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WIPO modifies time limits under PCT amid COVID-19

April 13, 2020

The massive outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus a.k.a. COVID-19 has led to devastating effect on public health, social well-being and economic stability. The world is facing grave public health emergency in view of this pandemic. This fast evolving and non-disruptive epidemic has led to very significant impacts on various countries and territories across the globe.

In view of this pandemic, the International Bureau (IB) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has also taken necessary steps in order to ease the usual procedures in these unusual times. The IB of WIPO in its notification dated April 9, 2020 has insisted all PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) Offices and Authorities to apply the Rule 82quater.1 of the Regulations under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in view of COVID-19 crises i.e. the IB has recommended all PCT offices and authorities to implement modified practices and accept Excuse of Delay in Meeting Time Limits taking into consideration this global disruption.

The IB of WIPO has taken this step, considering this force majeure situation as “natural calamity …. or other like reason”.

Rule 82quater

  • This regulation made under the PCT lists out the circumstances under which an excuse or delay in meeting the time limits can be made. Such circumstances include war, revolution, civil disorder, strike, natural calamity, general unavailability of electronic communications services or other like reason, which when proved with an evidence, may condone the delay in performing an action before the receiving Office, the International Searching Authority, the Authority specified for supplementary search, the International Preliminary Examining Authority or the International Bureau.
  • Such circumstances, backed up with sufficient evidences, shall have to be addressed within six months from the expiration of the time limit applicable, to the Office, Authority or the International Bureau, as the case maybe.

However, as per the present situation, any request made under the Rule 82quater mentioning COVID-19 related issues, shall not require any evidence stating that the virus has affected the locality of the interested person. The International Bureau of WIPO shall abide by this and has urged all PCT Offices and Authorities to likewise adopt this interpretation.

Time limits under PCT extended

In case an international application has lost its legal effect due to having been declared considered withdrawn (for any reason like not having paid the appropriate fees within the prescribed time limit), said Rule 82quater would not be having any effect on the same.

Keeping the above-mentioned point in mind, the receiving Office of the International Bureau of WIPO has decided to delay the issuance of any such notifications until May 31, 2020, and  has urged all PCT receiving Offices to adopt the same practice .

In view of the above, the IB of WIPO has mentioned that for at least one further month (potentially to be further extended), such notifications should only be issued in relation to deadlines, which have expired over two months previously. In addition, the receiving offices shall waive off late payment charges levied on late payment of fees under PCT.

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