The (video) times are a changing…
The current world-wide restrictions on travel have potentially monumental impact on the administration of legal systems. Both the EPO and the English courts are making changes to allow the systems to proceed as smoothly as possible and to secure the proper administration of justice. Will these changes alter the IP systems indefinitely?
Last week, the English Court of Appeal held a first remote video hearing in a patents case, leading to a judgment on the 31 March 2020. The matter was the ability to correct renewal fees for an SPC in relation to Genentech’s ranibizumab (for age-related macular degeneration). The judgment was not so surprising in agreeing with the earlier judgment of the Patents Court in not allowing the correction of fees. More so in being the first such video conference under the new Practice Direction 51Y, under the Coronavirus Act 2020. The new Practice Direction, passed only on 20 March 2020, allows courts to hold remote hearings as video or audio proceedings. The hearings may be directed to be private or public. We await details of further hearings at the English Courts under this new Practice Direction.
EPO Examining Division
Meanwhile, the EPO has issued notice that new summons will indicate that Examination Division oral proceedings will be held by video conference. The option for such remote video oral proceedings before the Examining Divisions has been available for many years and is regularly used. The new world-wide travel restrictions mean that only remote video oral proceedings can go ahead and thus all such oral proceedings will be by remote video conference unless there is the giving of evidence or other serious reasons for not doing so. We expect most Examining Division oral proceedings to be held by remote video conference.
EPO Opposition Division and Appeal Boards
Unlike before the EPO Examining Division, oral proceedings before Oppositions Divisions and the Boards of Appeal are public. Further, such proceedings (Opposition Division at least) are inter partes and can potentially include a Patentee and an unlimited number of Opponents. There has yet been no direction from the EPO regarding the holding of oral proceedings before the Opposition Division and the Boards of Appeal.
We await with interest whether the EPO will deem it necessary or appropriate to hold these public oral proceedings by remote video conference or indeed how, practically, these may be arranged. Until this time, and while the current world-wide restrictions are in place, opposition division and Appeal Board oral proceedings will be rescheduled.
Please contact your Kilburn & Strode advisor with any questions.