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The fundamentals of trademark dilution

On Behalf of | Jan 6, 2024 | intellectual property law

Trademark dilution refers to the weakening of a famous trademark’s ability to identify and distinguish the source of goods or services. Even if there is no consumer confusion, dilution can lessen the uniqueness or erode the strength of a distinctive trademark over time.

There are two main types of trademark dilution: blurring and tarnishment.

What is trademark blurring?

Blurring occurs when a famous trademark’s distinctiveness weakens due to the use of the same or similar marks on unrelated goods or services. For example, using the same branding on a cafe or clothing line as that of a luxury car brand could blur the distinctiveness of that luxury car brand’s trademark in its marketplace.

What is trademark tarnishment?

Trademark tarnishment refers to cases where a famous mark becomes improperly associated with an inferior or offensive product or service. Using a similar mark on lesser-quality goods can degrade the positive associations with the original brand.

What are the requirements for a dilution claim?

For a dilution claim to succeed, the mark must be “famous” and possess a high degree of distinctiveness. The claimant must also show the defendant’s commercial use of a similar mark is likely to cause dilution of the famous mark. A mark deemed famous in one geographic area may not qualify as famous in another locality.

As of Q4 2023, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows 3.15 million marks actively registered and maintained. Protecting those marks means recognizing the risk of trademark dilution and taking steps to mitigate it. The more you understand, the easier it is to protect your intellectual property rights.