Trademark Law and Status Signaling: Tattoos for the Privileged
23 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2006 Last revised: 27 Nov 2009
Date Written: January 10, 2007
The principal function of trademarks is to lower consumer confusion and, consequently, search costs. For example, a traveler knows certain things without further inquiry if he or she sees a Ritz-Carlton, a Holiday Inn, or even a McDonalds sign along the highway. In these instances, there is communication from the owner of the mark to potential customers.
Trademarks are also used as a means for individuals to communicate information about themselves to others. Very typically, the signaling relates to status or wealth. Courts have held that this function of trademarks is something the law should advance. This Article makes the case that there appear to be little or no economic or moral bases for a public policy of supporting the efforts of the privileged to advertise, signal, or communicate their status to others.
Keywords: trademark, economics, veblen, pareto
JEL Classification: K11, K29, D61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation