In most systems, when a legal deadline falls at the weekend or on some other non-working day it is automatically extended to the next working day. In the past the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) subscribed to this approach to life. However, according to the latest newsletter from the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), when the UK IPO launches its new renewal fee payment system in the spring of 2020 it will abandon this approach in its treatment of the payment of renewal fees.
Under the proposed system it will be possible to pay renewal fees 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, and the UK IPO has taken the view that since it will be possible to pay the fee on a non-working day, proprietors will no longer have until the next working day to do so. In practice, this means that if a patentee sends instructions to a patent renewals manager on a Friday evening to pay a fee that is nominally due the next day (Saturday), the fee will be late if the patent renewals manager only pays the fee on the following Monday. In future, therefore, there might no longer be any non-working days for renewals departments.
There seems to be no good reason for this significant change in practice. It does not really follow to say that because the UK IPO can accept renewal fees 24/7, renewal departments must be prepared to pay them 24/7. Historically, during weekends and on other non-working days staff didn’t have to work and businesses were able to shut their doors, and it is not clear why this should not continue to be the case with the advent of 24h payment facilities. The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys is reportedly making strong representations on this matter, however, and it is hoped that this inexplicable change from the UK IPO will be reversed before it comes into force.