Measures taken by UK and European IP offices in response to coronavirus
16th March 2020
In view of the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus) and everchanging responses by the UK and Europe, we are monitoring the situation closely and will report any changes that affect our operations or those of the UK and European intellectual property offices.
Some automatic extensions are in place, and other requests for extensions are likely to be more favourably received than normal. However, if you have a specific deadline that you feel you are unlikely to be able to meet in the current climate, then please contact us for advice.
European Patent Office (EPO)
As a result of the disruption, the EPO is extending deadlines where an applicant has to complete an act before the EPO, for example filing a response to an examination report or filing documents in support of an application. Any such deadlines falling on or after 15 March 2020 are being automatically extended to 17 April 2020. The EPO is monitoring the situation and may extend this period further. While this is welcome, we would still appreciate instructions in advance of the original deadline, where possible, and will continue to issue reminders as if the extension were not in place.
Some key deadlines/dates not covered by the automatic extension are the filing of a new application to pre-empt a public disclosure and the filing of a divisional application while a parent application remains pending.
Oral proceedings will not be held at the premises of the Boards of Appeal from 16-27 March 2020, and affected parties will be notified individually. The Boards of Appeal will continue to issue written communications, summons and decisions.
Oral proceedings before examining and opposition divisions will (in principle) take place as scheduled. However, oral proceedings involving parties or representatives who have recently visited high risk areas will be held by videoconference or postponed, upon request. Where a party or representative is prevented from attending oral proceedings (even through travel restrictions in companies or patent attorney firms), the EPO will do everything feasible to remove the need for the party or representative to travel to oral proceedings. In particular, oral proceedings by videoconference will be offered in examination and, to the extent possible, in opposition proceedings. The relevant party or representative should indicate in each particular case which alternative measures they request.
All EPO organised events that involve more than 50 participants in March and April have been postponed, including EQE exams.
UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO)
The UKIPO has said that it will take whatever measures it can to support rights applicants and their attorneys who have been affected.
Deadline extension – The IPO will extend time periods where national and international legislation allows. We are willing to support affected customers using the discretionary powers available to us.
Extensions of time – The IPO is willing to consider requests for extensions of time as favourably as possible on a case-by-case basis. Seems likely that where a 2 month extension is available as of right, but any further extensions are only discretionally available, those further extensions are more likely to be granted.
Loss of rights due to failure to meet a time period – Where a failure to meet a time period has resulted in a loss of rights, those rights may be reinstated or restored in certain circumstances. The UK’s intellectual property legislation does not provide any single provision for all situations that may arise. Legal provisions depend on the nature of the late response and the circumstances of the delay. IPO staff can explain the options available and how reinstatement or restoration procedures work.
European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
A decision published on 16 March 2020 extending all time limits to 1 May 2020. From Monday 16 March, all EUIPO staff will work from home but, so far as possible, the internal business of the EUIPO will continue as usual.
The Office’s headquarters will remain closed until further notice, and all events scheduled at the Office during this period are postponed. The EUIPO’s participation in events and activities outside EUIPO premises with stakeholders are also postponed during March and April. The Office is looking into alternative solutions in order to hold these meetings (fully or partially) at a later stage through digital means such as VICOs, streaming, etc.