South Africans are renowned for being quick off the mark when they spot a possible opportunity and the current global pandemic has proved to be no exception. The trademarks COVIDBAN, CORONA GUARD and CORONA CARE were applied for at the South African Trade Marks Office between the 3rd and 16th of March 2020.
“Not a complete surprise,” says Bernadette Versfeld, a partner at law firm Webber Wentzel. “There are always opportunists rushing to register a trade mark and this time they are seeking to benefit from the biggest news story of our time. All three marks have been applied for in the pharmaceutical goods category, one is described as an antiviral sanitiser.
“CORONA or COVID are perfect examples of a weak trade mark given that they are entirely descriptive of the goods the businesses are seeking to market,” Versfeld says. “No one can claim a monopoly to these words, certainly not in relation to these types of products in any event. Given that our country is still in the reasonably early stages of the pandemic, we can expect further applications of this nature to be filed. It will be interesting to see how the examiner at the Trade Marks Office deals with them.
“Of course, the incorporation of the CORONA trade mark for pharmaceutical products and subsequent use raises the question as to whether Constellation Brands, the owner of the beer label CORONA, will oppose the trade mark applications given that CORONA is well known in relation to beer.
“We can only hope that more inventive and distinguishable brands than COVID are created for products being made to combat Covid-19,” she says.