Corona regulations of the patent and trade mark offices (as of 05.04.2022)
In connection with the spread of COVID-19, the offices have issued corresponding regulations.
German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA)
Time limits set by the DPMA in ongoing proceedings (e.g. for responses to office actions) had been extended until 4 May 2020.
Time limits set by law (e.g. filing of translations, payment of fees including renewal fees, priority periods, nationalization from PCT) could not be extended. In this case, failure to observe a time limit only allows for re-establishment of rights, although some time limits, such as the opposition period against a granted patent and the opposition period against a registered trade mark, are excluded. Furthermore, with regard to the renewal and maintenance fees, reference is made to the use of the surcharge for late payment.
However, in view of the increasing number of corona cases, the DPMA will remain closed to the general public until further notice and will not schedule any hearings and oral proceedings, inter alia, in IP proceedings and hearings before the Arbitration Board under the Employees Inventions Act. Hearings and oral proceedings to which summons have already been sent will take place if all parties involved agree.
As of June 1, 2021, hearings and oral proceedings may again be held at the DPMA, provided that the infections are kept below certain limits.
Status 11/16/2021: The framework conditions for participation in hearings and oral proceedings in intellectual property rights proceedings, negotiations before the Arbitration Board under the Employee Inventions Act and negotiations before the Arbitration Board under the Collecting Societies Act are continuously adapted to the requirements of infection control. It may therefore be necessary to postpone or cancel the date of the hearing or oral proceedings, if necessary, even at short notice, if the pandemic caused by COVID-19 so dictates.
Further information: https://www.dpma.de/english/our_office/publications/news/corona/index.html.
German Federal Patent Court (BPatG)
As of 4 May 2020, the German Federal Patent Court has resumed meeting operations to a limited extent while observing the measures prescribed by occupational health and safety law.
European Patent Office (EPO)
The EPO has compiled information on the measures taken in connection with the corona pandemic on the following page: https://www.epo.org/news-events/covid-19.html.
In the section “Consultation of contracting states in case of extension or interruption of periods” there is an overview of the measures taken by the individual EPC contracting states in this respect.
Oral hearings in the examination procedure will continue to take place as video conferences in accordance with the decision of the President of the EPO of 14 May 2021 on oral hearings before examination divisions conducted as video conferences. If there are serious reasons against video conferencing in the examination procedure, the oral proceedings will be postponed until after May 31, 2022.
As of January 4, 2021, oral proceedings before the Opposition Divisions in accordance with the decision of the President of the EPO of 14 May 2021 will be held as a video conference. If there are serious reasons against video conferencing in opposition proceedings, the oral proceedings will also be postponed until after January 31, 2022.
From 27 September 2021, access to the building will be granted only to vaccinated, recovered or tested individuals. With regard to non-observance of time limits, the EPO draws attention to the remedies provided for this purpose and in particular to the application of Rule 134 (5) EPC and Rule 82quater.1 PCT.
As of January 2021, evidence may further be taken by videoconference in accordance with amended Rules 117 and 118 EPC.
The extension of time limits also applies to periods for paying fees, including renewal fees.
Boards of Appeal of the EPO
The measures of the Boards of Appeal differ from those of the EPO. Since 18 May 2020, oral proceedings of the Boards of Appeal have again been held to a limited extent on the premises of the EPO. The recently introduced practice of contacting the parties and asking whether they can participate in oral proceedings will be discontinued. Parties who cannot comply with the invitation to oral proceedings must now request a postponement of the proceedings. Due to the necessary distance rules, only a limited number of suitable rooms are available at the premises of the Boards of Appeal in Haar, so that some oral proceedings will have to take place in the Isar Building in Munich. Likewise, some already scheduled oral proceedings, which were originally scheduled to take place in Haar, will be relocated to the Isar building. As a rule, the parties will not be informed by notice that the location or start of the hearing has changed. Since such changes can occur at short notice, it is the responsibility of the parties to check the online calendar approximately three days before their oral proceedings to see whether the hearing will take place in the premises in Haar or in the Isargebäude and when exactly it will start. As a rule, participation is limited to a maximum of two persons per party. Oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal can now also be conducted with the consent of the parties as a video conference.
Oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal may also be conducted using video conferencing technology. In this regard, reference is made to decision G 1/21 of the Enlarged Board of Appeal published on 16.07.2021.
From 8th December 2021, access to the building will be granted only to individuals who can present a negative test result, irrespective of them being fully vaccinated or recovered.
Further information: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/case-law-appeals/communications/2020/20201215.html.
European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
All deadlines concerning trademark and design procedures had been extended until May 18, 2020. Excluded from the extension were the time limits for filing an appeal before the Enlarged Board against decisions of the Boards of Appeal and other proceedings.
Further information: https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/covid-19-information.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Renewal fees for international registrations of trade marks and designs remain due. The possibility to file applications or submissions by mail has been suspended. Users must use electronic filing.
Further information: https://www.wipo.int/covid-19/.