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Due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 virus outbreak in Europe, both the European Patent Office and the European Union Intellectual Property Office have exercised their powers to extend deadlines.
Whilst the Wilson Gunn offices are currently open and able to meet any applicable deadlines, the extensions available are as follows.
The EPO has extended periods expiring between 15 March and 16 April 2020 inclusive, for all parties, to 17 April 2020. This also applies to certain deadlines in respect of international patent applications under the PCT.
UPDATE: On 16 April 2020, the decision was made to further extend the deadlines to 4 May 2020 due to ongoing disruption from the coronavirus in Germany.
It is worth noting that the wording of the Notice in the EPO Official Journal refers to ‘periods expiring’. Under the EPC, some deadlines are not considered to be periods, such as for example, the deadline to file a divisional patent application which must be filed prior to grant of the parent. Therefore, whilst ‘periods’ will be extended, certain deadlines for actions will not be extended.
Actions required before national offices in relation to European patents, such as validation, may be extended under the respective national laws, but these may vary from country to country.
The EPO has noted that the period may be extended further if the situation remains ongoing. If this is to occur a further notification will be published.
The EPO has currently postponed oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal between 16 March 2020 and 27 March 2020. Oral proceedings before examining and opposition divisions will in principle take place as scheduled.
The EPO has also, exceptionally, extended the possibility to conduct oral proceedings by video conference to opposition proceedings. However, any party that wishes to utilise video conferencing for opposition proceedings will need to file a specific request in each individual case.
UPDATE: 19 March 2020 – The EPO has decided to cancel all oral proceedings until 27 March 2020 unless they have already been rearranged as video conferences. This includes examination and opposition proceedings.
Further, any document received late will be deemed to have been received in due time if the person concerned offers evidence that, on any of the ten days preceding the day of expiry of a period, it was not possible to observe the time limit due to the exceptional occurrence of COVID-19 and that the mailing or the transmission was effected at the latest on the fifth day after the end of the disruption.
Finally, if a time limit in relation to an application pending under the PCT before the EPO (i.e. for any international (PCT) patent application for which the EPO is the receiving office, international searching authority or International Preliminary Examining Authority) is not met due to the COVID-19 virus conditions in a locality where an interested party resides, has his place of business or is staying the delay in meeting the time limit will be excused. This is provided that the interested party offers satisfactory evidence that the deadline was not met due to the conditions imposed by the COVID-19 virus, and that the action is taken as soon as reasonably possible (and no later than six months) after expiry of the time limit in question. This excusal does NOT relate to the priority period.
The situation in relation to European Trade Marks and Community Designs is much more straightforward with all time limits expiring between 9 March 2020 and 30 April 2020 inclusive, which affect all parties in proceedings before the EUIPO, being extended until 1 May 2020.
Please contact us if you have any concerns relating to any deadline before the EPO or EUIPO.