Innovation in Times of Crisis.
Throughout history it has been demonstrated that crises, with all their negative elements, bring forth positive side effects too.
The financial crisis of 2008, caused by the collapse of the Real Estate bubble in the United States, had as a side effect the rise of Airbnb and Uber, whose popularity surged from the people’s need to procure other sources of income, which led them to make their personal assets (houses, vehicles) available to others to cover their deficit.
The crisis caused by COVID-19 in not the exception. There are at least 7 current studies in search for a vaccine, and Pfizer has already received authorization to begin clinical trials for a vaccine in the United States on the first week of May. If the trials are successful, the pharmaceutical company expects the vaccine to be ready at the end of the year. In our everyday lives, the pandemic has also forced upon us radical changes that are visible in consumer’s behaviors, to the point that the mobile delivery app, HUGO, had to launch a new fleet of trucks this week in Nicaragua to deliver grocery purchases; educational institutions of all levels had to switch to an online course modality and remote working has left offices empty.
Some of theses changes are short-term responses to the crisis and will return to normality once the storm passes. However, other changes will prevail until they become new business models like Uber and Airbnb.
Nevertheless, alongside that human innovative spirit, lies another opportunistic one, that we must point out and put aside. A few days ago, while I was consuming my daily overdose of COVID-19 news, I saw a report about the application for registration for a vaccine brand against COVID-19. I was curious and after some online registry consulting I was able to verify that there is indeed a tendency to apply for brands with the word COVID-19. In fact, to this day there are 167 applications for registration before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that include the word COVID-19, and there actually is a request filed on February 11th, 2020 for the designation COVID-19 VAX (abbreviation for vaccine) to protect vaccines. The registrant is not one of the main pharmaceutical laboratories, it is a company named And Still LLC from the United States, that surely expects a grand day when it sells the brand to the laboratory that eventually lands on the vaccine.
This will not happen for the following reasons:
A brand is any visible sign capable of distinguishing products or services, and it grants its owner its exclusive right of use.
Nonetheless, for a sign to be considered as a brand it must be distinctive, this means it must not describe the nature or quality of the product or service it distinguishes. In this case, the brand under consideration COVID-19 VAX, lacks this element given it consists precisely of the usual way to identify the product it intends to protect. It would then, be impossible for a potential proprietor of the brand COVID-19 VAX to prevent others from using this term to identify their products.
The term COVID-19 is synonymous of death and pain across the World, and a petition as the one here analyzed, that is presented by a company that is not in the pharmaceutical business, with evident profit-seeking motives at the expense of a pandemic, without having invested a single dollar in innovation towards the fight against the disease, fits perfectly under the precept for a brand to be declared inadmissible on account of it being contrary to the law, to public order and morals.
The crisis brought upon by COVID-19 demands changes in each one of us, from each of our realities. It compels us to be flexible to adapt and overcome our new living and working circumstances, through an invitation to innovate and search for new opportunities.
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