In recognition of the challenges individuals and businesses are facing amidst the coronavirus outbreak, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) has made certain temporary adjustments to its practices, to ensure that parties are not adversely affected in their dealings with the Office.
It has also had to restrict some of its operations whilst its physical offices are closed, and staff are working remotely.
Q: I missed a deadline because of the outbreak – what can I do?
A: If you failed to meet any deadline falling before 24 March 2020 for reasons related to the outbreak, please let us know as soon as possible, and we will contact the UK IPO to check your options. The UK IPO has indicated that where such a failure has resulted in loss of rights, it may be possible for those rights to be reinstated or restored, depending the circumstances including the nature of the missed deadline.
Q: What about deadlines falling on 24 March 2020 onwards?
A: The UK IPO has declared 24 March 2020 and all subsequent days until further notice “interrupted days”. This means that any deadlines for trade marks, designs, patents and supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) will be automatically extended until the end of the period of interruption, without the need for parties to file a request.
The UK IPO will provide a minimum of two weeks’ notice before ending the interrupted period. The earliest it is set to end is Friday 1 May 2020, meaning that any outstanding deadlines would need to be met by Monday 4 May 2020. However, we think it is not unlikely that the period will be extended beyond 1 May.
In the meantime, the UK IPO requests that parties try to work towards existing deadlines if they are able to do so. This may help to avoid bottlenecks in processing by the UK IPO, as there will be an inevitable uptake in responses towards and after the end of the interrupted days period.
Q: Is there any other help available?
A: To ease pressure on parties in the short term, many new deadlines issued by the UK IPO will be longer than usual. For instance, trade mark applicants will have four months rather than two to respond, as will parties filing evidence in proceedings.
We will inform you of these deadlines when they are reported to us by the UK IPO. If you believe the period of time is not feasible to deal with a particular issue, please let us know as soon as possible, and we will speak to the UK IPO to see whether an extension may be available. The UK IPO has a fairly wide discretion to extend deadlines but note that some fall deadlines outside its powers.
Q: Can I still file a new application for a trade mark, design, patent or supplementary protection certificate?
A: Yes, and these will be allocated filing dates as normal. However, note that the UK IPO is currently unable to receive or send physical post, so filings and/or further submissions will need to be made electronically (via the UK IPO’s website or by email, depending on the submission).
Q: I responded to the exam report for my trade mark application a while ago and haven’t heard back from the UK IPO – what’s going on?
A: Sometimes the UK IPO is required to alert holders of earlier rights to your application before it can allow the application to proceed. If these holders have only supplied a postal address, the UK IPO is currently unable to contact them. The UK IPO is working on a solution to this, but unfortunately in the meantime the publication of your application may be delayed.
Q: The opposition period for my trade mark ended recently and I still haven’t heard anything. Has it been granted?
A: The UK IPO has indicated that it may in the current circumstances accept late filed oppositions and Notices of Threatened Opposition. This means that you may need to wait longer than usual to find out if your application has been opposed.
You will also not receive a physical certificate until the UK IPO can send post again. If you require urgent proof of your registration, please let us know, and we will ask the UK IPO for an email copy.
This update is a summary of guidance made available by the UK IPO at the time of writing. It should not be acted on without first seeking professional advice. For advice in relation to any specific situation, please contact our patent or trade mark specialists.