Four Free Speech Goals for Trademark Law

20 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2008

See all articles by William McGeveran

William McGeveran

University of Minnesota Law School


This Essay, prepared for the annual symposium of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, sets out goals for preserving free speech within trademark law. In recent years, courts have begun to reach speech-protective results quite consistently in cases that raise such issues. They have not, however, developed unified or coherent doctrine for doing so, and they do not resolve such cases quickly. The resulting confusion of standards and prolonged litigation have a chilling effect on expression using trademarks, just as surely as if judges issued injunctions to prohibit the same speech. In short, procedural structure is at least as important as eventual outcomes. Therefore, in addition to achieving an appropriate substantive balance between economic and expressive objectives of trademark law, we should integrate First Amendment requirements into doctrine, design clearer standards, and facilitate faster and less expensive adjudication. Articulating these four goals sets the stage for upcoming work using them as standards to critique current law and propose reform.

Keywords: trademark, "free speech", "First Amendment", "intellectual property"

JEL Classification: O34

Suggested Citation

McGeveran, William, Four Free Speech Goals for Trademark Law. Media & Entertainment Law Journal, Vol. 18, 2008, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-09, Available at SSRN:

William McGeveran (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics