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Coronavirus: Impact on Intellectual Property 

by Manuel Lopes Rocha, Paual Martinho da Silva, Inês Coré, Carolina Cunha Martins

Published: March, 2020

Submission: March, 2020

 



In some areas, intellectual property will experience a period of slowdown in activity, at least in the near future. We look at this in more detail below. However, this does not mean mandatory registration of industrial property will come to a halt because, with many bodies, including the Portuguese INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property), registration is done online.


These are certainly animated times for the patenting of inventions relating to vaccines and drugs in general used in fighting this unprecedented pandemic. As a consequence, there is an intense activity involving a variety of contractual models such as patent pooling and licensing in general. Although these must be times of absolute solidarity, some litigation involving these inventions is unfortunately inevitable in the near future.


The race to register trademarks including “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19” with the national IP institutes in various European countries is inevitable. Indeed, it has already started. This is the case in Spain, where someone tried to register a trademark for beer: Yo sobrevivi al coronavírus. These trademarks will be refused or will be null and void, because they infringe the prohibition on the use of expressions contrary to law, morals, public order, or good customs. In this case, for example, the trademark may be considered to offend good customs because it includes a frivolous reference to a pandemic that has already killed thousands of people around the world. When it comes to drugs, the refusal to register trademarks will be based on the fact they are generic expressions with no distinctive character, which means they cannot be appropriated by anyone.


Below, we set out some useful information on the functioning of registries, courts and arbitration centres in this area while the constraints decreed by the various national governments and supranational authorities remain in place. In addition, we will, of course, look at the exceptional measures applicable to most acts.


Registrations


The National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI)


In-person services are only available if you first make an appointment and when the service you require cannot be provided by any other means. Preference is given to online, email or telephone assistance;


However, most procedures involving industrial property rights are already done online. This will continue to be the case for trademarks, design, and patents regarding applications, revocations and other acts.


To simplify things in the current situation, the INPI has suspended the requirement for a digital signature for certain acts to be done in the areas of patents, trademarks, and design.


We highly recommend that you consult the INPI website for any new developments, including the possible application of article 7 of Law 1-A/2020, of 19 March to the operation of the INPI.


For more information, see the INPI website (partially available in English) here.


For any clarification regarding the procedures, contact [email protected]


European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)


The EUIPO has its headquarters in Alicante, Spain. Following the declaration of a “state of alert” by the Spanish Government due to the spread of COVID-19 in the country, the executive director of the EUIPO authorised the activation of the office’s business continuity protocol and introduced home working for all its employees. As a result, the work of the EUIPO will continue as normal. The Institute will continue to receive, examine and publish applications for trademarks and designs, and its bulletins will continue to be published as usual. The Centre for Information and Second Line Support will continue to accept enquiries by phone or email. The executive director has also published a decision that extends all time limits to 1 May 2020 (in practice, until 4 May, as 1 May is a public holiday).


For more information, see here.



 

 

 
 

 

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