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Is Trademark Dilution a Unicorn? An Experimental Investigation

47 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2017 Last revised: 9 May 2017

Barton Beebe

New York University School of Law

Roy Germano

New York University School of Law

Christopher Jon Sprigman

New York University School of Law

Joel Steckel

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing

Date Written: April 28, 2017

Abstract

Significant resources are devoted to litigating a concept known as trademark dilution. Dilution involves situations where an entity other than a trademark’s original owner uses a brand name or logo in a way that weakens the strength and distinctiveness of the original mark, even when no confusion occurs. It is unclear, however, whether trademark dilution actually exists. The best evidence that it does comes from a set of studies showing that respondents are slower to match brands to their product categories and product attributes after being exposed to an advertisement for a different product using the same or a similar brand name. This article casts doubt on the construct validity of these reaction time studies. Through a series of new experiments, we argue that what prior reaction time studies reported as evidence of trademark dilution is actually the artifact of a flawed experimental design that fails to control for the effect of seeing a surprising advertisement. Our findings lead us to conclude that like the proverbial unicorn, dilution is theoretically plausible, but remains empirically unproven.

Keywords: trademark, dilution, experiment, law and economics, experimental economics, behavioral economics

Suggested Citation

Beebe, Barton and Germano, Roy and Sprigman, Christopher Jon and Steckel, Joel, Is Trademark Dilution a Unicorn? An Experimental Investigation (April 28, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2960082 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2960082

Barton Beebe

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Roy Germano

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Christopher Sprigman (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Joel Steckel

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing ( email )

Tisch Hall
40 W 4 St.
New York, NY 10012
United States
2129980521 (Phone)

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