On June 3, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) launched a COVID-19 Response Resource Center (“Resource Center”) to provide a central hub for information about the PTO’s efforts and other helpful information for stakeholders and other interested parties in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Resource Center is intended to improve access to PTO initiatives, programs, and other helpful intellectual property (“IP”)-related information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.
In launching the Resource Center, Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the PTO, emphasized that, “The USPTO stands shoulder-to-shoulder with inventors and entrepreneurs and is working on a variety of measures to incentivize, protect, and disseminate COVID-19 related innovation. The COVID-19 Response Resource Center will provide inventors, entrepreneurs, and IP practitioners with a centralized destination to access information and assistance needed to meet the challenges of these times.”
The Resource Center will allow users to easily view information on a number of critical initiatives to aid the public throughout the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Among the resources available are the following:
* patent and licensing resources for inventors, entrepreneurs, or businesses interested in contributing to critical medical technologies and include the Patent Pro Bono Program and “Patents 4 Partnerships” IP marketplace platform for licensing opportunities;
* innovation incentives, including the launch of the COVID-19 Prioritized Examination Pilot Program for accelerating the evaluation of patent applications directed to COVID-19 related technologies, including the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and the PTO has also launched a program which encourages voluntary early publication of patent applications;
* initiatives to educate and prevent trademark counterfeiting and consumer fraud in the marketplace related to COVID-19; and
* international updates, with the World Intellectual Property Organization compiling Information from foreign IP offices on measures taken to assist stakeholders during the global health crisis.
As to trademark counterfeiting and consumer fraud, the PTO recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in fraudulent activity, including the advertising and sale of counterfeit treatments and products. The PTO has identified several resources available to help healthcare workers and the general public identify and report instances of fraud and counterfeiting related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Those resources include: i) the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) Fraudulent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Products, which can be found at https://www.fda.gov/consumers/health-fraud-scams/fraudulent-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-products; the United States Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) COVID-19 related fraud initiatives, which can be found at https://www.dhs.gov/news/2020/04/24/fact-sheet-dhs-taking-covid-19-related-fraud; and the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) Coronavirus Advice for Consumers, which can be found at https://www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams-consumer-advice.
With respect to trademark counterfeiting, the PTO has the following “four P’s” advise for consumers and healthcare workers on how to spot a counterfeit product or service:
* Place: Are you buying from a trusted source, either in-person, on-line, or at a physical store?
* Price: If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
* Packaging: Does the packaging look “off,” e.g., graphics and printing blurred, colors imbalanced, labels not on straight, misspellings?
* Product: Does the product and labeling have a quality look? Does it look comparable to what you’ve purchased before? Is this product known to have been counterfeited?
If you have encountered fraud or counterfeiting related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PTO is recommending that fraudulent schemes and suspected counterfeit products be reported to DHS at COVID19FRAUD@DHS.GOV; scams or other consumer problems can be reported to the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1; and unlawful sales of internet medical products related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be reported to the FDA at https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/email/oc/buyonline/english.cfm.
According to the PTO, the Resource Center will be updated on a continuing basis to incorporate new information, programs, and initiatives.
If you have any questions regarding the Resource Center initiatives or have been the victim of trademark counterfeiting or fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, or need assistance with the filing of any trademark documents or fees, contact the Chair of our Trademark Practice Group, Scott Fisher, at (516) 393-8248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.