IP Australia - Exceptional Support for Users Disrupted by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing global disruption, and entire sectors of the economy are being shut down to limit infection.

During this difficult time, IP Australia, which includes the Australian Patent Office, the Designs Office and the Trade Marks Office, is supporting individuals and businesses who use the patent, designs, plant breeder's rights and trade mark systems.

The Australian Government has announced extensive support to individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19, including tax assistance for people impacted by COVID-19, special measures which exempt specified treatments for COVID-19 from requirements to be registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) prior to their supply, and new tax incentives.

Keeping the Wheels Turning

IP Australia is safeguarding its staff through business continuity measures including new working arrangements, and continues to provide its normal services. New applications, including for patents, designs, plant breeder's rights and trade mark, are still being processed as normal, and examination is operating as normal. The Office's online services remain available 24/7, including its lodgement system, its search portals (for patents, designs, PBRs and trade marks), and its online file wrappers (i.e., electronic dossiers).

The Office's continued operation means users can continue to secure protection for their brands, designs and inventions before disclosing them or using them commercially. Many innovations and businesses are being developed on very tight timelines to address the dangers and disruptions caused by COVID-19. Without the ability to file applications, the option of seeking protection would in many cases be lost.

Exceptional 3-Month Extensions of Most Deadlines at the Tick of a Box

IP Australia announced on 22 and 30 April, 25 May, 16 June, 15 July, 13 August, and 14 September 2020, it is providing simplified and exceptional extensions of up to three months for users impacted by COVID-19. Users need to apply for each extension through a very simple process, and no official fees are payable. All that is required is a declaration that the individual or business is unable to meet the deadline due to the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration can be lodged by simply ticking a box in IP Australia's online interface: no documents need to be uploaded, and the extension of time fee is automatically waived. Applications for these exceptional extensions are available at least until 31 October 2020 in relation to patents, trade marks and designs. The Office announced that it would provide at least one week's notice before removing access to the simple process.

Deadline extensions are not normally available in Australian for commercial reasons (e.g. if a decision is made to not pay a fee for lack of funds), so IP Australia is directing users to request the extension due to "circumstances beyond your control", and to declare that they require the extension due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As long as applicants are honest, this process seems to be a simple, flexible and reliable mechanism to extend deadlines, including after the deadlines have passed, at least until 31 October 2020.

The exceptional extensions apply to most deadlines for patents, trade marks and design registrations, except for renewal fees. In relation to renewal fees, IP Australia emphasises that an automatic grace period of up to 6 months already exists. A convenient table of deadlines that are not covered is available on the IP Australia website, which can be viewed here. Similar arrangements are available for Plant Breeder's Rights (PBR), and IP Australia is directing users to contact the PBR office in advance of deadlines.

DCC Is Here To Help

DCC is pleased to be able to offer assistance with these exceptional extensions. Please contact us immediately if you require an official deadline extended, or have questions regarding management of your IP during this crisis.

The article was originally published on Friday, 24 April 2020. The content was last updated on Thursday, 17 September 2020.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.