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| The European | 6 October 2020

An interview with Etienne Sanz de Acedo, CEO of the International Trademark Association

We are living through one of the worst health crises in modern history. The social distancing measures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 have caused an economic fallout of global proportions, leaving almost no sector untouched. Etienne Sanz de Acedo, CEO of the International Trademark Association (INTA) spoke to The European about how intellectual property (IP) has become vital in the current economic climate. 

Etienne Sanz de Acedo, CEO of the International Trademark Association

How has Covid-19 impacted the IP sector?

Etienne Sanz de Acedo: Almost every intellectual property office globally experienced a drop in trade mark filings. While we are seeing a recovery,
trade marks filings tend to mirror economic activity and a global recession may spell trouble for the global IP community. Lower filings implies lower IP budgets for brands and in-house counsel and, therefore, less work for law firms and outside counsel.

Two other trends have emerged. They directly impact IP and demonstrate how the crisis is being exploited: counterfeiters are flooding the market with fake Covid-19 equipment and medicines; and hundreds of trade mark applications including terms such as “covid” or “corona” have been filed globally.

We must figure out how major global crises impact IP. We need to understand what the trends mean for in-house legal teams, law firms, IP offices, and consumers. And we need to develop solutions for the challenges such crises pose.

Have there been any new practices or innovations implemented during the pandemic? 

With physical offices closed, IP offices throughout Europe and around the world have taken measures to maintain business continuity. Most notably, applications can be filed electronically and examined remotely. Where permitted by law, filing deadlines have also been extended. This flexibility has greatly accommodated users working under lockdown conditions.

Brands are also innovating in response to Covid-19. For example, French sporting goods company Decathlon worked with an Italian doctor and 3D printing company to adapt their Easybreath snorkeling mask so it could be connected to traditional respirators. This greatly alleviated the demand for ventilator masks. It is important that the IP community applaud and protect such innovations. 

How has the crisis highlighted the importance of trade marks? 

During the same week that the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic, Interpol conducted Operation Pangea XII. They discovered 2000 websites selling counterfeit coronavirus-related products, made 121 arrests, and seized 34,000 counterfeit and substandard goods related to Covid-19. The goods seized in this one week were valued at €12.5m. Trade marks are the foundation of trust between brands and consumers. They allow for quick, confident, and safe purchasing decisions. Counterfeiting undermines this trust. It is also intensifying the Covid-19 health crisis. 

The IP community must work together to protect consumers, remove counterfeit goods from the marketplace, and advocate for stronger penalties and sanctions for counterfeiters.

We must also take this opportunity to educate consumers about the role of trade marks in their daily lives, on how to shop safely, and about the health and safety risks of fake medical products. In doing so, we will also reinforce consumer trust and the role of
trade marks as indicators of source and quality. ν

Further information

www.inta.org

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