Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has tried to ease the burden on patent owners and applicants. The key USPTO initiatives are summarized below.

I. Waiver of paper filing requirements for plant patent applications and related correspondence

Normally, the USPTO does not allow the electronic filing of plant patent application and follow-on documents. However, on May 4, the USPTO issued a notice temporarily waiving the paper filing requirement for plant patent applications and follow-on documents. The waiver is in place “until further notice.” For the electronic filing of new plant patent applications, the official USPTO forms must be used. While the temporary waiver is in place, paper filings still are possible.

II. Extension of certain patent and trademark due dates falling between March 21 and May 31 to June 1, 2020

As previously noted, the USPTO used its authority under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to grant a 30-day extension for certain due dates in patent and trademark matters having a due date between and including March 27 and April 27. On April 28, the USPTO again issued notices for patent and trademark matters, indicating that for certain matters the due dates are additionally extended.

For patent matters, the USPTO extended the due dates for the previously identified matters until June 1, 2020, i.e., any response falling between and including March 27 and May 31 will be considered timely “if filed on or before June 1, 2020” along with a statement that the delay was due to COVID-19. However, the notice did not expressly provide extensions of time for America Invest Act trial proceedings. Such extensions may be obtained by contacting the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Separately, the USPTO has generated a form that can be used to indicate that the delay was due to COVID-19 (PTO/SB/449 Statement of Delay Due to COVID-19 Outbreak). However, the USPTO has not indicated whether relying on such an extension will generate applicant delay for patent term adjustment. A similar extension was granted for certain trademark matters.

A listing of all of these notices and other COVID-19-related notices are available on the USPTO website.