Vanderbilt Law Review

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It is unlikely that you ever will see a Kodak chair or a Rolls Royce candy bar. No doubt Eastman Kodak and Rolls Royce would have an army of lawyers in court to have the interlopers sentenced to ignominy (unless, of course, these companies suddenly went into the furniture or candy business). But suppose you did see these products. What would you think? Would you think that Kodak was diversifying? Would you believe that Rolls Royce had gone the way of Calvin Klein, apparently licensing its name for a fast profit? And if not, would these interlopers affect the way you react to a Rolls Royce or Kodak commercial? The psychology of such reactions is at the root of an important trend in modern trademark law-an issue known as trademark dilution.

From their origins in the guilds, trademarks have become important features of contemporary mass marketing techniques. Originally indicia of the source of goods, trademarks are now often products in their own right. The protection granted the owner of a trademark has evolved over the years as well. Early cases protected against piracy by competitors seeking to compete dishonestly by passing off their goods as those of the trademark owner. Modern trademark law protects against this and much more. Common law provided the source of protection in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After World War II, the passage of the Lanham Act, a comprehensive federal trademark statute, made federal law the primary source of protection and made its scope nationwide.

Throughout the evolution of trademark law, the linchpin of protection analysis has remained essentially the same-possible confusion of consumers. Consumers see the goods of the person who does not own the mark but uses it in connection with goods and services sold to the public, and they assume that those goods come from or are authorized by the real owner of the mark.