In short, most likely no. Would you be able to prevent others from using said terms, also no.

As of today March 20, 4 trademarks using the term Social Distance, 18 using the term CORONAVIRUS, and more than 17 using the term COVID-19 have been filed with the US Trademark Office. Marks such as CORONAVIRUS TAX AMNESTY PROGRAM, COVID- 19 INFECTED,       CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR EST. 2020, COVID- 19 SURVIVOR, FXCK COVID-19, I HEART COVID-19 and many others have been filed most of them for articles of clothing in class 25.

The use of generic and descriptive words to register as trademarks, more often than not fails.

“A term is generic if it is the “common name of a product” or “the genus of which the particular product is a species,” such as LITE BEER for light beer, or CONVENIENT STORE for convenience stores. OBX-Stock, Inc., 558 F.3d at 340.”

“Accordingly, generic terms can never obtain trademark protection, as trademarking a generic term effectively grants the owner a monopoly over a term in common coinage.

“In contrast, descriptive terms, which may be protectable, describe a “function, use, characteristic, size, or intended purpose of the product,” such as 5 MINUTE GLUE or KING SIZE MEN’S CLOTHING. Sara Lee Corp. v. Kayser-Roth Corp., 81 F.3d 455, 464 (4th Cir. 1996). In order to be protected, a descriptive term must have acquired secondary meaning. Hunt Masters, Inc. v. Landry’s Seafood Rest., Inc., 240 F.3d 251, 254 (4th Cir. 2001).”

“A term which is descriptive… may, through usage by one producer with reference to his product, acquire a special significance so that to the consuming public the word has come to mean that the product is produced by that particular manufacturer. 1 Nims, Unfair Competition and Trademarks at §37 (1947). This is what is known as secondary meaning.

To establish secondary meaning, it must be shown that the primary significance of the term in the minds of the consuming public is not the product but the producer (citations omitted). This may be an anonymous producer, since consumers often buy goods without knowing the personal identity or actual name of the manufacturer.” Ralston Purina Co. v. Thomas J. Lipton, Inc., 341 F. Supp. 129, 133, 173 USPQ 820, 823 (S.D.N.Y. 1972).

Remember, the most important  function of a trademark is to exclusively identify the commercial source or origin of products or services. Meaning, a trademark must serve to identify a particular business as the source of goods or services. Thus, none can claim they created those terms and they are the only owners of those terms.

In conclusion, Coronavirus, Covid-19 and Social Distancing terms are generic and/or merely descriptive terms none of which have acquired secondary meaning thus most likely these trademark applications will be rejected.

I have helped countless small to medium sized businesses navigate the intricacies of genericness  and descriptiveness in trademark law to secure and protect their intellectual property rights. I’d like to help you too by protecting your rights to trademarks, copyrights, and other intellectual property rights in the US and overseas before a trademark squatter does.


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