Fixing Trademark Law
from the is-it-time? dept
On the whole, I think it's a good discussion, but I'm not sure I agree entirely. While initially codifying fair use within trademark law sounds like a good idea, my recent conversation with William Patry may have changed my mind on that topic. He pointed out that codifying fair use in copyright law ended up doing more to narrowly limit how fair use was applied, rather than allow judges to make a more expansive and reasonable view of what constitutes fair use. He pointed to the writings of Pierre Leval on fair use, which should be required reading for anyone looking to understand fair use. Given an attempt to codify fair use in trademark law, we might end up with the same set of limitations. While having more clearly defined lines may seem like a good idea, it also provides less flexibility, and more of an opportunity to fence in fair use, rather than letting it adapt as necessary.
On the second suggestion, concerning "use in commerce," we agree that current definitions are all over the map, but again, I wonder if trying to codify it via Congress leads to more problems than solutions. Any attempt will almost certainly screw up unique cases, leading to trouble down the road. Finally, I do absolutely agree on a safe harbor need in trademark, especially as those looking to bring copyright and defamation lawsuits have recently been bending over backwards to sneak in a trademark claim as well to try to avoid the other safe harbors.
As for the improving trademark law in other ways, I would think that the best way to do so, would be to ditch the (relatively) recent concept of "dilution" as trademark infringement, and focus on the real purpose of trademark law: to prevent consumer confusion and "passing off" of one good as made by someone else. As such, I've long been a big proponent of the "moron in a hurry" test that actually has been used in some cases (i.e., "would a moron in a hurry confuse this product and believe it was made by or endorsed by the trademark holder"). Focusing on just that test as a determination of trademark infringement would likely solve many of the common problems with trademark law -- including, most likely, removing the need for either a codified fair use of "use in commerce" clause. Instead, you just apply the moron in a hurry test and toss those lawsuits that wouldn't confuse said morons.