The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the activity of many government organizations worldwide. Many patent offices worldwide have stopped working, while others are working with reduced staff, often causing delays. Document filing is delayed or postponed in many countries and registration is slowed down.
The restrictions are imposed in order to combat the health hazards and negative impacts caused by the pandemic. These measures are designed to protect both patent and trademark filers, as well as staff. In some cases, where it's possible, the staff is asked to work from home. Communication is critical in these circumstances, especially via telephone or video conferencing. For instance, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) are conducting all oral proceedings via videoconferencing or telephone. All applicants are advised to use electronic communication if they want to file their applications during this period.
National patent registration offices have also imposed various extensions to their application schedules. These extensions are designed to help applicants, both those applying solo or with the help of a specialized patent attorney. Here are some extensions imposed by various patent and trademark registration offices across the world:
- The United States Patent and Trademark Office has extended the application schedule for all patent and trademark-related documents falling between March 27th and June 1st. However, not all applications will benefit from this extension. Only applications that include a statement mentioning that the delay in filing was caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be extended. The USPTO provides applicants with the form for the statement, which is available online. The filing must include this statement and every document must be drafted according to international patent law.
- Other patent and trademark-related deadlines have been extended – these include replies to office actions, appeal-related deadlines, and issue fees. Fees will be waived for applications that were abandoned or reexamined during the outbreak. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings that fell between March 27th and April 30th will be extended for 30 days on request. For other details or deadlines, applicants are invited to contact the PTAB. In specific cases, more deadline extensions are available, according to international patent law. When it comes to trademark deadlines, they have been extended similarly to patent deadlines: replies to office actions, ex parte appeals, renewal applications, notices of opposition, or statements of use have extended deadlines caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Applicants are eligible for extension if they (or their patent attorney) state that the application was negatively affected or delayed because of the ongoing pandemic. Essentially, the applicant must show that the outbreak materially interfered with timely payment or filing. These extensions come as a welcomed relief for applicants who rely on this type of service, especially internationally.
In general, applicants are informed that the USPTO remains open for filing patent and trademark documents or fees, but with specific limitations. The organization is prepared to assist applicants with meeting filing deadlines. For more information, visit the USPTO's official website and talk to your patent attorney. Of course, all applications will have to be according to international patent law.
Before the CARES Act, the USPTO did not extend deadlines because they are not the responsibility of the agency's director. Simply put, the director has no authority to extend deadlines, so the Act was very important for the whole IP industry. However, before the Act, fees were waived for applications that had expired registrations. The CARES Act has also extended various deadlines for the United States Copyright Office. The extensions are available for 60 days for the applicants that are affected by the ongoing epidemic.
Here are other restrictions imposed by specific national or supranational trademark and patent office from around the world:
- Canada – The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has extended deadlines that expire on March 16th through May 15th, to May 19th or beyond, depending on the evolution of the pandemic. Applicants are advised to check the organization's website for more information;
- The European Union – EPO has also extended all time limits that expire on or after March 15th. All dates will be extended to June 2nd.
- United Kingdom – The UK IP Office has extended all deadlines for May 7th, depending on the evolution of the pandemic.
- EUIPO – All deadlines that expire during this period are extended to June 2nd.
- Australia – The Australian IP Office has imposed extensions on various deadlines. All deadlines related to patent, trademark, and design applications will be extended for up to three months. The extensions are also designed to help applicants file evidence in opposition. All oral, in-person interactions will be replaced by telephone and videoconferencing. The extension is available for every applicant. However, the registration must include a one-sentence declaration mentioning that the applicant cannot meet the deadline because of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
- Mexico – The Mexican Patent and Trademark Office took drastic measures to protect the applicants and their staff. Their office will be closed until May 30th. However, the Office maintains its online services. Filings for both patents and trademarks are still available. On the other hand, all paper-based procedures, such as recording of changes, prosecution of applications, or maintenance reports cannot be completed until the office is reopened.
- Korea – The Korean Intellectual Property Office has extended virtually all deadlines through May 31st. Some deadlines remain in effects – such as examination deadlines and some types of reviews done by the Office Actions.
- Singapore – All deadlines have been extended by the Singapore IP Office, starting from April 7th to June 4th.
- India – The Indian Patent Office is closed during this period, until May 17th. All deadlines in that period are extended to the period after the office is reopened. Unfortunately, online services are limited, so all applicants are advised to wait until the office reopens.
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