The 'Covid-19' trademark

Applications to register Coronavirus and Covid-19 trademarks multiplied in March. What will happen to them?

The TMView database of trademarks filed with various Offices shows that in March 2020 some 70 trademarks containing the word 'Covid-19' (and fifty odd 'Coronavirus') were the subject of a registration application: Covid-19, Anti-Covid-19, Corona (COVID-19), Provid-19, Covid-19 Patrol, I Survived Covid-19, etc.  

They were filed for the most diverse classes of products and services: clothing, toys, leather goods, sports articles, vaccines, paper and adhesives, distribution of digital images, etc.

This type of registration application often comes from companies, but increasingly from individuals, who wish to surf the wave of current affairs making the news: yellow vests, #metoo, I'm Charlie, etc.
In fact, a registered trademark grants the applicant a monopoly of use in the territory where it was filed and its holder has the right to object to anyone who uses it without their permission, which, in principle, can be a source of profit.

But this is to misunderstand the system! Most of these trademarks will probably not be admitted for registration. Indeed, the conditions are the following: a trademark must be distinctive, available, and lawful.

Distinctive character

The trademark is a sign making it possible to distinguish the products or services of a company or of an individual and to identify their commercial origins. Covid-19 to designate a vaccine against this virus is descriptive and not distinctive.

For the others, repeating a sign that everyone now knows makes little sense. The courts have already judged that a sign does not fulfil the condition of distinctiveness when, at the application filing date, it was in use by a large portion of the public.

Availability

Complying with the availability criterion means anteriority of the sign at the time of filing. The mass of filings means that, at best, only the first filing could be taken in each product class. Indeed, this criterion is assessed in relation to the products or services which the trademark is to be applied to.
And examination covers the visual, phonetic and conceptual similarity of existing trademarks, which, again, given the number of words, slogans and logos which revolve around 'Covid-19', can be restrictive.

Lawful character

To be protectable as a trademark, a sign must not be contrary to public order and to morality.
Would the Offices easily accept this appropriation of concept by an economic actor because of its use and perception by people in these dramatic circumstances?

Whatever the reason, we hope that these offensive trademarks, which cause rightful indignation, are refused by the Offices concerned.