Trademark and Related Property
A trademark is a distinguishing mark or implements that a manufacturer of goods stamps or prints to their products produced so that it is made possible for the consumers to identify them on the market and know their origin (Senftleben, 2006, p417). It is clear that the usage of another person’s trademark could lead the consumers to believe that another company made the goods they are consuming. This may result in confusion on the side of the consumers and the government and if not protected could lead to a compromised quality of the goods presented to users.
The law protecting trademarks and related property was established in the early 1940s by the Lanham Act. The Act was established to ensure that all businesses are protected from the threat of losses arising from the rival companies that illegally uses same trademarks to confuse the market. The establishment of this Act has enabled the brand owners to have remedies for their infringed rights in the federal courts. The Act provided protection only when the infringement would lead to the confusion as to where the products and services have originated. This Act was later amended so that it could allow the trademark owners to bring suits in federal court for trademark dilution. Trademark dilution laws protect famous trademarks such as McDonald’s from certain unauthorized uses even when the use is on noncompeting goods or is unlikely to confuse the consumers.
The trademark and related property act are best illustrated by the case of Costco Wholesale Corp v Tiffany & Co. of 2015. It was a case between the two companies battling over the infringement of a trademark law. The plaintiff, Tiffany, accused the defendant, Costco for willfully selling to the consumers some counterfeit diamond rings bearing the name of Tiffany who were the authorized holders of the ring. The U.S judge resolved that Costco must face a jury trial to evaluate the damages Costco may have caused to Tiffany for infringement of trademark right. The defendant argued that Tiffany’s trademark was not valid since it was only targeting to prevent other companies from using the term as a type of ring setting. However, the claims were dismissed by the judges (Minahan, Huddleston, & Bianchi, 2012 p519).
The judges arrived at their ruling based on the following grounds. The judges first confirmed the validity of the Tiffany mark which was established to be valid because it was registered under the plaintiff. The judges also resolved that the use of Tiffany mark by Costco could result in consumer getting confused because of the similarity of the marks and the proximity of the products and also the quality of the defendant’s products which was found to be of inferior quality as compared to the plaintiffs (Minahan, Huddleston, & Bianchi, 2012 p519). Despite Tiffany demanding a penalty to be imposed on Costco for infringement of the trademark right, the court resolved that only compensation was possible as stated in the Lanham Act. It is, therefore, important for every state to incorporate trademark statutes to ensure there is no infringement of trademark rights. This will reduce the chances of counterfeit products and increase the quality of goods offered to consumers.
Minahan, S. M., Huddleston, P., & Bianchi, C. (2012). Costco and the Aussie Shopper: a case study of the market entry of an international retailer. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 22(5), 507-527.
Senftleben, M. (2006). Towards a horizontal standard for limiting intellectual property rights? WTO Panel Reports shed light on the three-step test in copyright law and related tests in patent and trademark law. International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law, 37(4), 407-438.