SONN Patentanwälte – IP Attorneys

Covid-19: Courts and patent and trademark offices extend current time limits

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, many courts as well as patent and trademark offices have decided to extend or interrupt current time limits and to postpone already scheduled hearings. However, the handling of time limits and oral proceedings differs worldwide. In the following we summarize the measures in the IP field in Austria as well as those of the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).


  • The EPO extends deadlines until 2 June 2020 and postpones oral proceedings that are not held via video conference;
  • in proceedings before the Austrian Patent Office, time limits set by the Office (e.g. time limits for replies to examination reports) will be interrupted until 30 April 2020 and will start to run anew on 1 May 2020; time limits prescribed by law (such as the priority period or the opposition period) will be suspended until 1 May 2020;
  • the EUIPO extends deadlines (de facto) until 18 May 2020;
  • time limits in civil cases (such as patent or trademark infringement proceedings) will generally be suspended and will start to run anew on 1 May 2020.

Extensions and postponements of oral proceedings by the EPO

Extension of time limits
On 15 March 2020, the EPO published a stating that time limits expiring on or after the date of this notice were extended until 17 April 2020 (new: until 2 June 2020, look here) for all parties and their representatives. This applies not only to time limits relating to European patent applications but also to international patent applications under the PCT pending before the EPO. Time limits may be further extended by the publication of another notice by the EPO. Example: If a time limit would have expired on 20 March 2020, this time limit will be extended until 17 April 2020. If a time limit expires on 20 April 2020, no extension is currently provided. A communication dated 30 March 2020 clarified that the extension also applied to the payment of fees, including annual fees.
Oral proceedings
The EPO has decided to postpone until further notice all oral hearings in examination and opposition proceedings scheduled before 17 April 2020 (new: all oral hearings in examination and opposition proceedings scheduled before 2 June 2020, look here) unless their holding by videoconference has been confirmed. In the meantime, the EPO will examine how the conduct of oral proceedings by video conference can be further simplified. The Search, Examination and Opposition Divisions will continue their other activities and hold oral proceedings, which have been confirmed to be conducted by video conference. By decision of the President of the EPO dated 1 April 2020, oral proceedings before Examining Divisions are to be held by video conference by default. A new feature is that, at the request of the applicant and his representative, the applicant and his representative may participate in oral proceedings conducted as video conferences from different locations by remote connection. Until 30 April 2020 (new: until 15 Mai 2020, look here ) no oral proceedings before the Boards of Appeal will take place in appeal proceedings. The parties concerned will be informed accordingly in a communication.  

Proceedings before the Austrian Patent Office

By decree, in pending proceedings before the Austrian Patent Office, all set time limits whose event triggering the time limit falls after 16 March 2020, and set time limits that have not yet expired by 16 March 2020 shall be suspended until the end of 30 April 2020. They shall begin to run anew on 1 May 2020 in their original length, without prejudice to the possibility of an appropriate new time limit starting from 1 May 2020 being set. Also for the time limits for the filing of a counterstatement in inter partes proceedings, there is thus no longer any need for requesting extensions of the time limit. Time limits prescribed by law, such as the opposition period or the priority period, which have not yet expired by 16 March 2020, are suspended under the 4th COVID-19 Act until 1 May 2020 (and therefore do not start to run anew in their original length). Periods for appeal that have not yet expired by 22 March 2020 will also be suspended until 30 April 2020 in accordance with the Federal Act on Accompanying Measures to COVID-19 in the Judiciary (part of the 2nd COVID-19 Act). They will begin to run anew on 1 May 2020. A general communication on the postponement of oral hearings (for example in opposition proceedings) has not yet been issued by the Austrian Patent Office.  

Proceedings before the EUIPO

The Executive Director of EUIPO has adopted a decision to extend all deadlines expiring between 9 March 2020 and 30 April 2020 inclusive that affect all parties in proceedings before the Office until 1 May 2020 (new: until 18 May 2020, see here). In practice, this means that the deadlines will be extended until Monday, 4 May 2020 (new: until 18 May 2020, see here), as Friday, 1 May 2020, is a public holiday. Both time limits prescribed by the Office as well as time limits prescribed by law will be extended, for example, also the priority period according to Article 34 EUTMR and the opposition period according to Article 46 EUTMR. Periods for appeal which do not concern the Office are not extended (e.g. Action before the Court of Justice, Article 72 EUTMR).  

Proceedings before the ordinary courts in Austria

In civil cases (such as patent or trademark infringement proceedings), all procedural time limits whose triggering event occurs after 21 March 2020, as well as procedural time limits that have not yet expired by 21 March 2020, will be interrupted until the end of 30 April 2020. These periods shall then begin to run anew on 1 May 2020. The basis for this is the 2nd COVID-19 Act. However, the court may declare in the respective proceedings that a time limit will not be interrupted if, after careful consideration of all circumstances, the continuation of the proceedings is urgently required to avert a danger to life and limb, security and freedom or to prevent substantial and irreparable damage to a party to the proceedings and if the public interest in preventing and combating the spread of COVID-19 as well as the protection of the maintenance of orderly court operations do not outweigh the individual interests. In this case, the court shall at the same time fix a new reasonable time limit.