In April 2021, it was explicitly provided that a European Patent Office Board of Appeal may hold oral proceedings by video conference whenever it considers it appropriate to do so, and without the consent of all parties. In G 1/21, the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) established that holding oral proceedings by video conference is acceptable during a state of general emergency, impairing the parties’ ability to attend proceedings in-person. However, the EBA also observed that the current standard of video conference technology is suboptimal. As such, the EBA found that in-person proceedings should be the default form of proceedings in the absence of special circumstances such as travel restrictions imposed during a global pandemic.
Board of Appeal decision, T2791/19 confirms that we remain in “a state of general emergency” due to Covid 19, and this justifies the continued continues to hold oral proceedings by Video Conference without the consent of all parties. According to the Annual Report of the Boards of Appeal 2021, 76% of EPO oral proceedings were held by video conference in 2021. A user consultation of video conference oral proceedings is expected in Autumn 2022.