In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the USPTO has extended certain deadlines and waived petition fees, and has established a COVID-19 Response Resource Center. The USPTO announcements with details of these actions are set forth on the USPTO website at the URL https://www.uspto.gov/coronavirus
Generally, extensions of certain patent-related and trademark-related deadlines and waivers of petition fees relate to circumstances in which non-statutory deadlines were missed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and in these circumstances petitions accompanying filings must include a statement that the deadline was missed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The USPTO was able to extend the deadlines and waive the petition fees based on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
In late April, the USPTO extended certain filing and payment deadlines to help companies and individuals who may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Extensions applied to: replies to the USPTO in patent examination, notices of appeal, requests for oral hearing and maintenance fees, and disputes heard by the PTAB or TTAB. Most payments and filings with upcoming deadlines were extended to June 1st.
In May, the USPTO reevaluated and decided to extend the deadline again, this time to July 1st. This deadline applies to trademark extensions, TTAB proceedings, and replies to agency requests and notices of appeal. Companies who petition for relief are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Parties have the responsibility of showing the delay was due to COVID-19 in some manner that materially interfered with timely filing or payment.
In June, the USPTO has decided to waive the fee and extend the time period for petitioning for restoration of rights of priority or benefit in a patent application if the delay in seeking those rights was unintentional and due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ordinarily, an application seeking to claim priority to or benefit from a prior-filed application must file the application within 12 months (6 months for design patents) of the prior-filed foreign or provisional application. After the expiration of that 12-month (or 6-month) period, applicants had two months to file an application seeking priority or benefit with a petition for restoration of their right to claim the priority to or benefit of the prior-filed foreign or provisional application if the delay was unintentional. Now, for all nonprovisional applications seeking rights of priority or benefit in which the 12 month period ended between March 27, 2020 and July 30, 2020, the USPTO will permit the two-month time period for restoring the benefit of a prior-filed foreign or provisional application to run until the later of: a) July 31, 2020, or b) the expiration of the two-month period. As long as the petition is filed within the two-month period and is accompanied with a statement that failure to meet the previous deadline was due to COVID-19, the USPTO will waive the petition fee.
Also in June, the USPTO announced a COVID-19 prioritized examination program and fee waiver for certain trademark and service mark applications used to identify a product that is subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for use in the prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19 or a medical or medical research service for the prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19.
In addition to extending deadlines, the USPTO has launched the COVID-19 Response Resource Center in early June to provide information on developing initiatives. These include the USPTO”™s ”Patents 4 Partnerships” IP marketplace platform and the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program designed to accelerate patent applications for COVID-19 related technologies. It will also incorporate international developments. The center will be updated regularly to incorporate new information and resources for inventors and small businesses.