Corona and time limit regulations of the patent and trade mark offices (as of 30.07.2020)
In connection with the spread of COVID-19, the offices have issued corresponding regulations concerning the observance of time limits.
German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA)
Time limits set by the DPMA in ongoing proceedings (e.g. for responses to office actions) were 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.
On 1 July 2020 the DPMA has started gradually to grant access to individual invited visitors with appointments. Having closed its offices for public access at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the DPMA now adopts the state’s lockdown easing measures decided upon in the meantime. If the number of infections does not rise uncontrollably, hearings and oral proceedings can take place at the DPMA as from 1 July 2020.
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.
All time limits expiring on or after 15 March 2020 for European or Euro-PCT applications were extended until 2 June 2020 under Rule 134(2) EPC. However, the current communication from the EPO explicitly excluded time limits for filing divisional applications and making written submission in preparation for oral proceedings.
For fee payments paid on or after 1 April 2020, the increased fees applicable as of 1 April 2020 has to be taken into account. See also: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/2020/01/a3.html.
The EPO has temporarily waived the 50% Surcharge for the Late Payment of Renewal Fees. Therefore, it is possible as of 1 June 2020 to pay renewal fees due on or after 15 March 2020 up until 31 August 2020 inclusive without being charged the additional fee under Rule 51(2) EPC. For renewal fees under Rule 51(1) EPC, the measure allows renewal fees with due dates on 31 March 2020, 30 April 2020, 31 May 2020, 30 June 2020 and 31 July 2020 to be validly paid until 31 August 2020 without an additional fee. Renewal fees with a due date before 15 March 2020 do not benefit from the measure. They may still be paid within the six-month period with the additional fee under Rule 51(2) EPC. For instance, a renewal fee due on 29 February 2020 may be validly paid until 31 August 2020 with the additional fee. Further information: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/official-journal/2020/06/a70.html.
All oral hearings in opposition proceedings scheduled until 31 December 2020 are either postponed or held as videoconferences. The parties have received separate notifications in this regard. Oral proceedings in examination proceedings are conducted as video conferences. Further information: https://www.epo.org/news-events/covid-19/oral-proceedings-examination-opposition.html
Boards of Appeal of the EPO
The boards of appeal deal differently with oral hearings than the office. Since 18 May 2020, oral proceedings of the Boards of Appeal are held to a limited extent on the premises of the EPO. The recently introduced practice of contacting parties to enquire whether they are able to attend oral proceedings will be discontinued. If parties cannot attend oral proceedings for which they have been summoned, they will now have to request a change of date. Owing to the need for physical distancing, only a limited number of suitable rooms are available on the Board of Appeal premises in Haar and therefore some oral proceedings may have to be held in the Isar building in Munich instead. Similarly, some oral proceedings which have already been scheduled to take place on the Haar premises will be moved to the Isar building. As a general rule, parties will not be sent a communication informing them of a change of venue or starting time. As such changes may take place at short notice, it is up to the parties to consult the online calendar approximately three days before their oral proceedings to check whether they will take place on the Haar premises or in the Isar building and when exactly they are scheduled to start. Attendance is generally restricted to a maximum of two people per party. Oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal can now also be conducted as videoconference if the parties agree. Further information: https://www.epo.org/law-practice/case-law-appeals/communications/2020/20200729.html
European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
All time limits concerning trade mark and design procedures were extended until 18 May 2020. Excluded from this extension are the time limits for bringing an action before the Enlarged Board against decisions of the Boards of Appeal and other procedures.
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 by mail has been suspended. Users must use electronic filing.
Further information: https://www.wipo.int/covid-19