IP Offices Enact Measures to Stay Operational During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Many organizations and governments around the world have taken steps to ensure business continuity and address hardships felt by their customers and patrons. Intellectual property offices have largely moved to remote operations in areas where the coronavirus is still problematic. Many organizations want to assist patent owners and applicants facing challenges by extending deadlines for fees and the submission of other required documents.
 
China
 
China’s National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) was the first authority to be affected and the first to resume normal operations.
 
The agency announced two initiatives to help fight the virus. CNIPA is expediting patent applications related to preventing and treating the coronavirus. Secondly, they have launched an information sharing platform about COVID-19 in Chinese and English.
 
As in other patent offices, if deadlines are missed due to the pandemic, there is a process by which lost rights can be restored.
 
The European Patent Office
 
The European Patent Office (EPO) extended deadlines for many activities including fee payments to June 2, with the possibility of further extension. Staff in Vienna and some in other smaller offices continue to work remotely with minimal impact on business operations. Their customer helpdesk is open and able to answer questions.
 
All in-person meetings have been postponed or cancelled through the end of May, as well as the European Inventor Award which was scheduled to take place in mid-June. Event staff is contacting registrants to inform them of the new dates.
 
The EPO and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a joint statement on April 30 on the importance of intellectual property to European and US economies, and a shared commitment to help inventors in this difficult time. Both offices are now offering assistance through time extensions and fee deadlines, as well as flexibility on hearings by offering video conferences or postponements.
 
Read the full joint statement
 
United States
 
In mid-March, the USPTO declared the coronavirus pandemic an “extraordinary situation” and enacted measures to assist patent owners and applicants. Along with the CARES Act, extensions to timelines and fee payments are allowed through June 1.
 
The USPTO is continuing to operate without interruption, although the building is closed to the general public until further notice. Employees, contactors, and those with access badges are still allowed in the facility. Procedures such as examiner and examining attorney interviews are taking place remotely by video or phone.
 
In early May, the USPTO launched a database called Patents 4 Partnerships that contains patents and published patent applications related to the COVID-19 pandemic available for licensing. In the future this service may be expanded to other technologies.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)  

As with other offices previously mentioned, the WIPO facility in Geneva is closed to all but essential personnel for the time being with most staff working remotely. Services remain largely uninterrupted as all documents and notifications are being handled electronically. Their operational status can be monitored on a monthly basis using a downloadable dashboard.
 
In early May, WIPO announced the creation of a new webpage to keep track of policies being enacted by member organizations in response to the pandemic. The COVID-19 IP Policy Tracker provides details on deadline extensions, fee assistance, and preferred methods of correspondence.
 
To keep up with developments at the IP offices mentioned in this story directly, monitor these webpages:
 
China CNIPA Official Information
EPO Continually updated coronavirus information
USPTO USPTO notices regarding COVID-19
WIPO WIPO’s COVID-19 Response
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