COVID-19 IP Catch-Up: Remdesivir Access, Zoom TM Security

By Dani Kass
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Law360 (May 29, 2020, 9:27 PM EDT) -- The novel coronavirus pandemic has continued to cause delays and waivers in the patent and trademark worlds, and also has led to questions about who owns the rights to a key antiviral drug and whether Zoom should be concerned about its trademark.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday extended certain patent and trademark fees and filing deadlines for those affected by the pandemic. This is the third time it has done so. Then on Friday, the agency said it will let patentees file certain initial patent term extension applications online, given the extraordinary circumstances. 

In Texas' Eastern District, Chief U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap on Tuesday provided relief to attorneys looking for admission to practice in his patent-heavy court. The judge suspended requirements to get notarized original signatures and will instead allow electronic signatures for 90 days. 

Judge Gilstrap said public health challenges, social distancing and teleworking have made it difficult to get the notarized signatures required by the local rules, so a temporary change is needed. 

Also Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman in San Jose, California, rescheduled a jury trial between Finjan Inc. and Cisco Systems for Oct. 19. She'd originally been hoping to have the cybersecurity patent infringement fight tried in June, but was forced to push it back based on an order from the court's top judge.

Outside of the courts, former USPTO Director David Kappos and retired Federal Circuit Chief Judge Randall Rader on Wednesday spoke at a virtual event about Chinese patent law. The pair agreed that the pandemic and ongoing U.S.-China trade talks have created a "golden opportunity" to urge China to reform its patent laws to make them friendlier to pharmaceutical innovators.

On Friday, the World Health Organization and 37 countries issued what they're calling a Solidarity Call to Action, urging "key stakeholders and the global community" to share resources that can help fight the pandemic, including those for drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools.

"Shared knowledge, intellectual property and data will leverage our collective efforts to advance scientific discovery, technology development and broad sharing of the benefits of scientific advancement and its applications based on the right to health," WHO said. 

Focusing on U.S. patent law, activists working to expand access to COVID-19 medications issued a report making the case that the federal government is the rightful co-owner of patents covering Gilead Science Inc.'s antiviral drug remdesivir, and that the feds should harness that ownership to make the medication accessible and affordable. The experimental drug has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use to treat COVID-19.

Finally, Law360 looked at whether the videoconferencing platform Zoom has become such a ubiquitous part of American life during the pandemic that it risks becoming a generic term, and concluded that the risks are fairly low.

--Additional reporting by Mike LaSusa, Dorothy Atkins and Bill Donahue. Editing by John Campbell.

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