According to CNN’s report from a few days ago, the production of alcoholic beverages named ‘Corona’ originating from Mexico has been ordered to come to a halt. Is the reason for this due to its name, which bears close resemblance to the Coronavirus?
According to the Malaysian Trademarks Act 2019, individuals or firms are prohibited to apply for identical or similar trademarks in comparable goods and services. The question begs: what will occur if your trademark and a certain virus share the same name?
Case Study 1: Candy Ayds
In the past, a number of famous brands have been forced to change their names under the circumstances that they share the same, or similar names, to certain viruses at the time. For example, ‘Candy Ayds’ was one of the products produced by The Campana Company. In 1980, the company suffered huge losses due to the product’s similarity in name to the ‘AIDS’ virus. In order to suspend losses the company decided to change the name of its product to ‘Diet Ayds’. However, this business strategy failed as the damage has been done. The product was eventually eliminated by the local market (Tedium, 2018).
Case Study 2: ZICA Cars
A second example would be ZICA Car Brand, one of Tata Motor’s most important products in 2016 (The Guardian, 2016). The similarity between ZICA’s pronunciation to the ‘ZIKA’ virus, a name that was widespread globally at the time, led to a forced name change from ZICA to ‘TIAGO’. As the name of the product was changed early, sales of the product was not affected.
Case Study 3: Sarsi
The famous beverage brand ‘Sarsi’ was also affected due to the similarity of its name to the pronunciation of the ‘SARS’ virus. ‘Sarsi’ appears to have been luckier than ‘Candy Ayds’ and ‘ZICA’ as the brand was not obligated to undergo a name change.
For the reasons above it would be legitimate to question if the order to halt the production of Mexican beverage ‘Corona’ is in relation to its similar sounding name to the ‘Coronavirus’. The fact of the matter is, the reason for ‘Corona’’s suspension of production is due to the Mexican government’s orders to temporarily halt ‘unnecessary businesses/services’ from 30/03/2020 to 30/04/2020 as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic. This is an incentive to block all channels that pose a threat to widen the spread of Covid-19. Nonetheless, there are numerous rumours that the sales of the ‘Corona’ alcoholic beverage were affected by the epidemic. However, according to the speech of Bart Watson – chief economist of the Beer Association – the sales of ‘Corona’ have not been affected by the epidemic. In fact, there has been an increase in sales since, especially towards the end of the month.
What do you think the future of ‘Corona’ alcoholic beverages will be? Would you be deterred from purchasing this alcohol? Or does ‘Corona’ need to take a leaf out of ‘ZICA’’s book and change its name, and rebrand itself off a new look based on the market?