Rush for CORONA marks at the Indian Trademark Registry

India
  • There are currently 25 pending applications for marks containing the word ‘corona’ in Class 5 at the Indian Trademark Registry
  • The Coronil tablets have caused controversy as they were initially launched as a treatment for coronavirus
  • Consumer perception of the term ‘corona’ is now adversely associated with the disease

 

Recent applications

The business opportunities created by the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in many small and large 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 marks containing the term ‘corona’. All of these marks were filed between March and June 2020. The earliest application, dated 8 March 2020, is for the mark DHL CORONAVIRUS PREVENTIVE. It relates to a food supplement and was filed by a company trading as Dalmia Healthcare Limited, Delhi.

Other notable trademarks are:

  • NOCORONA;
  • ZEROCORONA;
  • CORONASH (a combination of ‘corona’ and ‘nash’, a Hindi word meaning ‘finish’ or ‘end’); and
  • ANTI CORONA TWENTYTWENTY 20 20 - HAND SANITIZER SOFT ON HANDS. TOUGH ON VIRUS.

In addition, an application for GO CORONA GO, filed by Cathode Pharmaceuticals in May for hand sanitizers, among other products, is interesting as this phrase was made famous by a sitting member of Parliament when coronavirus was making its presence felt in India. He organised a protest during which this phrase was repeatedly used, and a rap artist later converted it into a song.

Another twist came with the launch of the Coronil tablets by famous yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s Divya Yog Mandir Trust. The Coronil formulation of herbs and minerals was initially announced as a treatment for coronavirus. However, such a claim quickly clashed with the government authorities, as the tablets were qualified as being immunity boosters, rather than a cure for the disease. The product is now sold only as an immunity booster. The Baba Ramdev organisation had already applied (in June 2020) for the marks CORONIL VATI and CORONIL TABLET for ayurvedic, herbal and pharmaceutical preparations, covering a wide range of goods in Class 5. It is arguable whether the use of the mark CORONIL (a combination of ‘corona’ and ‘nil’, which signifies ‘putting an end to corona’) for an immunity booster formulation is in fact misleading.

Registrability of CORONA marks

The word ‘corona’ is now obviously associated with a disease which has been declared a global pandemic and, to date, has no cure. The question that comes to mind is why would anyone want to brand their product/s as ‘corona’? It seems that, other than for products sold to help fight the virus (eg, sanitisers, immunity boosters and masks), the consumer perception of the term is now adversely associated with a disease. Corona beer is a case in point. It will be interesting to see whether any of the applications in Class 5 will pass the distinctiveness test and will be granted registration. The applicants will have to provide evidence that the marks have acquired distinctiveness through extensive use. Overall, such marks will be considered as weak from an enforceability perspective, especially when the reference to the disease is apparent.

Rajiv Suri and Ranjan Narula, RNA Technology and IP Attorneys

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