Brand Renegades Redux
16 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2018 Last revised: 9 Apr 2019
Date Written: June 15, 2018
In "Brand Renegades," 1 NYU J. Intell. Prop. & Ent. L. 128 (2011), I identified a new frontier in trademark enforcement: consumers who use branded products out of affiliation with some aspects of the image cultivated by the brand owner, but whose conspicuous consumption of the brand generates social meanings that are inconsistent with that image. As far-right political movements have built momentum in the consumer economies of the West, this type of "brand renegade" consumption has taken a much darker turn. Over the past two years, neo-Nazis and white supremacists have conspicuously adopted well-known brands in their bids to claim a mainstream position in American life. In this Essay, contributed as part of the IP Scholarship Redux conference at the University of New Hampshire, I document examples of this new type of political brand renegade, as well as the ways brand owners respond to them. I then consider how trademark and First Amendment doctrine are likely to respond to this dark new chapter in America's consumer culture.
Keywords: Trademark, First Amendment, Branding, Conspicuous Consumption, Alt-Right
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