In a Notice published March 17, 2011, the USPTO indicated that it is offering relief to patentees and applicants in Japan.
According to the Notice, the USPTO "considers the effects of the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011, to be an "extraordinary situation" within the meaning of 37 CFR 1.183 [Suspension of Rules] and 37 CFR 2.146." However, because "this catastrophic event occurred outside the United States and did not result in a postal service interruption," USPTO has "no authority to designate a postal service emergency as authorized by 35 U.S.C. 21(a)."
Still, the USPTO is making the following accommodations:
For patent applications and reexamination proceedings pending in the USPTO as of March 11, 2011, having one or more inventors, an assignee, or a correspondence address in areas of Japan affected by the earthquake and tsunami, in which a reply or response to an Office action (final, non-final, or other), a notice of allowance, or other Office notice (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Office communication") is outstanding, and for which the statutory or non-statutory time period set for response has not yet expired, the USPTO will, on applicant's request, or a reexamination party's request, withdraw the Office communication and reissue it.
According to the Notice, "[t]he request must be made prior to expiration of the statutory or non-statutory time period set for response and within sufficient time so that withdrawal and reissuance of the Office communication occur prior to expiration of the statutory or non-statutory time period."Also, "[t]he request must be made by using form PTO/SB/425 (when available) or by [mailing] a request accompanied by a copy of [the] notice."
For patentees who were unable to timely pay a patent maintenance fee due to the effects of the earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11, 2011, the USPTO will waive the surcharge in 37 CFR 1.20(h) for paying a maintenance fee during the six-month grace period following the window to pay the maintenance fee and the surcharge in 37 CFR 1.20(i) for accepting a delayed maintenance fee payment when the files the maintenance fee payment with a petition to accept a delayed maintenance fee under 37 CFR 1.378(c). See 37 CFR 1.183.
Our hearts go out to our clients and colleagues in Japan, and to all of the people in Japan, and their families and friends.