El Coronavirus y las solicitudes de marcas

The coronavirus (COVID 19) outbreak has been labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. It may change the world as we know it to a great extent, reordering society in dramatic ways. Besides, it is having serious health and economic implications.

Notwithstanding the above, several individuals are currently applying for trademarks/trade names before the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (SPTO) for different goods and services (from pharmaceutical preparations, disposable masks and gloves to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, clothing, footwear or the kind of services included in class 35, such as marketing or business administration). We guess this is not only happening in Spain, anyway.

It is clear, from the applicants profile, that they are not public or private organizations/companies dedicated to the research, cure or to providing scientific information on the disease but individuals who want to make some profit from the present situation.

We can find, among the registrations applied for, signs such as COVID 19 (word and figurative) in class 5 and 10, I SURVIVED COVID 19, in class 25 or the Spanish version thereof, YO SOBREVIVÍ AL COVID 19, in classes 25, 32 and 35, CORONAVIRUS, class 33 and YO SOBREVIVÍ AL CORONAVIRUS, classes 25, 32 and 35.

Obviously, a sign exclusively consisting of the expression COVID 19 to cover goods in classes 5 and 10 can be refused due to absolute grounds of refusal, as it is merely descriptive (assuming that it does not aim to distinguish a product consisting of the virus, which would be an absurdist approach, but a cure, a vaccine or an item used to protect humans from it). But what happens with the signs applied for that distinguish goods/services that have nothing to do with it?

Such marks are supposed to carry a funny connotation (assuming that making a joke out of this can be funny at all) but they can actually cause offense to people who are suffering from it or professional organizations, such as the ones formed by doctors, nurses or scientific researchers.

According to the Spanish TM Law, these registrations could be challenged due to the legal provision which allows the refusal of trademarks which are contrary to public policy or to accepted principles of morality. But this ground of refusal is supposed to apply restrictively. We will see what happens in the next future with this applications.

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