Monday 21 September 2020

COVID-19 - Adapting to change in a time of crisis

COVID-19 has changed the way we live, communicate and do business. In this time of drastic change and upheaval, innovative entrepreneurs and businesses across the world have used this opportunity to redefine ordinary business practices and bring new products and services to the market. New Zealand is no exception. 

COVID-19 trade mark filings

As new business opportunities have presented themselves, several new trade marks have entered the market. New Zealand has seen a spike in COVID-19 related trade mark applications, especially from local applicants.

Unsurprisingly, some have taken advantage of the crisis by filing trade mark applications for COVID-19 or CORONAVIRUS. In New Zealand, several such applications have been filed, including:

  • I SURVIVED COVID-19 covering ‘clothing’ in class 25 and ‘advertising’ in class 35
  • COVID-19 2020 covering ‘clothing’ in class 25 and ‘retail services’ in class 35
  • NEW ZEALAND 100 PERCENT COVID FREE covering ‘clothes’ in class 25 and ‘advertising’ in class 35
  • ANTI-COVID19 stylised covering ‘sanitizers; antibacterial sprays; antibacterial pharmaceuticals’ in class 5.

These applications are still under examination, and are likely to encounter objections from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) on the basis the trade marks are descriptive, non-distinctive or are contrary to public policy.

Several domain names incorporating the word COVID have also been registered, including covid.nz, covid.co.nz, covid.geek.nz and covid.org.nz. There are, as of yet, no operational websites attached to these domain names.

New opportunities in a time of global upheaval

COVID-19 has caused a sharp rise in the demand for a broad range of consumer goods, including cleaning products, canned food, baking ingredients, personal protective gear and disinfectants. As quarantine measures have severely disrupted supply chains, there also is a new demand for different foodstuffs and locally produced products.

Benefiting from the campaign to ‘buy local’, New Zealand businesses have ramped up the production and development of food, personal protective gear, digital services and other quarantine-related commodities. Since December 2019, more than 2000 New Zealand trade marks have been filed for ‘food’, more than 300 for ‘anti-bacterial’ products, and more than 600 for ‘masks’.

The New Zealand government has supported this effort, providing local businesses with a $50 billion COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. An additional $12 billion has been invested in significant infrastructure projects under the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

In many places, however, the situation remains serious, both for businesses and individuals. In this time of fear and isolation, remaining hopeful about the future can be difficult. 

Nevertheless, many New Zealand businesses have re-opened their doors, and some have embraced the opportunity to innovate and to adapt in this time of crisis. All in all, it looks like New Zealand is back in business.  

This article was first published by Managing IP . Kathleen Henning is Managing IP’s international correspondent for New Zealand.