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Businesses piggyback on coronavirus crisis with corona-related trademarks

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)



Applications to register trademarks reminiscent of the deadly novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, are on a rapid rise in Korea, according to data from the Korean Intellectual Property Office.

Since the government reported the first confirmed case of the acute respiratory disease on Jan. 20, a total of eight trademarks christened “corona” have been applied for at the patent office -- from both individuals and companies. 

The growth in applications of such trademarks coincided with the increasing number of patent applications for anti-bacterial face masks and hand sanitizers, amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The country’s confirmed coronavirus cases amounted to 7,134, with 50 deaths, on Sunday. 

Among the trademark applications are “Corona Killer,” and “WCCORONA,” coined by an advertising agency and construction material provider, respectively, which do not produce goods or services directly related to the virus. Trademarks applied for by individuals include “CORONACOP” and “No Corona.”

“The buzzwords for trademarks are getting public recognition, so many people use them as part of their marketing strategies,” said Bok Byung-joon, a patent attorney at KAI International IP Office. 

“If a brand’s trademark does not appropriately indicate its quality and characteristics, its application is likely to be rejected during a review process.” 

According to Section 33 of the Trademark Act, a trademark including words or images unrelated to a product’s actual properties or uses cannot be registered. In that sense, they have little chances to obtain a trademark right, he said. 

However, there is also a company that has applied a trademark for its services aimed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The Dash, a website providing information on areas hit by the coronavirus outbreak and routes of the confirmed patients, has registered a trademark of its search engine, named CORONAITA, meaning “here is where coronavirus is,” in Korean. 

Corona, which refers to an aura around the sun, has actually been a popular name for years among manufacturing companies here.
The latest trademark applied for before the coronavirus outbreak was CORONA, a brand registered by local massage chair maker Bodyfriend.

In China, trademarks named after hospitals and renowned doctors in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak, have been registered by companies as a means of marketing, drawing criticism from the public. Citing negative influence on society, the Chinese government has banned the registration of such trademarks.

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)



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