Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Patent Offices and Federal Courts
The whole world is going through difficult moments caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Every continent, every country, state or province is going through a devastating economical, social, and financial breakdown. Restrictions are enforced virtually all across the globe and economic activity is greatly reduced.
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, the economic effects become more visible across all business sectors. Virtually all businesses are affected. Social distancing and other restrictions have had a drastic effect on every sector, including agriculture, stock markets, manufacturing, oil and petrochemical, the technology sector, and the legal sector.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on intellectual property
The legal sector was not spared by the negative effects of the pandemic. Lawyers are active in virtually every practice area that has been hit hard. The same goes for patent attorneys. Although the industry was hit hard, the world of intellectual property is still moving ahead, just at a slower pace. The future of the industry, however, is closely tied to the rest of the economy. If the pandemic continues to spread, the industry may be pushed into a nosedive.
Large companies that already have a large IP portfolio are struggling to implement the obligatory measures in order to minimize the impact of the pandemic. Some companies are working on plans to cut costs and, unfortunately, they are re-shuffling their IP portfolio and minimizing the funds spent on patent maintenance, searching and prosecution. This means less income for firms working on international patent law in Hialeah. It also means less work for lawyers – data suggests that the average patent infringement attorney is expected to see a 50 to 60 percent drop in workload during these months.
Companies that were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, such as the ones active in the hospitality sector, are even thinking of abandoning patents completely. The same goes for new patent filings and IP acquisitions. Executives are constantly looking at ways to reduce costs and implement already existing technology. Simply put, companies don’t have the resources to invest in new intellectual property.
The pandemic will also lead to a severe drop in PCT filings, as IP holders will prefer to not waste money by getting patents in every nation. The majority of clients will focus only on jurisdictions that are more stable. This means that selective filing will be the norm for the coming months or even years. Obviously, this problem will change how patent infringement attorneys work. The same goes for law firms focused on international patent law in Hialeah – they need to reshift their way of doing business, at least for the coming months.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on IP organizations and Federal Courts
The coronavirus pandemic has affected multiple IP organizations across the country and the world (this is important because patent filing is international). For instance, the activity of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization is drastically reduced during this period. The same goes for the European Patent Office, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, IP Australia, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and other local patent offices around the world. Federal courts, which have an important role in patent filing, also have reduced activity. Similarly, law professionals active in this sector are affected by the epidemic. For instance, law firms focused on international patent law in Hialeah have seen a drop in workload during these months.
Luckily, trademark and foreign patent offices are taking important steps to address the impact of the lockdown on the IP sector. The measures are varied, but activity is reduced drastically. In many countries, limited activity for emergency cases is ensured. Some IP offices, such as the European Patent Office, have provided extensions to oral hearings or ensured the possibility of assessing filings via videoconferencing. Similarly, deadlines and time limits have been extended to multiple countries. In the United States, the USPTO didn’t extend deadlines but has waived off various fees in order to help companies that already filed applications. This helps companies reduce costs and make a patent infringement attorney’s work much easier.
Here’s a more in-depth guide on how the USPTO responded to the coronavirus pandemic:
- as mentioned above, the USPTO has waived the petition fee when the applicant files a reply, if the patent owner or applicant were unable to reply to the Office, due to the coronavirus outbreak; this also applies to owners who abandoned the application because of the outbreak;
- the USPTO doesn’t require original handwritten signatures on documents filed during this period;
- certain deadlines are postponed according to the CARES Act (Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act); the deadlines are extended by 30 days from the initial date of application;
When it comes to the Federal Courts, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been immense. Oral arguments and in-person hearings have been postponed. The courts are active, but the staff is working remotely, if possible. The Supreme Court has also reduced its activity. In order to respect the social distancing guidelines, all federal courts across the country are using videoconferencing tools. Initially, these tools were used when parties were not physically able to be present in the courthouse because of illness or disability – now, these tools are used extensively, if possible.
However, when compared to other wealthy countries, the United States court system is not very advanced. Countries like Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom use modern technology regularly in courthouses. Videoconferencing is not universally present in American courthouses and many local courts have limited access to modern tools. The same goes for other people involved in the legal procedures, including clients and attorneys. The reason behind this may be a short excerpt from the Sixth Amendment which states that the defendant has the right “to be confronted with the witness against him”. This excerpt was largely interpreted as having a face-to-face encounter in a courthouse. However, a 1990 Supreme Court decision has ruled that this excerpt does not ban videoconferencing. Still, the court ruled that videoconferencing should only be used when the prosecution argues for it. What’s more, courthouses are not particularly famous for being nimble or adaptive – an attitude that is quickly changing because of the current outbreak.