PCT Receiving Office Guidelines

Chapter II: General

Irregularities in the Mail Service and Excuse of Delay in Meeting Time Limits

28.  Delay or Loss in the Mail of a Document or Letter Sent by the Applicant. Delay or loss in the mail shall be excused when it is proven to the satisfaction of the receiving Office that the document or letter concerned was mailed at least five days before the expiration of the time limit, provided that the mailing was by registered airmail or, where surface mail would normally arrive at the destination concerned within two days of mailing, by registered surface mail. Evidence of the mailing and, where the document or letter was lost, the substitute document or letter as well as the evidence concerning its identity with the document or letter lost, shall be submitted within one month after the date on which the interested party noticed – or with due diligence should have noticed – the delay or the loss, and in no case later than six months after the expiration of the time limit applicable in the given case (Rule 82.1(a) to (c)).

29.  Use of Delivery Services. Any receiving Office may accept the use of delivery services other than postal authorities and apply the provisions of Rule 82.1(a) to (c) as if the delivery service was a postal authority, provided the details of the mailing were recorded by the delivery service at the time of mailing. If the receiving Office has notified the International Bureau under Rule 82.1(d) that it accepts the use of delivery services other than postal authorities, it must proceed as outlined in that Rule. The receiving Office may, on a case-by-case basis, accept the use of delivery services even if it has notified the International Bureau that it is not prepared to do so in general.

30.  Excuse of Delay in Meeting Time Limits.  For actions to be performed before the receiving Office, any delay in meeting a time limit is to be excused under Rule 82quater if the receiving Office is satisfied that the following conditions are met:

(a) the time limit was not met due to war, revolution, civil disorder, strike, natural calamity, general unavailability of electronic communication services or other like reason in the locality where the interested party resides, has his place of business or is staying;

(b) the relevant action has been taken as soon as reasonably possible;

(c) the evidence provided by the interested party is in a form acceptable to the receiving Office; and

(d) the evidence is received by the receiving Office not later than six months after the expiration of the time limit applicable in the given case. In the particular case of general unavailability of electronic communications services, the interested party must establish that the outage affected a widespread geographical area rather than being a localized problem, that it was unexpected or unforeseen, and that there was no alternative communication means available to him. Actions to be performed include the submission of documents, responses to invitations and the payment of fees. Whether the interested party has taken the relevant action “as soon as reasonably possible” is to be judged by the receiving Office on the facts of the case. Commonly, this would mean within a short period of the cause of the delay ceasing to apply. For example, in cases where a strike prevented an agent from reaching his office, it would be expected that the action should in most cases be taken either the next working day or shortly thereafter, depending on how much preparatory work had been disrupted. On the other hand, where a disaster has resulted in the complete destruction of an agent’s files, it would reasonably be expected to take longer to reassemble all the necessary documents and systems to allow the necessary action to be taken. Rule 82quater does not specifically refer to the action being taken “as soon as reasonably possible after the removal of the cause of the delay”, because an interested party should still be expected to take reasonable steps to overcome problems in cases where it can be seen that the relevant emergency situation will continue for a considerable period and the interested party is not himself prevented by the emergency from taking remedial action. As to the form of evidence acceptable to the receiving Office, for example, a news report from a reliable mass media outlet, or a statement or announcement from the relevant national authority should normally be acceptable for this purpose. In the case of general unavailability of electronic communications services, a statement from the provider of Internet services or the company providing electricity to the interested party may also be acceptable. The excuse of delay only applies to time limits fixed in the Regulations and not to the priority period (for restoration of the right of priority, see paragraphs 166A to I). The receiving Office should promptly inform the interested party of its decision (Form PCT/RO/132). A copy of the request, any evidence furnished and the decision should be sent to the International Bureau.