A Case Against the Use Doctrine in Trademark Law

48 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2019 Last revised: 30 Jun 2020

See all articles by Srividhya Ragavan

Srividhya Ragavan

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: September 17, 2019


Mindful of the current trend within the United States to revive the focus on the use of trademark to determine a mark’s ability as a source indicator, this paper highlights how focusing on use can create disparate results by examining the role of use when dealing with well-known marks. Hence, this paper implicates the prescriptions from harmonized trade regime, especially trademark law. In doing so, the paper outlines larger public policy concerns that will ensue especially considering the role of the use doctrine in the context of international harmonization of protection of well-known trademarks. In order to do so, this paper examines protection of foreign marks in two jurisdictions, India and the United States to identify global public policy concerns which has national implications. First, the paper also debunks the myth that that harmonization would result in trading partners extending reciprocal treatment. That is, inapposite to the touted position, this paper uses the well-known marks example to outline disparate outcomes that ensue when focusing on use as source indicator. Second, in highlighting how harmonization has not resulted in uniformity or predictability internationally to identifying and recognizing well-known trademarks, this paper discusses how a lack of predictability under a harmonized system has raised strong public policy as well as economic outcomes that may be detrimental to some markets but benefit others. Overall, this paper asserts that a coherent approach will have to necessarily involve some level of flexibilities to determine what fame is for a foreign trademark in each jurisdiction depending on the market in question.

Suggested Citation

Ragavan, Srividhya, A Case Against the Use Doctrine in Trademark Law (September 17, 2019). Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-48, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3454988 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3454988

Srividhya Ragavan (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

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