The European Patent Office Boards of Appeal have announced that from 1 January 2021 they will be able to insist that parties attend an appeal hearing by video conference. At present, appeal hearings can be held by video conference rather than in person, but only if all parties agree. If the parties do not all agree, and one or more cannot travel to the EPO for the hearing, then under current practice the hearing has to be postponed. As of January, the Boards say that they will, in appropriate cases, insist that the hearing goes ahead, by video conference. This will be as a result of a request from one of the parties or at the instigation of the Board. The rules are not yet fully clear as to which circumstances will mean that the Board insists on video conference rather than postponing, if one or parties is not in agreement. It is also not yet clear how much notice the Boards will give of a change to video conference format. This will remain to be seen from the practice that emerges from the new rule.
The European Patent Office Boards of Appeal to Enforce New Rules on Hearing Attendance.