Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use or reproduction of a trademark, such as a logo or brand symbol. It is very similar to service mark infringement. One common example of trademark infringement is where clothing manufacturers attach brand labels to generic items, attempting to have them “pass off” as authentic.
Trademark infringement violations are very serious and are often involve aspects of deceptive trade practices. Trademark infringement can result in the following legal consequences:
- Monetary reimbursement for losses to the plaintiff
- An injunction requiring the defendant to stop producing/using/distributing goods with the trademark
- Seizure of goods that use or incorporate the unauthorized trademark
Trademark infringement can also involve the use of a trademark that looks very similar to an officially registered one. This is especially true where the “copycat” trademark is used with the intent to deceive consumers into thinking that it is authentic.
In such cases, the essential factor of proof is whether there is a high “likelihood of confusion” that purchaser would believe that the products were made by the trademark owner. In addition, several factors can be used to determine whether trademark infringement exists:
- How close the goods or products are in nature
- The “strength of the mark” or how visible it is
- How similar the marks are in appearance
- The types of marketing and distribution channels used
- The degree of care that a normal consumer would exercise in selecting the item
- The defendant’s intentions in selecting the trademark
- Evidence that the consumer was actually confused over the trademark
So for example, if a “copycat item” is distributed using the same marketing channels as the original brand, it is more likely that a court would conclude that trademark infringement occurred.
Trademark dilution is a similar violation to trademark infringement. In trademark dilution, the trademark is used in a way that “dilutes” or lessens the uniqueness of an original trademark.
For example, the brand name “Tylenol” is usually associated with pain-relief medication. If a company attempts to market a product called “Tylenol Cooking Oil”, they could be sued for trademark dilution. This is because the phrase “Tylenol Cooking Oil” uses the word Tylenol in a way that severely detracts from the product that the public normally associates with Tylenol.
Proving trademark dilution may be more difficult, and it usually involves trademarks that are very famous or popularly used in the public consumer market.
Trademark infringement can come in many forms, and may involve several different factors of proof. If you have any issues or questions concerning trademark infringement, you may wish to consult with an intellectual property lawyer for advice. You may also wish to contact a lawyer if you have a product that might raise infringement issues. Your lawyer can help you ensure that your product does not infringe upon other items, and can also help you protect your own product from infringement.