By Kristin Hardy, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
As of June 16, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has implemented a new examination program to expedite trademark applications related to COVID-19 in light of the current economic circumstances caused by the global pandemic.
Under this program, the USPTO will accept petitions to advance the review process of an initial application examination for marks used to identify qualifying COVID-19 medical products and services. The fee for such a petition will be waived.
The purpose in implementing this new expedited examination program is to move successful products and services to the market as soon as possible given the need for such products and services. The intent is to balance the fundamentals of trademark law — that is — preventing consumer confusion and protecting a business’s commercial brand and facilitating the advertisement and sale of successful products and services that will aid in some shape or form issues created or impacted by COVID-19.
To be eligible for the expedited examination program, one must seek registration for one or more “qualifying” COVID-19 medical-related goods and/or services as described as follows:
• pharmaceutical products or medical devices such as diagnostic tests, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, including surgical masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves, that prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure COVID-19 and are subject to approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration; and
• medical services or medical research services for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment of, or cure for COVID-19. See “Relief Available to Trademark and Service Mark Applicants in View of the COVID-19 Outbreak: Petitions to Prioritize the Initial Examination of Certain Applications.”
The examination will take place in the initial review process. If one’s petition is accepted, the application will be immediately assigned to an examining attorney for review, cutting approximately two months out of the usual three-month initial review timeline. Applicants can keep the ball rolling by timely responding to any office actions. The normal publication and opposition period will remain in place.
Currently, there is no end date to this new expedited program, though the USPTO will notify the public should amendments be sought or if its termination is looming.
Go to uspto.gov to view the USPTO’s notice for more information. •