July 13, 2020

Registration trends in times of pandemic

It is widely believed that the registration of Intellectual Property rights is a reflection of the trends, events or situations that occur in a society. The current era, which will be forever identified with the pandemic we are all still going through, is just a clear confirmation. It is worth noting, however, that there are differences between what happens in the field of distinctive signs and what happens in the field of inventions.

As far as trademarks are concerned, it is known that the projection we were talking about usually has a certain time-lag. In the current situation, despite the fact that the publications referring to fashion and accessories tell us of a massive and almost hasty landing of the big brands in the marketing of the essential masks (Mango, Louis Vuitton, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, etc.), it is worth mentioning that, until recently, few firms have registered their logos either at the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office or at the EUIPO.

Is there a clear conclusion to be drawn from this omission? We understand that there is a clear and general conclusion which, in turn, provides us with two particular ones: training in IP among the staff of large companies – with honourable exceptions- is still insufficient. This leads, on the one hand, to ignoring the convenience of trademark registration and, on the other, to the conviction that a certain product is already covered by the registers held by those large firms. Unfortunately, said registrations usually only protect those goods in which the company concentrates the main part of its production.

As far as inventions are concerned, it should be noted that although the first patents referring to the disease have not yet been published, since all national and international legislations require 18 months from the filing of the patent applications to their publication, current knowledge on other beta-coronaviruses that have caused epidemics in the recent past (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) is serving as a starting point for undertaking new research and development activities for the treatment of COVID-19.

In this context it is important to note that since April the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office has been publishing a new technology watch bulletin called “Coronavirus: diagnosis and therapy in humans”. The bulletin is published quarterly and its number zero already reflects a remarkable activity related to the reaction to the serious problems posed by Covid-19. The activity has obviously been focused on the health sector, which seeks the best way to diagnose and treat patients, but there are also large companies and SMEs that, in some cases, have changed their manufacturing lines to adapt them to the urgent need to produce protective equipment, respirators, etc., not to mention the research centres and universities that are making their equipment and capabilities available to the community.

In addition to the coronavirus bulletin, a new technology alert has been launched on the same topic, providing daily updates on the latest patents being published worldwide. With this latest alert, there are now 32 available on the SPTO website related to different technical sectors.

We will be keeping a close eye on developments over the coming months.

Article by Jaume Layola.