15 Aug A Guide to Trademark Protection Under the Lanham Act
An important tool for any business is the Lanham Act, also known as the Trademark Act of 1946, which protects registered trademarks from infringement, dilution, and unfair competition. This is particularly true for businesses in California because state common-law claims of unfair competition and actions pursuant to the California Business and Professions Code prohibiting unfair business practices are substantially congruent to claims made under the Lanham Act. As a result, many California businesses need to understand and know how to defend against Lanham Act claims.
These principles are highlighted in a recent story involving Red Lobster, a popular seafood restaurant, and a music festival called Summerfest. The summertime festival sponsors were not happy about the popular restaurant chain advertising a promotion with the word “Summerfest.” The two entities traded e-mails, and threats, and eventually the dispute resulted in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the festival against the seafood company, and made a number of allegations, all under the Lanham Act. The basic issue alleged by the festival was that the seafood restaurant misappropriated the name Summerfest by using it at the same time as the festival, and basically profiting off all of the work and reputability that goes into creating a brand.
The Lanham Act
At its heart, the Lanham Act is designed to protect the intellectual property residing in business trademarks and protect against false representations about products and false advertising. Specifically, it prohibits using false designations of origin and false representations in the advertising and sale of goods and services. As you can see, this is a broad prohibition, and it encompasses a number of different behaviors.
Another important aspect to the Lanham Act is the unfair competition claims it is able to cover. Under California law, any “unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business act or practice” is illegal. The courts over the years have struggled with the type of activity which crosses the line into prohibited conduct, and the type of activity which is just doing business. California has extra guidance here from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In California, the Lanham Act has been interpreted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to cover many of the state law claims. This includes many businesses’ claims of unfair competition. The Act is therefore a powerful tool that can be used against a California business, but it can also be wielded in favor a business that is being harmed by unfair dealings by another entity in California.
Understanding How and When the Lanham Act is Applicable
There are many different scenarios in which a company may be liable under the provisions of the Lanham Act, just as there are several different scenarios where the Lanham Act can be used as a tool to protect businesses. In order for you to take advantage of the Lanham Act for your business, you need the right legal team on your side. The right legal team will provide you and your company with the guidance and counsel it needs.
At The Royse Law Firm, our legal team is dedicated to helping our clients with any corporate and business issues they have. If you have questions about the Lanham Act, or any other legal issue, contact us. We look forward to hearing from you soon.