Tasteless efforts to cash in on coronavirus


Coronavirus is not the only thing spreading rapidly around the world.

So too are rather crass attempts to cash in on the pandemic.

More than 20 opportunistic entrepreneurs in the US and UK (with highly questionable taste, we might add) have already sought to trademark either "CORONAVIRUS'' or "COVID''.

Just one bloke has tried to do that already in Australia and, wouldn't you know, he calls Queensland home.

Yes, documents lodged with the Federal Government's IP Australia office last week show a Brisbane resident named Chris Adams has sought to trademark "COVID-19'' for a range of unspecified entertainment, publishing and television services.

No decision has yet been made on his application and it can take up to 18 months for such a submission to be accepted by the Trade Marks Office and then registered.

Hopefully, by then, the viral crisis now gripping the globe will have wound down and it eludes us why anyone would want to be reminded later of this nightmare.



So who is Chris Adams?

He didn't return a call seeking comment yesterday but he describes himself online as an "advisor, strategist, speaker, author'' and "an internationally recognized new media pioneer and entertainment executive'' with 20 years of experience.

Adams, a native of the US, runs a media consulting group in Brisbane and claims to have worked for Facebook, Amazon, Comcast, Seven West Media and lots of other heavy hitters.

He also claims "to have identified and help develop An Inconvenient Truth for former Vice President Al Gore,'' while, more recently, finding time to write children's books and complete a second PhD.



We have had a glimpse at some of the more egregious examples of aspiring virus trademark ideas floated overseas and they're not pretty.

Among them is a clothing line tagged with "Warning my ride is sicker than coronavirus,'' athletic apparel emblazoned with "I (heart) COVID-19'' and shirts with the brand "Covid Kids''.

The logic of all this escapes Brisbane legal eagle John Swinson, an intellectual property specialist at King & Wood Mallesons.

He describes these cases, as well as the Adams gambit, as a "fruitless exercise'' since they won't stop others using COVID-19 to refer to the virus.

Swinson likened it to a fruit and veg shop which can still advertise apples for sale while not breaching the rights of tech giant Apple.

It also seems clear that the virus will never create positive associations so why brand your business with it? Shock value, perhaps?

Not surprisingly, it's hardly the first time that a global event has triggered a flood of trademark claims.

Swinson told us that 11 trademark applications were lodged in the US after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.

Entrepreneurs hoped to corner the market on the subsequently popular phrase "Boston Strong'' but all the claims were eventually withdrawn or rejected.

Something similar happened following the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris on the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

An Australian entity applied to register "Charlie Hebdo'' and the free speech rallying cry "Je Suis Charlie'' for both apparel and publishing services. The applications were later withdrawn before they could be considered.



There's been so many we've practically lost count but Adani now faces a fresh legal challenge over its planned Carmichael Mine.

The Environmental Defenders Office, acting for the Australian Conservation Foundation, has announced that it is seeking a judicial review over the Federal Government's de facto approval of water infrastructure for the enormous project.

If the mine proceeds, up to 12.5 billion litres of water from the Sutton River will be used primarily to wash coal and suppress dust.

Originally published as Tasteless efforts to cash in on coronavirus

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