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Coronavirus, Patents, Trade Marks and Designs 

by Olivier Vrins

Published: March, 2020

Submission: March, 2020

 



  • EUIPO

On 16 March 2020, the Executive Director of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has issued Decision No EX-20-3 extending all time limits expiring between 9 March 2020 and 30 April 2020, that affect all parties before the Office, to 1 May 2020. In principle, the new deadlines will not be communicated to the parties on a case-by-case basis.


This exceptional measure has been taken under Article 101(4) of Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 June 2017 on the European Union trade mark (EUTMR) and Article 58(4) of Commission Regulation (EC) 2245/2002 of 21 October 2002 implementing Council Regulation (EC) 6/2002 of 12 December 2001 on Community Designs (as amended). It is based on the recognition of the coronavirus virus outbreak as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, which constitutes an exceptional occurrence that has disrupted proper communication between the EUIPO and parties worldwide.  


The EUIPO had previously extended deadlines for Chinese parties.


The EUIPO’s headquarters in Alicante are closed since 14 March 2020, and this will remain the case until further notice. Nevertheless, it remains possible to file EU trade mark and design applications. All such applications will continue to be examined and published, and the EUIPO will continue to send communications and set deadlines. The Office’s Information Centre and Second Line will continue to operate as usual to receive queries by phone or email. The EUIPO will also publish updates on its website and social media channels on a regular basis.


  • BOIP

The Director General of the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) also issued a Communication on time limits on 16 March 2020, announcing that, from now on, and until the end of the imposed public restrictions in the Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), BOIP “will not withdraw any requests or procedures because a given deadline has not been met”. In other words: all time limits expiring after 15 March 2020 are temporarily suspended. After the public restrictions have ended, an additional period of one month will be granted for all requests and proceedings for which the time limits have expired or which are less than one month at that time. “This month will be counted from the moment that there are no longer any limitations in society or the Benelux countries. BOIP will set a date for this in due course and communicate it by means of a new communication from the Director General”. The new deadlines will not be communicated to the parties individually for all requests and procedures.


BOIP will continue to operate, but with an extremely reduced staffing level. BOIP’s premises are also closed to visitors as from now. Nevertheless, it remains possible to file Benelux trade mark and design applications. All such applications will continue to be examined and published, and BOIP will continue to send communications and set deadlines. Online services will also remain available. Questions should preferably be asked as much as possible by e-mail ([email protected]), rather than by telephone. Those measures will apply at least until 6 April 2020.


  • EPO

 For its part, the European Patent Office (EPO) issued yesterday (15 March 2020) a Notice extending until 17 April 2020 all deadlines expiring on or after the date of the publication of the Notice in the EPO’s Official Journal. Such publication should take place in the coming days.


The deadline could be extended further by the publication of another Notice if “the dislocation extends beyond” 17 April.


This measure is based upon Rule134(2) of the European Patent Convention.


  • Registering trade marks relating to the corona virus

Several trade mark applications which referred to the corona virus have reportedly been filed since the disease outbreak. The Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) warns that most of them have been, or will be, refused for lack of distinctive character. Depending on the cases, such applications can also be found to be contrary to public order and/or morality.


The costs of such applications will not be reimbursed.


 


The above information is merely intended as comment on relevant issues of Belgian law and is not intended as legal advice. Before taking action or relying on the comments and the information given, please seek specific advice on the matters that are of concern to you.


 



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