Trademark filings offer tantalising glimpse of coronavirus vaccine’s name

As the vaccine hailed the greatest scientific breakthrough in 100 years, there is no doubt the solution to the coronavirus pandemic will become a household name, just like Aspirin and even Viagra.

Although the pharmaceutical giants manufacturing it are determined to keep its name a closely guarded secret, the The Telegraph can reveal the likely contenders after in-depth analysis of European and US trademark applications filed by BioNTech, the Germany-based company behind the vaccine.

In May – exactly one month after its human trials which have proven so successful began – there was a flurry of activity from lawyers hired by BioNTech, who specialise in protecting intellectual property and brands.

They began filing numerous applications to secure the names Covuity and Rnaxcovi worldwide. Both words refer to Covid 19, with the latter giving a nod to the unique scientific process which helps obtain immunity from the virus.

Vaccines in progress

Pfizer, which is in partnership with BioNTech, is also named on domain name registrations applications for covuity.com, strongly suggesting the drug will be called Covuity.

It means lawyers for both companies have been working to protect the vaccine, currently known only by its scientific name BNT162b2, from counterfeiters and as a brand for nearly six months globally.

The very first application for Covuity was filed as an EU trademark on May 30, and listed on legal papers as a “vaccine for human use”.

The registration, which received no opposition, was approved earlier this month. It expires in 2030, when BioNTech can apply to renew it.

The next day (June 1, 2020) Covuity was filed as a trademark application in America, one of Pfizer’s biggest markets. Once again, the documents state the word should be protected for “the category of vaccines for human use” and listed under “chemical compositions” and “medicines and pharmaceuticals” categories.

It is awaiting legal approval.

Vaccines by numbers

BioNTech hired Allen, Dyer, Doppelt + Gilchrist, lawyers specialising in securing US-wide rights for intellectual property.

Allison Imber, a partner at that firm and whose name appears on the registration, studied biological sciences and chemistry before focusing on “trade secret law” and “intellectual property protection strategies”.

Speaking from her office in Orlando, Ms Imber declined to comment. 

While it is understood Covuity is BioNTech’s preferred name for the drug, the company has also registered other names.

A trademark application for Rnaxcovi as “vaccines for human use” was lodged in the EU on May 30 and in the US on June 1. It was registered without opposition in the EU last month, but is awaiting approval in America.

As well as using the Covid’s stem (Covi), the first three letters (RNA) are a nod to the ‘messenger RNA’ process at the core of their coronavirus vaccine.

Ugur Sahin, 55, and Ozlem Tureci, 53, the husband and wife team who founded BioNTech 12 years ago, pioneered the ‘messenger RNA’ (mRNA) technique.

In the Covid-19 vaccine the mRNA carries genetic code to cells instructing them to build coronavirus proteins inside the body. Consequently, they encourage the immune system to believe it is under attack and so develop a defensive response and ultimately immunity.

Other possible names for vaccines filed for BioNTech in May or early June in both the EU and America include Kovimerna and Comirnaty.

Both Pfizer and BioNTech will be determined to ensure their vaccine stands out as both a protected brand and name in what will be a crowded market with scores of competitors.

The other major threat to any drug is the prospect of rip-off counterfeits and clones.

Pharmaceutical companies invariably instruct lawyers to protect their creations by registering patents for the invention, often including the long and complex scientific name, and then trademarks for consumer-friendly names, often with logos to help create a brand.

Asked about the names BioNTech had registered, a spokeswoman for the company refused to comment. Pfizer also would not comment on the issue of branding the vaccine.

However, one Pfizer insider told the The Telegraph: “We’ve all been wondering what the name of the drug will be. These trademarks offer a fascinating insight into the branding being considered.”

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