Rush for CORONA marks at Indian Trademark Registry

The business opportunities emerging from health scare caused by coronavirus pandemic, has resulted in many small and big pharmaceutical companies worldwide filing for trademarks containing the word CORONA. India is not far behind. A search in class 5 shows 25 pending applications for the marks containing the expression CORONA. All of the marks have been filed from March to June 2020. The earliest application is dated March 8, 2020 for a food supplement under the mark DHL CORONAVIRUS PREVENTIVE by a company trading as Dalmia Healthcare Limited, Delhi. The other notable trademarks are NOCORONA, ZEROCORONA, CORONASH (a combination of CORONA and NASH, a Hindi word which means finish or end), ANTI CORONA TwentyTwenty 20 20 – Hand Sanitizer Soft on Hands. Tough On Virus. Also, an application for GO CORONA GO filed by Cathode Pharmaceuticals in May for hand sanitizers, etc. is quite interesting as this phrase was made famous by a sitting member of Parliament when Coronavirus was making its presence felt in India. He organized a protest where this phrase was repeatedly used, and later, a rap artist converted it into a song as well.

Another twist in the CORONA marks adoption to create an association with the virus came with the launch of CORONIL tabs by the famous Yoga guru, Baba Ramdev’s Divya Yog Mandir Trust. The CORONIL formulation of herbs and minerals was initially launched as a treatment for Coronavirus. However, such a claim ran into hurdles with the Governmental authorities especially as it qualified as being an immunity booster rather than as cure for the disease. The product is now sold only as an immunity booster and not Corona cure. The Baba Ramdev organization had already applied for the mark/s CORONIL VATI and CORONIL Tablet for ayurvedic, herbal, pharmaceutical preparations etc., covering a wide range of goods falling in class 5 in the month of June 2020. It is rather arguable whether the use of mark CORONIL, (a combination of CORONA and NIL) that signifies putting an end to CORONA though used for an immunity booster formulation, is in fact misleading.

Registrability of CORONA marks

The Coronavirus obviously has an association with a disease, which is declared a global pandemic, and as on date, it has no cure. The question that comes to mind is, why would someone want to brand its product/s CORONA? It seems other than the products sold to fight against the virus (such as sanitizers, immunity boosters, masks etc.,) the consumer perception of the mark is also important which is, in any case, now associated adversely with a disease. The CORONA beer is a point in the example. It will be interesting to see if any of the trademarks in class 5 will pass the distinctiveness test and granted registration. The marks will have to show evidence of having attained acquired distinctiveness by extensive use. Overall such marks will be taken as “weak mark” from the enforceability perspective, especially when their reference to the disease is apparent.

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