USPTO Pushes Small Entity Fee Deadlines Amid Pandemic

By Craig Clough
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Law360 (June 29, 2020, 9:40 PM EDT) -- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Monday once again extended some deadlines because of the COVID-19 pandemic by announcing that certain filing fees by small and micro entities that would be due this week are now due by the end of September.

The USPTO said that under the authority granted to it recently by the coronavirus relief act, it is allowing small and micro businesses to file for an extension of basic filing fees, issue fees, maintenance fees and other fees.

The move comes after the office in May extended filing deadlines for small and micro business from June 1 to July 1, and the month before pushed certain patent and trademark filing deadlines until June 1, further extending deadlines that the office had already delayed in March.

"The USPTO will continue to evaluate the evolving situation around the COVID-19 outbreak and the impact on the USPTO's operations and stakeholders," the USPTO said in Monday's announcement. "At this time, the USPTO does not anticipate any further blanket extensions beyond what is articulated in today's notice."

The office added, "In addition to this extension, and although some of the other relief provided in past notices is ending, other extensions of time and other relief remain available to those who need it on a case-by-case basis."

Many deadlines for patent and trademark filings are governed by statute and typically cannot be extended by the USPTO. However, the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act granted the office temporary authority to extend the deadlines during the crisis.

Attorneys told Law360 in April that the deadline extensions will be useful for many companies and firms whose business has been disrupted by the crisis, while others are likely to continue making an effort to get filings in on time and obtain their patents and trademark as quickly as possible.

The USPTO also previously waived other requirements that didn't require congressional approval, including certain fees to file petitions seeking to revive patent and trademark applications abandoned based on missed deadline if the request is accompanied by a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Monday announcement stated that those petitions must be filed by July 31 to be eligible.

The office in May outlined broad parameters to file a delay due to the pandemic, and said the leeway covers situations in which the filer or attorney or their family is "personally affected" by the outbreak, such that it "materially interfered" with their ability to meet the deadline. 

--Additional reporting by Ryan Davis and Mike LaSusa. Editing by Emily Kokoll.

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