Reaction to the novel coronavirus—the SARS-CoV-2 virus—is changing every day as jurisdictions take measures to limit the spread of infection. Foley & Lardner LLP has formed a multi-disciplinary Coronavirus Task Force, which is staying abreast of the latest developments, responding to evolving client needs, and providing a robust, online library of alerts, insights and thought leadership on the business implications and legal considerations related to the outbreak. Foley’s Coronavirus Resource Center is available to help your business react—and be proactive—during this challenging time. Below, we outline March 16, 2020 updates from the USPTO, federal district courts, and Federal Circuit.
The USPTO has announced that, out of “an abundance of caution,” all USPTO offices will be closed to the public beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, until further notice. The USPTO previously announced that all in-person meetings with members of the public would be conducted remotely instead, including all examiner interviews, PTAB/TTAB hearings, and similar meetings. Nevertheless, and while the USPTO always encourages electronic filing, we have confirmed that documents still can be filed by “hand carry” delivery to the Customer Service Window in the Randolph Building at 401 Dulany Street, in Alexandria, Virginia.
Deadlines, including new and existing patent and trademark application, prosecution, and PTAB deadlines, are not extended. However, the USPTO “considers the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak” to be an "extraordinary situation" within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.183 and 37 CFR 2.146 for affected patent and trademark applicants, patentees, reexamination parties, and trademark owners, and will waive the fee for certain petitions to revive if the delay in filing the reply that led to the abandonment was “due to the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.”
Federal district courts are limiting public access and many are postponing hearings and even trials based on advice from state and local health officials.
As stated in a public advisory and administrative order issued March 16, 2020, the Federal Circuit has restricted access to the National Courts Building complex in order to protect the safety and health both of court staff and the public. The only public access permitted will be counsel and parties with scheduled in-person hearings and members of the press with media credentials. Even for those people, access will be limited to the lobby, courtroom, reception area, public corridors, and attorney lounge areas. The order does not alter or extend any deadlines, and will remain in effect until amended or rescinded. The court previously limited in-person hearings to those in which counsel is local to the National Capitol area, and either canceled other hearings or changed them to be telephonic. Documents to be delivered to or filed with the court may be submitted by mail or deposited in the court’s night box located at the garage entrance on H Street NW, between 15th Street and Madison Place, Washington, D.C.
While companies are shifting towards a work-from-home paradigm to protect employee and public health, they should not lose sight of the cybersecurity and data security risks associated with a remote workforce. This article from Foley’s Coronavirus Resource Center highlights steps companies can consider implementing to mitigate the risks of suffering negative impacts from the protective measures they are taking against the coronavirus.