HGF Ltd is constantly monitoring the rapidly changing situation in Europe due to the COVID-19 outbreak and has made the decision to move to the next phase of its plan in the UK in order to protect its staff, clients and our wider community.

All HGF offices are now working remotely. These measures mean that we can ensure business continuity for all the IP work we manage on your behalf. The status of our offices can be found here* and is updated on a daily basis. Whilst many of our offices remain open with the majority of staff working remotely, our UK offices are physically closed and we do not have guaranteed access to documents and correspondence sent by post. If you sent us anything by post on or after 16 March 2020 and you have not received an acknowledgement, please contact us urgently. For all matters, please contact us by email or telephone. When sending us instructions always send a copy by email to docketing@hgf.com* and ensure you receive a personal acknowledgement of receipt.

Most Official Intellectual Property offices in the jurisdictions in which HGF operates remain fully operational at this time, but some are offering extensions to deadlines in order to support applicants and their attorneys who have been affected by the pandemic.

Therefore, if you are unable to provide us with your instructions as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic please let us know as soon as possible - we can then advise on the possibility of an extension. Please contact us to check the deadline of any specific time limit you may need to extend as different rules are applied in each jurisdiction and it is possible there are some legal exceptions.

Please see below updates based on the situation on Tuesday 24th March 2020.

IPO Situation on 24 March 2020
EPO * Many time limits expiring on or after 15 March 2020 are extended until 17 April 2020. If the disruption should continue after 17 April 2020, the EPO may publish another notice informing users about further extensions and remedies in respect of time limits. Please contact us for specific advice and do not assume that every EPO time limit is automatically extended.

The EPO has decided to postpone until further notice all oral proceedings in examination and opposition proceedings scheduled until 17 April 2020 unless they have already been confirmed to take place by means of videoconferencing. During this time the EPO will explore options for further facilitating, where applicable, the use of videoconferencing in oral proceedings.

Where extensions are automatic affected parties are not required to file a request for the extension of the time limit to take effect.

All online services remain operational.
EUIPO * The EUIPO has extended 'all time limits expiring between 9 March and 30 April 2020 inclusive that affect all parties in proceedings before the Office' until 1 May (in practice this will be 4 May, since 1 May is a public holiday, followed by a weekend).

The reference to 'all time limits' is to be read literally and encompasses all procedural deadlines, irrespective of whether they have been set by the Office or are statutory in nature (i.e. are stipulated directly in the Regulations).

This effect is automatic - affected parties are not required to file a request to the Office for the extension of the time limit to take effect.

All online services remain operational.
WIPO * 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.

All online services remain operational.
The UK IPO will extend time periods where national and international legislation allows. They are willing to support affected customers using the discretionary powers available to them. The IPO is willing to consider requests for extensions of time as favourably as possible on a case-by-case basis. Where a failure to meet a time period has resulted in a loss of rights, those rights may be reinstated or restored in certain circumstances.

Legal provisions depend on the nature of the late response and the circumstances of the delay and need to be applied for on a case by case basis, which HGF can advise on.

All online services remain operational.
Time limits on pending cases set by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office are extended until 4 May 2020.

Separate notices concerning the extensions of time limits will not be issued. In addition, the time limits to be set by the German Patent and Trade Mark Office will be as generous as the situation requires. The German Patent and Trade Mark Office is not authorized to extend time limits provided for by law, but there is an option of re-establishment of rights, on a case by case basis, which HGF can advise on.

All online services remain operational.
Current deadlines are postponed.

From now until the end of the imposed public restrictions in the Benelux countries, BOIP will not withdraw any requests or procedures because a given deadline has not been met. This also applies to opposition proceedings not submitted on time or payments not received on time. After this period has ended, an additional period of one month will be granted for all requests and proceedings for which the time limits have expired or which are less than one month at that time. This month will be counted from the moment that there are no longer any limitations in society in the Benelux countries. BOIP will set a date for this in due course and communicate it by means of a new communication from the Director General.

BOIP will not communicate on a case by case basis regarding the deadline – they apply automatically.

All online services remain operational.
All existing official time limits in proceedings before the Patent Office will be extended a further two months without the need to apply for a further extension separately.

For deadlines for the submission of a reply in bilateral proceedings (e.g. trademark revocation proceedings and opposition) a request for extension of the deadline must be submitted. According to the current legal situation, the request must be granted without further proceedings in these proceedings if the deadline for the submission of a reply expires unused. As with all submissions, requests for deadlines in nullity proceedings can be submitted electronically via Electronic Legal Transaction (also in opposition proceedings).

Other deadlines resulting directly from the law (e.g. for filing appeals or for paying annuity and renewal fees) cannot be extended.

All online services remain operational.
The Intellectual Property Office of Ireland, is now closed until Sunday 29 March 2020 inclusive. As a result of this closure, these days are to be considered "excluded days". These days are to be regarded as "excluded days" for all purposes. Therefore any official office deadlines which fall within these dates, shall now fall "on the first day which is not an excluded day next following such excluded day(s)"; Monday 30 March 2020.

All online services remain operational.
Courts Proceedings Many courts are adjusting practices and taking steps to minimise any risk to the judiciary, staff, professional and public users, including justice partners.

Any changes to individual hearings will be communicated directly to us, usually by email and/or phone. We will make best possible use of the equipment currently available for any hearings that can be conducted remotely.

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.