Rethinking Trademark Fair Use
University of Minnesota Law School
July 15, 2008
Iowa Law Review, Vol. 94, 2008
Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-25
The ever-expanding scope and strength of trademark rights has caused justifiable fears of a threat to free expression. Until now, however, concerned scholars generally focused on perfecting the substance of legal rules that balance free speech against other goals. This effort is misplaced because most cases raising these issues in recent years ended in judicial decisions that favored speech. The real danger arises from the procedural structure of trademark law's various "fair use" doctrines, which generate excessive ambiguity and prolong litigation before ever reaching such positive outcomes. Resulting administrative costs discourage speakers from using trademarks expressively in the first place, creating a classic chilling effect. This Article is the first to analyze these problems with trademark fair use comprehensively and recommend pragmatic reform to address the problems. Instead of adding more bells and whistles to already complex law, we should craft simpler affirmative defenses that reduce uncertainty and allow for quick adjudication.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 77
Keywords: trademark, free speech, First Amendment, intellectual property
JEL Classification: O34
Date posted: July 16, 2008 ; Last revised: January 19, 2009
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