Quarantine introduced by the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers No.211 dated 11 March 2020 affected all spheres of life and business in Ukraine, including intellectual property.
Quarantine is in effect until 31 July 2020, however, starting from 22 May 2020, the five-stage “adaptive quarantine” plan has introduced its gradual easing.
As of today, the third stage of the adaptive quarantine plan applies to the most territories of Ukraine, except for certain regions. City of Kyiv is still at the stage two having not met the criteria required to move on to the next stage of the eased quarantine measures. Given the statistic on increasing the cases of coronavirus infection, it is hard to predict if the quarantine will end on 31 July.
Below we provide information on how the state bodies and organisations in the field of IP operate during the quarantine. Given that different regions are at the different stages of the “adaptive quarantine” plan, we would recommend referring to the local quarantine guidelines for details. The information below generally related to the bodies and organisations located in Kyiv.
Generally, restrictions in their work relate to visits by the individuals and operation of the reception for submitting documents in person. Thus, hard copies shall be submitted via mailbox located inside the premises. Visiting individuals are required to wear masks. Documents are also accepted by post, e-mail, or by certain electronic systems. Access to said electronic systems can be achieved by using the Qualified Electronic Signature or Electronic Digital Signature (“digital signature”).
On 19 March 2020, Ukrpatent issued a “Notice on the organisation of work of Ukrpatent …“, which determined its state of operation.
Apart from availability to submit documents by post, mail and through the mailbox located at Ukrpatent, documents can be submitted by means of the Electronic Applications Filing Systems EAFS-1, EAFS-2, or by means of the Electronic Interaction System of the Examination Body. Submitting documents and downloading Ukrpatent’s documents can be achieved by using a digital signature of the applicant.
Expert meetings between an applicant (their representative) and Ukrpatent experts regarding submitted applications are suspended.
Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine (The “Ministry”)
A similar approach of limiting personal visits has also been adopted by the Ministry.
Submission of documents is carried out by post, email or a mailbox located at the premises of the Ministry. The Ministry uses its internal electronic system for processing the documents, but the third parties may use the system after entering into a relevant agreement with the Ministry.
On 18 March 2020, the Chairman of the Appeals Chamber published a notice on the work of the Appeals Chamber during the pandemic of COVID-19.
The meetings of the Appeals Chamber are still to be held, however, with a recommendation to limit the number of representatives.
Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine (AMC)
AMC continues its operation during the quarantine.
In a response to marketing and advertising campaign during the pandemic, AMC issued its recommendations. In particular, AMC recommends refraining from advertising medical products related to treatment and/or prevention of coronavirus without official recommendations by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine.
AMC also urges manufacturers not to name products as antiseptic or disinfectant without sufficient grounds to avoid misleading the customers.
Visits by individuals and operation of the reception for personal delivery of hard copies are also limited. All documents shall be sent by post, email or delivered to the mailbox located at the AMC.
Hearings are either postponed to a later date, or held in the absence of the parties.
On 27 March 2020, the High Council of Justice issued recommendation to courts. It ordered to carry on with proceedings in urgent cases.
Thus, courts in Ukraine continued their ongoing activities within certain limitations. In particular, only the parties can attend the hearing. Local courts can postpone hearings if, for example, a party cannot arrive from another city.
Сivil, commercial and administrative process has been amended to reflect an impact of quarantine (the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to certain legislative acts aimed at providing additional social and economic guarantees in connection with the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)” No.540-IX of 30 March 2020).
The procedural terms are effective for the duration of quarantine.
Submitting documents to the court is allowed via electronic service «Electronic Court», a digital signatory from the systems’ user is required to use the system.
Court hearings are conducted as online videoconference via “EasyCon” service (conditional to (i) filing a motion for a videoconference by all parties to a case or filing an application by the party and its acceptance by other parties; failure of a party to connect to a conference being equal to a failure to attend the court hearing). Studying the case materials is conducted via email.
Law enforcement bodies
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and implementation of the containment measures, the law enforcement bodies faced serious restrains of investigative actions and uncertainty with their practical implementation which caused freeze of the most criminal cases. Currently, the law enforcement bodies have overcome the issue and renewed their activity in usual rate.
There were cases when investigative actions were carried out in absence of a complainant. Also, remote investigative actions have been widely applied, e.g. interrogation via tele/video conference. Investigating judges have been given the right to hear cases via videoconferences, while testimony and statements of the parties may be filed in written (they have to be notarized).
To summarise, each and every of the authorities in IP area are fully operational. Moreover, there was a significant push forward in digitalisation as a result of the quarantine. We can see improvement in some procedures and abandonment of the obsolete ones. As an example, previously, studying the case materials was only allowed in court and only by an attorney who could use a camera or portable scanner. Now it is possible to receive scanned copies of such documents by email.