We have already reported on a seismic change at the EPO in relation to uptake of videoconferencing (ViCO) for Hearings; with today’s heads up on informal Examiner interviews by ViCo the EPO moves one step closer to being a genuinely virtual office.
Crisis is an innovation accelerator, often driving mass uptake of existing technologies and the current pandemic is no exception. From the workplace to the medical sphere to our travel and retail habits, there has been a huge upheaval; in our smaller IP world we see drastic change too and we have reported separately on the work done by the EPO to keep their many thousands of hearings going via a wholesale switch to ViCo.
Today the EPO has published an advance copy of one of its core texts, the Guidelines for Examination (2021) and it has taken the opportunity to extend its ViCo programme to informal Examiner interviews. Informal interviews have long been available, at Examiner discretion, and the EPO recognises their benefit both to the applicant and to the process, but this is a welcome addition to the routes available. In conjunction with the effort the EPO is putting into Examiner education on Hearing ViCOs, whilst the informal option remains discretionary, this advance is likely to make “offline” communication with a view to finding agreement on patentability increasingly accessible. The Guidelines take effect on March 1st and it can be expected that attorneys will make early and enthusiastic use of the new opportunities they afford.
Some of the current ViCo practices, driven by the pandemic, are in place until mid-September; we think the EPO will be consulting before then as to ViCo effectiveness and we and many other users will be responding positively. Our prediction is that we will see a long-term transition for the majority of transactions with the EPO to the virtual world. To us, this seems right – experience shows that the forum works perfectly for the subject matter we deal with, even in complex cases, and the side benefits are huge: enhanced accessibility for all users (from all around the word), flexibility for examiners, no limit on the number of hearings and reduced environmental impact, to name a few.
Over the last year the possibilities offered by remote working in our daily life have become glaring. Is this the next phase – are we soon to see the emergence of the “CyberPatentOffice”?
For more information please contact Gwilym or your usual Kilburn & Strode advisor.