The year 2020 was very exceptional in many respects. The Covid 19 situation forced us all to develop new ways of working. This was also the case with the European Patent Office, which has traditionally not allowed carrying out oral proceedings in opposition cases by videoconference. However, to avoid a backlog, even the EPO had to reconsider its course of action and start piloting such oral proceedings by video. As we have now conducted remote oral proceedings in opposition cases since June, I think it is time to share some experiences.
When the pilot option of having oral proceedings before opposition divisions was introduced by the EPO earlier this year, both parties were asked if they agree to the videoconference. This was not always the case, and some oral proceedings were postponed because a party refused. However, at this moment consent by a party is no longer required, and the oral proceedings in opposition cases will be held as videoconferences at least until September 2021.
For us at Berggren, the concept of videoconferencing is familiar. We have carried out internal videoconferencing for over a decade in our company. Also, the oral proceedings during the examination phase with the EPO have been carried out by videoconference for a long time. Therefore we were eager to utilize our well-equipped videoconference rooms for the new use as well.
We found the videoconference very useful in many ways. First of all, there is no need to travel to Munich or other EPO office. This saves time, money and environment. It also allows more persons to participate, so it is possible to involve a larger expert team with lower costs and share experience with more people. In the present system it is possible for persons placed at different locations to attend proceedings, which is often beneficial. This also applies to our clients having the best understanding of the technology behind the invention and the commercial interest of the protection as well.
Moreover, participating the oral proceedings at your own office helps you to fully concentrate on the actual subject-matter. From our videoconference room equipped with big screens and high-quality cameras and audio, the actual proceedings can be carried out smoothly. We have not faced any problems in seeing the reactions of the opposition division or the other party, and our comments have been received without problems. Actually, using videoconferencing is well suited to the needs of the process; each party speaks in turn, and the matter has already been prepared in advance. After all, the decisions are based on facts presented by the parties in a well-structured way.
However, it is true that some technical problems have been encountered in the videoconferences we have carried out. Previously the videoconference provided by the EPO was based on Skype, which sometimes caused breaks in connections with other systems, but even in such cases it was still possible to continue on your own laptop . Now, it seems that the EPO has reacted to the feedback provided by parties and the present oral proceedings are conducted by using Zoom, which seems to be more stable and reliable platform. Therefore, we expect the good experience obtained so far to be even better in the future, and the concept of carrying out the oral proceedings during the opposition by videoconference to be the new standard in the EPO.
We can recommend to our clients conducting the oral proceedings by videoconference in opposition cases in the future as well.