From January 4, 2021, oral proceedings by videoconference in opposition proceedings will be the new normal at the European Patent Office (EPO). The EPO has extended the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference in opposition proceedings until 15 September 2021 (see here) and at the same time eliminated the requirement that all parties need to agree to videoconference. Accordingly, starting on January 4, 2021, oral proceedings in opposition proceedings will be held as videoconference by default, as already practiced in examination proceedings (see here), unless there are serious reasons preventing the use of videoconference.
In appeal proceedings before the Boards of Appeal, at least for now, oral proceedings by videoconference remain possible only if all parties agree (see here). Attendance on the premises of the Boards of Appeal is generally limited to two persons per party. Hybrid proceedings, with some members of a party attending in person, while other members of the same party attend by videoconference, is possible. However, currently consultations are under way to amend the Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (RPBA 2020) to change the Board’s practice with regard to using videoconference. The current proposal for amendment, which can be found here, would allow the Boards to hold oral proceedings by videoconference without the approval of all parties.