In November we published a brief article about EPO’s new practices relating to oral proceedings. Some changes came into effect with the new year, namely with respect to Boards of Appeal and hearing of witnesses.
Previously, a Board of Appeal could only hold oral proceedings by ViCo if all the parties agreed. As of 1.1.2021, the decision is at the Board’s hands, and no consent is needed from the parties.
Additionally, the EPO changed its practice (as well as rules 117 and 118 of the European Patent Convention) as of 1.1.2021 to allow hearing of a witness also by ViCo. For any oral proceedings held by ViCo, the witness must also be heard by ViCo and in the presently unlikely event of the oral proceedings being held at the premises of the EPO, the witness can still be heard by ViCo. Hearing of witnesses is not that common during EPO prosecutions, most cases concern oppositions where a public prior use has been presented against novelty. In such a case, a witness may be required to be heard to prove such use.