Patent applicants facing a funds shortage because of COVID-19 may be glad to hear that many patent offices have extended certain patent prosecution deadlines. For example, the U.S. Patent Office has extended various patent deadlines until June 1, 2020 and the European Patent Office has also extended certain time limits at least until June 2, 2020. A small number of jurisdictions have closed down their patent offices completely, but most are still accepting electronic filings. Jurisdictions vary wildly in the duration of the extensions, the deadlines eligible for extension, and the justification required.
Given the wide variance among patent offices, it is prudent not to assume a deadline is extended due to office closures or other COVID-19 related reasons. Further, since extension policies are subject to further changes (sometimes abruptly), we advise businesses and patent practitioners to confer frequently with U.S. and foreign patent practitioners to confirm relevant extension policies are still in place. Moreover, we anticipate a heavy influx of filings once patent offices return to normal operations; the influx of filings may lead to failure in electronic filing systems, which is not an excusable delay in some jurisdictions and can lead to abandonment of patent applications. To preserve patent rights, it is prudent to address all prosecution matters by their original due dates if possible.
Update: On May 27, the U.S. Patent Office further extended various patent deadlines until July 1, 2020. Businesses and patent practitioners should continue to consult the respective patent office websites and patent counsels to confirm relevant extension policies are still in place.
Should you have any questions about U.S. and foreign patent prosecution strategy, our U.S. and foreign offices are operating remotely and are ready to provide assistance. Morrison & Foerster’s COVID-19 Resource Center also provides updated multidisciplinary guidance to help you face these evolving issues.