Sanitizers: the one growth industry?

In doing research for an unrelated project, I noticed what seemed to be a ton of applications for sanitizers. That sounds like a quick and easy blog post! I ran a search for any of the terms sterilizer bactericide germicide virucide viricide in the description of goods.

March 2020 – August 2020: 3,234
September 2019 – February 2020: 773
March 2019 – August 2019: 1239
September 2018 – February 2019: 929
March 2018 – August 2018: 935
September 2017 – February 2018: 1041

The evidence of a filing surge related to actual sterilizing products is mixed. It’s certainly true that there are more filings than normal, and by a lot. Of the single-class applications, the key ones for post-Covid-era filings were Class 5 (cleaning supplies), 10 (medical equipment), 11 (air sterilizers), and 37 (sanitary services).

Class 1: 9
Class 3: 22
Class 5: 299
Class 10: 330
Class 11: 1868
Class 35: 16
Class 37: 25

I didn’t consider multi-class applications — roughly 20% of the total — because it’s just way more of a hassle to break down the data than a quickie blog post is worth.

There’s good reason to think that there is some rise in anti-virus or cleaning products and services, but that it’s far less than the raw numbers suggest. Of these applications, over 2,000 were filed by Chinese applicants compared to only 779 by US-based applicants. While Chinese-based applicants have a huge presence on the USPTO registry, it’s still unusual to see a data slice this kind of an applicant spread, where non-US applicants predominate over US-based applicants. It looks like the Chinese applicants are way over-represented in Classes 10 and 11, and appears that some pre-existing goods & services strings (i.e. from the ID Manual) may have driven this — Chinese applicants were under 1/3 of the Class 5 filings, a much more normal ratio. And, as always, who knows how nearly foreign-based applicants 1(a) and 1(b) claims actually reflect reality on the ground in the US. Without the Chinese applicant surge, we’d be looking at slightly higher-than-usual application numbers but not way higher.

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