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The new extension of the state of emergency approved by the Congress of the Deputies today means that, as expected, the suspension and general interruption measures on judicial and administrative deadlines under Royal Decree 463/2020, of March 14, declaring the state of emergency to manage the public health crisis caused by COVID-19 will continue, as we discussed in this Blog.
In view of how the situation has developed, last week the government approved Royal Decree Law 16/2020, of April 28, on procedural and organizational measures to deal with COVID-19 in relation to the Justice Administration (“Royal Decree Law 16/2020”), approving measures to progressively reactivate judicial activity.
In particular, Royal Decree Law 16/2020 broadly adopted the following measures, among many others:
a) August 11 to 31, 2020 will be business days for all court proceedings (except for Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and in some cases).
b) A new system for calculating procedural periods is established, and the deadline to appeal is extended for terms and periods suspended under Royal Decree 463/2020. Those periods will start over from the beginning, and the first day counted will be the first business day after the suspension of the proceedings is lifted.
Furthermore, the periods for announcing, preparing, formalizing and filing appeals against judgments and other resolutions concluding proceedings that are notified during the suspension of deadlines, as well as those notified within the 20 business days after the suspension is lifted, will be extended for the period legally envisaged for the corresponding action, i.e., they will be doubled.
As an exception, this will not apply to proceedings whose terms were exempt from the suspension under additional provision two of Royal Decree 463/2020 (e.g., those affecting habeas corpus, fundamental rights, gender-based violence and minors).
c) A preferential processing system is established for certain proceedings, without affecting the preferential nature of other proceedings under procedural law.
A few weeks ago, the General Council of the Spanish Judiciary published a working document on measures targeted at particularly vulnerable groups for the “Shock Plan” in the Justice Administration following the state of emergency. These guidelines aim to facilitate, as much as possible, the resolution of all the cases whose delay could be particularly harmful to economic recovery and to the protection of the most vulnerable groups. The measures include applying back-up mechanisms so the courts are not overloaded, streamlining court proceedings, promoting remote working and holding proceedings online.
Despite this, and although no official, general communication has been issued, some administrations have announced that, from May 11, they will start to bring officers of the Judicial Administration back to work, and that May 25 could be the date the suspension of periods is lifted, meaning that scheduled proceedings could be held normally.
Below we highlight the main developments on the processing and suspension of proceedings on industrial property, data protection and gambling operators:
Spanish Patents and Markets Office (“OEPM”): On April 25, the General Director issued a resolution stating that the OEPM will continue admitting all types of applications for processing. Processes that do not require prior action by the interested parties, and those in which the interested parties themselves accept the non-suspension of the proceedings deadline and can continue the administrative activity, will continue. This measure will only be adopted in processes that, given their bilateral nature between the OEPM and a single interested party, do not affect the rights or legitimate interests of third parties.
It is important to highlight that the interested party’s acceptance as an essential element to exempt the principle of general suspension of deadlines will be considered given when they continue to respond to notices or communications from the OEPM or perform the appropriate formalities, either during or after the period established.
The resolution also includes a detailed list of the proceedings that can continue to be processed based on the interested party’s consent, e.g., those on distinctive signs, patents and industrial designs.
European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”): On April 29, the EUIPO’s Executive Director published a decision stating that all deadlines ending between May 1 and May 17, 2020 (inclusive) and affecting all the parties in EUIPO proceedings are extended to May 18, 2020.
If the parties to EUIPO proceedings decide to discharge their procedural obligations before that deadline (e.g., by submitting comments, documents or performing any other procedural action), the deadline will be considered expired, and the proceedings will continue without ending on its expiry in accordance with the extension of the previous deadline.
Spanish Data Protection Agency (“AEPD”): The AEPD continues to publish new guidelines and criteria on data protection regularly, such as the Report on data processing in relation to COVID-19; the Notification (of April 2) of personal data security breaches during the state of emergency; the Technical Note on recommendations to protect personal data in situations of movement and remote working; and the Communication (of April 30) on stores, work centers and other establishments checking people’s temperature.
Directorate General of Gambling Law (“DGOJ”): The DGOJ has yet to issue any official communication establishing special procedures in its administrative proceedings. Therefore, the periods in proceedings before this administration remain affected by the general suspension. However, the most controversial measures implemented during the state of emergency include the prohibition for gambling companies to do any kind of advertising, which falls under the supervision of the DGOJ.
We will continue to report any further development or measures adopted during the state of emergency.
By Claudia Morgado / IP Team
This post is also available in: Español