Please stop wasting your money and filing U.S. trademarks to protect the terms COVID, COVID-19 or CORONAVIRUS. They are not trademarks! As of this morning, there are more than 35 new applications on file, with more than 20 of them all for clothing and apparel items, that claim some type of exclusive branding protection over one of these three terms. None of these trademark applications will be approved by the USPTO. Why? Because the terms COVID, COVID-19, and CORONAVIRUS do not function as a trademark. Allow me to explain further.
What is a trademark?
Remember that a trademark is a word used by an individual or company to identify the source of its goods in the marketplace and distinguish them from those sold by others. Given the proliferation of the applications for apparel alone, none of these applications pass this test. However, these applications have a bigger obstacle to overcome. Our system does not grant valuable Federal protection to whomever files first. The USPTO has a system of rules in place to prevent this type of potential fraud and profiteering to protect the public. It is never possible to reserve a term at the exclusion of everyone else without a bona fide intent to use that term in commerce, especially when that term is a trending newsworthy term. Such terms are considered incapable of functioning as a trademark, since it cannot exclusively identify a source. Remember the Boston Marathon bombing? There were many trademark filings for BOSTON STRONG, all of which were denied. Remember the presidential COVFEFE debacle? All of those trademark applications were denied as well.
Potential for Fraud
Especially with trending newsworthy terms, there is the potential for consumers to be defrauded. I saw a handful of applications for “charitable services,” which makes me skeptical, since the trademark owners are individuals and not 501(c)(3) organizations. I also a couple applications a couple pending applications for hand sanitizers and related goods, also filed by individuals. The point is, please be careful of potential fraudsters. This is not the purpose of trademarks or the trademark act. So, please, America, stop filing these trademark applications. Your applications will not be approved. Think of another way to put your talents to use during these unprecedented times. When you are ready, we are here to assist you with your trademark needs.
If you have a trademark question or help with your trademark application, please contact us for more information. Please be safe everyone and stay inside. Together, we will get through this.
Stacey C. Kalamaras is the founding partner of Kalamaras Law Office, LLC. She has extensive intellectual property experience with a particular focus on trademark prosecution and enforcement. She has protected some the world’s largest brands in more than 150 countries and specializes in helping small and medium sized businesses grow and protect their brands. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacey is also the founder and lead instructor of Trademarkabilities®, an online trademark academy for lawyers, whose mission it is to prepare lawyers to be confident and effective practitioners before the USPTO. To learn more, please visit https://www.trademarkabilities.com/.