TAKEAWAY: The USPTO is authorized to modify statutory deadlines impacted by the COVID-19 National Emergency.
Under the COVID-19 relief bill (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act) enacted on Friday, March 27, 2020, the USPTO has been given authority to “toll, waive, adjust, or modify” any statutory or regulatory deadlines impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Such changes are authorized if the USPTO finds a material effect on the functioning of the Office, prejudice to patent or trademark rights, or an inability of applicants/owners to file documents or fees. Notice of any extensions or other modifications will be published by the USPTO. The granted authority extends during the duration of the emergency set forth in the National Emergencies Act of March 13, 2020, and a 60-day period following such duration.
The USPTO has already taken measures to assist patent applicants and owners since a national emergency was declared on March 13, 2020. These measures include waiving fees to revive an unintentional abandonment and waiving the requirement for handwritten signatures for certain documents, including credit card payments not made electronically. Nearly all patent documents can be filed electronically, other than certain submissions such as patent term extension (PTE) applications, plant applications, and certified copies of foreign priority documents. USPTO offices have been closed to the public since March 16, 2020, with in-person meetings rescheduled to take place remotely.