National and regional intellectual property offices are, like all of us, feeling the effects of the on-going Covid-19 outbreak. Some of them have now extended deadlines or put into place corresponding measures which are aimed at helping you to weather the storm without losing your rights.
We remain very much open for business as usual, but here is a brief overview of the positions being adopted by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), the European Patent Office (EPO), the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
The UK IPO has announced that all deadlines for UK patents, designs, trademarks, supplementary protection certificates, and applications for any of those rights, have been indefinitely extended. This applies to deadlines from 24th March 2020 to an unspecified future date.
It is important to note that this extension applies to UK rights only. Any applications for overseas rights made under international or regional agreements must still be made by the relevant deadlines.
The situation will be reviewed on 17th April 2020. The UK IPO indicates that there will be a two-week notice period before the extension period ends, so the earliest that any extended deadlines may fall would be 1st May 2020.
The EPO has announced that deadlines for time limits expiring on or after 15th March 2020 are extended until at least 17th April 2020. Oral proceedings scheduled during the same period have been suspended until further notice, unless video-conferencing has already been arranged.
It should be noted that the extensions apply to parties which are already party to proceedings under the European Patent Convention (EPC) or Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT).
For opposition filing deadlines, it should be noted that the EPO has stated that the current situation qualifies as a ‘general dislocation’ under rule 134(2) EPC. Therefore, this should also extend the deadline for filing an opposition to a European patent until at least 17th April 2020, assuming that the opposition deadline had not already expired prior to 15th March 2020.
The EPO has also pointed out that the extension does not apply to some things such as the deadline for filing a divisional application and the deadline for making written submissions before oral proceedings. The same notice indicates that renewal fees falling due on 31st March 2020 can be paid until 17th April 2020, and that such renewal fees can for now be paid at the current rate rather than the increased rates coming into force from 1st April 2020.
The EUIPO has announced that deadlines expiring between 9th March 2020 and 30th April 2020 have been extended to 1st May 2020 (in practice, 4th May 2020, since 1st May is a public holiday followed by a weekend).
This specifically relates to deadlines for trademark or design matters, but does not cover deadlines which relate to other matters or which relate to another authority, e.g. bringing an action before the General Court against a Board of Appeal decision.
The WIPO is still processing international patent, design and trademark applications as normal. The latest newsletter contains some advice on possible remedies in the event that a PCT deadline is missed for an international patent application.
If you are nearing the end of a priority filing period (12 months from first filing a patent application, or 6 months from first filing a design or trademark application), then the Paris Convention only allows for an extension to the priority period where the national Office was closed to the filing of applications. Please click the relevant links here for further details relating to the PCT, Hague System and Madrid System procedures as affected by the Covid-19 situation.
For the time being, the UK IPO, EPO, EUIPO and WIPO are still accepting applications. The EPO and EUIPO have indicated that priority filing deadlines may be extended, for now. However, to be on the safe side, if you plan to file a national/regional application, a PCT international patent application, a Hague System international design application, or a Madrid System international trademark application through one of those Offices, it is still worth aiming to file subsequent applications by the priority deadline.
The situation for all of the above Offices is still evolving, but we will endeavour to continue to provide up-to-date information on our website. If you have a query relating to a specific case, please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.