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A trademark, or mark, is essentially a name, logo or symbol that distinctively identifies a company as the source of a product or service. Traditionally, Congress has framed the discussion of trademark policy around informing and protecting consumers: by providing limited legal protection for the somewhat exclusive use of a trademark, a company can associate itself with a trademark, one that consumers can rely on to know the origin of a product or service within a certain market.
Because consumers can rely on this association that ties a mark and a company together, they can generally rest assured that when they buy or use a product with a given name, they will not be confused about who created it.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Trademark law maintains the balance between consumers and trademark holders by affording the latter only limited control over the use of protected marks. Respect for this balance is what limits the rights that trademark holders enjoy and distinguishes intellectual property rights from real property rights.
Public Knowledge is concerned that over-enforcing trademark law could negatively impact free speech, small business commercial speech, and repurpose traditional trademark law to protect business and politicial interests over consumers.
Trademark issues most often arise in court and, when they do, we’re there filing what are called amicus briefs—also known as “friend of the court” briefs. For example, when the language program Rosetta Stone sued Google for selling the words “rosetta stone” to competitors for advertising, we and our allies at EFF filed an amicus brief arguing against Rosetta Stone’s case.
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