CNIPA Quick to Reject Bad Faith Trademarks

Source: China Daily

Some seeking to profit amid national battle against current novel coronavirus outbreak.

While the whole nation has been united in its battle against the novel coronavirus, a few bad eggs have been seeking to profit from it.

As of March 5, the National Intellectual Property Administration had turned down 100 bad faith trademark applications in connection with the epidemic for "their potential to cause negative social effects" in accordance with China's Trademark Law.

These applications attempted to trademark Chinese names such as Li Wenliang, Zhong Nanshan, Huoshenshan and Leishenshan. They were filed by 55 applicants, according to CNIPA.

Li Wenliang was an ophthalmologist working at Wuhan Central Hospital who died from the virus on Feb 7. He was among the earliest to sound the alarm about the virus when it first emerged in Wuhan, Hubei province.

Zhong Nanshan is a prominent respiratory specialist who led the response to the SARS epidemic in 2002-03. At the age of 83, he has again risen to the occasion and is serving as one of the most trusted voices during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Huoshenshan and Leishenshan are the names of two emergency hospitals recently built to treat infected patients in Wuhan. Construction workers toiled around the clock and tens of millions of people across the country watched the hospitals rise via livestream to show support.

The names "symbolize the unity of the Chinese people in the fight against the disease", CNIPA said. "Applications filed by applicants other than the hospitals themselves are likely to cause significant negative social effects and are therefore rejected."

Public outrage over such filings shows no sign of abating after some applicants withdrew their applications and apologized.

"It's not legal knowledge that they lack-it's integrity!" read the most up-voted comment on a post about an applicant's apology on social media platform Sina Weibo.

"They must be severely punished," read another.

CNIPA is giving special scrutiny to more than 1,500 trademark applications related to the epidemic and looking into the trademark agencies involved.

Law-breaking trademark agencies and individual agents will be punished by regulators of multiple sectors and be given no or very limited access to policy incentives and government programs. The breaches will also mark their credit history.

"These bad faith applications are the unsurprising result of focusing on quantity over quality in terms of trademark filing activities," said Li Shunde, a senior researcher with the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The action taken so far by IP authorities has been swift and necessary," Li added, citing the rejections and a set of guidelines introduced in early February to crack down on bad faith trademark filings related to the epidemic.