The COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent containment measures are unprecedented in recent memory. Governments in many countries are implementing measures to ensure that shutdowns and social distancing do not prejudice the intellectual property rights of individuals and businesses. The following is a summary of the relief measures currently implemented in Canada and the USA.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) remains open and in operation at this time, with the majority of staff working from home. It is still possible to file electronic documents with CIPO, but CIPO has advised that clients should expect significant delays in all CIPO services.
On account of the unforeseen disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak CIPO has temporarily extended all deadlines on patent, trademark, and industrial design matters which would have otherwise expired during the period from March 16, 2020 to March 31, 2020. Those days have been specially designated under applicable legislation such that if a deadline for taking any step before CIPO ends on one of the designated days, that deadline is extended to the next day that is not either a designated day, a statutory holiday or a weekend.
If the circumstances that led to the designation of these days continues, the Commissioner, Registrar and Minister may decide to extend the period of time for which days are designated.
United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO)
All physical USPTO offices are closed to the public until further notice. Many employees are working remotely and USPTO operations are continuing without interruption.
The USPTO has not granted waivers or extensions of dates or requirements set by statute. Until further notice, all deadlines are still in effect. In order to lessen the impact of on applicants of the inability to meet a deadline, the USPTO is waiving petition fees it normally charges to applicants who have missed deadlines and must file petitions to reinstate their applications.
The USPTO has waived the requirements for original handwritten signatures on documents filed with it.
The Federal Court of Canada
The Federal Court has suspended all hearings from March 17, 2020 through April 17, 2020. Maters which are exceptional or urgent may still be heard by telephone conference.
Limitation periods and procedural time periods suspended in all legal proceedings in Ontario
The Ontario Courts have suspended all but emergency criminal and family law proceedings.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has advised that an Order in Council has been made under s. 7.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act suspending limitation periods and procedural time periods. The suspension is retroactive to March 16, 2020 and has no fixed end date.
The Order suspends the provisions of any statute, regulation, rule or bylaw of the Ontario Government which created any limitation period for commencing any legal action.
The Order also suspends any prescribed deadline for taking any action in any proceeding in Ontario, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or decision maker responsible for the proceeding.