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April 29, 2020 Über das EUIPO
Information and guidance note on further extension of deadlines
As a response to the exceptional circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, in Decision No EX-20-3, the Office’s Executive Director extended until 1 May 2020 all time limits expiring between 9 March 2020 and 30 April 2020.
On 29 April 2020, in Decision No EX-20-4, the Office’s Executive Director further extended until 18 May all time limits expiring between 1 May 2020 and 17 May 2020.
In order to provide users with guidance the following clarification has been issued about the time limits affected by the extension, the nature of the extension and the measures to adapt communications sent to users and the impact on current accounts.
Ι. TIME LIMITS AFFECTED BY THE EXTENSION
Article 1(1) of Decision No EX-20-4 of the Executive Director of the Office of 29 April 2020 extends until 18 May ‘all time limits expiring between 1 May and 17 May 2020 inclusive that affect all parties in proceedings before the Office’.
Article 101(4) EUTMR, which empowers the Executive Director to extend time limits in the case of exceptional occurrences uses a similar language, by also referring to ‘all time limits’ and ‘all parties to the proceedings’.
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).
For the sake of clarity, this expression covers:
- Time limits set by any instance of the Office, in any proceeding before the EUIPO, including its Boards of Appeal
- Time limits imposed directly by the EUTMR, the EUTMIR or the EUTMDR as well as CDR and CDIR
- including those originating from the Paris Convention or other International Treaties, and
- regardless of whether they are excluded from restitutio in integrum within the meaning of Article 104 (5) EUTMR and Article 67(5) CDR
- In particular, the following statutory time limits are covered by the extension:
- Payment of the Application Fee (Article 32 EUTMR)
- Right of Priority (Article 34(1) EUTMR and Article 41 CDR)
- Exhibition Priority (Article 38(1) EUTMR and Article 44 CDR)
- Opposition Period (Article 46(1) EUTMR)
- Payment of the Opposition Fee (Article 46(3) EUTMR)
- Request for Renewal (Article 53(3) EUTMR and Article 13 CDR)
- Filing of an Appeal and of the Statement of Grounds, payment of the Appeal Fee (Article 68 (1) EUTMR and Article 57 CDR),
- Conversion (Article 139 EUTMR)
- Deferment of publication of design (Article 50 CDR).
However, the reference in the Decision to ‘proceedings before the Office’ means that time limits that relate to proceedings before other authorities are not covered by the extension, even if mentioned in the Regulations. This is in particular the case with regard to the time limit for:
- Bringing an action before the General Court against decisions of the Boards of Appeal (Article 72(5) EUTMR and Article 61 CDR).
Finally, it should be pointed out that the expression ‘proceedings before the Office’ only relates to trade mark and design matters, which means that time limits related to subjects not dealt with by the EUTMR or the CDR (such as employment or procurement) or which relate to other matters (e.g. the governance of the Office) are also not covered by the Decision of the Executive Director.
II. NATURE OF THE EXTENSION
The extension of time limits granted by the Executive Director has the immediate effect of preventing the deadlines concerned from lapsing when they were originally due, and of setting a new expiry date applicable to all, namely the 18 May 2020.
This effect is automatic and derives directly from the Decision of the Executive Director. Accordingly, affected parties are not required to file a request to the Office for the extension of the time limit to take effect.
Parties to ongoing proceedings are therefore advised not to lodge unnecessary requests for extension.
Article 1(2) of Decision No EX-20-4 also establishes that:
In the event parties to proceedings before the Office choose to discharge their procedural obligations before the expiry of the extended time limit, by submitting observations, documents or performing any other procedural act, the relevant time limit will be considered exhausted and the proceedings will continue without awaiting its expiration pursuant to Article 1.
This means, for example, that where the extended time limit concerns the submission of the last round of observations in an Opposition, Cancellation or RCD Invalidity action, and observations are submitted by the party concerned, the Office will close the proceedings, inform the parties accordingly and rule on the case on the basis of the evidence before it.
Furthermore, where, for example, the extended time limit concerns the reply to the Office’s absolute grounds objection and the applicant/holder submits observations before the expiry of the extended time limit, the Office will proceed and re-assess the eligibility for registration of the application based on the evidence before it.
In all of the abovementioned cases, the Office will not keep the file on hold until the expiry of the extended time limit.
The same applies to proceedings before the Office’s Boards of Appeal.
III. COMMUNICATIONS SENT TO USERS
The immediate effect of the extension also implies that users whose time limits are concerned will not be informed about the grant of the extension by means of individual communications.
The Office has done its utmost to adapt its IT systems in such a way as to guarantee a seamless treatment of the time limits that were due to expire before the extension date.
However, in the unlikely event that a communication from the Office does not adhere to the given extension, the Office will address the case immediately by issuing a rectification either of its own motion or following a written request from the user indicating the file number concerned.
IV IMPACT ON CURRENT ACCOUNTS
To clarify the impact on the handling of the procedure for insufficient funds in a current account, as indicated in that procedure, should a fee be unsuccessfully debited on a particular date, the Office will proceed with a notification of insufficient funds. The client has one month from receipt of notification to replenish the account with sufficient funds in order to cover the fees and administrative charges.
However, following the extension of time limits, the Office will not issue any notifications for insufficient funds in current accounts until the end of the period of extension, that is 18 May 2020.
Customers can use the current account information available in the user area in order to follow-up their account balances, become aware of possible shortage of funds and make replenishments. This will allow them to avoid the blocking of the debits, the administrative charges linked to notifications of insufficient funds and, subsequently, assure the progress of the trade mark or design files.
Deadlines indicated in notifications of insufficient funds issued before 1 May 2020 which fall into the period from 1 May to 17 May are automatically extended to 18 May 2020.