Trademark Law and the Prickly Ambivalence of Post-Parodies
50 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2014 Last revised: 3 Dec 2014
Date Written: September 1, 2014
This Essay examines what I call "post-parodies" in apparel. This emerging genre of do-it-yourself fashion is characterized by the appropriation and modification of third-party trademarks — not for the sake of dismissively mocking or zealously glorifying luxury fashion, but rather to engage in more complex forms of expression. I examine the cultural circumstances and psychological factors giving rise to post-parodic fashion, and conclude that the sensibility causing its proliferation is one grounded in ambivalence.
Unfortunately, current doctrine governing trademark "parodies" cannot begin to make sense of post-parodic goods; among other shortcomings, that doctrine suffers from crude analytical tools and a cramped view of "worthy" expression. I argue that trademark law — at least, if it hopes to adjudicate post-parodies' lawfulness in a meaningful way — is asking the wrong questions, and that existing "parody" doctrine should be supplanted by a more thoughtful and nuanced framework.
Keywords: trademark, trade dress, intellectual property, infringement, dilution, First Amendment, creativity, expression, political speech, parody, post-parody, satire, fashion, theory, history, consumer culture, counterculture, subversive, Hermes, Homies, Celine, Feline, Brian Lichtenberg, Zevs, ambivalence
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