Earlier this year, the UKIPO and EUIPO introduced some measures to deal with the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting disruption to businesses. In this article we review how the situation has developed since we reported on the measures back in April.
Period of adjustment introduced by UKIPO and EUIPO
The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) and EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) already offer most services electronically and have therefore been able to operate largely as normal over the past few months. Nevertheless, to reflect the disruption caused by Covid-19, both offices introduced a period of adjustment and extended time limits to mid-May (EUIPO) and late July (UKIPO).
The situation now
Extensions of time:
The extraordinary extensions have now ended and both offices are continuing as normal with electronic services. In theory, discretionary extensions of time are still available in cases where parties face operational difficulties due to lockdown measures or sickness but they must be well reasoned. Users should aim meet original deadlines wherever possible.
The majority of UKIPO hearings take place by phone or skype in normal business conditions. The only hearings that were impacted by lockdown measures were more complex hearings such as those involving witness cross examination and they were generally postponed. The EUIPO does not offer hearings in any case, except at Board of Appeal level and then only very rarely.
While the UKIPO has remained operational over the past few months, the ‘interrupted days’ and generous time limits have meant that trade marks have taken longer to register than normal, even if unopposed. The UKIPO is also now dealing with a huge increase in filings as businesses rush to file applications before the end of the Brexit transition period. We recommend filing early wherever possible as the UKIPO is likely to get even busier over the coming weeks and into next year and there is a risk that the increased workload may also impact the quality of examination decisions.