Awful, Awful People Keep Trying To Trademark COVID And Coronavirus

from the stop-it,-stop-it-now dept

Nothing like a pandemic to really make it clear what a terrible person you are, huh? Law360's Bill Donahue (who is not a terrible person!) has cataloged attempts by terrible people to register trademarks related to the pandemic:

As of Wednesday, more than a dozen applications have been filed at the USPTO seeking to register trademarks involving "COVID" or "coronavirus."

One filed by a New York company wants to register "Coronavirus Survival Guide" as a trademark for "magazines in the field of survival, protection, medicine and pandemics." Another, filed by a California man, aims to register "We Cured COVID-19" as a mark for both apparel and "providing information in the field of medicine."

As the article notes, this isn't new behavior. Whenever there's a big news story (can I at least get a pat on the back for not saying a "viral" news story?), profiteers and opportunists rush into to try to trademark stuff. Now, as the Law360 article notes, that's not how trademark law works anyway:

For starters, U.S. trademark law doesn't simply reward whoever is quickest to file a piece of paper with the government. Applicants must show that they have a bona fide intent to use the term on a particular set of goods and services — something most "coronavirus" applicants are unlikely to do.

Remember, unlike patents or copyrights, trademarks are, effectively, a consumer protection tool, to make sure that if you're buying a product that says it's Coca-Cola, you know it's actually Coca-Cola and not Bob's Cola made to look like Coca-Cola. The whole idea is to accurately label something such that you know who is actually behind the product, and can trust the brand.

Indeed, that fact is part of the reason that no COVID or coronavirus trademarks should be allowed. Unless someone is stepping up to say that they created it and they are the sole maker of coronavirus, their entire claim is bullshit in the first place, and USPTO officials (working from home, hopefully) should quickly dump the applications in the trash.

But, in this world in which people are incorrectly taught that "intellectual property" is "the most important thing" America has, and the unfortunate lumping of trademarks in with copyrights and patents, it should be no surprise at all that people seek to opportunistically try to grab monopoly rights to profit off of something that is in the news.

In looking through the USPTO's database, I actually found six different attempts to trademark variations on "I survived the Coronavirus." Nearly all seem to be filed for by individuals who probably just don't know enough to know that they're just wasting everyone's time. On the COVID-19 front, a company named, I kid you not" "The Edibles Club" has tried to trademark a COVID-19 logo for t-shirts -- though, at the very least the application makes it clear that "no claim is made to the exclusive right to use "COVID 19" apart from the mark as shown." Still don't think that will be effective in actually getting the trademark.

One of the "Coronavirus" trademark applications is filed by a company that, I kid you not, claims that is called "Coronavirus LLC" and they want to use a logo for music albums. From the look of the logo, I'm going to assume we're talking some real heavy metal music here. At least that one was filed in early February:

The very first of the Coronavirus-related trademarks appears to have been filed on February 4th, by an enterprising, but small, magazine publisher, Centennial Media LLC, who wanted a trademark on "Coronavirus Survival Guide." As far as I can tell, the company seems to do more trademark hoarding than actual magazine publishing, but perhaps they're publishing them somewhere in secret, which would explain why I'm having trouble finding evidence of any of their actual magazines anywhere on the web despite a bunch of time just spent Googling...

Either way, it's still not going to get the trademark its seeking here.

Some of the other applications are truly ridiculous -- like the LLC trying to trademark "Covid-19 Vax" for any vaccine (no, sorry, not happening). Someone is trying to trademark "Please, Disinfect" with the explanation that they need the trademark "to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but with gentler tone." I'm sure that will win over the PTO examiners. Another company is trying to set itself up as "Kovid Kare" to "help communities and individuals of all ages, educate, document, protect and recover from the impact of Coronaviruses, specifically COVID-19." Yeah, okay. In fact, Kovid Kare has tried to trademark a bunch of related terms, like "Quaranteen," "2020: The Bug War," "I Survived a Real Pandemic," and (I kid you not) "Please, Viruses."

The other multi-filer is one Charles McDermott of Encinatas, California, who actually got a real trademark attorney, Louis C. Cullman of K&L Gates to file almost certainly doomed trademark applications for "I Survived Covid-19" and "Together We Survived Covid-19" that he wants to put on clothing... but also for "charitable fundraising." The USPTO is unlikely to allow any of that.

So, look, please don't file any more of these trademarks. It's wasteful and bad and you should feel bad if you do.

Filed Under: coronavirus, covid-19, trademark, uspto

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  1. icon
    rw (profile), 20 Mar 2020 @ 7:45am

    Re: To be fair…

    Don't worry, they won't.

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