Due to the covid-19 pandemic, many IP offices and courts have declared a judicial break. This article provides information on the changes in Polish court activity and at the Polish Patent Office, the EUIPO, European Patent Office (EPO) and WIPO.
On 31 March 2020 an emergency bill was adopted and published in Poland. The act entered into force on the same day.
According to the bill, a suspension of the time limit provided for by the administrative law is foreseen, inter alia, in the following:
- cases that depend on the granting of legal protection before a court or authority;
- in order for the party to perform activities shaping its rights and obligations;
- statute of limitations;
- cases where non-observance will result in the expiration or change of rights in rem, claims and liability, as well as falling into delay; and
- periods of prescription, where failure to comply with the act will has a negative effect on the party.
Suspension of judicial and procedural deadlines before courts and offices
Pursuant to the bill, the following court proceedings will either be suspended, if commended, or delayed:
- administrative court proceedings;
- enforcement proceedings;
- criminal proceedings;
- criminal tax proceedings;
- offence case proceedings;
- administrative proceedings; and
- customs proceedings;
The abovementioned exclusions do not apply to urgent cases.
No public hearings will be held during the state of epidemic or an state of emergency, except for urgent matters listed in the bill.
The suspension of procedural and court deadlines is designed to protect parties to civil, economic and criminal matters from the negative effects of procedural law. The suspension applies to the rights and obligations arising from administrative law only (ie, in principle in relations between the individual and public authority). No substantive actions arising from civil (private) law will be suspended.
Updates are as follows:
- Between 8 March and 30 June 2020, the deadlines for filing an opposition against trademark applications will be interrupted or withheld and starts again on 1 July 2020.
- Between 8 March and 30 June 2020, the deadline for filing the translation of a European patent with the Polish Patent Office is interrupted or withheld and starts again on 1 July 2020.
- The Polish Patent Office has suspended all public hearings as of 13 March 2020 until further notice.
- Courts will still hold public hearings. In cases where the term of the hearing has already been set, the parties should contact the court and check the status of the case.
- All actions taken during an epidemic emergency or epidemic status remain valid.
Pursuant to a decision handed down by the executive director of the EUIPO on 16 March 2020, all deadlines set to expire between 9 March and 30 April 2020 and that affect all parties before the office, have been extended until 1 May 2020. In practice, the extension is until 4 May 2020 as 1 May is a public holiday followed by a weekend.
In the release dated 19 March 2020, the EUIPO clarified that the reference to ‘all time limits’ encompasses all procedural deadlines, irrespective of whether they have been set by the office or are statutory in nature (ie, are stipulated directly in the regulations). The EUIPO pointed out that the expression ‘proceedings before the office’ pertains to trademark and design matters only. Moreover, time limits that relate to proceedings before other authorities are not covered by the extension, even if mentioned in the regulations (eg, bringing an action before the General Court against a Board of Appeal decision).
This effect is automatic and derives directly from the executive director’s decision. Parties are not required to file a request at the EUIPO for an extension of the deadline to take effect. Users will not be informed about the grant of the extension by means of individual communication.
In a communication dated 1 April 2020, the EPO announced that oral proceedings will not be held in the premises of the Boards of Appeal until 30 April 2020. Parties will be contacted accordingly with a communication.
The Boards of Appeal will continue to issue written decisions, communications and summonses to oral proceedings.
Further extensions may take place. All parties to oral proceedings scheduled to take place before the EPO Boards of Appeal are advised to regularly check the web section of the Boards of Appeal for updates.
In Information Notice 7/2020 dated 16 March 2020, WIPO reminded users of the remedies available against a failure to meet a time limit under the Madrid System. It also mentioned the automatic extension of time limits in case an office is not open to the public and suggested measures that users can take against possible disruptions in mail or delivery services.
Users who have failed to meet a time limit for a communication addressed to WIPO may be excused if they send this communication within five days after regaining access to mail or delivery services or to electronic communications. In any event, WIPO must receive the communication no later than six months from the date on which the time limit expired. Users must provide sufficient evidence of the reason why the bureau should excuse the failure.
Holders or applicants who have failed to meet certain time limits may request that WIPO continue processing the international application, subsequent designation, payment or request concerned. They may request continued processing without giving any reason or providing any evidence. Nevertheless, they must file a MM20 form within two months from the date on which the time limit expired and meet all the prescribed requirements.
National offices should inform the International Bureau of WIPO of the fact that they are not open to the public. A period that expires on a day on which an office is not open to the public would expire on the first subsequent day on which that office reopened.