No, Seriously, Don't Try to 'Trademark' Coronavirus

Fenwick trademark litigation partner Eric Ball talked to Law360 about the rush of trademark applications at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the terms "COVID" and "coronavirus."

The applications are being filed by opportunistic applicants who believe they can obtain exclusive rights on terms that have captured the national conversation.

Ball noted that the timing of the applications is particularly problematic: “In times of crisis the worst amongst us will try to take advantage of others. Someone could try to claim that a trademark application number from the USPTO has a suggestion of governmental approval, and then claim that their product is sanctioned by the government, making it more likely that someone could be harmed during this crisis.”

Ball also explained that the applications filed at the USPTO reflect a deep misunderstanding of how trademark law works. He told Law360 that U.S. trademark law doesn't simply reward whoever is quickest to file an application, but that applicants must show that they have a bona fide intent to use the term on a specific set of goods and services.

"It's a get rich quick scheme, but like most of these schemes, they fail. Trademark law doesn't support the warehousing of marks. You have to actually use the marks to get rights," Ball said.

Read the full article on Law360 (subscription required).