On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the pandemic outbreak of the coronavirus infection COVID-19. The coronavirus has had a significant impact on almost all spheres of human life, not only in Russia, but throughout the world. Although the world community is trying to minimize the spread of COVID-19, even now many large enterprises are halting their work, small and medium-sized businesses in countries affected by the virus are suffering losses. The influence of the coronavirus infection on all areas of our lives did not leave aside intellectual property. The containment of the epidemic led to new working conditions for patent offices around the world.
Some patent offices continue to operate normally, transferring a number of processes to a remote format. For example, Rospatent recommends using electronic services for filing applications and forwarding correspondence in the course of prosecution. The use of these electronic services is free, available 24/7 and provides the applicant with a 30% discount on the payment of fees when submitting through electronic services. Although receiving incoming mail is carried out both electronically and on paper through the postal operator, the first option is more preferable in the current situation. Dispute resolution meetings of the Patent Disputes Chamber have been switched to video conferencing, and FIPS educational programs have been converted to webinars. The situation is similar in the Eurasian Patent Office, where the submission of documents of Eurasian applications is carried out using the EAPO-online system or by post.
Other patent offices completely switched to the use of electronic services for filing applications and sending correspondence, including the patent offices of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Great Britain, the European Patent Office (EPO), and the African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO) The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and others.
Many national and regional offices went further and took measures to support applicants and owners of intellectual property rights by offering the option of extending deadlines or deferring payment of fees. These include the European Patent Office (EPO), where all business cases ending from March 15 or after this date will be extended until June 2, 2020. The Australian Office has launched an optimized process to extend urgent requests on various intellectual property issues for up to three months for any users affected by COVID-19 without further written explanation. The United States has confirmed the extension of the “defined timelines for granting patents and trademarks” until June 1, 2020. Thus, the prosecution for documents related to US patents and trademarks (and payment requirements) payable from March 27 to May 31 is not suspended until June 1, 2020. The Indian Office announced an additional extension of the deadlines due to the closure of the country. If the deadlines are from March 25 to May 17, 2020, then the deadline will be extended until May 18, 2020. This extension is applicable to all terms prescribed by Indian laws and regulations in the field of intellectual property, including the submission of any document and payment of fees. Despite the fact that patent offices began to automatically extend the deadlines, applicants should not forget that these extensions are limited, and you should try to comply with the deadlines as much as possible.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all business trips and any participation in events and meetings dedicated to intellectual property have been temporarily suspended or transferred to video conferencing and webinar format. For example, one of the significant events in intellectual property, namely, the selection of the new Director General of WIPO, which had previously been held in person, this time was based on an unprecedented written procedure, and on May 8, 2020, WIPO Member States appointed by consensus to Darren Tan as the next Director General of the Organization for a six-year term beginning on October 1, 2020. Mr. Tan will succeed Mr. Francis Gurry, Director General of the Organization, who has been in office since October 1, 2008.
The coronavirus pandemic has become a massive challenge not only for government departments involved in intellectual property, but also for law firms operating in this area. Many companies found themselves in a difficult situation, because, first of all, they are responsible for their employees, and due to the constantly changing situation, the business also faces a wide range of commercial and legal difficulties. The flexibility of law firms will be tested by the virus, and if some companies already provide services remotely, then other companies completely ceased their activities during the outspread of COVID-19. Many company employees will be able to work remotely, but for some, working outside the office is not possible due to various circumstances. Of course, for companies specializing in providing services in the field of intellectual property that have already established strong relations with their customers, there will be no problems with doing business remotely, and as a result, such companies will have much more opportunities for work.
In some areas, intellectual property will experience a period of slowdown, at least in the near future, but in areas related to vaccines and drugs used to combat coronavirus, there is a busy time for patenting. So, for example, a group of scientists and lawyers from around the world announced the creation of the Open Covid Pledge project, aimed at making intellectual property free for all people working on measures against the pandemic. Mozilla, Creative Commons and Intel were among the main initiators, according to a press release, Intel made a very large contribution to the project, opening its portfolio of more than 72000 patents.
Everyone of us already understands very well that the COVID-19 pandemic will leave its mark both in all areas and in the field of intellectual property in particular, but any difficulties can be overcome. And this does not mean that registration of intellectual property objects will stop, because, as we found out above, filing applications and sending correspondence to patent offices is carried out online, and law firms are ready to provide services in the field of intellectual property remotely.
The pandemic reminded us of our community and in this difficult period for everyone, it provided new opportunities, whether it was searching for a cure for the virus, creating technologies that allow people to be in contact with each other, or using digital services.
Let us respect these forced measures and stay at home. And we will keep you informed of any significant changes, and will be happy to provide you with intellectual property services online, because we can make it thanks to our many years of experience working with clients. Take care of yourself and your loved ones!