St. Louis patent attorney Bryan Wheelock was interviewed by Ryan Davis of Law360 about the USPTO’s inability to extend filing deadlines amid the Coronavirus pandemic. While the European Patent Office recently extended its deadlines, the USPTO is unable to do so because of U.S. patent law statutes.
For attorneys, a great deal of the patent and trademark filing process takes place online, making it easier to meet deadlines even if working remotely. The process should continue to operate smoothly as long as attorneys are healthy and their clients remain healthy and able to send key documents and provide direction.
Maintaining a normal routine is a welcome respite from the uncertainty the world is facing, says Wheelock. “It’s nice to come in and have some normalcy: Look at the docket and make some filings. Our attorneys and staff appreciate that there’s something still normal in your life. Clients like it, too: They’re all hunkered down and looking for something to do.”
Although deadlines cannot be extended, the USPTO has offered to waive fees related to reviving patent and trademark applications that have gone abandoned during this time.
“It was kind of nice for the patent office to do something in advance, as opposed for waiting for things to fall off the edge,” says Wheelock, “but abandonment is the third rail of patent law. We don’t want to go there. It signals reasonableness on the part of the office, but we’ve got to make our deadlines: We want to and our clients want us to.”
While serious problems could occur if any widespread computer or internet related issues occur — particularly to the USPTO’s system — such issues are unexpected for now.