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June 29, 2020 2 min

Today, we're going to talk about COVID and coronavirus in the trademark world.

Whenever there's a big news story or something that just entices the United States population, and in this case, the globe, in this case, it's coronavirus and COVID, and COVID-19, these are new terms that we've never heard before. And there's a huge misconception among the public that if you register something at the USPTO, you own it, and so there was a massive rush. I think more than 200 trademarks were filed since December 19th containing the words COVID or coronavirus.

A couple problems with that, registering a trademark has to be associated with something that is sold in commerce, goods or services. Now, most of these trademark registrations are clothing registrations. So if you register something COVID and you put it on the front of a piece of clothing, that's not doing what trademarks do. That's an ornamental use of the mark. So key here, and this is just a good lesson for everybody out there, is trademarks identify the source of the goods. So the easiest way to think about it is if you look at that shirt that says COVID on the front, if it doesn't say COVID in the label, and that's not the brand of the shirt, or doesn't say the COVID Company on the bag or the COVID line of clothing, then it's not identifying the source or origin of the goods. It's an ornamental use of the trademark or brand. And so that's a mistake that was probably made in about 80% of these 200 plus new trademark applications.

The other challenge they're going to face, obviously with so many trademark applications in the same space with similar names is a likelihood of confusion issue. So I suspect that of these, most of these trademark applications are going to be rejected resulting in thousands and thousands of dollars of loss to the people who filed them without looking into the whole trademark thing.

My advice for today is before you file a trademark application, do your research and maybe talk to a good lawyer.

For more information check out this DBL blog:

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