For the European Patent Office and the Boards of Appeal, oral proceedings by video conference are an opportunity to conduct hearings without health risks during coronavirus. Furthermore, they are a way to prevent a severe case backlog. Initially, however, video hearings were only possible with full party consent.
However, at the beginning of the year, the EPO and the Boards of Appeal changed this practice. In their view, too many hearings failed to take place, as too often one party did not agree to the video conference solution.
G 1/21 referral to Enlarged Board
A Board of Appeal has referred the dispute Andrew AG vs. Rohde & Schwarz to the Enlarged Board of Appeal. Now, the new policy is subject to a judicial review by the EPO’s highest judicial body. The court will clarify whether compulsory oral hearings by video conference are compatible with the European Patent Convention.
The EBO will hear the submission on 28 May 2021, via video conference. Therefore, interested members of the public can also watch via video link.
The parties involved had until 27 April to submit comments on the much-debated issue. A total of 22 companies, law firms, individuals as well as professional and industrial associations used the opportunity. In addition to well-known corporations like Bayer, Siemens, BASF, Philips and Hoffmann La Roche, various patent attorney associations also filed amicus curiae briefs.
Among them are the associations of European, German and Swiss patent attorneys. For example, the Patentanwaltskammer (Chamber of Patent Attorneys), BDPA (Federal Association of Patent Attorneys), Vespa, the Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office (epi) and the European Federation of Intellectual Property Agents in Industry (FEMIPI).
Numerous patent attorney firms also submitted comments, including Christian Menges from Munich-based firm Diehl & Partner, and French firm Plasseraud.