Trade Mark Strategy During COVID-19
04 Apr '20

Intuitively, now may not feel the right time to be investing in the international protection of your trade mark. We get it. However, in the near future, economies will recover and the world will return to business as usual. As seen in 2008-09 during the global financial crisis, economies continue to operate and business activity rejuvenates.

Everyone is reviewing and reconsidering their expansion plans for new products and services including new commercialisation markets. However, it is important to also consider the position post-crisis.

During the global financial crisis, there were many instances of entities (distributors, business partners or unrelated third parties) seeking to take advantage of the uncertainty. One common activity was the attempt to register the trade mark of the brand owner:

  • For resellers, distributors and others in the supply chain, this was ostensibly to protect the brand but, in some cases, to provide a point of leverage in the contractual arrangements.
  • For unrelated third parties, the intention was often more nefarious and may have been aimed at hijacking the brand in certain markets, or for other goods or services.

The recent spate of ‘COVID’ based trade mark applications around the world is illustrative of the opportunistic approach some may take. 

Existing brand owners, in all sectors, need to be vigilant against attempts by others to register similar or identical trade marks. Equally, steps should be taken to ensure that sufficient protection is in place with the various enforcement authorities (such as Australian Border Control and other overseas’ customs authorities) to ensure that counterfeit products are seized and action is taken against infringing parties.

On a broader commercial level, it is usually far less expensive in the long run to secure and retain control of intellectual property rights now than to engage in future expensive and uncertain legal proceedings to try and wrestle control of your IP rights from a third party. Remember also there exist excellent government grants, such as the Export Market Development Grant program, available to assist Australian business exporters to recoup costs associated with implementing their international IP protection strategy (including international trade mark registration costs). 

Protect your brands. Stay positive everyone.