By Ted Nissly, Associate
On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it has exercised its authority under section 12004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to make 30-day extensions available to certain patent and trademark-related deadlines. Prior to the enactment of the CARES Act, the USPTO did not have authority to extend deadlines because most patent and trademark-related deadlines are defined by statute.
Rather than take a uniform approach to extending deadlines for all filings and payments, such as other patent offices have taken across the world, the USPTO has focused on allowing extensions to only certain filings and payments. Patent application extensions apply to, for example, responses to office actions, issue fee payments, and certain appeal filings that are due between March 27 and April 30, 2020. Notably, the USPTO has excluded replies to pre-examination notices and maintenance fee payments to most applicants, unless an applicant is a small entity or micro entity. The USPTO also granted extensions for certain filings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), including requests for rehearing of a PTAB decision. Any qualifying filing or payment due between March 27 and April 30, 2020, will be extended 30 days from the initial date that it was due.
To qualify for an extension, a delayed filing or payment must be accompanied by a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to a practitioner, applicant, patent owner, petitioner, third party requester, inventor, or other person associated with the filing or payment being personally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including through office closures, cash flow interruptions, inaccessibility of files or other materials, travel delays, personal or family illness, or similar circumstances.
The USPTO has clarified, in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of its website that the statement that the delay was due to the COVID-19 outbreak should be a separate statement (e.g., not as part of a response to an Office action) but does not need to be verified or provided in an affidavit or declaration form. However, the COVID-19 outbreak must materially interfere with a filing or payment to qualify as a delay due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The USPTO’s extension of deadlines under the CARES act is just the latest relief that the USPTO has granted due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Last month, the USPTO waived fees for reviving applications that became abandoned because of failure to meet a deadline for responding to an Office communication due to the COVID-19 outbreak and waived requirements for an original handwritten signature for certain correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline and certain payments by credit card.
As of the date of this posting, the USPTO’s extension of deadlines under the CARES act applies to deadlines through April 30, 2020, but the USPTO may extend the time window based on the continuing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The USPTO’s Notice of Waiver of Patent-Related Timing Deadlines under the CARES ACT can be found here.
The USPTO’s FAQs concerning the Extension of Deadlines under the CARES ACT can be found here.