Lanham Act and Trade Libel

In 1946, the United States Congress enacted the Lanham Act, codified under 15 U.S.C. §§ 1051 et seq. The purpose of the Lanham Act was to create a national trademark registration system to protect unique works. As a result, trademark owners now have the means to legally protect the reputation of their products and services. At the Law Offices of Salar Atrizadeh, an attorney with extensive knowledge and experience in trademark infringement law and trade libel can help you take steps to protect your trademarks and service marks.

The Lanham Act, which is also referred to as the Trademark Act, governs trademarks and service marks, and establishes legal standards against unfair competition. Trademarks include words, phrases, logos, and symbols that identify a brand or a product so as to distinguish it from competitors. On the other hand, service marks are trademarks that promote a service rather than a product.

The Lanham Act has been a milestone for trademark protection. First, this federal law establishes procedures for federally-registering trademarks and service marks, so as to avoid confusion or inconsistencies. A federal registration system serves to ensure a clear and consistent record, which helps protect against the wrongful use of a trademark or service mark. Second, this federal law sets out when trademark and service mark owners are entitled to legal protection in federal court against infringement and wrongful use. For example, 15 U.S.C. § 1114, outlines remedies available to trademark owners in the event of infringement. As a result of these legal protections, which trademark and service mark owners hold under the Lanham Act, these owners also have a right to protect themselves against trade libel. Under California common law, trade libel constitutes a published false statement that causes injury to the business underlying a trademark or service mark. To fall under the trade libel category, the false statement must be intentional. Additionally, a plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the intentional published statement caused actual financial harm to the business. In certain circumstances, courts may allow evidence regarding potential future financial losses.

With the expansion of the Internet and widespread blogs and social media sites, the potential for trade libel suits may increase. Although, the blog and social media sites may not be responsible themselves, an individual who instigates defamatory commentary regarding a product or service may be held liable under a trade libel cause of action. However, it is important to note that trade libel does not seek to limit the free expression of ideas and opinions. Consumers continue to hold the right to discuss their experiences with a product or service. Trade libel only aims to prevent known false statements about a product or service. The statement must clearly be intended as a statement of fact, rather than a statement of opinion.

If you are a business, trademark, or service mark owner, contact us to speak with an attorney with the expertise in related laws who can help protect your rights.