EUIPO’s Boards of Appeal have recently introduced expedited appeal proceedings to deal with urgent cases. Requests for this option can be submitted by appellants together with the statement of grounds or, for defendants, with their reply. It appears unlikely that the Boards will set expedited proceedings of their own motion.
As to formalities, there’s no additional fee for expedited proceedings. A separate document must be filed which explains why the case is urgent and what harm would be caused if the appeal proceedings are not accelerated. In certain circumstances, documentary evidence must also be provided, for example in support of a claim that parallel infringement proceedings have been suspended pending the outcome of the appeal, giving rise to a serious risk of damage if the appeal is not expedited (example provided by the EUIPO).
If the request is granted, expedited appeals will be treated with priority and the parties will in principle be limited to only one set of submissions. Statutory time limits are unaffected.
The single member decision trend
While discussing appeal proceedings, we have noticed a rise in appeals decided by a single member of the Boards instead of being dealt with by the usual panel of three members. The basis of these decisions in appeals concerning Article 7 EUTM is Decision 2014-3 of the Board’s Presidium issued two years ago. However, in Article 2, the Decision also clarifies that where the single member considers that the contested decision taken by the examiner has to be annulled completely or in part, the full panel must decide on the case.
Swift and effective dispute resolution is crucial for brand owners and the fact that such a principle is increasingly recognised is a positive development. The European Patent Office introduced accelerated proceedings before its Boards in 2008 and the General Court in Luxembourg has had them in place since 2001. We are keeping an eye on developments in this direction in the EUIPO and look forward to reporting on key cases as they arise.