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Introduction to Intellectual Property

4.11 Fair Use of Trademarks

Introduction to Intellectual Property4.11 Fair Use of Trademarks
  1. Preface and Foreword
  2. 1 Patent Basics
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 The Foundations of Patent Protection
    3. 1.2 The Weakness of Early Patent Systems
    4. 1.3 America’s Uniquely Democratic Patent System
    5. 1.4 The Role of the U.S. Legal System
    6. 1.5 What the U.S. Patent System Wrought
    7. 1.6 Patent-Eligible Inventions
    8. 1.7 Criteria for Patenting
    9. 1.8 Other Types of Patents
    10. 1.9 The Patenting Process
    11. Assessment Questions
  3. 2 Patent Enforcement
    1. Introduction
    2. 2.1 The Right to Enforce Patents
    3. 2.2 Deciding Whether and How to Enforce a Patent
    4. 2.3 Patent Litigation
    5. 2.4 Getting Started
    6. 2.5 Pretrial Procedures
    7. 2.6 Trial
    8. 2.7 Post-Trial Procedures
    9. 2.8 Appeals
    10. 2.9 Litigation Alternatives
    11. 2.10 Patent Trolls and Efforts to Thwart Them
    12. Assessment Questions
  4. 3 Copyright Basics
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1 The Basics of Copyright
    3. 3.2 Early Copyright Systems
    4. 3.3 Copyright in America
    5. 3.4 Eligible Works
    6. 3.5 Rights and Term
    7. 3.6 Infringement and Remedies
    8. 3.7 The Fair Use Defense
    9. 3.8 Changes in Copyright Law
    10. 3.9 New Technology Challenges to Copyright
    11. 3.10 Alternative Forms of Copyright
    12. 3.11 Copyright in a Changing World
    13. Assessment Questions
  5. 4 Trademark Basics
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1 Core Concepts
    3. 4.2 Early Trademark Systems
    4. 4.3 U.S. Trademark Law
    5. 4.4 The Four Types of Trademarks
    6. 4.5 The Subject Matter of Trademarks
    7. 4.6 The Spectrum of Distinctiveness
    8. 4.7 Bars to Trademark
    9. 4.8 Establishing Trademark Protection
    10. 4.9 Trademark Infringement
    11. 4.10 Trademark Remedies
    12. 4.11 Fair Use of Trademarks
    13. Assessment Questions
  6. 5 Trade Secret Basics
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1 Trade Secret Protection
    3. 5.2 The Foundations of Trade Secrets Law
    4. 5.3 Elements of a Trade Secret
    5. 5.4 The Secrecy Requirement
    6. 5.5 Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
    7. 5.6 Remedies Available for the Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
    8. Assessment Questions
  7. Glossary
  8. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
  9. Index

Learning Objectives

After completing this section, you will be able to

  • Discuss fair use of trademarks.
  • Identify examples of fair use cases.

Not every use of a trademark is infringement.

Individuals and entities may be permitted the fair use of another’s trademark under two conditions. These are known as nominative fair use and classic fair use.

Nominative fair use covers many occasions on which a party other than the trademark owner is using the mark another party to refer to genuine goods or services. An example of nominative fair use is when an auto repair shop advertises that it repairs BMWs and Hondas. It is using the mark “Honda” to refer to cars genuinely produced by the Honda Motor Company, and simply asserting that it is able to conduct repairs on those cars. Another example of nominative fair use is use of a competitor’s trademark in comparative advertising. When Verizon advertises that it has better coverage than AT&T, it is making nominative fair use of AT&T’s mark because it is actually referring to AT&T’s services.

Under nominative fair use, the entity using the trademark is permitted to use only so much of the mark as is necessary to identify the good or service to which it is referring, and cannot imply any sponsorship or endorsement by the mark holder (unless, of course, the repair shop really is a BMW- or Honda- approved repair facility). Another example is the use of another’s trademark for the purpose of a product review.

Classic fair use occurs when a trademark is used in good faith for its primary meaning, and no consumer confusion is likely to occur. Classic fair uses typically involve marks that are descriptive. For example, even though Kellogg’s has gained secondary meaning for the mark “All Bran,” another cereal manufacturer might be able to describe its cereal as “all bran,” if indeed it consists entirely of the hard outer layers of cereal grains.

Although fair use of trademarks is in many ways similar to the fair use of copyrights, there are differences. Under copyright law, you can use a copyright for the purpose of parody. You can also use trademarks for the purpose of parody, but whoever does so must be very careful to avoid confusion in the marketplace and diluting or tarnishing the trademark in question.

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