How is the SIC Working at the Moment?
March, 2020 - Juan Cadena
In recent days, COVID-19 has been the greatest destabilizer worldwide. The World Health Organization defines coronavirus as an extensive family of viruses that cause respiratory infections that can range from common cold to serious health complications such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). For its part, COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, which was completely unknown before its appearance in Wuhan (China) in December 2019. However, and contrary to what was previously indicated, some studies indicated that the world had its first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) on November 17, 2019, where patient zero was a 55-year-old person living in Hubei, a province that at the time was the epicenter of the epidemic that has completely frightened the world.
Similarly, the World Health Organization highlights that a person can contract COVID-19 through contact with someone who is infected with the virus. Specifically, the disease is spread through the saliva particles coming from the nose or mouth that come out when the infected person coughs, exhales or speaks, where, in addition, if said particles fall on surfaces or objects, people who enter into contact with the mentioned surfaces can contract the disease if they come to subsequently touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Also, people can get COVID-19 if they inhale saliva particles from an infected person who coughs or exhales particles.
Due to the great problems that all continents began to experience due to the multiple and incessant infections, the Ministry of Labor of Colombia, following the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the same country, issued Decree 0018 on March 10, 2020, setting out the following measures to prevent infection by COVID-19:
- • Adopt flexible working hours for public servants and employees with the aim of diminishing the risk due to exposure on peak hours or hours with massive flow of people in the transportation system. Having a lower concentration of employees within the workplace and improving air circulation.
- • Reduce face-to-face meetings and concentration of people in reduced workplaces with low ventilation to mitigate the spread of respiratory diseases and COVID-19 due to close contact.
- • Avoid places with crowds in which it may be possible to act with ill people.
- • Agree with public servants and employees the option of telework or remote work.
Subsequently, on March 17, 2020, the Colombian Ministry of Labor issued Decree 0021, which suggest the best work environment for employees and managers in the public and private sector. In other words, the use of work at home, flexible hours or telecommuting.
Initially, teleworking for the two sectors was only possible for people with specific conditions, for example, people: i) who had mild and moderate respiratory symptoms; ii) that at the time had come from a country with incidence of COVID-19 cases, such as China, Italy, France and Spain; or iii) that had contact with patients diagnosed with COVID-19. However, in order to put to an end the expansion of COVID-19 in Colombia and due to the increase of people infected in our country, most of the entities in the public and private sector decided to send a large part of their workers to carry out teleworking.
In view of the above, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (the SIC) was not the exception since from March 16th, its employees are teleworking and fully fulfilling with their functions. Additionally, the same day, the SIC issued Resolutions 11792 and 11927, with the measures that said institution will take with regard to the legal terms.
Particularly, the SIC through said resolutions established the suspension of the legal terms of the administrative actions from March 17th to March 31st, 2020, including those related to industrial property. Accordingly, responses to formal and substantive requirements, oppositions filings and their responses, appeal filings, examination requests, and annuity payments whose terms expired at this time are suspended.
Therefore, for the legal terms counted in working days, the days of suspension will not be counted in the computation of the term granted to the applicants to respond and/or file responses, oppositions, appeals, etc. For example, if the deadline to file a response is on April 10th, with the suspension of terms, applicants will have more time to respond because the days of the suspension will be added to said deadline. On the other hand, if the term is counted in months and the expiration day occurred on one day of the suspension period, the deadline to submit the request or response will be the first working day following the termination of the suspension, in this case, April 1th, 2020.
Although the SIC suspended legal terms, the Patent office’s database known as SIPI, will be fully operable to search for documents, make payments during the period of the suspension, as well as file all types of documents such as: responses to formal and substantive requirements, oppositions filing and their responses, appeal filings among others.
Furthermore, the SIC established that during the suspension of the terms, the Delegation for Industrial Property will not issue administrative acts that generate deadlines for applicants.
Finally, the Patent Department will continue booking interviews with Examiners by phone or email, and these will be conducted remotely.
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