By Kanishk Agarwal and Surbhi Kapoor
With the increasing concerns over health and safety amid COVID-19 pandemic which has taken down almost all major economies of the world, the national governments have been spending millions of dollars on building health and medical infrastructure facilities to fight against the life threatening virus.
The COVID-19 virus is transmitted in most instances through respiratory droplets, direct contact with cases and also through contaminated surfaces/objects. Though the virus survives on environmental surfaces for varied period of time, it gets easily inactivated by chemical disinfectants.
All the international and national organizations, governments and medical experts have unanimously recommended usage of hand sanitizers or any alcohol-based hand rubs as an alternative for soap and water wash for 20-30 seconds. In the ongoing fight against the coronavirus, health organizations have mandated two important facets to help protect against the deadly virus – hand hygiene and the hygiene of frequently touched surfaces.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, even issued guidelines on disinfection of common public places including offices.
Looking at the increasing demands for medical equipment, ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, personal hygiene and health care products etc., the manufacturing companies had at a very early stage of spreading of the novel Coronavirus, anticipated a quick rise in the demands of personal hygiene and health care products by the consumers.
Having seen in the growing increase in the demands for personal hygiene and health care products in India, many Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) who have been in business of manufacturing products for personal and homecare, are also lined up their production facilities for production of these high demanding personal health care products like hand sanitizers and thereby, increase their share of market profits out of these products during this time.
The Indian Government has recently permitted 45 distilleries and 564 other manufacturers to produce hand sanitizers. Further, the government has already put masks and hand sanitizers by amending the Schedule of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 fixing its maximum retail price.
Trademark filings for sanitizers in India
On May 12, 2020, the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi addressed the whole nation to announce a special economic package with a new resolution. This economic package which comes to around Rs. 20 lakh crores was introduced by the Hon’ble Prime Minister with an aim to serve as an important link in the ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ aka ‘Self Reliant India Campaign’. This package mainly targets growth for India’s local cottage industry, home industry, small-scale industry and the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The Prime Minister also emphasized on buying local products and promoting them, in order to become ‘vocal for their local’. The Prime Minister also focused on broadening the scope of reforms to improve tax system, infrastructure, human resources and building strong financial system which will encourage business, attract investment and strengthen our resolve for Make in India.
With a drastic increase in demand of masks and hand sanitizers in India wherein the consumers have now realized that these products are essential for day-to-day requirements in order to maintain hygiene, various local manufacturing companies / SMEs having been inspired to manufacture local products much competent to the global products, are encouraged to file for trademark applications with the Indian Trade Marks Registries for registration of their brands / marks for “sanitizers for household use” and “alcohol-based antibacterial skin sanitizer gels” in class 5 on either intent-to-use basis or user claim.
An added advantage to obtain registration of its mark is that the trademark / brand registration will provide exclusive right to the applicant / proprietor to exploit it for its products. In addition to the above advantage, the applicant / proprietor gets a right to take action against any third party who may try to infringe or pass off their goods as that of the applicant / proprietor. It can also help in taking action against counterfeiters in the market, who not only pose a health risk/ hazard but also malign the reputation of the original manufacturer.
Ever since March 2020, the Indian Trade Marks Offices have been flooded with trademark applications filed by various manufacturers / SMEs, with almost around 350 trademark applications filed only during the months of March, April and May of 2020.
The following table includes a handful of trademark filings from March to May, filed for “sanitizers” in class 5 in India –
ALGEN’S GO CORONA
Data source: Online records of Trade Marks Registry (ipindiaonline.gov.in)
Trademark filings in United States
The manufacturers all over the world have become vigilant in protection of their IP rights for personal health care products like hand sanitizers. There has been an upward movement of trademark filings in United States by various small scale pharma manufactures. In between March 1, 2020, and May 4, 2020, there have been 3,671 trademark applications filed with the United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) for “hand-sanitizing” goods.
A way forward
While there is an upsurge in trademark filings for “hand-sanitizing” products, the applicants / proprietors are advised to first conduct cost-effective trademark clearance searching and thereafter file trademark applications in their respective jurisdictions to mitigate the risks involved and to become aware about prior registered proprietors of similar / identical trademarks filed for “hand-sanitizing” products in class 5.