11.6.2 Venue, jurisdiction and case assignment rules
188.8.131.52 Venue and jurisdiction
The Boards of Appeal are located in Haar, near Munich, Germany. Their oral proceedings take place either at the Haar premises or at the EPO’s headquarters in Munich and may also be conducted by videoconference (see Section 184.108.40.206).
The Boards of Appeal have jurisdiction over the decisions taken by the Receiving Section, the Examining Divisions, the Opposition Divisions and the Legal Division of the EPO.46 The Boards of Appeal deal only with patent validity, not with questions of patent infringement (see Section 11.3.3).
220.127.116.11 Case assignment
Technical cases are assigned to each Technical Board according to the business distribution scheme before the beginning of each working year.47 Responsible for this allocation is the Presidium of the Boards of Appeal, extended to include all chairs of the Boards.48 For technical cases, appeals are allocated to each Board based on the main International Patent Classification attributed to the application or patent at the time of the filing of the appeal.
Technical Boards may also share an International Patent Classification class. For Boards that share a class, cases are divided by year of appeal filing (e.g., appeals concerning a specific class filed in 2019 are allocated to one Board, and appeals of the same class but filed in 2020 are allocated to another Board).49 If it is more appropriate to allocate a case to a different Board because of its technical content, the chairs of the two Boards may agree to change the allocation of the case.50
A Technical Board usually consists of four to eight technically qualified members and two to four legally qualified board members. Technically qualified members are allocated to a single Technical Board; legally qualified board members are usually allocated to three different Technical Boards.51
The actual composition of a particular appeal is determined by the chair of the Board according to the criteria set out in the business distribution scheme. In particular, chairs take into account the technical and language requirements of the case and the workload of each member of their Board.52
18.104.22.168 Party representation
As a rule, parties to proceedings before the Boards of Appeal (or to any proceedings before the EPO) are not obliged to be represented by a professional representative.53 However, if parties do not have their residence or principal place of business in a Contracting State, they must be represented by professional representatives and act through them.54 If, in such a case, a representative is not appointed, the procedural steps taken by the non-represented party are deemed not to have been taken.55
The EPO maintains a list of professional representatives who may represent parties in proceedings before the EPO. A professional representative must be a national of a Contracting State, have their place of business or employment in a Contracting State, and have passed the European Qualifying Examination.56 The European Qualifying Examination is organized by the EPO and tests candidates’ knowledge and aptitude to represent applicants in EPO proceedings.
Legal practitioners qualified in a Contracting State can also represent parties in EPO proceedings to the extent that they are entitled in that Contracting State to act as a professional representative in patent matters.57