In France, the government has declared a national state of public health emergency for a period starting March 24, and ending May 24. The measures taken by the French government include an Order that extends many legal deadlines from March 12 to the end of the health emergency period.
These measures do not apply to European Union or international Intellectual Property Offices (EUIPO, EPO, WIPO) nor to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), which have each provided their own directions.
Even though Courts and IP Offices have granted extensions, suspensions and postponements, IP owners and litigants should when possible proceed diligently with any necessary steps and legal action that they would ordinarily take in order to avoid likely procedural bottlenecks after the pandemic and state of public emergency(-ies) end.
In France, the postponement mechanism provides that any act or formality required by law or regulations under penalty of invalidity, sanction, lapse, foreclosure, time-bar, non-enforceability or inadmissibility that should have been carried out between March 12 and the end of the state of emergency in France shall be deemed to have been effected in time if the act or formality is carried out within a deadline not exceeding, from the end of the state of emergency, the time legally allowed to carry out the act or formality, up to a maximum of two months.
Legal deadlines, acts and formalities that expired or were due before March 12, or will expire or become due after the end of the state of emergency remain unchanged.
- French Courts
The Paris courts have been closed to the public since March 16, and have significantly reduced their activity. Summary hearings that had already been scheduled have been cancelled since March 16, and decisions postponed. Only absolute civil emergencies will be heard by the courts within a framework that prevents the spread of the virus. In IP matters, judges will not process requests for patent, trademark or copyright infringement seizures or for preliminary injunction proceedings.
— Paris First Level Court: since March 16, court hearings, including status conferences, have been cancelled and scheduled decisions have been postponed. No telephone or physical reception is provided except for urgent and essential judicial formalities and proceedings, and messages sent by lawyers using the online platform RPVA are not being processed by the court.
— Paris Court of Appeals: only hearings in essential litigation and urgent matters are continuing. Cases with scheduled oral arguments up to April 30, 2020, were suspended with status conferences scheduled as from September 28, 2020, to set new hearing dates.
— French Supreme Court: proceedings before the French Supreme Court have been suspended until further notice.
- French Patent and Trademark Office (INPI)
Since April 1, 2020, trademark cancellations and patent oppositions before the INPI are going forward and proceedings can be filed by electronic submissions. The INPI further issued a specific notification that provides that deadlines that had not expired as of March 16 were extended for 4 months, except for deadlines to file trademark oppositions.
- Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and EU General Court
The CJEU and EU General Court are processing non-urgent pending cases. Since March 16, the CJEU and the EU General Court have rendered 86 decisions and enrolled 52 new cases on the court docket.
Deadlines for pending proceedings, with the exception of urgent proceedings, expedited proceedings and proceedings for interim injunctions were extended to April 19, 2020. Deadlines to be set by the Court Registry as from that date onwards have been extended one month. Oral hearings before the CJEU and EU General Court scheduled between March 16 and, respectively, April 30 and May 15 have been postponed.
- European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
Deadlines relating in particular to rights of priority, opposition periods, requests for renewal, appeals and conversions expiring between March 9 and April 30, 2020 are extended until May 4, 2020, with the exception of deadlines for appeals to the EU General Court against decisions of the EUIPO Boards of Appeal.
International IP Office
- European Patent Office (EPO)
All deadlines expiring on or after March 15, 2020, have been extended to April 17, 2020. This also applies to international applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
Oral proceedings before the Examining and Opposition divisions scheduled for hearings up to April 30, 2020, have been postponed, unless they have been confirmed to take place by means of videoconferencing with the applicant's consent. Other activities of the Examining and Opposition divisions continue but are slowed. No oral proceedings will be held before the EPO Boards of Appeal until April 30, 2020.
- World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO)
Services are maintained including online filing of applications (WIPO, PCT, Madrid and Hague systems), as well as administration of intellectual property and related systems, including the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center.
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.