COVID-19 to be considered as a Natural Calamity under PCT “Excuse of delay in Meeting Time Limits”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been continuing and we are hopeful that colleagues around the world keep safe and healthy. The pandemic has certainly affected and normal working of various authorities including those involved in legal and IP services. Many Intellectual Property Offices around the world have already issued  notices for extension or relaxation of various timelines until future notification to facilitate various users of IP to comply with various timelines in view of these difficult circumstances. 

While the PCT rules (Rule 82quater.1) do provide excuse for delay in view of war, revolution, civil disorder, strike, natural calamity, a general unavailability of electronic communications services or other like reason in the locality where the interested party resides, has his place of business or is staying, on April 9, 2020, the International Bureau (IB) has interpreted and clarified COVID-19 pandemic to be a natural calamity … or other like reason. (International Bureau interprets COVID-19 crises as falling under PCT excuse of delays provision) The IB has requested the PCT Offices and authorities, like Receiving Offices, the International Searching Authority, the Authority specified for supplementary search, the International Preliminary Examining Authority to adopt this interpretation.

The International Bureau as Receiving Office will favourably consider any request for excuse of delay citing COVID-19 related issues, without asking  or requiring for any evidence. Usually, an applicant seeking excuse of delay under Rule 82quater.1 is required to submit evidence within 6 months of the applicable time limit and if the circumstances are proven to the satisfaction of the authority, the excuse for delay would be granted. Thus, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, an Applicant would be able to avail excuse of delay without submitting any evidences, if the PCT application is filed with IB as the Receiving Office. However, the excuse of delay is not available with respect to payment of prescribed fee within the stipulated timeline. Hence, IB has decided not to issue any notification for payment of fee until May 31, 2020, and has requested all PCT Receiving Offices to follow the same.

We expect that various PCT Receiving Offices and Searching and Examining Authorities would soon issue notices conforming with the request of IB in view of COVID-19 pandemic and provide some relief to the IP users.

COVID-19 to be considered as a Natural Calamity under PCT “Excuse of delay in Meeting Time Limits” by Mr. Rajeev Kumar