Trademark offices across US, China, and India are flooded with trademark applications containing Coronavirus. This can be classified as branding strategy or hostile marketing, but what about the legal perspective. Businesses across the world are struggling to find future security and the only viable approach that seems sustainable is based on adaptation.
Contents of this article have been quoted in CNBCTV18 here.
In the last few months, our thinking has evolved drastically to figure out innovative processes and ways to approach business planning. Needless to say, these processes and ways have not been tested before. At a time when everyone is inclined towards inventions, there are some individuals and businesses that are working towards unconventional tactics.
The Global Brand Database managed by WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) reveals some interesting trademarks such as, “Coronavirus Outbreak”, “Coronavirus Survivor”, “Coronavirus Infected”, and “Coronavirus Legal Advice”. These marks have originated from different countries and their respective adaptation to actual business activities can only be determined in the future.
The USPTO or the United States Patent and Trademark Office is loaded with trademarks containing the word Coronavirus, including many interesting and funny brands like, “Love In The Time Of Coronavirus”, “The Coronavirus Blues”, “Coronavirus: Made In China”, “Coronavirus Pandemic 2020 Survivor”, “I Survived The Coronavirus Of 2020”, “Warning My Ride Is Sicker Than The Coronavirus”, “Coronavirus Survival Guide”, “Stop Panicking It’s Only A Pandemic Corona 2020”, “You Touched It, You Got It, Corona”, “Bye Bye Corona”, among many others. Here’s a list:
In the UK, several marks have been registered including, “Corona” for chemicals, “Corono” for pharmaceuticals, “CORONA-CHEX” for pharmaceuticals, “Covid Wars” for pharmaceuticals and other categories, and a really interesting brand named “KEEP CALM AND CORONA-VIRUS ON” for software, stationery, leather bags, luggage, kitchen utensils, clothing, footwear, toys, games, business functions and technical research-related activities.
In India, only a handful of trademark applications containing “Corona”, “Coronavirus” or “COVID19” have been filed. Most of these fresh trademark applications include, “Corona Safe” for handwash, “Corona Sanitizer”, “CORONARUB” for sanitizers, “Corona” for antivirus software, and certain applications for pharmaceuticals including, “Covid-Relief”, “Covid Fighter 4M”, “Covidroxyl”, “COVID ABHAYA”, “COVID SANJEEVINI”, and “Covidium”. As may be seen, none of these marks seem to be malicious but rather fall within the category of opportunistic or strategic marketing.
The general trademark procedure across various countries will involve the examination of all such applications based on local laws, and once the eligibility requirements are met, these trademarks would be registered. In addition, certain jurisdictions also allow for third party trademark oppositions based on certain grounds that can create obstacles in obtaining such registrations.
Assuming that the term Coronavirus will be in the public eye for a major part of 2020, it provides a strong opportunity for various business owners to capitalise on the consumer recall value of this term. However, the message has to be carefully crafted to ensure that the communication with consumers is in full sync with the public mood else it would be a recipe for a disaster.
Advocate Rahul Dev is a Patent Attorney & International Business Lawyer practicing Technology, Intellectual Property & Corporate Laws. He is reachable at rd (at) patentbusinesslawyer (dot) com & @rdpatentlawyer on Twitter.
Quoted in and contributed to 50+ national & international publications (Bloomberg, FirstPost, SwissInfo, Outlook Money, Yahoo News, Times of India, Economic Times, Business Standard, Quartz, Global Legal Post, International Bar Association, LawAsia, BioSpectrum Asia, Digital News Asia, e27, Leaders Speak, Entrepreneur India, VCCircle, AutoTech).
Regularly invited to speak at international & national platforms (conferences, TV channels, seminars, corporate trainings, government workshops) on technology, patents, business strategy, legal developments, leadership & management.