EPO oppositions Oral Proceedings by video conference will become mandatory from 4 January 2021

In order to clear the backlog of cancelled/postponed opposition hearings due to COVID19, the EPO has issued a Decision that from 4 January 2021 until at least 15 Sept 2021 any opposition OPs will be held by video conference (VICO) without requiring consent from all parties. 

Unlike the current practice, parties will not be able to object to the hearing going ahead by VICO without serious reasons.  Examples of serious reasons given by the EPO are:

“reasons relating to a participant to the oral proceedings as an individual (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 they involve the demonstration or inspection of an object where the haptic features are essential, to the extent that this is possible in accordance with the applicable provisions). Sweeping objections against the reliability of videoconferencing technology or the non-availability of videoconferencing equipment will, as a rule, not qualify as serious reasons in this regard.”

Further details can be found here:

https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/president-notices/archive/20201110.html

https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/information-epo/archive/20201110.html