May 7, 2020 - In France, the government declared a national state of public health emergency for a period starting March 24, and ending on May 24. This period has now been extended to July 24. The measures taken by the French government include an Order that extended many legal deadlines from March 12 to the end of the health emergency period.  

These measures do not apply to European Union, or international Intellectual Property Offices (EUIPO, EPO, WIPO) nor to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), which have each provided their own directions. 

Even though Courts and IP Offices have granted extensions, suspensions and postponements, IP owners and litigants should when possible proceed diligently with any necessary steps and legal action that they would ordinarily take in order to avoid likely procedural bottlenecks after the pandemic and state of public health emergency(-ies) end. 

France 

In France, the postponement mechanism provides that any act or formality required by law or regulations under penalty of invalidity, sanction, lapse, foreclosure, time-bar, non-enforceability or inadmissibility that should have been carried out between March 12 and the end of the state of emergency in France shall be deemed to have been effected in time if the act or formality is carried out within a deadline not exceeding, from the end of the state of emergency, the time legally allowed to carry out the act or formality, up to a maximum of two months. 

Legal deadlines, acts and formalities that expired or were due before March 12, or will expire or become due after the end of the state of emergency remain unchanged. 

  • French Courts

Proceedings for summary hearings are managed by the central registry and the procedure for proceedings without a hearing applies without the parties being able to object. Summary hearings that had already been scheduled have been cancelled since March 16, and decisions postponed. Only absolute civil emergencies will be heard by the courts within a framework that prevents the spread of the virus. In IP matters, judges have not processed requests for patent, trademark or copyright infringement seizures, or for preliminary injunction procedures. 

Paris First Level Court: The Paris courts have been closed to the public since March 16, and have significantly reduced their activities. No telephone or physical reception is provided except for urgent and essential judicial formalities and procedures, and messages sent by lawyers using the online platform RPVA are not processed by the court. The Paris courts have been unable or reluctant to use videoconferencing tools due to security concerns and have not processed their dockets because of digital communication platforms that cannot be accessed remotely by court clerks. Proceedings for summary hearings are managed by the central registry and the procedure for proceedings without a hearing applies without the parties being able to object. Summary hearings that had already been scheduled have been cancelled since March 16, and decisions postponed. Only absolute civil emergencies will be heard by the courts within a framework that prevents the spread of the virus. In IP matters, judges have not processed requests for patent, trademark or copyright infringement seizures, or for preliminary injunction procedures. Since March 16, court hearings, including status conferences, have been cancelled and scheduled decisions from have been postponed.

Cases on the merits, for which written submissions have been closed and trial dates had been scheduled between March 16 and May 10 and between May 11 and June 24 will be dealt with under a procedure without a hearing for oral arguments. A period of 15 days from April 27 is set to allow lawyers to object to a procedure without a hearing for oral arguments. Absent an objection from any of the parties, the case will be decided without oral arguments. 

The Paris First Level Court published detailed guidance on how it will resume full operations on May 11 with the following information concerning the 3rd chamber of the court specialized in intellectual property matters: 

  • summary hearings scheduled from March 16 to May 11 will be decided by judges using the procedure without a hearing for oral arguments. The court will notify the parties’ representatives before the hearing. Priority will be given to the electronic transmission of documents and briefs via a specific platform; 
  • infringement seizure requests will normally resume from May 11, but it will only be possible to make written submission until the summer. Requests must be filed at the reception desk and must include the e-mail address and telephone number of the party’s representative to allow the judge to request additional information; and
  • requests for authorizations to fast track preliminary injunction procedures or requests for hearings by appointment will be examined by the specialized magistrates two days a week, except for emergency situations as from May 11. 

The 3rd chamber of the court, specialized in intellectual property, issued a statement on its strategy after resuming operations after May 11, stating its priorities are (i) to hand down 90 judgments that have been pending during the confinement, which are to be readied and formatted by the court clerk in order to be delivered and (ii) to reschedule procedural hearings that were to be held since March 17 and which have been postponed due to the confinement. Pre-hearing status conferences will use electronic communications only at least until mid-June and it is the responsibility of counsel to move cases forward among themselves as much as possible. Judges can ask attorneys to communicate documents to them via a specific platform. As noted above, infringements seizures are examined by a judge on duty without oral arguments.

Paris Court of Appeals: Cases with scheduled oral arguments up to April 30 were suspended with status conferences scheduled as from September 28 to set new hearing dates. 

With the exception of motions, all cases scheduled between March 16 and May 24 will be decided without hearings for oral arguments under the following conditions:

  • cases scheduled for oral argument hearings between March 16 and  May 10 are subject to the express agreement of all the parties, failing which the case shall be remitted for determination; and
  • for cases scheduled for oral argument between May 11 and 24, parties may object within 15 days of the notice of receipt from the presiding judge notifying them that the case will be decided without oral arguments, unless the court had already rescheduled a status conference in the fall to set a new procedural calendar. 

French Supreme Court: proceedings before the French Supreme Court have been suspended until further notice.  

  • French Patent and Trademark Office (INPI)

The INPI’s offices are closed to the public until at least June 2. Since April 1, 2020, trademark cancellations and patent oppositions before the INPI are going forward and proceedings can be filed by electronic submissions. The INPI further issued a specific notification that provides that deadlines that had not expired as of March 16 were extended for 4 months, except for deadlines to file trademark oppositions.

European Union 

  • Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and EU General Court

The CJEU and EU General Court are processing non-urgent pending cases. Since March 16, the CJEU and the EU General Court have rendered 86 decisions and enrolled 52 new cases on the court docket. 

Deadlines to be set by the Court Registry as from that date onwards have been extended one month. Oral argument before the CJEU and the TPUE may resume from May 25. The parties’ representatives are informed accordingly.

Time limits for appeals continue to run and the parties are bound by them, statutes of limitations and the time limits set by the CJEU and EU General Court in proceedings under way, with the exception that urgent proceedings, expedited proceedings and proceedings for interim measures are extended by one month. For newly scheduled hearings, the representatives of the parties to the cases concerned will be informed by the Registry. Oral hearings before the CJEU and EU General Court scheduled between March 16 and, respectively, April 30 and May 15 have been postponed.

  • European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)

All deadlines relating in particular to rights of priority, opposition periods, requests for renewal, appeals and conversions (with the exception of deadlines for appeals to the EU General Court against decisions of the EUIPO Boards of Appeal) expiring between May 1 and May 17, that affect all parties in proceedings before the EUIPO are extended until May 19. In the event parties to proceedings choose to discharge their procedural obligations before the expiry of this extended time limit by submitting observations and documents, or performing any other procedural act, the relevant time limit will be considered exhausted and the proceedings will continue without extensions.   

International IP Office

  • European Patent Office (EPO)

All deadlines expiring on or after March 15 were extended to May 4. This also applies to international applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). 

Oral proceedings before the Examining and Opposition divisions scheduled for hearings up to April 30 have been postponed, unless they have been confirmed to take place by means of videoconferencing with the applicant’s consent. Other activities of the Examining and Opposition divisions continue but are slowed. No oral proceedings will be held before the EPO Boards of Appeal until May 15. 

  • World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO)

Services are maintained including online filing of applications (WIPO, PCT, Madrid and Hague systems), as well as administration of intellectual property and related systems, including the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center. 

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