Provision of administrative and legal services in Colombia within the framework of the COVID-19 emergency

Last March 6th, Colombia confirmed its first coronavirus case in the country, and from that time a series of sanitary measures began to be implemented for the contention of the disease. In this way, on March 24th, the mandatory preventive isolation began in the entire national territory, measure that is still in effect at least until July 15th, with a series of exceptions that seek to balance the reactivation of certain economic sectors, social distancing, and the sanitary measures decreed by the National Government.

In reason of this situation, administrative and legal entities have suspended their activities in determined dates, or have modified their attention to the public as indicated below:

A. Colombian Trademark office – Industry and Trade Superintendence (SIC)

Through Resolutions No. 11792 and 11927, the SIC suspended procedural terms of industrial property acts that were to be held between the 17th and 31st of March of 2020, days in which the provision of the service was not available in its physical offices or through its virtual platform. On said dates, the office refrained from issuing decisions, receiving documents or publishing industrial property gazettes, which generated a delay in certain processes and modified the calendar that was initially designed for the issuance of gazettes and the presentation of oppositions.

Starting on April 1st of 2020, the SIC began to provide its industrial property services exclusively through its virtual platform, but the suspension of terms for renewal of distinctive symbols and the payment of maintenance rates for New Creations was maintained until last June 16th, date from which the terms for these processes began again, as indicated by Resolution No. 281822020.

On June 16th, in-person public attention was also reopened, but not before prior request by the users through the channels that the entity will make available for said purpose, and with the presence of only 20% of all SIC employees. In any case, the Trademark Office highlights that virtual attention is still preferred, and in-person services are provided under a series of conditions that allow complying with biosafety protocols.

In summary, the current situation is that the terms are underway for all processes and attention to the public is preferably virtual, with in-person attention being reduced.

B. Colombian Copyrights office – National Copyrights Direction (DNDA)

The DNDA suspended the provision of its in-person services last March 18th, in compliance with that established in Resolution No. 068. From said date, all processes being executed by this office must be performed virtually, whether through the platform made available for this purpose or by making use of the office’s email address.

Since March 18th, procedural terms were also suspended for all jurisdictional copyright acts being carried out by said entity, as well as the delivery of copies or information that require any displacement by employees to the physical installations.

Now, on May 12th of 2020, jurisdictional copyright processes were partially renewed, when these are in determined procedural moments and under very specific conditions that require that the acts be executed digitally.

The physical offices of the DNDA will continue being closed until August 31st of 2020, which implies that all conciliation and arbitration hearings will continue being carried out virtually, situation that is the same for work and contract registration processes.

C. Tribunals and Courts

In Colombia, a suspension of legal terms took place since last March 16th and will be in effect until June 30th of 2020, reason why tribunals and courts will not provide any attention services to the public.

Despite this situation, legal actions that have a close relationship to fundamental rights have continued being processed, and a series of measures have been implemented that allow the development of virtual hearings and the issuance of certain rulings in civil, family, labor, and criminal matters. In this way, to carry out expressly authorized notifications, communications, acts, and diligences, digital means are the preferred method of use, situation that has forced the modernization of many services.

The Superior Judiciary Council lifted the suspension of terms, reason why services began being provided starting on July 1st of 2020, and attention to the public was reinitiated under strict compliance of biosafety and social distancing measures, as well as specific hours of attention determined in each region.

As it is clear from the measures described above, Colombia has prepared its administrative and legal entities to operate under new conditions imposed by the sanitary emergency, and maximize the provision of services in different areas, situation that has driven the digitalization of several activities and has prevented the emergency from fully paralyzing the country’s legal activity.

Natalia Tovar
Associate Attorney