present its case in-person if a reasoned request to do so is provided.

Accordingly, the answer to the referred question:

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?

could be answered yes, provided that, in any particular case, there are no serious reasons against the holding of the oral proceedings by videoconference.

The EPO website showing all Amicus Briefs that have been filed is here.

The hearing before The Enlarged Board is currently scheduled for the 28th May 2021. However, objections have been raised to both the composition of the board and that the oral proceedings are themselves being held by videoconference. We will provide further details following the outcome of the hearing.