The Covid-19 pandemic is having disrupting effects all over the world and has also taken its toll on IP matters. Below is the situation in the main IP agencies and offices as of today.
Portuguese Industrial Property Office (INPI)
The Portuguese INPI remains fully operational. INPI has implemented a contingency plan:
- Workers operate from home as from March 16, whenever the specifics of their functions so allow.
- Travels to international meetings, as well as participations in national events and meetings, are cancelled, and all professional contacts restricted to the absolutely necessary.
- Preference will be given to online customer service, with on-site services being subject to previous scheduling, and available only where online, email or phone support is not possible/sufficient. On the other hand, INPI has simplified access to its online services, by abolishing the requirement for a digital signature in some acts.
Meanwhile the Law 1-A/2020 published on 19 March established that the “administrative time limits running in the interest of a party” are suspended. The Portuguese Office considers that this suspension rule is applicable to the Office however it is not yet clear which are time limits covered by the suspension.
European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
Considering the situation in Spain, all EUIPO’s workers are working from home as from March, 16.
All time limits expiring between 9 March 2020 and 30 April 2020 have been extended until 1 May (in practice 4 May, since 1 May is a public holiday, followed by a weekend). This rule encompasses all procedural deadlines before the EUIPO, irrespective of whether they have been set by the Office or are statutory in nature. The extension does not, however, apply to time limits that relate to proceedings before other authorities, even if mentioned in the Regulations (for example, the time limit to bringing an action before the General Court against decisions of the Boards of Appeal).
European Patent Office (EPO)
The European Patent Office has also taken measures to safeguard users’ rights, in a time when many of its workers have already switched to working from home.
In this regard, all time limits expiring on or after 15 March 2020 are extended until 17 April 2020. As regards time limits expiring before 15 March 2020, the Office has facilitated the use of legal remedies for users located in areas directly affected by disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
All oral proceedings scheduled until 17 April 2020 before the Examination and Opposition Divisions are postponed until further notice, unless they have already been confirmed to take place by videoconference. As to the oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal, they will not be held either, with the parties being contacted accordingly. The European Qualifying Examination has also been cancelled until further notice.