US Patent and Trademark OfficeOn Friday, March 13, in response to the coronavirus disease (“COVID-19”) outbreak, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) announced that “Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) oral hearings, and other similar in-person meetings with parties and stakeholders scheduled to take place at USPTO offices on or after Friday, March 13, 2020 will be conducted remotely by video or telephone.”   Although the announcement was unequivocal, the PTAB has recognized the disruption it has caused and has shown to be accommodating to parties.

On the same day as the announcement, the Deputy Clerk duly ordered that an oral hearing previously scheduled for March 25 in one case be conducted by video.  Ocular Therapuetix v. Mati Therapeutics, Inc., IPR2019-00448, Paper 48.  The following Monday, March 16, the parties submitted a joint email request that the hearing be rescheduled for April 14, “given the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the closure of the offices of counsel and the USPTO.”  IPR2019-00448, Paper 49.  The PTAB quickly concluded that good cause was shown, and issued an order rescheduling the re-hearing as requested.  Id.

In this case, the parties and the panel acted quickly and demonstrated flexibility in the face of a rapidly evolving situation.  PTAB practitioners would be well-served by showing similar initiative and limberness to put themselves in the best position to advocate for their clients in the midst of trying circumstances.