The Impact of Storms on Patent and Trademark Applications
Last week, Hurricane Sandy brought destruction and disruption to large parts of the Caribbean, eastern United States, and eastern Canada. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Sandy as they attempt to recover from the storm. Hurricane Sandy’s impact was felt in both large and small ways across the affected area, including at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO is located in Alexandria, Virginia, and was closed for two days due to the storm. This raises the question, what impact did this have on applicants?
Surprisingly, the impact was minimal. The main effect of the USPTO being closed on October 29 and 30, 2012 is that these days were treated as Federal holidays for purposes of calculating deadlines. Thus, any deadlines that fell on October 29th or 30th were extended until November 1, 2012. Section 21 of Title 35 of the United States Code states that, “[w]hen the day, or the last day, for taking any action or paying any fee in the United States Patent and Trademark Office falls on Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday within the District of Columbia, the action may be taken, or fee paid, on the next succeeding secular or business day.” Indeed, because October 29th was a Monday, any deadlines that fell between October 27th and October 29th were actually due November 1, 2012 thanks to first a weekend and then the closure due to the storm.
The operating status of the USPTO, and indeed all other executive agencies located within the Washington Capital Beltway, may be viewed on the website for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or obtained by calling (202) 606-1900. The last time the USPTO was closed for weather was in February 2010 during the winter weather event known as “Snowmageddon.”
Despite the USPTO technically being closed, USPTO Director David Kappos has reported more than 70% productivity for October 29th and 30th. This is because the USPTO has worked hard over the past few years to implement an extensive telework program. Many examiners routinely work from home at least a portion of the time, and thus were in a position to continue working despite the USPTO being closed. Furthermore, the USPTO’s web-based filing system allowed those of us not affected by the storm to continue filing documents as normal. Thus, while deadlines were extended due to the closure, such extensions were generally not needed outside the affected area.
For those applicants located in the area affected by Hurricane Sandy, destruction from the storm, including flooding and power outages, some of which are ongoing, may have prevented meeting a deadline even by the extended date of November 1st. For those with trademark applications, the USPTO has offered a guide to reviving applications when allowed. Please note that not all applications may be revived; certain deadlines, particularly those in patent applications, cannot be extended. For this reason, it is always best to file documents well in advance of deadlines in case there is a disaster.