The Healing Cabinet is a boutique cannabis dispensary supply company based near Santa Cruz. But in the weeks since the novel coronavirus swept across the country, it’s gotten into a different business: hand sanitizer.
THC, as the company is cleverly acronymed, is now selling a product branded as “COVID Killer,” an ethyl alcohol-based disinfectant marketed by a sister company called DHM Group. According to its Instagram page, COVID Killer is now available at Ace Hardware stores in the area.
Whether it remains in local retail or goes national, DHM is determined to protect its brand. Two weeks ago, the company applied for a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, hoping to claim sole ownership of the COVID Killer tagline. And they’re not the only ones who have branding on the mind as the pandemic lingers.
Trademark applications filed with the Patent Office show an explosion in products marketed in some fashion as related to the virus. Nearly 200 applications containing the words “coronavirus” or “COVID” have been filed since March 29, the first time either word appeared in a trademark application, according to USPTO’s online database.
Many are simple word marks designed for apparel, jewelry, and bumper stickers, with catchphrases like “I survived COVID-19” and “COVID Lives Matter.” But those trademark applications also include branded coronavirus tests and vaccines, personal protective equipment, technology products designed to assist health care workers, medical and dental devices, and even fitness programs that promise to help you shed your “COVID-19 lbs.”
It’s simple enough to apply for trademark protection for one’s brand or product. Applicants must clearly explain the mark they hope to protect and provide a snapshot of it, along with information about the individuals or companies trying to protect it. Trademarks can be re-upped indefinitely as long as the applicant submits the proper paperwork with the USPTO every 10 years, but it’s up to the applicant to take legal action to enforce that protection.
Taken together, the scores of coronavirus-related applications provide a glimpse into a cottage industry of products designed to treat the coronavirus outbreak or marketed as a response to it. The companies seeking to protect their coronavirus-branded products run the gamut from multinational pharmaceutical firms to individuals hawking homemade goods—and, in the case of THC, at least one cannabis industry company that’s hoping to get in on the action.
Some of the companies that have applied for coronavirus trademarks are names that most Americans would recognize. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has protected three marks: COV-BEAT, COV-BLOCK, and COV-BARRIER. It’s not clear what each of those products are (the company didn’t respond to inquiries about them), but Lilly is deeply involved in efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
Other drug companies have trademarked their coronavirus treatments as well, though some appear to be less orthodox responses to a viral outbreak. The company JayMac Pharmaceuticals, for instance, has protected a brand called the Coronavirus Blues, which, it told the USPTO, involved “gel caps for reducing symptoms related to emotional and psychological issues.”
The Coronavirus Blues appears to be a simple rebranding of JayMac’s EnLyte vitamin supplement, which the company hypes as a panacea for depression and anxiety.
“As a gesture to the nation, to help with behavioural health issues,” JayMac’s CEO says in a video promoting its Coronavirus Blues product, “we have an introductory offer for ENL of $29.95.”
Other newly trademarked products are more focused on the immediate threat of the coronavirus itself. Massachusetts-based T2 Biosystems has protected its T2COVID-19 Panel test kit. Charter Oak Development, a North Carolina health care product sourcing company, has trademarked its COVID-19 Rapid Test. A Vermont-based artificial intelligence startup called Biocogniv has trademarked a product called COVID-AI, which it says “can screen and predict outcomes for COVID-19 within the first hour of presentation to emergency departments.”
Trademarks in the PPE space, meanwhile, have come from companies such as Jamestown Plastics, which is making protective face shields, branded COVIDCUFF, that it’s sold to medical personnel and first responders. A Portland dentist named Edward Ward has trademarked a medical face shield for use specifically by dentists.
For all the ingenuity and urgency that comes through in many of recent coronavirus-related trademark applications, some appear to be marketing stunts as much as anything else. One recent application sought to protect the phrase “COVID-19 lbs,” a product that the applicant said would involve “weight loss programs and cosmetic body care services in the nature of non-surgical body contouring.”
The underlying business: an Orange County cosmetic surgeon.