Trademark owners are wielding their intellectual property rights to stop COVID-19 scams and prevent the spread of misinformation about the ongoing pandemic. With the injunctive power of the Lanham Act, medical supply companies, software companies and even educational institutions are able to quash scams and misinformation.
Earlier this year, 3M launched what has grown into a widespread campaign of almost two dozen lawsuits targeting price gougers for infringing its trademark rights. Third parties unassociated with 3M were charging exorbitant prices for their inventories of 3M products. These scammers use 3M’s trademarks to make offer sheets and price lists appear legitimate. Several of these lawsuits successfully, and quickly, enjoined these third parties from continuing to sell 3M products using 3M’s trademarks.
More recently, another medical supply manufacturing filed suit against a former employee holding himself out as an authorized salesperson of the supply company. The company’s lawsuit, like 3M’s, focused on the former employee’s unauthorized use of the company’s trademarks. After firing the former employee earlier this year, the company discovered that the former employee had created a deceptive email address using the company’s name and used its trademarks and design marks in his marketing and advertising. These deceptive practices were calculated to confuse consumers into believing he was an authorized salesperson, which he was not.
Medical supply companies are not the only crusaders against COVID-19 scams. Software companies and educational institutions are also wielding the power of their trademarks to stop scammers in their tracks. Earlier this year, a software company filed suit to take down a COVID-19 phishing scam. The scheme employed the software company’s trademarks in email addresses, which then sent COVID-19 themed emails encouraging consumers to provide personal information. The court quickly issued a restraining order.
Over the summer, Arizona State University used its trademark rights to prevent the spread of misinformation on its campus. A social media account using the ASU name and trademarks disseminated false information about the pandemic and safety measures to prevent its spread. ASU filed suit to have the account removed for violating its trademark rights. The account was promptly closed by the social media company.
Brands caught in pandemic scams are well equipped to combat these hoaxes and wrongdoers. Their trademark rights offer powerful tools to stop scammers from plaguing consumers and companies alike with confusing schemes aimed at taking advantage of these trying times. Wielding their trademark rights, brand owners can not only protect their brands from misappropriation but protect the public from these injustices.