The Myth of Buick Aspirin: An Empirical Study of Trademark Dilution by Product and Trade Names

58 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2011 Last revised: 2 Aug 2011

Paul J. Heald

University of Illinois College of Law

Robert Brauneis

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: March 3, 2011

Abstract

Trademark dilution is a highly controversial cause of action that has been the subject of hundreds of law review articles, but no significant scientific work. We analyze 60 years of telephone white pages, corporate & LLC naming data, advertisements from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, state and federal trademark databases, and all recorded dilution litigation. Our data suggest strongly that famous trademarks are frequently borrowed for use as trade names in services, but almost never as trade marks on products. Given that Congress based anti-dilution legislation on the assumption that uses like Buick Aspirin were common, our conclusions are significant. Our data also show that state federal anti-dilution laws likely have had some effect in the significant decline in brand sharing that we chart. We conclude by examining the still-widespread phenomenon of brand sharing and find that recent psychological studies help explain why the harm allegedly caused by unauthorized sharing (denominated dilution by Congress) is unlikely ever to occur.

Keywords: trademark, dilution, empirical, buick

JEL Classification: K4, L60, L80

Suggested Citation

Heald, Paul J. and Brauneis, Robert, The Myth of Buick Aspirin: An Empirical Study of Trademark Dilution by Product and Trade Names (March 3, 2011). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2011; UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-6. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1776282

Paul J. Heald (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
706-372-2567 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.illinois.edu/faculty/profile/PaulHeald

Robert Brauneis

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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