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Coronavirus Advice from Patent Offices

The UK IPO and EPO plan to remain open for business during the coronavirus outbreak. We at TLIP will be maintaining open dialogue with the patent offices to ensure we can do everything we can to keep things running smoothly through any difficulties clients may experience as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. We are advising clients to let us know as soon as possible if they foresee any issues meeting deadlines, and we can do our best to combat this.

TLIP have implemented a necessary, but measured, working strategy in place to ensure smooth running throughout the Coronavirus outbreak.

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UK patent office

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) has released a short advice note to let applicants know what it is doing to deal with the current Coronavirus outbreak. They have put into place robust plans in place to maintain services for customers applying for rights.

Good news for any affected Applicants and Agents, the IPO intends to allow extension of time periods (where national and international legislation allows), and have indicated they are willing to utilise discretionary powers to support customers.

They also indicate that they are willing to consider requests for extensions of time as favourably as possible, albeit on a case-by-case basis. We hope that means any affected applicants will be able to extend deadlines past the usual extension periods available for these.

They also suggest that reinstatement or restoration of rights may also be available to applicants, if necessary.

European Patent Office

The European Patent Office (EPO) have been frequently updating their advice as the Coronavirus outbreak develops. Their latest advice can be found here, and as of 15th March 2020 indicates that:

  • Oral proceedings before examining and opposition divisions will take place as scheduled, unless parties or representatives have recently visited high risk areas, then videoconference facilities will be used, or the hearings postponed; and
  • Oral proceedings will not be held in the premises of the Boards of Appeal from 16 March 2020 until 27 March 2020. Concerned parties will be contacted accordingly with a communication; and
  • all EPO organised events that involve more than 50 participants in March and April (including the European Qualifying Examinations) are postponed.

Most significantly, the EPO has announced that due to the general dislocation in Germany, where the European Patent Office is located, all periods expiring on or after publication of the notice will be extended for all parties and their representatives to 17 April 2020.  The notice will be published in the Official Journal (OJ) of the EPO in due course.

In view of the problems caused by the disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak attention is drawn to the general legal remedies provided for under the European Patent Convention (EPC) and under the Patent  Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in case of non-observance of time limits and, in particular, to the application of Rule 134(2) EPC in accordance with this Notice, as well as the possible application of Rule 134(5) EPC and Rule 82quater.1 PCT.

As a state in which the European Patent Office is located the Federal Republic of Germany, like many other Contracting States, is experiencing restrictions on the movement and circulation of persons as well as on certain services, exchanges and public life in general, which can be qualified as a general dislocation within the meaning of Rule134(2) EPC. Periods expiring on or after the date of the publication of this notice are thus extended for all parties and their representatives to 17 April 2020. In accordance with Article 150(2) EPC this applies also for international applications under the PCT. The above period may be further extended by the publication of another Notice in case the dislocation extends beyond the aforementioned date.

 

This period may be extended if the EPO considers the disruption continues well into April.