As with all aspects of daily life, COVID-19 coronavirus has not spared intellectual property (IP). Neither has it brought it to a halt. As most patent, trademark and copyright filings and prosecutions are done online, and most IP attorneys – including KJK’s IP Practice Group – are fully operational remotely, these activities should keep running smoothly in the near term. The USPTO and various IP offices internationally have announced measures to provide relief from certain requirements, however. See below for a summary of these and other developments of interest.
International Proposal for Shared Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Technologies
In an effort to widen access to medical products for combating COVID-19, the Costa Rican government has asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to create a voluntary pool to collect patent rights, regulatory test data and other information that could be shared for developing drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. The proposal reflects the country’s concern that pharmaceutical and other products may not be accessible to poorer nations. By establishing a voluntary mechanism under the auspices of the WHO, Costa Rica is proposing a plan that would allow governments, industries, universities and non-profit organizations to share technology – as Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada wrote in a March 23 letter to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. federal court system. For patents and copyrights, that jurisdiction is exclusive. Most federal district courts have issued orders greatly reducing physical access. For example, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio has issued a standing order continuing jury trials until May 1. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the exclusive Circuit for patent cases on appeal, has limited building access to court staff, members of the media and counsel and parties scheduled for in-person hearings, and has scheduled some hearings to occur telephonically. It has also suspended the requirements to provide paper copies of documents submitted electronically.
Patent, Trademark and Copyright Offices
Similar to the federal courts, the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Copyright Office have both taken steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and the public. Both the USPTO and the Copyright Office’s buildings are closed to the public, while still assisting people via phone, email and online services. Hearings at the Patent and Trademark Trial and Appeal Boards are now conducted remotely via telephone or video. Additionally, the USPTO has waived requirements for original handwritten signatures for certain correspondence.
Foreign patent and trademark offices have also taken steps. The European Patent Office (EPO) has postponed oral hearings or mandated they be conducted via videoconference; the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has extended deadlines/time limits for responses to actions involving patents and trademarks. While it has not as yet extended deadlines, the USPTO has waived petition fees for situations in which the coronavirus outbreak has prevented applicants or owners from timely replying to an Office communication resulting in patent and trademark applications to be abandoned, reexaminations to be terminated or registered marks to be canceled or abandoned.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is continuing operations under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks, the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs, the Lisbon System for the International Registration of Geographical Indications as well as administering other intellectual property (IP) and related systems. WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center (AMC) is also continuing to process domain name disputes under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) and other alternative dispute resolution cases.
As life returns to normal, as it will, expect intellectual property activity which may have been placed on hold due to the coronavirus to ramp up quickly.
For more information or to discuss further, please reach out to David Posteraro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216.736.7218.