Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tradenark dilution might occur among different lines of business

WiseGeek has a good layman’s explanation of “trademark dilution”, authored by S.E. Smith (no date given, but I presume since the prospective dilution law passed in the fall of 2006. The link is here.

He correctly points out that trademark law protects both consumers and businesses, which must invest in building a publicly identifiable brand.

Smith writes that trademark dilution may occur among unrelated products or services. He gives an example of a breakfast cereal getting linked in consumers’ minds with a tire company. That raises the prospect of negative linking. This idea is more controversial. For example, I am not confused by the fact that there is a Lowe’s home improvement company and that at one time there was a Loew’s hotel company and theater chain. (I once almost got a computer programming contracting gig with Lowe’s.) However, the degree of cognition and education expected of consumers seems like a critical point. The problem can become more serious because it is so easy for an individual to register a domain name that accidentally is confused with a company the individual did not know about, even after making reasonable efforts to look for the name or similar names on the USPTO database. I know that in many cases USPTO allows similar names to be registered in different business lines, but not always.

Another problem is that a brand name becomes a generic word or noun for a product, like Kleenex, resulting in brand dilution.

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