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Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice






Famous and sensational events often lead to several entities filing trade mark applications that include terms related to these events. The most recent example of this phenomenon is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to large numbers of (largely controversial) filings worldwide.

In this article, I review the applications including the terms ‘COVID’ and ‘Coronavirus’ filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2020 based on the data available and recorded by the end of January 2021. These data offer significant information related to the type of products for which the applications were filed, the type of filing entities, the legal basis for filings and the timing of these filings throughout the months of 2020.

In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic led not only to a large number of filings for medical and pandemic related products, but also, and even more, for unrelated and promotional products. Individuals and small businesses were the largest groups of filing entities. Moreover, over two-thirds of the filings were submitted based on intent-to-use rather than use in commerce. Not surprisingly, the number of filings closely mirrored the development of the pandemic during the various months of 2020. Perhaps, one of the lessons that could be derived from the COVID-19 pandemic, and this unprecedented number of applications, is the need to further study the phenomenon of ‘sensation-drive’ trade mark filings and the problems that these filings can represent for the trade mark system.

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Oxford University Press

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