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
Date Written: March 3, 2011
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: Suggested Citation