A number of IP Offices around the world have put in place special measures for handling official deadlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We summarise below the provisions in place for extension of deadlines at the European Patent Office, as well as the UK and EU Intellectual Property Offices and what to do if those extensions come to an end.

It is important to note that not all deadlines will benefit from such extensions; please get in touch with your usual Greaves Brewster attorney to discuss your particular circumstances. 

European Patent Office (EPO) 

In response to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the EPO applied a general extension to most deadlines, firstly to 4 May 2020 and then to 2 June 2020. In a notice issued on 27 May, the EPO confirmed that no further extension would be made.

Despite the EPO’s decision to not further extend deadlines, there is a safeguard provided by Rule 134(5) EPC, which may be relied on in cases where the failure to observe time limits is the result of exceptional circumstances in the country where the applicant or his representative is located. If you find you are unable to meet a deadline set by the EPO, due to COVID-19 related disruptions, please let us know and we will advise you on whether Rule 134(5) EPC is likely to apply and if it doesn’t, what you can do.

As previously reported, scheduled EPO oral proceedings have also been affected by COVID-19, with some being postponed and others being held via video conference where possible. In particular, oral proceedings before an Examination Division will be conducted via video conference unless there are good reasons why this is not possible. The EPO will be trialing some oral proceedings before the Oppositions Divisions, providing the parties agree. The Office has also confirmed that any Oral Proceedings before Opposition Divisions scheduled to occur before 14 September 2020 will be postponed unless it has already been confirmed that they will take place by videoconference. 

All of the EPO’s notices and related guidance can be found on its website, here.

European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)

The EUIPO issued a decision to extend all deadlines falling between 9 March 2020 – 17 May 2020 up to 18 May 2020. The extended period has now ended. If you are still having difficulty meeting an EUIPO deadline, due to COVID-19 related disruption, please get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can advise on whether an extension, or other means of deferring the deadline is available.

The full text of the EUIPO’s decision and related guidance can be found on its website, here.

UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO)

The UKIPO has announced a period of “interruption” of usual business from 24 March 2020 onwards until further notice.

Most official deadlines at the UKIPO relating to patents, trade marks, designs and supplementary protection certificates will be automatically extended until the period of interruption ends. 

The UKIPO has indicated that it will provide a minimum of two weeks’ notice of its intention to end the period of interruption, to allow stakeholders sufficient time to plan ahead.

The UKIPO will review its practice again on 22 June 2020, and is expected to issue further guidance on its website shortly after that date. When the guidance is provided, we will let you know.

The full text of the UKIPO’s decision can be found on its website, here.

Although some EPO, EUIPO and UKIPO buildings are officially closed, and some delays are understandable, the offices continue to operate remotely more or less as normal. Where possible, we recommend that applicants and rights holders continue to respect original deadlines and progress cases as usual. 

This update is for general information and does not constitute legal advice. Please get in touch with your usual Greaves Brewster contact for advice about how deadlines on specific cases will be affected.