Because of the present COVID-19 crisis, official IP bodies in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have taken provisional measures in respect of procedural issues for patents, trademarks and designs. An overview is given below.
Belgium – measures taken by the Belgian Office for Intellectual Property (OPRI)
OPRI will continue its activities as far as possible and has not imposed any general deferment.
Any requests for postponement will be dealt with on an individual basis, and OPRI will endeavour to assess them as favourably as possible.
To the extent possible, OPRI will not send any legal notifications that would result in the start of a new binding deadline. However, this rule will be deviated from if not sending a legal notification may be to your disadvantage.
The employees of OPRI work mainly from home. For formal communication, eOLF and fax (+32 2 277 52 62) are therefore recommended. For informal communication, e-mail is recommended, specifically via the following addresses:
- firstname.lastname@example.org – for questions relating to the patent register or representation
- email@example.com – for questions relating to fees and payments
- firstname.lastname@example.org – for questions relating to (applications for) patents, (applications for) supplementary protection certificates and (applications for) plant variety rights
- email@example.com – for general information questions
The Netherlands – measures by the Netherlands Patent Office (OCN) and the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP)
- For nationally granted Dutch patents and patent applications, OCN has not (yet) invoked any specific provisions of the Dutch Patent Act. However, all employees of OCN are working from home due to the COVID-19 virus. For that reason, no (paper) letters are sent. The letters are made available electronically through the MyPage system, but the placing of a letter in this system does not create any time limits for applicants. Moreover, incoming (paper) mail is not processed by OCN. However, incoming letters will be date stamped.
- OCN can be contacted by email or phone (+31 88-0424242).
Moreover, online filing of patent applications and other documents is still possible using the normal systems. OCN strongly recommends that new patent applications be submitted exclusively by online filing.
- In particular, the periods for paying renewal fees and for validating recently granted European patents in The Netherlands have as of yet not been extended or suspended.
- On the other hand, periods that can be extended by OCN , such as for remedying formal deficiencies in patent applications, are indeed extended (as yet by two months).
For detailed information in English one is referred to the website of OCN.
Benelux trademarks and designs
- With regard to registered Benelux trademark and design rights, BOIP has not yet invoked any specific provisions of the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property Rights.
- However, BOIP has published a statement providing guidelines on the current status of proceedings and deadlines during the period of public health restrictions caused by COVID-19. In this statement, BOIP has announced that due to COVID-19, it shall extend all official deadlines by an additional period of one month, counted from the date on which it is reasonably possible for IP professionals and companies in the Benelux countries to resume their work (the so-called BAU date). BOIP has not yet set the BAU date as government negotiations regarding lifting or easing the measures are still ongoing. Neither is it possible to predict when the measures will be lifted. The one-month extension is applicable to all requests and procedures for which current deadlines have expired between 16 March 2020 and the BAU date, or for which deadlines are within one month on the BAU date. The online services of BOIP remain available. Queries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In the meantime, unmet deadlines will not be detrimental to pending procedures or outstanding requests. This also applies to opposition proceedings that have not been submitted in time and payments which have not been made in time. It might be possible however that the online register does not reflect the accurate status of certain trademarks affected by the new timeframes and BOIP does not communicate any information regarding extension of deadlines on a case-by-case basis. Important to note is that the abovementioned extension of deadlines is not applicable to the actions before the Benelux Court of Justice.
- All in all, current pending actions and applications at BOIP are not at risk due to COVID-19 and no additional actions need to be taken by trademark owners.
For detailed information in English one is referred to the website of BOIP.
V.O. considers the extensions of terms granted by the authorities an additional safety net in case it becomes impossible to meet a deadline due to exceptional circumstances. It is our policy to adhere to the original deadlines to avoid future issues / bottlenecks.
Germany – measures by the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA)
Extendable deadlines of DPMA have been extended by 4 May 2020. Deadlines determined by the Patent Act cannot be extended. Most of the employees of DPMA work from home, but a “core team” is still working in DPMA and Applicants receive postal communication from DPMA (reduced frequency). DPMA can be contacted by phone, online communication via DPMAdirect, regular mail or fax.
Oral proceedings have been cancelled and will be re-scheduled.
Detailed information can be found on the website of DPMA.
DPMA is also responsible for German Trademarks, i.e., the above mentioned regulations apply not only to patents, but also to German Trademarks. Deadlines of DPMA have been extended to 4 May 2020. Deadlines for filing a request of International trademark registration and additional designation are not extended. Deadlines determined by the Trademark Act cannot be extended.
Detailed information can be found on the website of DPMA.