Translators at Oral Proceedings

C. Mercer (GB)C. Mercer (GB)

The EPO is obliged, at our request, to provide translators for opposition oral proceedings or a subsequent appeal oral proceedings. At a minimum, this requires two translators. At the maximum, for a multi-opponent case, it needs twelve translators. The translators are of high quality and are employed for a minimum of a whole day. Thus, the cost of providing translators is high and, ultimately, the cost is met by applicants, proprietors and opponents via the payment of official fees.

However, quite often, the translators are not used. Every year, around 750 interpreting days are cancelled at short notice. In opposition proceedings, this can happen for various reasons, e.g.: the oral proceedings are cancelled due to withdrawal of the patent, the opposition or the request for oral proceedings; the oral proceedings are postponed due to late submissions; or the party who requested interpreting does not attend the oral proceedings or decides not to use the translators, for instance because of a change to a representative having better language skills. Only in rare cases can the interpreters be rebooked for other tasks.

Sometimes, the party does not inform the EPO that the translators are not required. Sometimes, the party does tell the EPO, but too late for the EPO to cancel the contract with the translators. These are contrary to Article 6 of epi’s Code of Conduct. In such cases, the EPO has to incur substantial expenses to no purpose. This can be avoided if the party informs the EPO as soon as possible if it no longer needs translators. This does not mean that the party has to withdraw its request for oral proceedings. The oral proceedings can go ahead, but just without the need for the translators.

We, as responsible representatives, should think carefully about requesting translators in the first place. If we can represent our clients effectively without translation, then we should not request translation. If we have requested translation but circumstances change, such as a change in representative, we should consider whether translation is still required. If it is no longer required, we should inform the EPO as soon as possible.

In particular, when we receive a summons to oral proceedings, we should consider whether we really need translation at all and, when we respond to a summons, we should reconsider our need, or otherwise, for translation and inform the EPO of our decision. If possible, we should inform the EPO well before the Rule 116 deadline or any deadline set by a Board. It would be very useful to the EPO if we were to ensure that we had made a decision on translation and informed the EPO at least two months before the date for the oral proceedings.

It is possible for the EPO to appoint translators at relatively short notice. Thus, it is better to tell the EPO that you will not need translation and then change your mind rather than routinely telling the EPO you will need translation and then not using it.

It is good for our clients to avoid causing the EPO to waste money by arranging for translators who are not used as this adds to the costs of the EPO, which must be met by the payment of official fees. Therefore, please consider at every stage whether you really need translators and inform the EPO as soon as possible if translators are not required.