Tuesday, 15 September 2020

T 1030/19 - Plants filed before 1 July 2017

In the present case,  the examining division held, in its decision dated 28 November 2018, that the subject-matter of the set of claims of the main request and of auxiliary requests 1 to 4 fell under the exclusions from patentability as defined by Rule 28(2) EPC and that, consequently, the application did not meet the requirements of Article 53(b) EPC. In the grounds of appeal of 28 March 2019, the applicant referred to T 1063/18 which decided that Rule 28(2) is in conflict with Art.53(b) as interpreted by the Enlarged Board in G 2/12 and G 2/13 and that the refusal in that case based on Rule 28(2) should be set aside. While the current appeal was pending, the President referred questions to the Enlarged Board. The Board waited until G 3/19 was decided before ruling on this case.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

T 2214/15 - Ordinary, not exceptional

According to Article 13(2) of the revised Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal (RPBA 2020), any amendment to a party’s appeal case made after notification of a summons to oral proceedings (or after a deadline set by the Board with an express invitation to file observations) shall, in principle, not be taken into account unless there are exceptional circumstances, which have been justified with cogent reasons by the party concerned. The basic principle of this third level of the new "convergent approach" applicable in EPO appeal proceedings is that, at this stage of the appeal proceedings, amendments to a party’s appeal case are not to be taken into consideration. Only if a party can present compelling reasons which justify clearly why the circumstances leading to the amendment are indeed exceptional in the particular case. For example, if a party submits that the Board raised an objection for the first time, it must explain precisely why this objection is new and does not fall under objections previously raised by the Board (or a party). The Board may decide to admit the amendment in the exercise of its discretion. 

In the present examination appeal case, the appellant had filed Auxiliary Request 2 after notification of the summons to oral proceedings. During oral proceedings, the appellant argued that this late-filed request should be admitted, as the Board had raised a number of new issues in the summons to which auxiliary request 2 represented a good faith reaction. Indeed, the Board accepted that in the present case this represented exceptional circumstances within the meaning of Article 13(2) RPBA 2020.
Unfortunately, the Board found that Auxiliary Request 2 does not comply with Articles 84 and 123(2). 

Auxiliary Request 3 filed subsequently during oral proceedings was however not admitted. While the appellant asserted that a further request should be admitted because the Board had raised new objections in connection with the second auxiliary request that the appellant could not have been expected to anticipate, the Board was not persuaded by these arguments. According to the Board, the topics of discussion in view of auxiliary request 2 did not differ in substance from those identified in the summons; the identification of newly introduced problems when attempting to solve issues discussed in the procedure up to that point is rather to be seen as the ordinary development of the discussion, rather than an exceptional circumstance justifying the admittance of a further auxiliary request. In the view of the Board, if such newly introduced problems would represent exceptional circumstances, this would imply that the appellant would have to be given repeated opportunity to file amended claims until no new problems were introduced. Such a procedure could only be characterised as a continuation of the first-instance examination proceedings and would thus be at odds with the primary object of the appeal proceedings of a judicial review of the impugned decision.

If amendments intended to overcome objections of lack of support and lack of clarity raised in the summons give rise to further objections concerning clarity or added subject-matter, pointing out these further objections does not represent exceptional circumstances within the meaning of Article 13(2) RPBA 2020, but rather an ordinary development of the discussion which does not go beyond the framework of the initial objection. See reasons 5.3 and 5.4.