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Videoconference to become the default format of opposition oral proceedings at the EPO

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In an announcement posted on the EPO website on 22 November 2022, the EPO shared that EPO President, António Campinos, has decided that VICO will be the default format of oral proceedings in opposition from 1 January 2023. This decision follows evaluation of the feedback on the EPO’s VICO pilot project and means that from 1 January 2023, VICO will be the default format of oral proceedings before: examining divisions; opposition divisions; the Legal Division; and the Receiving Section of the EPO.

However, oral proceedings in opposition may still be held in person, either at the request of a party to the proceedings or at the instigation of the opposition division, but only if there are “serious reasons” against holding the oral proceedings by videoconference.

The scope of the “serious reasons” that might necessitate in-person oral proceedings appears to be fairly limited. Examples of serious reasons include:

  • reasons relating to a participant (e.g., a proven visual impairment that prevents a representative from following oral proceedings on-screen); and
  • reasons related to the nature and subject-matter of the proceedings (e.g., where the oral proceedings involve the demonstration or inspection of an object and being able to touch said object is essential).

A non-specific preference for oral proceedings in person or a lack of suitable IT equipment are not considered “serious reasons”.

We advise that any requests for oral proceedings in person are made as early as possible and filed together with the “serious reasons” supporting the request.

If a request to hold opposition oral proceedings in person is refused, the parties to the opposition will be informed of the refusal together with the reasons for the refusal. The refusal will not be appealable.