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30 July, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe special measures have been implemented by the EPO, EUIPO, UKIPO, DPMA and WIPO. This page summarises the information we have available about these special measures.

The European Patent Office (EPO)
The EPO extended all time limits expiring on or after 15 March 2020 to 2 June 2020, but has provided no further general extension.

The EPO announced that from 2 April 2020 all oral proceedings before examining divisions will be held by videoconference.

The EPO has postponed all oral proceedings before opposition divisions scheduled until 31 December 2020 unless they are already taking place by videoconference. Under a pilot project they are offering oral proceedings in opposition by videoconference provided that all parties consent.

The Boards of Appeal are still offering to hold oral proceedings in person if parties are available to attend. They are also offering to hold them by videoconference upon the consent of the parties.

For further information the EPO has a dedicated COVID-19 update page available here.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
The EUIPO previously extended all time limits expiring between 9 March 2020 and 17 May 2020 inclusive until 18 May 2020. They have not provided any further general extension of time, but have issued the Guidance Note here providing further details on the other remedies available, such as extensions of time, suspension of proceedings and reinstatement.

The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO)
The UKIPO extended until 30 July 2020 all time periods expiring from 24 March 2020 set out in the various relevant UK Acts and Rules and all non-statutory periods that have been specified by them for patents, trade marks, SPCs and designs. The UKIPO has not provided any further general extension of time.

The UKIPO announced a number of temporary fee changes from 30 July 2020 to 31 March 2021 in relation to patents, trade marks and registered designs. Most of the fee changes are to a zero fee and they all relate to actions when something is filed late, such as surcharges on late payments and renewals, restoration requests and extensions of time.

Announcements by the UKIPO can be found here.

The German Trade Mark and Patent Office (DPMA)
The DPMA previously extended all time limits granted by them from after 18 March 2020 until 4 May 2020. No further extension has been announced.

The DPMA cannot extend any time limits provided for by law such as the opposition deadline for patents. The DPMA is reasonably generous in granting requests for extensions of time limits that they are able to set.

For further information the DPMA has a dedicated COVID-19 update page available here.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
For PCT patent applications, the WIPO has issued advice here regarding the actions that can be taken if a Receiving Office, other PCT Authority (e.g. the EPO as International Searching Authority) or the WIPO is closed. The WIPO has also announced here that in it capacity as Receiving Office and as the International Bureau it will excuse a delay in meeting a PCT time limit if the reason is the COVID-19 outbreak. It is important to note that the 12 month priority period for filing a PCT application cannot be extended and protection is only available if the Receiving Office is not open for filing of applications.

For Madrid System trade mark applications, the WIPO has issued some advice here. The advice covers situations in which a user fails to meet a time limit for a communication addressed to WIPO, continued processing and closure of IP Offices of contracting parties. WIPO strongly encourages users to submit documents using electronic services rather than mail services to avoid any potential disruption.

For Hague Agreement design applications, the WIPO has issued the advice here.

From 17 March 2020 they have put in place remote working arrangements for all of their members of staff other than those whose work is premises-dependent.

Further information is likely to be published here.