Time For A Moron In A Hurry To Explain The Difference Between Microprocessors And A Trip To China

from the it's-not-that-hard,-really dept

Intel is famous for being overly aggressive in trying to enforce its trademark, often claiming rights over almost any use of the prefix "intel" to anyone using the phrase "something inside," even if it's completely unrelated to the business that Intel is in. Trademark, of course, is not intended to give a company "ownership" of a word or phrase. Instead, it's a consumer protection system, designed to prevent consumers from being tricked into believing that they're buying a good from one company instead of another. That's why trademarks are only applicable in the business area that the company is using the mark. Thus, Johnny's Soda doesn't interfere with a trademark on Johnny's Dry Cleaning -- because they're totally separate businesses. That's also why we have the moron in a hurry test. If a "moron in a hurry" is unlikely to be confused by the use of the mark, then there's no trademark infringement.

Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped Intel from trying. Over the years they've gone after a maker of jeans (Intel Jeans), a marketing firm (for using the term INTELMARK for one of its products) and an artist's cooperative for using the name "Art Inside") among various other cases over the years. Its latest is to go after a travel agency called Intellife Travel that books trips between the US and China. The travel agency clearly explained to Intel that unless Intel's trademark covered the travel business, there was unlikely to be any infringement. Intel took a year to think about it... and then filed a lawsuit. Hopefully, Intel gets smacked down quickly on this clear abuse of trademark law.

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  1. identicon
    aa, 26 Sep 2008 @ 11:44am

    Trademark Law

    While I agree with Mike wholeheartedly, in theory, I think that US trademark law functions more broadly than he has described it. Mind you, I am only a law student, so take what I say with however many grains you wish, but here goes:

    TM law may have started as a consumer protection device, but it has long since expanded beyond its roots to also become a protector of brand names, in themselves. The doctrine of dilution is the major culprit behind this evolution and it expands TM protection even to non-competitive products in situations where there is no likelihood of consumer confusion. It sucks, but I think this is true.

    Also, I think the "moron in a hurry" test is British. I do not believe it is held in US case law. Rather, many courts go out of their way to assert that confusion doctrines are not meant to protect only those of common intelligence, but also those most foolish and gullible. Again, this sucks and leads to strange results, but I think it is a common case law refrain.

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