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Breaking: EPO backs mandatory VICO – only in emergencies

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The Enlarged Board of Appeal has avoided answering whether video conferences can become mandatory in a non-emergency situation

The EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal ruled today, July 16, that oral appeal proceedings by video conference can be held without the consent of parties – but only in states of emergency.

In its decision in case G1/21, the EBoA found that the boards can, during periods of general emergency that impair parties’ ability to attend in-person proceedings, hold a VICO hearing by default without both parties’ consent.

However, the EBoA did not address whether VICO proceedings can be held without the consent of the parties in the absence of a period of emergency. It also unclear who would decide this definition.

“During a general emergency impairing the parties’ possibilities to attend in-person oral proceedings at the EPO premises, the conduct of oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal in the form of a video conference is compatible with the EPC even if not all of the parties to the proceedings have given their consent,” the EBoA wrote in its decision.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BoA has been holding oral proceedings via VICO.

The G1/21 hearing has not been short of controversy. The composition of the panel hearing the dispute was changed after the EBoA accepted that there was a justified fear of bias.

Those concerns were raised because BoA president Carl Josefsson, who was involved in the drafting of the article that allowed for VICO hearings, was due to sit on the panel hearing the dispute.

Josefsson was replaced by EBoA member Fritz Blumer.

Managing IP will provide further analysis in the coming days. 

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