Patent Office Closures

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, we at FRKelly are paying close attention to government guidelines, as well as what is happening in the patent offices in our main jurisdictions.

The Intellectual Property Office of Ireland (IPOI) has extended its closure time line and the current advice is they “will remain closed for transaction business with the public until 5 May 2020 inclusive. Consequently, the days between 13 March and 5 May are deemed to be “excluded days” for all purposes under the Acts and Rules.”

The IPOI add that “staff working remotely will continue to maintain all of its online and e-services, including e-filing of applications, electronic fee payments and email enquiries during normal working hours, until further notice.”

The United Kingdom
The UKIPO, whilst their staff are all working from home, have stated that “the majority of our services remain unaffected and the UK Intellectual Property Office will continue to operate as normal for customers.” They add “we ask all rights holders and IP professionals to continue to file as normal where possible.”

The UKIPO has said that they will be reviewing the situation again on 17 April 2020.

The European Patent Office (EPO)
The EPO had extended virtually all deadlines to April 17, and has now announced a further extension of time limits to 4 May 2020.

The EPO “has decided to postpone until further notice all oral proceedings in examination and opposition proceedings scheduled until 30 April 2020 (previously until 17 April 2020) unless they have already been confirmed to take place by means of videoconferencing or in examination are converted into oral proceedings by videoconference with the applicant’s consent.” The Boards of Appeal similarly postponed all oral proceedings taking place until April 30. We are waiting on a further update to indicate whether oral proceedings already scheduled for a date after April 30 are to take place, and if so how this will take place given the widespread travel advisories and lockdowns in place across Europe.

For any new examination oral proceedings to be scheduled in future, these are to take place by videoconference. Exceptions will be very limited, and in particular the EPO will not hold in-person hearings on their premises simply because an applicant submits that the equipment for videoconferences is unavailable. For opposition oral proceedings (which currently cannot be held by videoconference), the EPO indicates that a videoconference pilot is taking place. Such hearings present greater difficulties due to the number of parties involved and the potential for interpreters to be required. For appeal oral proceedings, no indication has been given as to how these are to be held in future.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
A decision of the Executive Director extends all time limits expiring between 9 March 2020 and 30 April 2020, that affect all parties before the Office, to 1 May 2020.

With effect from 16 March, all EUIPO staff started working from home and the Office’s headquarters in Alicante has been closed to visitors. All events scheduled are postponed. However, as far as possible, business at the EUIPO will continue as usual, says the Office: “Trade mark and design applications will continue to be received examined and published, and the Office will continue to send communications and set deadlines. Bulletins will continue to be published as usual.”