Intellectual property is an extremely prominent field of law in America. Every day, you can find some news story about controversy surrounding a patent, copyright, or trademark. Whether you want to apply for a form of intellectual property or if you just want to be more educated about such an ubiquitous concept, here is an introduction to the subject of trademarks.
What is a trademark?
In the simplest terms, a trademark is anything that can be used as an element of brand recognition. A word, a symbol, a logo, an expression, or any number of other things can be trademarked. Trademarks are used by companies to distinguish themselves from their competition.
What makes trademarks controversial?
There are three common areas in which a trademark might appear as the center of a legal proceeding: trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and the specificity of the trademark.
Infringement - This occurs when two companies exist in a competing market and at least one of the companies has a trademark. In 2013, fashion giants Guess and Gucci fought over the usage of several logos involving the letter G. A New York judge ruled that Guess was violating the trademarks of Gucci and awarded several million in damages. This specific conflict has spread over several countries, with varied results in each country, illustrating the diversity in intellectual property laws throughout the world. The subjective nature of comparing brands means that trademark infringement cases are difficult to settle from an objective perspective.
Dilution - This specific situation arises when one famous company with a trademark feels that the quality of their brand is threatened by another company that has a similar brand. For instance, Victoria's Secret (a lingerie store) sued a business called Victor's Little Secret (an adult toy store) on the grounds that the latter business was tainting the name and reputation of the former. Ultimately, the case ended up in the Supreme Court where it was ruled in 2003 that there was no evidence of actual dilution. In this ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that there was no chance of confusion between the two brands and thus that customers were unlikely to be misled. Therefore, the trademark was not diluted because there was no evidence that the average customer would have trouble distinguishing between the two.
Specificity - Finally, some trademarks may be rescinded or denied on the grounds that they are far too general. In 2003, the gum company Wrigley pursued a copyright on the term "doublemint." This was denied in a European court since it was not distinctive enough to be uniquely associated with a certain brand.
For more information, contact a patent attorney like those at the Lingbeck Law Office.
5 August 2015
While I took a few business classes in college, I left early to start my own business. I thought I had the knowledge I needed to become a great business owner and was eager to start my business. Soon, I had a new business that was actually performing pretty well in sales. Unfortunately, I hadn't taken any law courses in college, and I soon realized I made a few mistakes when starting my business that could cause me some legal trouble. Thankfully, a great business lawyer helped me correct my mistakes before I had any legal problems, but I then decided to take those business law courses. I want to help business owners and anyone else who would like to learn more about the law by starting a blog where I will share what I have learned and will continue to learn. I hope I can help you!