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Dilution, Tarnishment, and Blurring

11 August, 2015 - 10:23

Under the federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995, companies with marks that dilute the value of a senior mark may be liable for damages. The act provides that owners of marks of significant value have property rights that should not be eroded, blurred, tarnished, or diluted in any way by another. But as a plaintiff, the holder of the mark must show (1) that it is a famous mark, (2) that the use of a similar mark is commercial, and (3) that such use causes dilution of the distinctive quality of the mark. Thus a T-shirt maker who promotes a red-and-white shirt bearing the mark Buttweiser may be liable to Anheuser-Busch, or a pornographic site called Candyland could be liable to Parker Brothers, the board game company. Interesting cases have already been brought under this act, including a case brought by Victoria’s Secret against a small adult store in Kentucky called Victor’s Little Secret. Notice that unlike most prior trademark law, the purpose is not to protect the consumer from confusion as to the source or origin of the goods or services being sold; for example, no one going to the Candyland site would think that Parker Brothers was the source.