As Vietnam continues to fight the latest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with strict social distancing measures, the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam (IP Office) has issued Notice No. 7581/TB-SHTT dated August 2, 2021 (Notice 7581), extending certain deadlines for IP applicants.
The contents of Notice 7581 are similar to those found in Notice 5277 issued in March 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic. Specifically, Notice 7581 reads as follows:
All procedures related to procedures to establish industrial property rights (priority claims, supplementation of documents, responses to the IP Office’s decisions/notifications, renewal and extension of the validity of protection titles, payment of fees and charges, and filing of appeal petitions) falling due during the period from June 30, 2021, to the end of August 31, 2021, will automatically be extended to the end of September 30, 2021.
For other cases, if an applicant is still affected by the Covid-19 epidemic with regard to the implementation of its rights and obligations in the procedures for establishing rights to industrial property objects at the IP Office, such applicant may request [the IP Office] to apply the clauses on objective obstacles and force majeure as set out in Points 9.4 and 9.5 of Circular No. 01/2007/TT-BKHCN, as amended and supplemented by Circular No. 16/2016/TT-BKHCN.
Observations on the Content of Notice 7581
As with last year’s Notice 5277, it is worth noting that the wording of Notice 7581 covers only the procedures to “establish industrial property rights,” rather than all aspects of industrial property rights. Further, it could be understood that it provides a closed list of industrial property procedures that can enjoy this grace period, and that the deadline extensions would apply only to the specific items listed. Thus, it is uncertain if the deadline extension to September 30, 2021, will also be automatically applied to the following procedures:
- Filing requests for invalidation
- Filing requests for renewal of license agreements
- Filing patent applications
- Filing requests for substantive examination of patent applications
- Filing industrial design applications
- Filing responses to office actions in post-grant procedures
If the deadline extension is not automatically applied to the foregoing procedures, rights holders will need to submit evidence to prove force majeure and objective obstacles to support their late action (if any). In addition, if rights holders proactively request a deadline extension, it is unclear whether the new deadline will be counted from the actual deadline, or from September 30, 2021.
Due to the uncertainties involved in the procedures listed above, and the fact that all applications and requests can still be submitted by post and through the online filing system, to be on the safe side, it is recommended that rights holders take the necessary actions which are excluded from the closed list mentioned above (such as filing a request for trademark invalidation) by the actual deadlines, if possible. Any necessary supplemental documents to support such actions will still enjoy the above grace period and can be submitted by September 30, 2021.