The EPO conducts a survey on users’ experience with ViCo proceedings in opposition

The European Patent Office (EPO) is conducting a survey (https://www.epo.org/news-events/news/2021/20210901.html) concerning the experience of users in opposition oral proceedings by videoconference (ViCo). At aera we think it is important that as many as possible provide their input to the EPO since the feedback from users, apparently, will inform the decision of the EPO on whether to continue with ViCo proceedings in the future.

Our own experience is that it works well from a technical perspective, Zoom being the EPO’s preferred connection software. We also agree with the position, often stated as a major advantage of ViCo proceedings, that ViCo can save parties to oral proceedings time and money that would otherwise be spent travelling to Munich or The Hague. Hence, from a convenience perspective, it could be argued that ViCo should be allowed to continue, even as a mandatory measure (as is currently the case in view of the pandemic).

However, convenience is only part of the picture. Most opponents do not oppose European patents as a matter of convenience. Often, technology important for the parties’ businesses is at stake. Indeed, when the EPO flags convenience and cost saving as attractive features of ViCo, they often implicitly give the impression that it is convenience for the EPO that is meant.

Our own position is that in-person oral proceedings should be a possibility for parties if they think this is the best way of protecting their businesses. It is also often the case that the savings associated with not travelling to oral proceedings pale in comparison to the business interests at stake. It could be considered an old-fashioned notion, but we find that people should look us in the eyes (which is not possible with ViCo) before they revoke our patent (or refuse to revoke our competitor’s patent).

What do you think?