Having affected the entire world, the Covid-19 pandemic also had an impact on trademark law as it has other areas of law. When considered in detail, we see that trademark law is affected in various aspects by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a matter of fact, when we look at the period during March, April, and May, when the pandemic just started, one of the most apparent examples of this impact is that the number of trademark applications throughout the Covid-19 period has risen, although the number of trademark applications in total has decreased. Worldwide, known trademarks have changed their trademarks during this pandemic period, aiming to show their customers their awareness and sensitivity during this period.
The Impact of the Period on Trademark Applications
During March, April, and May when Covid-19 started to show its impact, the number of trademark applications has declined in Turkey. The reason for this decline is the economically unstable situation in which the main actors of the trademark applications that are the companies from various sectors were in during the period rather than the technical impossibilities. After all, trademark applications may be made online. On the other hand, there has been an important increase in the following period in trademark applications, in comparison to 2019.
It can be seen from the official statistics that the number of trademark applications has decreased in the first period that Covid-19 started to show its impact. The figures increased, respectively, by 29.2% and 20.5% in January and February, 2020, as compared to the same months in 2019. On the other hand, according to the official statistics of the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office (“Office”),1 the numbers of trademark applications in March, 2020, when the first Covid-19 case was detected in Turkey, has decreased by 4%, as compared to the figures in March, 2019. The most dramatic decrease in the number of trademark applications occurred in April when Covid-19 had more impact in Turkey. There was a decrease by 22.6% in April, 2020, when compared to the same month in 2019.
On the other hand, with the introduction of the ‘new normal’ notion and the decreasing impact of Covid-19 when compared to April, in May, the decrease in trademark applications has regressed. In June, when many of the restrictions in effect were terminated, and the ‘new normal’ was implemented, an increase beyond expectations occurred, and the number of trademark applications increased by 138.3%, as compared to the same month of the previous year. This trend continued in the following period and, in 2020, trademark applications increased by 27% to 170.590, as compared to 2019.
Graphic 1 Number of TÜRKPATENT Trademark Applications, TURKEY, 2019-2020
Source: https://www.turkpatent.gov.tr/TURKPATENT/statistics/, 28.01.2021
Table 1.1 Numbers of TÜRKPATENT Trademark Applications
When the statistics of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (“EUIPO”) are observed, we see that the period has been relatively stable throughout Europe2. Indeed, there has neither been an integral increase, nor a decrease, in the trademark applications during March, April and May, when Covid-19 started to show its impact. According to the data and, likewise, in Turkey, the highest rate of decrease occurred in March and April, and an increase began to be apparent in May. In June, there was an increase in the number of trademark applications, as compared to the same month of the previous year, and this trend has continued during the rest of the year.
Graphic 2 Number of EUIPO Trademark Applications, 2019-2020
Source: EUIPO Statistics in European Union Trade Marks 1996-01 to 2020-12 Evolution
Table 1.2 Numbers of EUIPO Trademark Applications
Within this timeframe, we can state that the figures in Turkey have recovered after the dramatic decrease in April, and the year ended with the highest rate increase in recent years for Turkey, but the whole period was experienced in a more stable way in terms of trademark applications before the EUIPO and, like in Turkey, the year ended with an increase in comparison with the previous year for applications before the EUIPO.
Trademark Applications Related to the Covid-19 Period
With the Covid-19 pandemic, phrases like “Koronavirus” (Coronavirus), “Korona” (Corona), “Sosyal Mesafe” (Social Distancing), and “Evde Kal” (Stay at Home), have become a part of our daily lives. This has also affected trademark applications. Hence, we can find the phrases that are related to the pandemic like “Covid-19,” “Coronavirüs,” “Koronavirüs,” “Sosyal Mesafe,” “Covid,” “Korona,” etc., as a part of trademark applications since the beginning of the year 2020.
It has been detected in the research made in the trademark records of the Office that some of the trademark applications have been rejected after the first examination, and the registration process of others continue.
It can be stated that the Office rejects trademark applications with the phrases “Covid-19,” “Korona” and “Corona,” when they are applied for the classes 03, 05, 09 and 10, which include cleaning, health, medical and protective materials, in general, except when they have an additional distinctive device or phrase. For instance, it has been decided that for the trademark application “”numbered 2020/32607, the registration process continues for the classes 03 and 05, and that for the trademark application numbered 2020/79814, the registration process shall continue for the classes 03 and 35. On the other hand, the trademark application “Korona” numbered 2020/38152 has been rejected for the class 03, and the trademark “CoronaVac” numbered2020/102931 has been rejected for the classes 05, 10, 35 and 44. Likewise, the trademark application for “Coronagel” numbered 2020/10514, and the trademark application for numbered 2020/93106, were rejected after the first examination for class 05, including “Disinfectants, antiseptics (microbe killers), detergents for medical purposes, medicated soap, disinfecting soap, antibacterial hand lotions.” On the other hand, we see that the trademark application for “Hyper Corona” numbered 2020/35062 has not been rejected for class 05 that includes the same goods, and is published in the Official Trademark Bulletin.
It is also noted that Office does not generally reject trademark applications with phrases “Covid-19,” “Korona” and “Corona,” for the goods and services that cannot be defined as ‘descriptive.’ Within this frame, it has been decided that the registration process of the trademark applications for “ ” numbered 2020/45781 for class 35 “” numbered 2020/58441 for classes 28 and 41, and “Korona Günlerinde Aşk” numbered 2020/35152 for classes 09 and 41, and trademark application numbered 2020/135119 for class 09 shall continue. Likewise, the trademark application “Corona” numbered 2020/14479 for class 13, including, “Firearms, air guns, spring arms and adapted cases and shoulder straps therefor. Heavy weapons, mortars and rockets. Fireworks. Defence gases for personal use,” has not been rejected after the first examination, it has been published in the Official Trademark Bulletin, and it has been registered. However, the trademark application for “” numbered 2020/34233 for classes 01, 18 and 25 and the trademark application for “Covid-19 Korona Salgın” numbered 2020/60308 for classes 38 and 41 have been rejected.
It is noted that the Office also rejects trademark applications related to the Covid-19 period with the phrases “Sosyal Mesafe” (Social Distancing) and “Evde Kal” (Stay at Home), unless they have distinctive devices or phrases. Within this framework, the trademark applications “Sosyal Mesafe” numbered 2020/38434 for classes 35, 41, 42 and 44 “ ”, numbered 2020/43475 for classes 25 and 35, “Evdekal” numbered 2020/36708 for class 35,“” numbered 2020/46933 for class 42, “” numbered 2020/42290 for class 30, have been rejected by the Office. On the other hand, the trademark application for “Tadelle Evde Kal” numbered 2020/42291 for class 30 has not been rejected after the first examination and, upon having been published in the Official Trademark Bulletin, it has been registered. Likewise, it has been decided that the trademark application numbered 2020/63883 for class 35 shall be published in the Official Trademark Bulletin.
The Approach of Existing Trademarks in the Covid-19 Period
Existing trademarks have tried to cope with the Covid-19 period with various approaches. Worldwide-known trademarks have created many commercial films raising awareness about the importance of social distancing and staying at home. Apart from this, the trademarks that can be called “social distancing trademarks,” have been one of the methods that the trademarks adopted.
Trademarks in Turkey have also changed their logos in this way, and have participated in the trend of creating “social distancing trademarks.
SAs a result, the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected the entire world, has also had an impact on trademark law in many ways, as well as all areas of law. While the total number of trademark applications before the Office decreased during March, April, and May, when the pandemic had just begun, the trademark applications related to the Covid-19 period that included phrases like “Korona,” “Corona,” “Covid,” “Sosyal Mesafe,” (Social distancing) and “Evde Kal,” (Stay Home) have increased rapidly. At the end of that period, unlike as it was expected, the total number of trademark applications in 2020 increased, in comparison with the last year. Existing trademarks have made temporary revisions in their trademarks and slogans in parallel with the Covid-19 period.