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The Protection of Non-Traditional TrademarksCritical Perspectives$

Irene Calboli and Martin Senftleben

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198826576

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198826576.001.0001

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Non-Traditional Trademark Protection as (Non-Traditional) Means of Cultural Control

Non-Traditional Trademark Protection as (Non-Traditional) Means of Cultural Control

(p.363) 18 Non-Traditional Trademark Protection as (Non-Traditional) Means of Cultural Control
The Protection of Non-Traditional Trademarks

Katya Assaf-Zakharov

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Trademarks, or brands, are symbols whose initial purpose is providing information about the source of a product. Yet, with the course of time, high-end brands have developed into symbols providing information about their owner's status rather than about the sold goods. This phenomenon naturally attracts imitation and status cheating, offering new challenges to established trademark doctrines. This chapter outlines the different legal perceptions of imitation in the U.S. and Continental Europe, while placing these perceptions into broader cultural contexts. It then focuses on the U.S. legal view on imitation of trademarks that serve as status symbols, pointing out that this view is “non-traditional” in American context, in the sense that it is inconsistent with U.S. traditional cultural values.

Keywords:   imitation, social stratification, social mobility, status signaling, cultural traditions, USA, Continental Europe

I. Introduction

This chapter focuses on the protection of non-traditional trademarks, with a specific focus on its social implications and its interplay with different cultural traditions. The term “non-traditional trademarks” commonly refers to new trademark forms, such as product shapes, designs, or colors.1 Such trademark protection may restrict copying of product elements that are generally not protected, no longer protected, or not protectable with patents, copyrights, or design patents. In turn, this restriction can directly affect market competition, as several contributions to the book have specifically observed.2 In addition, since trademarked products, particularly those produced by high-end brands, are often used as status symbols in social interaction, protection of non-traditional trademarks can also have significant cultural effects. In general, the impact of trademark protection on social interactions has been intensively discussed in the literature.3 This chapter outlines an additional perspective by focusing specifically on “non-traditionality,” that is, inconsistency with traditional values, which the protection of non-traditional trademarks creates.

Western jurisdictions hold different views on imitation: while the United States (U.S.) legal system normally strives to encourage it, the legal systems of Continental Europe tend to be much more cautious.4 This difference has to do with the more (p.364) general cultural dispute between the Old and the New World on authenticity and imitation. On a subtler level, this dispute is interconnected with the tradition of preserving established social orders, typical for Continental Europe, and the ideal of social mobility, which characterizes American national ethos. The current legal tendency to protect “non-traditional” trademarks against imitation preserves status privileges, thus clashing with the ideal of social mobility. Hence, in the U.S. context, this protection is non-traditional in an additional sense: it is dissonant with a most fundamental cultural tradition of that country.

This chapter proceeds as follows: Section I explains that Intellectual Property (IP) regulations exist in different legal climates surrounding imitation. It outlines the differences between the U.S. approach, which is generally supportive of copying, and the Continental European view, which is largely adverse toward imitation. It traces this difference to the long-standing cultural dispute between the Old and the New World on the significance of authenticity and the legitimacy of imitation. Section II notes that trademarks are different in the IP landscape in that—at least originally—they were not designed to restrict imitation, but only to prevent consumer confusion. Section III reveals an interconnection between social norms regarding imitation and cultural views on tradition and social mobility. Section IV points out that copyright and industrial design protection regimes provide meaningful protection to products functioning as status symbols in Europe, whereas in the U.S., no IP right provides such a protection. This picture is in harmony with the cultural ideals of tradition and heritage in Europe, as opposed to the ideals of challenging traditional authority and fostering social mobility in the U.S. Section V breaks this harmonic picture, demonstrating that trademark law doctrines function to restrict imitation of status symbols in the U.S. The discussion in this section focuses on U.S. trademark law, since this is where the legal protection of status symbols runs counter to the general legal acceptance of imitation and the cultural ideal of social mobility. Section VI points out an overlooked aspect of non-traditionality concerning U.S. legal protection of status symbols: such protection reinforces the existing societal hierarchy and hampers social mobility, thereby clashing with a most dearly cherished traditional value of the American nation. Section VII concludes the discussion.

II. Intellectual Property, Imitation, and Cultural Traditions

IP protection is all about the idea of restricting copying. Patents restrict the copying of technology, industrial design protection limits the copying of product shapes, and copyrights restrict the copying of works of art. IP thus creates scarcity in the world of immaterial objects and ideas—a world that is naturally characterized by lack of rivalry and unlimited capability to exploit the same asset. Trademarks are somewhat different in this landscape. The objective of their protection is ensuring the accuracy of market information. Trademarks are not designed to restrict copying of products, but to prevent consumer confusion as to the source of goods.

(p.365) Today’s IP philosophy is predominantly utilitarian, at least on its surface. It is common to justify the restrictions on copying by a purely economic argument: promoting creativity. According to this logic, IP rights grant market exclusivity to inventors and creators, without which there would be no (sufficient) incentive to invent and create, and our society will suffer from undersupply of new technologies, works of art, etc. This is because immaterial assets, such as inventions and artistic creations, are “public goods,” goods that can be used by an unlimited number of people simultaneously. As all public goods, immaterial assets may cause a “market failure”: their creators cannot control their circulation and hence, cannot internalize their positive value.5 For instance, without patent rights, a new breakthrough drug would be immediately copied by all pharmaceutical companies, leaving its inventor with no possibility to profit from her invention.

In this view, copying is the rule and IP protection is the exception. Exclusivity periods provided by IP rights are commonly regarded as the price society has to pay in the short run in order to benefit from technological progress and blossom of creativity in the long run. This price is a real one: market exclusivity granted by IP rights obstructs competition, raises consumer prices, diminishes supply, and hinders inventive and creative progress. Hence, IP legislation should strike a balance between the need to spur creativity and the need to leave enough room for free copying. Again, trademarks are different in this regard: they are not designed to promote creativity, but to preserve the accuracy of product source indicators. Traditional trademark protection usually embraces a name or a symbol, which is sheltered against confusing use by third parties. Unlike patents and copyrights, such protection involves no significant social price in terms of restricted copying and obstructed competition. Hence, the protection of trademarks is not limited in time.

The vision of spurring creativity by granting exclusivity in immaterial creations is somewhat elusive though. In fact, we cannot draw a comparison with a world without IP protection. There is no conclusive evidence that IP rights really spur technological progress.6 However, there is some evidence that the prospect of material gain can actually hinder creativity.7 Even if we accept the assumption that IP protection is indispensable, there is no way to determine the optimal scope of protection: one that ensures sufficient levels of inventive and creative activity with minimal restrictions on copying.8 Traditionally, trademarks are not part of this discourse: since they neither limit imitation nor spur innovation, their protection does not require a balance between restricting competition and rewarding creativity. Yet, (p.366) as will be discussed below, non-traditional trademarks, such as product shapes or colors, stroll away from the traditionally humble role of a trademark as a source identifier.9 The protection of such trademarks does involve a restriction of copying and comes at a significant social price associated with reduced competition. In addition, as will be discussed in the following sections, over time trademark law developed several doctrines that result in a broad protection against non-confusing imitation. This protection embraces traditional and non-traditional trademarks alike. Yet, since originally trademark law is not about restricting imitation, no serious inquiry whether this price is justified by any social benefit has been made. In other words, while traditional trademarks, as well as traditional trademark doctrines, are rightly exempt from the rational cost-benefit analysis, non-traditional trademarks and extended trademark protection unjustifiably escape its scrutiny.

On a closer look, the laws of IP actually express more than purely rational concerns about a possible deficit of incentives to invent and create. They touch upon a deeper feeling of injustice arising in situations where somebody’s creation is exploited by another—reaping where one has not sown.10 This sentiment is arguably more typical for Western cultures that are much focused on individual achievements, rather than on ideals of collectivity and sharing.11 And this is perhaps the best explanation for allowing non-traditional trademarks to creep unchecked under the roof of legal protection.

Western cultures themselves display no uniformity in their views on copying. Formally, all Western jurisdictions largely accept the general principal that copying is free unless limited by a specific IP right.12 Yet, Continental European jurisdictions, such as France and Germany, seem to be rather adverse toward imitation as such.13 Courts tend to bar imitation of articles not protected by IP rights, frequently finding this behavior to constitute “unfair” or “parasitic” competition, “slavish imitation,” or misappropriation, unless the imitation is necessary for achieving a certain functional result.14 For example, when examining imitation, German courts routinely inquire whether the imitator consciously sought to make an identical product, rather than creating something of her own, and whether she purposefully employed another’s achievement for her own profit.15 They ask whether the imitator could be reasonably expected to keep a greater distance from the original.16 Exact or “slavish” copying is almost inevitably found to be wrong, unless justified by a functional (p.367) need.17 In restricting imitation, German courts often find it dissonant with the sense of decency.18 In addition, German jurisprudence frequently finds that close copying inevitably causes consumer confusion, thus leaving little room for legitimate competitor adoptions.19 Protection of non-traditional trademarks fits nicely into this legal context. If imitation without a functional reason is regarded as objectionable, there should be no special concern with protecting trademarks consisting of product design or color against copying.

Argumentation with fairness and decency can rarely be found in the context of copying in U.S. legal decisions.20 To the contrary, a large body of American case law emphasizes that nothing is wrong with exact and wholesale copying “down to the minutest detail” of articles unprotected by IP,21 that such copying benefits the public by driving prices down, and is thus crucial for effective competition.22 Notably, unlike their Continental European counterparts, U.S. courts do not require that copying should be justified by a necessity to reach a certain functional result. They regard copying as a protected federal right—a necessary complement to the IP protection system.23 Imitation has been described as “the life blood of competition,”24 and “the essence of [the U.S.] free-market economic system.”25 In contrast to their European counterparts, American courts emphasize that they find nothing unfair, unlawful, or immoral about boldly copying a competitor’s product: “[i]t is permissible in a competitive economy for the second comer to try to capture as much of the innovator’s market as it can.”26 It is difficult to see how restriction of imitation associated with non-traditional trademarks can fit into this competition-welcoming legal climate. The following sections will take a closer look on this question.

The different legal attitudes toward copying most probably have to do with the more general dispute between the Old and the New World over the importance of the original and the value of its imitation. European culture puts a great emphasis (p.368) on authenticity, heritage, and tradition. As a country of immigrants that decided to break up with the traditional European culture, America is generally much more open to the idea that a good copy may be valuable, and not only “the real thing.” The leaning Tower of Pisa in Illinois, Arc de Triomphe in New York, the Parthenon in Nashville, and Eiffel Tower of Las Vegas illustrate this point.

III. Imitation and Social Stratification

Social norms on imitation of objects are interconnected with deeper cultural views on society order and the place of the individual. The idea that imitation is a welcome phenomenon that brings greater efficiency and drives prices down subtly echoes the American Dream. According to this national vision, nobody is condemned to live within one’s inborn social status. America is the Land of Opportunities, and each person has a possibility to reach a high social position no matter the starting point. Any legitimate way to success is accepted. A paperboy who makes all the way up to replace the newspaper’s director is the hero of this tale: it’s a competition, so the best legitimately and fairly wins. To become a newspaper’s director, one does not have to take the regular route of studying journalism with rich parents paying for one’s studies—just like one doesn’t have to live in Italy to enjoy the view of Pisa tower.

Likewise, a company that efficiently copies a successful product of its rival thus improving the company’s market position should be encouraged. As long as no specific IP right protects the product, it does not matter much who is its original creator—just like it does not matter whether the person was born with a certain social status or gained it later.

The idea of social mobility is connected to copying in an additional way. Throughout history, people of high classes have used various means to signal their status and to distinguish themselves from the rest. At the same time, people of lower classes have always made attempts to copy these signals, thereby improving their position.27 During Ancient times and the Middle Ages, sumptuary laws banned such behavior, but this position was later abandoned in all Western societies.28 The Industrial Revolution enabled mass production of fake gold, diamonds, and precious stones thus undermining the efficiency of these articles as status symbols.29 In a market overflooded with cheap bijouterie, which looks very much like expensive jewels, precious materials obviously lose their status-signaling function.

However, the willingness of certain social groups to distinguish themselves from the others through visible status symbols remained, and to a great extent, gave rise to the phenomenon of fashion.30 To be sure, there are many ways to communicate status: education, erudition, musical taste, place of work, a big house, to name a few. Yet, easily displayable material possessions are most practical for indicating status in (p.369) casual social encounters. For a long time, fashion could fulfill this role: new designs circulated slowly, so that the rich enjoyed a significant period of exclusivity, until the fashion “trickled down.”31 Yet, the ever more progressive technologies of copying rendered fashion ever less reliable as a medium of status-signaling.32 Obviously, the cheaper, the more accurately, and the quicker a new prestigious design may be copied, the less it is capable of indicating a high economic status.

The philosopher Walter Benjamin envisioned that mechanical reproduction will ultimately liquidate “the traditional value of the cultural heritage” attached to works of art, undermining the authority and the aura surrounding the original. He perceived mass copying as a process liberating art from the dictatorship of tradition and heritage, and making it available for the masses.33 Similarly, mass copying of status goods could erase the uniqueness of these goods, making them available for large parts of the consuming public and ultimately undermining their possibility to serve as signals of material status.34

IV. Intellectual Property and Status-Signaling

As stated in Section II, IP laws function to preserve exclusivity in a world of easy copying. Hence, products protected by IP are natural candidates for the role of status signals. Indeed, consider the social effect of owning the latest and hottest model of an iPhone, or showing off with a designer bag.35

Patents fall short of preventing intentional status cheating.36 While a patent may protect the technologies incorporated in a new iPhone, it won’t help against a look-alike smartphone that uses different technologies.37 In the U.S., copyright does not extend to utilitarian articles, such as bags.38 By contrast, in European countries, copyright may embrace utilitarian articles if they meet the requirement of “originality,” which is prerequisite for copyright protection.39

Design patents, as they are called in the U.S., or industrial designs, as they are called in Europe, specifically aim at protecting product shapes and seem to be a most suitable legal tool for monitoring the circulation of fashion goods. Yet in the U.S., the protection provided by design patents is inadequate for fashion because of the need to register each item.40 The long registration process renders the protection impractical for quickly changing vogue trends. In the European Union (EU), in (p.370) addition to copyright, the mechanism of “unregistered community design” provides protection to every new product shape, without registration, for a period of three years, greatly restricting the possibilities to copy new fashion items.41 This protection is consistent with the somewhat suspicious attitude toward imitation that many Continental European legal systems share. These systems significantly restricted the imitation of articles not protected by any IP right long before unregistered community design regulation was enacted.42

This position is consistent with appreciation of originality and authenticity, which traditionally characterizes Continental European culture. To give another example, Article 3a(1) of the Comparative Advertising Directive forbids presenting one’s goods as an imitation or a replica of goods bearing a protected trademark. Although severely criticized in the literature for curtailing legitimate competition, this clause is very much consonant with the general European cautious approach to imitation.43

Preventing imitation, the European regulation allows fashion items to function like status signals, at least to some extent. In addition, assuming that some people recognize fragrance smells and conclude about the status of those who wear them, the ban on describing one’s product as imitation further obstructs status-cheating. Without direct information, a smell-alike is naturally very difficult to discover. The bottom line of these imitation-restricting regulations in the context of status-signaling is: if you cannot afford the original, just avoid this status symbol altogether; no cheating allowed. This legal message might be unintended. Yet it does not run counter to the European cultural climate, which gravitates more strongly toward the ideals of heritage and tradition than toward the ideal of social mobility.

As noted above, the U.S. legal system is vastly different. Notably, copyrights and design patents in the U.S. fall short of granting an adequate protection to fashion items. The U.S. Congress has repeatedly rejected bills aiming to establish a European-like protection for non-registered designs, reasoning that this would “create a ‘new monopoly’ having obvious and significant anticompetitive effects.”44A large body (p.371) of American case law finds imitation of product shapes legitimate, proclaiming the ideal of free copying.45 In one particularly remarkable case involving imitation of an entire Christian Dior garment collection, the Court discussed whether the imitator has the right to identify the source of the copied designs:

The Lanham Act [the Trademark Act of the United States] does not prohibit a commercial rival’s truthfully denominating his goods a copy of a design in the public domain, though he uses the name of the designer to do so. Indeed, it is difficult to see any other means that might be employed to inform the consuming public of the true origin of the design. …

Involved in the instant case is a conflict of values which necessarily arises in an economy characterized by competition and private property. The courts have come to recognize the true nature of the considerations often involved in efforts to extend protection of common law trade names so as to create a shield against competition. The interest of the consumer here in competitive prices of garments using Dior designs without deception as to origin, is at least as great as the interest of plaintiffs in monopolizing the name. [references omitted]46

Similarly, in cases involving smell-alikes, American courts consistently uphold the right of the imitators to truthfully indicate that their perfume smells like a famous brand.47 Thus, for instance, in one such case, the Court stated:

Since [Chanel 5] perfume was unpatented, appellants had a right to copy it . … There was a strong public interest in their doing so, … [b]ut this public benefit might be lost if appellants could not tell potential purchasers that appellants’ product was the equivalent of appellees’ product. … Appellees are not entitled to monopolize the public’s desire for the unpatented product, even though they themselves created that desire at great effort and expense. …

Disapproval of the copyist’s opportunism may be an understandable first reaction, but this initial response to the problem has been curbed in deference to the greater public good. By taking his “free ride,” the copyist, albeit unintentionally, serves an important public interest by offering comparable goods at lower prices. [references omitted]48

The rhetoric of these cases is compelling in its commitment to making equivalents of high-end products accessible for consumers who cannot afford the original. We can see that U.S. courts fully recognize the value of imitation and its ability to replace the original. Judicial acceptance of the consumer’s desire to own imitations of high-end products subtly correlates with the American visions of infinite opportunities for social mobility.

So far our discussion reveals a rather coherent picture, in which Continental Europe and the U.S. largely treat imitation in accord with their perceptions of authenticity, heritage, imitation, and social mobility. Yet, as we will see in the next section, the picture is more complex, as far as the U.S. legal system is concerned.

(p.372) V. The Special Case of Trademarks and Status-Signaling

Trademark law blurs the clarity of American pro-imitation legal policy. As mentioned above, trademarks are symbols identifying the commercial origin of goods and allowing the consumer to distinguish between merchandise of different traders. Trademarks are different from the rest of IP rights in that traditionally, they do not restrict copying, but solely prevent consumer confusion as to the source of goods. In this view, it is hard to see how trademarks, out of all IP rights, may be used to restrict the circulation of status symbols.

Yet, today it is trademarks that play an important status-signaling role in casual social encounters. This happens because at least in the U.S., trademarks are the most suitable mechanism to preserve the idea of authenticity in the reality of easy and legitimate copying. In a world where no one can be sure whether the diamonds one wears are real, and even if the latest Christian Dior dress one wears was really made by the company, trademarks—or brands—turn into relatively reliable means of signaling status. The trademark symbol is protected against copying by competitors and hence, it can be utilized as a convenient means of communicating one’s status. Thus, although the initial reason to protect trademarks is providing the purchaser with valuable information about the product source, this mechanism can be employed to convey information about the purchaser herself. For example, luxury marks such as Rolex, Ferrari, or Luis Vuitton can convey the information that the users of these products are members of a selected elite, as only a small number of people can afford these products. Similarly, marks such as Apple convey the information that the users of these products are members of groups that have specific preferences toward high-end technology and design-focused products, again as part of a selected group. These examples illustrate how trademarks can take a completely new role in the economy and society: they no longer simply function as product identifiers that provide consumers with relevant information, but as personal identifiers that provide people with information about other people.

Indeed, research shows that people use brands to communicate their identity and to perceive the identity of others.49 Of course, this does not mean that high material status is the only message a brand can communicate. Yet, connoting status, and in several instances also wealth, is a significant function of brands today, and this chapter critically analyzes this specific function. Research shows that individuals displaying luxury brands enjoy a higher status, which is associated with various benefits in social interactions.50 Such individuals are perceived as competent (p.373) workers,51 as being able to exert control,52 and as desirable partners for cooperation and exchange.53 When encountering conspicuous displays of wealth, people assert more social restraint and compliance and tend to be more generous and less aggressive.54

Because brands play such an important role in communicating status, they are ever more conspicuously displayed. It has been observed that the fashion industry is undergoing a process of “logoification,” with brand logos becoming ever larger and more prominent elements of fashion designs.55

Not surprisingly, there are continuous attempts to copy high-end brands: where there’s status-signaling, there’s copying. Yet as long as the copying volume is low relatively to truthful status-signaling, the signal remains overall reliable. Consider that while some animals may deceive as to their actual size, strength, or dangerousness, the signals these deceivers employ do not lose their general reliability. Similarly, although high-end branded products are sometimes imitated, in the most cases, the volume of imitation is not so high as to impair the reliability of the brand as a status symbol: as long as replicas remain the exception rather than the rule, the brand can continue serving its status-signaling function.56

The reason that brands, unlike gold and diamonds, do not lose their function of communicating status in casual relations largely lies in trademark law. Although monitoring social competition for status lies far from the original purposes of trademark law, it has extended its protection to encompass the status-signaling function of brands. This expanded protection follows from an interplay of three major doctrines: trade-dress protection, post-sale confusion, and dilution. Trade dress protection encompasses the product as a whole, rather than focusing on a specific element, such as a name or a symbol, thus effectively preventing product imitation. Post-sale confusion protects trademarks against uses that do not confuse the direct purchasers, but deceive later observers into thinking that the purchaser owns an original product. This mechanism targets the market of non-deceptive brand replicas. Finally, the dilution doctrine protects famous brands against cheapening of their uniqueness and exclusivity, thus preserving their status-signaling function. In the following sections, I will elaborate on these protection mechanisms, on their impact on social interactions, and on their compatibility with U.S. traditional cultural values.

As discussed above, Continental European legal systems are cautious toward imitation, and restrict it to a large extent, which is in harmony with their traditional (p.374) cultural values. Trademark doctrines providing further means of banning imitation continue this line. Yet, similar trademark doctrines have quite a different standing as against U.S. legal background, which—in accord with its cultural values—is generally supportive of imitation. As the following sections demonstrate, trademark doctrines restricting imitation mark a discontinuity in U.S. legal attitude and clash with its traditional values. The following discussion will thus focus on the U.S. legal system, since this is where the intriguing dissonance between cultural values and legal rules occurs.

A. Trade-dress protection

While a trademark protects an specific source identifier, such as a symbol or a name, trademark law provides additional protection through “trade dress”—the overall look of the product, including “features such as size, shape, color, color combinations, texture, or graphics.”57 Just as a trademark, a trade dress may now be registered or protected without registration in the U.S.58 Yet, it is more difficult to obtain protection in a trade dress than in a traditional trademark, since a trade dress is regarded as inherently non-distinctive, that is, incapable of serving as a source identifier.59 To gain trade dress protection, it is necessary to prove that the trade dress in question has acquired distinctiveness in a way that it communicates the origin of the product to the consumer.60 In an action for infringement, it is necessary to prove that having imitated the trade dress, the defendant created a likelihood of consumer confusion, deceptively suggesting that its products originate with the plaintiff.61

At first glance, the protection of trade dress fits nicely into the traditional logic underlying the trademark system: preventing consumer confusion as to the source of goods is the primary goal of trademark law, and product appearance may sometimes indicate its source: Coca-Cola’s classic glass bottle illustrates this point. Yet, since trade dress protection targets the overall look of the product rather than a symbol attached to it, this protection has the potential to establish a monopoly over product design where other IP rights fail to do so. Indeed, trade dress protection is now applicable in the U.S. to designs of clothing,62 handbags,63 and (p.375) shoes.64 In a groundbreaking decision, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recognized that the high-fashion French designer Christian Louboutin has an exclusive right to a red, lacquered outsole of a woman’s high fashion shoe.65

Note that trade dress protection is available for status goods much more than for any other goods: if a small designer company comes up with a creative new dress, which is then copied by a competitor, the company will get no trade dress protection because such copying is unlikely to cause confusion. But if a large and famous corporation manages to establish a certain design as a meaningful fashion symbol, in a way that this design is exclusively associated with the corporation, then copying this design will subject the copier to liability for trade dress infringement.66 Similarly, trade dress protection will usually apply more readily to high-end expensive goods than to more accessible items. Thus, for instance, while the famous designer corporation Hermès managed to obtain trade dress protection over its Birkin bag,67 the much smaller Sunburst Company failed in a similar action regarding its waist pouches.68

B. Post-sale confusion

Post-sale confusion is another trademark doctrine that provides protection of status signals against imitation. Developed in the second half of the twentieth century by U.S. courts,69 this doctrine protects the trademark owner against uses that do not confuse the direct consumer, but are likely to deceive third parties who later observe the product into thinking that it originates with the trademark owner.70 This doctrine is mostly applicable to replicas of famous products that are openly sold as such. Such replicas target the market of consumers who knowingly wish to obtain a non-authentic copy of a famous product for an accessible price.

In some cases of post-sale confusion, products are copied together with their trademarked names or logos, that is, the products at issue are identical replicas or “counterfeits.”71 As it is commonly known, counterfeited products are sold at much (p.376) cheaper prices than the original goods, and consumers seek them, of all things, because of their cheaper prices and identical, or almost identical look as compared to the original goods. Consumers are rarely confused when purchasing such products because of their low price and their selling environment (flea markets, street stands, or non-official distributors of the products).72 In addition, these products may carry explicit notifications that they are replicas and not originals, thus excluding the possibility of confusing the immediate purchaser.73

In other cases of post-sale confusion, specifically in cases related to trade dress copying, defendants may copy only the distinctive features of a prestigious product without copying its name or logo.74 In these cases, again, the immediate consumer is not confused because the name of the real producer appears either on the package or on the product itself. Yet, these identifiers can often be removed after the product is purchased;75 sometimes they appear in an inner part of the article,76 or cannot be properly seen when a third party observes the product from a certain distance.77 In other words, the differences with the original products are minimal: consumers seek these goods precisely because of their striking resemblance with the originals.

Thus, for instance, the design of a prestigious “Atmos” clock,78 Levi’s jeans pocket patterns,79 and Reebok “stripecheck” design have been protected as trade dresses on the ground that third parties, who would encounter consumers displaying products with those features, could believe that they observe original articles.80 Furthermore, courts banned imitations of Rolex watches that were sold for as little as $25 at a flea market in one case,81 and explicitly advertised as “replica gold watches” in another.82 Perhaps most remarkably, in a series of automobile cases, courts enjoined the distribution of customized kits designed to make cars appear like Rolls Royce83 and Ferrari.84

In addition to civil sanctions, a finding of post-sale confusion could lead a vendor of brand replicas to face criminal penalties.85 Thus, for example, selling Rolex, Gucci, Piaget, and Movado watches for prices ranging between $13 and $17 cost the vendor five months imprisonment, five months in a community treatment (p.377) center, and a $3,000 fine.86 “A purchaser … would probably not be confused as to the watch’s origin. However, a casual observer viewing a counterfeit watch, on the wrist of a friend, for instance, could easily be confused,” the Court observed.87 Courts have reached similar conclusions in numerous other cases, imposing criminal punishments on various distributors of fake status symbols.88

Judges have given various justifications for the doctrine of post-sale confusion. Most remarkably, a consistent body of case law holds that purchasing the imitation, a consumer acquires the prestige associated with the original without paying its price. Several decisions found wrongfulness in the very fact that consumers acquire a cheap product with a “luxury design” thus deceiving people into thinking that they actually own a prestigious article.89 As one Court stated: “[A public harm] occurs when a sophisticated buyer purchases a knockoff and passes it off to the public as the genuine article, thereby confusing the viewing public and achieving the status of owning the genuine article at a knockoff price.”90

Furthermore, courts pointed out the need to preserve the prestige and the high value of the originals, which derives from their scarcity91 and their high prices.92 They reason that if imitations become commonplace, the prestige and the exclusivity of the genuine articles would be lessened, thus discouraging consumers from acquiring them93 and harming those who already own them.94

The doctrine of post-sale confusion thus openly protects trademarks as status symbols. Indeed, the main reason why consumers buy status-signaling branded articles is the fact that they are relatively rare or, at the very least, not accessible for everyone. This characteristic is the very essence of a status symbol.

The fact that the legal system acts to enable and preserve social status-signaling has attracted much criticism.95 Indeed, this goal seems to be foreign to trademark philosophy and is hardly desirable as a legal policy in general. It is hard to see what kind of a “public harm” will occur if people achieve “the status of owning the genuine article at a knockoff price.”

(p.378) C. Dilution

Finally, the doctrine of dilution protects trademarks against uses that impair their distinctive value and lessen their uniqueness.96 Although initially designed for other factual constellations, the doctrine of dilution may successfully prevent imitation of a high-end brand: such imitation naturally dilutes the distinctive value of the trademark. Indeed, in several cases involving copying of status-signaling goods, courts found the copier guilty of trademark dilution.97 Yet, the finding of dilution has so far always accompanied findings of trade dress infringement or post-sale confusion, and has not yet played a decisive role for the outcome of the case.98

VI. What is Non-Traditional about Protecting Status Symbols?

This chapter is about non-traditional trademark protection, which usually refers to protecting non-traditional trademark forms. Indeed, product shapes, pocket design patterns, colors of shoe soles, and diagonal stripes are all relatively new, that is non-traditional, subjects of trademark protection. In addition, protection of trademarks against uses that do not confuse the direct purchaser—like the post-sale confusion and other doctrines described above do—is non-traditional in the sense that it strolls away from the traditional goals of trademark law. Yet, there is an additional reason why these legal trends are non-traditional in the U.S. context. In the remainder of this chapter, I would like to point out an alternative perspective on their non-traditionality.

As discussed at the outset of this chapter, the American legal system is generally very supportive of copying. Unlike some of their European counterparts that permit imitation only in cases of functional necessity, U.S. courts analyze imitation in light of economic efficiency. As a result, they allow imitators to capitalize on others’ achievements in a broad variety of cases, because such behavior is overall socially beneficial:99

Disapproval of the copyist’s opportunism may be an understandable first reaction, but this initial response to the problem has been curbed in deference to the greater public good. By taking his “free ride,” the copyist, albeit unintentionally, serves an important public interest by offering comparable goods at lower prices.100

Such statements are highly inconsistent with rhetoric of post-sale confusion cases:


[P]laintiff copied the design of the Atmos clock because plaintiff intended to, and did, attract purchasers who wanted a “luxury design” clock. This goes to show at least that some customers would buy plaintiff’s cheaper clock for the purpose of acquiring the prestige gained by displaying what many visitors at the customers’ homes would regard as a prestigious article.101

It is puzzling how American courts that are so sympathetic to the idea of imitators making expensive articles accessible to the large consuming public show concern with the practice of allowing purchasers to acquire prestige at a low price. Just consider the radical contrast between the ideal of imitation driving prices down and the concern that a brand’s “reputation for rarity” and luxuriousness would be “cheapened” by widespread existence of knock-offs.102

Cases that allow copying differ from those restricting it in a factual finding of consumer confusion as to the source of the product (in cases of trade dress protection) and confusion of bystanders (in cases of post-sale confusion). This distinction is often razor-thin: for instance, courts were split as to the question whether a red sole unambiguously signals that the shoe originates with Christian Louboutin.103

Furthermore, the confusion rationale is unconvincing in these cases: as far as a purchaser’s confusion is concerned, it is always possible to eliminate it using distinguishing signs and disclaimers. It is absolutely unnecessary to restrict the production of product shapes, designs, and patterns for the simple goal of preventing consumer confusion of source. As far as post-sale confusion is concerned, it is incomprehensible what kind of a “public harm” status cheating causes. Similar “harm” may be caused by luxury-looking apparel or luxury-smelling fragrances, such as replicas of Christian Dior dresses and an imitation of Chanel 5. Yet, this kind of “harm” has never been prevented by the U.S. legal system, and has nothing to do with the goals of trademark law.

So how can it happen that the U.S. legal system highly encourages imitation, including imitation that makes luxury-appearing items accessible, while at the same time restricting very similar types of copying? Perhaps, the answer is that no legal system is guided by a single ideal or principle. It always consists of a mixture of various, often conflicting, beliefs, principles, and tendencies.104 When two conflicting legal ideals clash, the outcome is largely unpredictable, and similar factual constellations may render opposite legal outcomes.105 In the context of imitation, the principle of free copying conflicts with another ideal of American law, which is the protection of private property. Since trademarks are categorized as “property”106—rather than (p.380) merely unfair competition law—the natural tendency of U.S. law is to expand their protection.107 Simply imitating a product thus taking some of the profits from its original creator is different from imitating a product thereby diminishing the economic value of a trademark, one’s private property.

In cases involving imitation, American judges consciously give preference to a rational economic analysis, suppressing their intuitive aversion against “reaping where one has not sown.”108 Yet, when a property right comes into play, this intuition gains legitimacy. Defining property right in a trademark as broad as to encompass “reputation for rarity” enables restricting intuitively bothering imitation without abandoning the strict logic of economic rationality. Property right gives a formal justification to judicial intuition, so that there is no need to suppress it with the strict logic of economic analysis.

What passes unnoticed is the dissonance between this line of jurisprudence and the American ideals of social mobility. As mentioned above, individuals displaying expensive brands are perceived as competent workers, as being able to exert control, and as desirable partners for cooperation and exchange.109 That is, brands actually give better social and professional opportunities, whether we like it or not. Accordingly, those who do not display such brands are at a competitive disadvantage as compared to brand wearers. Acquiring counterfeits, they attempt to bridge this gap.

Social brand discrimination is undoubtedly wrong. By giving better career opportunities to the rich, it fortifies the existing stratification, hindering social mobility. Cheating in this context should be encouraged rather than forbidden, since it allows fighting a detrimental social prejudice. Rich people are not really more competent workers and better cooperation partners. No “public harm” occurs when an owner of a knock-off “confuses the viewing public and achieves the status of owning the genuine article.” On the contrary, public harm occurs when the owner of a genuine article gains social advantages just because she is rich.

Choosing to protect status-signaling—whether through trade dress protection, post-sale confusion, or dilution—American trademark law actually departs from its long-standing liberal tradition. Allowing brands to function as status signals, it hinders social mobility in a most non-American way: it does not let the poor try to gain the same social opportunities as the rich enjoy. To illustrate this point, imagine Jean and Sara, who attended the same legal school, obtained similar grades, and comparable recommendation letters. Now they are looking for an internship in prestigious law firms. They both know that lawyers are impressed with high-end brands, and that a Rolex watch would be a good choice, but only Jean, whose parents are rich, can afford a genuine Rolex. In this scenario, Sara will be found at a considerable and entirely unjustified disadvantage on the labor market. She will probably (p.381) land at a less successful firm than her classmate, and the socioeconomic gap between their parents’ families will reproduce itself in their generation. This will happen because U.S. trademark civil and criminal law forbids selling a Rolex replica to Sara. Hence, even if Sara is able to find an unlawful Rolex counterfeit on a flea market, its illegal status might prevent this morally concerned young lawyer from making such a purchase.110 In addition, since counterfeits are illegal, their assortment is very limited and their quality unreliable, so that overall this might be a risky affair for Sara.

In other words, trademark law ultimately functions to preserve the existing social hierarchy. This form of cultural control is obviously undesirable, and it is deeply “non-traditional” in American cultural context, which traditionally proclaims the ideal of social mobility.

VII. Conclusion

This chapter outlines the interplay between cultural perceptions on heritage, authenticity, and social mobility on the one hand, and legal positions on imitation, on the other. I have asserted that there is a subtle interconnection between the U.S. legal position that encourages copying and the American Dream of social mobility. On the other hand, the cautious approach to imitation that is typical for Continental European countries echoes their cultural perceptions on tradition, heritage, and authenticity.

The U.S. legal system gradually expands the scope of its trademark law to embrace non-traditional trademarks, such as product shapes, designs, and colors. It broadens trademark protection beyond its traditional goal of preventing consumer confusion. These tendencies provide legal protection against imitation of products not protected by other IP rights. It thus contradicts the general U.S. legal policy, which is largely supportive of copying. What is more, these non-traditional forms of trademark protection actually restrict the possibilities of imitating status symbols, thereby reinforcing the existing social stratification. In U.S. context, this result is non-traditional in a deeper, yet unnoticed way: it hinders social mobility, an ideal that lies at the very heart of American national ethos. (p.382)


(1) See Chapter 1 in this volume.   

(2) See Chapters 10, 11, and 12 in this volume.

(3) See, e.g., Barton Beebe, Intellectual Property Law and the Sumptuary Code, 123 HARV. L. REV. 809, 834 (2010); Katya Assaf, Buying Goods and Doing Good: Trademarks and Social Competition, 67 ALA. L. REV. 979, 1002–03 (2016); Malla Pollack, Your Image Is My Image, 14 CARDOZO L. REV. 1392 (1993); Nestor M. Davidson, Property and Relative Status, 107 MICH. L. REV. 757, 804 (2009); Mark P. McKenna, Probabilistic Knowledge of Third-Party Trademark Infringement, 2011 STAN. TECH. L. REV. 10, 32–33 (2011); Ann Bartow, Counterfeits, Copying and Class, 48 HOUS. L. REV. 707, 733 (2011); Jeremy N. Sheff, Veblen Brands, 96 MINN. L. REV. 769 (2012); Connie D. Powell, We All Know It’s a Knock-Off! Re-evaluating the Need for the Post-Sale Confusion Doctrine in Trademark Law, 14 N.C. J.L. & TECH. 1 (2012); Matthew Grace, Note: The End of Post-Sale Confusion, 28 HARV. J.L. & TECH. 263 (2014).

(4) Ansgar Ohly, The Freedom of Imitation and Its Limits—A European Perspective, 41 INT’L REV. INTELL. PROP. & COMPETITION L. 506, 507–09 (2010).

(5) See generally, Richard Posner, ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF LAW 11–12 (2nd ed. 1977).

(6) See, e.g., Petra Moser, Patents and Innovation in Economic History, 8 ANN. REV. ECON. 241 (2016); Kal Raustiala & Christopher Sprigman, The Piracy Paradox: Innovation and Intellectual Property in Fashion Design, 92 VA. L. REV. 1687 (2006); Kal Raustiala & Christopher Sprigman, THE KNOCKOFF ECONOMY: HOW IMITATION SPARKS INNOVATION (2012).

(7) Diane L. Zimmerman, Copyrights as Incentives: Did We Just Imagine That?, 12 THEORETICAL INQUIRIES L. 29 (2011).

(8) Mark A. Lemley, Property, Intellectual Property, and Free Riding, 83 TEX. L. REV. 1031, 1055–56 (2005); Thomas B. Nachbar, The Comedy of the Market, 30 COLUM. J.L. & ARTS 453, 463–64 (2007). See generally, Robert P. Merges & Richard R. Nelson, On the Complex Economics of Patent Scope, 90 COLUM. L. REV. 839 (1990).

(9) See infra Section V.

(10) Wendy J. Gordon, On Owning Information: Intellectual Property and the Restitutionary Impulse, 78 VA. L. REV. 149, 156–57 (1992).

(11) See, e.g., Ron Selden, Economic Development Attitudes Must Change, Indian Country Today, June 13, 2001, https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/economic-development-attitudes-must-change/.

(12) Gordon, supra note 10, at 156–57; Ohly, supra note 4, at 506–07.

(13) Ohly, supra note 4, at 507–09.

(14) Id.; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Apr. 30, 2008, IZ R 73/05, 2008 GRUR 349, 353—Klemmbausteine III.

(15) E.g., Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Jun. 19, 1956, IZ R 104/54, 1960 GRUR 244, 245-46—Simili-Schmuck; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Dec. 18, 1968, IZ R 130/66, 1969 GRUR 292, 294—Buntstreifensatin II.

(16) Id.

(17) E.g., Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Oct. 30, 2003, I ZR 236/97, 2003 GRUR 360—Pflegebett; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Apr. 2, 2009, I ZR 199/06, 2009 GRUR 1073—Ausbeinmesser; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], May 28, 2009, I ZR 124/06, 2010 GRUR 80—LIKEaBIKE.

(18) Id.; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Jul. 14, 1962, I ZR 44/59, 1962 GRUR, 144, 150—Buntstreifensatin.

(19) E.g., Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Sep. 15, 2005, I ZR 151/02, 2006 GRUR 79—Jeans I; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], May 24, 2007, I ZR 104/04, 2007 GRUR 984—Gartenliege; Oberlandesgerichte Zweibrücken [OLG] [Higher Regional Court, Zweibrücken], 2000 Az. I ZR 98/06—BeckRS; Oberlandesgerichte Hamburg [OLG] [Higher Regional Court, Hamburg], 2003 Az I ZR 75/234—BeckRS 03.

(20) But see Int’l News Serv. v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215 (1918).

(21) See, e.g., Ernest Thompson Fine Furniture Maker, Inc. v. Youart, 16 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1386 (N.M. Ct. App. 1990); Gray v. Meijer, Inc., 295 F.3d 641 (6th Cir. 2002).

(22) See, e.g., Roho, Inc. v. Marquis, 902 F.2d 356 (5th Cir. 1990); Dorr-Oliver, Inc. v. Fluid-Quip, Inc., 94 F.3d 376 (7th Cir. 1996).

(23) See, e.g., Thomas & Betts v. Panduit Corp., 65 F.3d 654 (7th Cir. 1995); Versa Products Co. v. Bifold Co., 50 F.3d 189 (3d Cir. 1995).

(24) Am. Safety Table Co. v. Schreiber, 269 F.2d 255 (2d Cir. 1959); Smith v. Chanel, Inc., 402 F.2d 562 (9th Cir. 1968).

(25) Aromatique, Inc. v. Gold Seal, Inc., 28 F.3d 863, 875 (8th Cir. 1994).

(26) Duraco Prods., Inc. v. Joy Plastic Enters., Ltd., 40 F.3d 1431, 1448 (3d Cir. 1994); accord. Sassafras Enters., Inc. v. Roshco, Inc., 915 F. Supp. 1, 4 (N.D. III. 1996).

(27) Beebe, supra note 3, at 834; Assaf, supra note 3, at 1002–03.

(28) Alan Hunt, GOVERNANCE OF THE CONSUMING PASSIONS: A HISTORY OF SUMPTUARY LAW 39 (1996). See also Assaf, supra note 3, at 985.

(29) Assaf, supra note 3, at 985.

(30) Georg Simmel, Fashion, 62 AM. J. SOC. 541 (1957).

(31) Id.

(32) Assaf, supra note 3, at 1002–03.

(33) Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in ILLUMINATIONS 221–24 (Hannah Arendt ed., 1968).

(34) Assaf, supra note 3, at 1004.

(35) See Beebe, supra note 3.

(36) Note, The Devil Wears Trademark: How the Fashion Industry Has Expanded Trademark Doctrine to Its Detriment, 127 HARV. L. REV. 995, 996–98 (2014).

(37) See, e.g., Lisa Eadiciccio, This Super Cheap Android Looks Exactly Like the iPhone 6, BUSINESS INSIDER, Jan. 27, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/iphone-clone-android-2015-1.

(38) 17 U.S.C.A. § 101 (2010).

(39) See Trevor Cook, The Cumulative Protection of Designs in the European Union and the Role in such Protection of Copyright, 18 JIPR 83 (2013).

(40) See Note, supra note 36, at 996–98.

(41) Council Regulation 6/02/EC on Community Designs of Dec. 12, 2001, [2002] O.J. L3/1; amended by Council Regulation No. 1891/2006 of Dec. 18, 2006, to give effect to the accession of the European Community to the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement concerning the international registration of industrial designs, [2006] O.J. L386/14.

(42) This was the legal situation in Germany, e.g.: Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Dec. 18, 1968, IZ R 130/66, 1969 GRUR 292, 294—Buntstreifensatin II.; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Jun. 17, 1999, I ZR 213/96, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift [NJW] 2000, 338, [1999] GRUR 1106—Rollstuhlnachbau; Bundesgerichtshof [BGH] [Federal Court of Justice], Apr. 2, 2009, I ZR 199/06, [2009] GRUR 1073—Ausbeinmesser.

(43) E.g., Frauke Henning-Bodewig, Vergleichende Werbung—Liberalisierung des deutschen Rechts?, 48(5) GRUR INT’L 385 (1999); Ansgar Ohly & Michael Spence, Vergleichende Werbung: Die Auslegung der Richtlinie 97/55/EG in Deutschland und Großbritannien, 8/9 GRUR INT. 681 (1999).

(44) H.R. Rep. No. 1476, 94th Cong., at 50 (2d Sess. 1976). See also H.R. 5055, 109th Cong. (2006). For discussion see Christine Quilichini, Haute Couture Legislation: Tailor Made High Fashion Design Protection in the United States, 4 U. PUERTO RICO BUS. L.J. 228 (2013). In a somewhat similar vein, Raustiala and Sprigman have argued that IP protection is unnecessary for the fashion industry, since it thrives and flourishes notwithstanding widespread copying: see RAUSTIALA & SPRIGMAN, supra note 6, Chapter 2.

(45) See, e.g., supra notes 21–26.

(46) Societe Comptoir de L’Industrie Cotonniere Etablissements Boussac v. Alexander’s Dep’t Stores, Inc., 299 F.2d 33, 36–37 (2d Cir. 1962).

(47) Saxony Prods., Inc. v. Guerlain, Inc., 513 F.2d 716 (9th Cir. 1975); Smith v. Chanel, Inc., supra note 24; Calvin Klein Cosmetics Corp. v. Lenox Labs., Inc., 815 F.2d 500 (8th Cir. 1987).

(48) Smith v. Chanel, supra note 24, 567–69.

(49) Russell W. Belk et al., The Sacred and the Profane in Consumer Behavior: Theodicy on the Odyssey, 16 J. CONSUMER RES. 1, 15 (1989); Albert M. Muniz, Jr. & Thomas C. O’Guinn, Brand Community, 27 J. CONSUMER RES. 412, 427 (2001); Ronald W. Pimentel & Kristy E. Reynolds, A Model for Consumer Devotion: Affective Commitment with Proactive Sustaining Behaviors, 2004 ACAD. MARKETING SCI. REV., 1, 24, http://www.expectad.com/white_paper/A_model_for_consumer_expect_advertising_inc.pdf. For discussion see Katya Assaf, Brand Fetishism, 43 CONN. L. REV. 83, 91–96 (2010).

(50) Rob M.A. Nelissen & Marijn H.C. Meijers, Social Benefits of Luxury Brands as Costly Signals of Wealth and Status, 32 EVOLUTION & HUM. BEHAV. 343, 348 (2011).

(51) Id. at 351; Maura L. Scott et al., Judging the Book by Its Cover? How Consumers Decode Conspicuous Consumption Cues in Buyer–Seller Relationships, 50 J. MKTG. RES. 334, 334 (2013).

(52) Helga Dittmar et al., Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds: A Comparative Study of the Impact of Material Wealth on Perceived Identities in England and Italy, 4 SOC. BEHAV. 195, 199 (1989).

(53) Nelissen & Meijers, supra note 50, at 344.

(54) Id. at 345.

(55) C. Scott Hemphill & Jeannie Suk, The Law, Culture, and Economics of Fashion, 61 STAN. L. REV. 1147, 1176–78 (2009); Lauren Howard, An Uningenious Paradox: Intellectual Property Protections for Fashion Designs, 32 COLUM. J. L. & ARTS 333, 336 (2009); Susan Scafidi, Intellectual Property and Fashion Design, in INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND INFORMATION WEALTH 121 (Peter K. Yu ed., 2007).

(56) Assaf, supra note 3, at 1008.

(57) See, e.g., Vision Sports, Inc. v. Melville Corp., 888 F.2d 609, 613 (9th Cir. 1989); Clicks Billiards, Inc. v. Sixshooters, Inc., 251 F.3d 1252, 1259 (9th Cir. 2001); Adidas-Salomon AG v. Target Corp., 228 F. Supp. 2d 1192, 1193 (D. Or. 2002).

(58) Glynn S. Lunney, The Trade Dress Emperor’s New Clothes: Why Trade Dress Does Not Belong on the Principal Register, 51 HASTINGS L.J. 1131 (2000); Charles Cronin, Lost and Found: Intellectual Property of the Fragrance Industry; From Trade Secrets to Trade Dress, 5 NYU J. INTELL. PROP. & ENT. L. 256, 295 (2015).

(59) See, e.g., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Brothers, Inc., 529 U.S. 205, 213–14 (2000); Adidas-Salomon, supra note 57, 1205–06.

(60) Adidas-Salomon, supra note 57.

(61) Id. at 1210–11; Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. v. Am. Eagle Outfitters, Inc., 280 F.3d 619, 635 (6th Cir. 2002); Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Dooney & Bourke, Inc., 454 F.3d 108, 116–18 (2d Cir. 2006). See also Kevin V. Tu, Counterfeit Fashion: The Interplay Between Copyright and Trademark Law in Original Fashion Designs and Designer Knockoffs, 18 TEX. INTELL. PROP. L.J. 419 (2010).

(62) Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., supra note 59.

(63) Hermès Int’l v. Lederer de Paris Fifth Avenue, Inc., 219 F.3d 104 (2d Cir. 2000); Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Dooney & Bourke, Inc., 454 F.3d 108 (2d Cir. 2006).

(64) Adidas-Salomon, supra note 57.

(65) Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent Am. Holding, Inc., 696 F.3d 206 (2d Cir. 2012). In a parallel case before the Court of Justice of the European Union, it was held that the red sole mark should not be protected if its intrinsic value “affect[s] the attractiveness of the goods to such an extent that the reservation thereof to a single undertaking would distort competition on the market.” Deciding on this question, national courts “must take no account of attractiveness of the goods flowing from the reputation of the mark or its proprietor”: Case C-163/16, Christian Louboutin SAS v. Van Haren Schoenen BV, [2017] EUR-Lex 62016CC0163, opinion delivered June 22, 2017.

(66) Tu, supra note 61, at 435.

(67) Hermès Int’l, supra note 63, 107.

(68) Sunburst Prod., Inc. v. Cyrk Int’l, 98 F.3d 1358 (Fed. Cir. 1996).

(69) The first decision to recognize post-sale confusion as actionable is Mastercrafters Clock & Radio Co. v. Vacheron & Constantin-Le Coultre Watches, Inc., 221 F.2d 464 (2d Cir. 1955). The 1962 amendment of the Lanham Act eliminated the requirement that, to establish trademark infringement, there should be confusion of “purchasers.” Most courts regard this amendment as adaptation of the post-sale confusion doctrine: see, e.g., Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc. v. Canner, 645 F. Supp. 484, 492–93 (S.D. Fla. 1986); Payless Shoesource, Inc. v. Reebok Int’l. Ltd., 998 F.2d 985 (Fed. Cir. 1993).

(70) J. Thomas McCarthy, MCCARTHY ON TRADEMARKS AND UNFAIR COMPETITION § 23:5 (4th ed., 2017).

(71) E.g., Rolex Watch USA, Inc. v. Canner, 645 F. Supp. 484 (S.D. Fla. 1986).

(72) Id.

(73) E.g., Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc. v. “Bud” Forrester, 2 U.S.P.Q.2d 1292 (SD Fla 1986); Hermès Int’l, supra note 63, 107.

(74) Lois Sportswear, U.S.A., Inc. v. Levi Strauss & Co., 799 F.2d 867 (2d Cir. 1986); Levi Strauss & Co. v. Blue Bell, Inc., 632 F.2d 822 (9th Cir. 1980); Keds Corp. v. Renee Int’l Trading Corp., 888 F.2d 215, 222 (1st Cir. 1989).

(75) Lois Sportswear, U.S.A., supra note 74, 872–73; Levi Strauss & Co., supra note 74, 822.

(76) Polo Fashions, Inc. v. Craftex, Inc., 816 F.2d 145 (4th Cir. 1987).

(77) Keds Corp., supra note 74, 222 (1st Cir. 1989); Ferrari S.P.A. v. McBurnie, 11 U.S.P.Q.2d 1843, 1844–47 (S.D. Cal. 1989).

(78) Mastercrafters Clock & Radio Co., supra note 69.

(79) Lois Sportswear, U.S.A., Inc., supra note 74, 872–73 (2d Cir. 1986); Levi Strauss & Co., supra note 74.

(80) Reebok Int’l Ltd. v. Sung Hwa Int’l Corp., 6 U.S.P.Q.2d 1233 (S.D.N.Y. 1987).

(81) Rolex Watch USA, Inc. v. Canner, 645 F. Supp. 484 (S.D. Fla. 1986).

(82) Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc. v. “Bud” Forrester, 2 U.S.P.Q.2d 1292 (S.D. Fla. 1986).

(83) Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. v. A & A Fiberglass, Inc., 428 F. Supp. 689 (N.D. Ga. 1976).

(84) Ferrari S.P.A. v. Roberts, 944 F.2d 1235 (6th Cir. 1991); Ferrari S.P.A. v. McBurnie, supra note 77.

(85) 18 U.S.C.A. § 2320 (2016).

(86) United States v. Hon, 904 F.2d 803, 804 (2d Cir. 1990).   

(87) Id. at 805.

(88) See, e.g., Rolex Watch USA, Inc. v. Canner, 645 F. Supp. 484 (S.D. Fla. 1986); United States v. Gonzalez, 630 F. Supp. 894 (S.D. Fla. 1986); United States v. Gantos, 817 F.2d 41 (8th Cir. 1987); United States v. Torkington, 812 F.2d 1347 (11th Cir. 1987). For discussion see Zachary J. King, Knock-Off My Mark, Get Set, Go to Jail? The Improprieties of Criminalizing Post-Sale Confusion, 88 NYU. L. REV. 2220 (2013).

(89) See, e.g., Mastercrafters Clock & Radio Co., supra note 69, 466; Hermès Int’l, supra note 63, 109; Louis Vuitton Malletier v. Dooney & Bourke, Inc., 340 F. Supp. 2d 415, 431 (S.D.N.Y. 2004).

(90) Hermès Int’l, supra note 63, 109.

(91) Ferrari S.P.A. v. Roberts, supra note 84, 1238; Ferrari S.P.A. v. McBurnie, supra note 77.

(92) Ferrari S.P.A. v. Roberts, supra note 84.

(93) Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc. v. Canner, 645 F. Supp. 484, 495 (S.D. Fla. 1986); Lois Sportswear, U.S.A., Inc. v. Levi Strauss & Co., 799 F.2d 867, 875–76 (2d Cir. 1986); Gucci Am., Inc. v. Dart, Inc., 715 F. Supp. 566, 12 U.S.P.Q.2d 1912 (S.D.N.Y. 1989); Ferrari S.P.A. v. Roberts, supra note 84, 1244–45.

(94) Hermès Int’l, supra note 63, 107–08; Gen. Motors Corp. v. Keystone Auto. Indus., Inc., 453 F.3d 351, 358 (6th Cir. 2006).

(95) See supra note 3.

(96) Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125(c) (2016).

(97) See, e.g., Rolex Watch, U.S.A., Inc. v. Canner, 645 F. Supp. 484, 492–93 (S.D. Fla. 1986); Ferrari S.P.A. v. Roberts, supra note 84, 1244–45 (6th Cir. 1991); Levi Strauss & Co. v. Abercrombie & Fitch Trading Co., 633 F.3d 1158, 1159 (9th Cir. 2011). For discussion see: David M. Tichane, The Maturing Trademark Doctrine of Post-Sales Confusion, 85 TRADEMARK REP. 399, 422 (1995); Note, supra note 36, at 1007–08.

(98) See cases cited above.

(99) See, e.g., supra notes 21–26.

(100) Smith v. Chanel, Inc., supra note 24, 568–69.

(101) Mastercrafters Clock & Radio Co., supra note 69, 466.

(102) See supra notes 91–94.

(103) The District Court found that the red sole cannot be protected as a trade dress, since fashion industry “is dependent on colors”: Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent Am., Inc., 778 F. Supp. 2d 445, 454 (S.D.N.Y. 2011), but the Second Circuit reversed: Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent Am. Holding, Inc., 696 F.3d 206 (2d Cir. 2012). For discussion see Claire Guehenno, Color War: The Louboutin Decision and Single-Color Marks in the Fashion Industry, 4 HARV. J. SPORTS & ENT. L. 225 (2013).

(104) Katya Assaf, Capitalism vs. Freedom, 38 NYU. REV. L. & SOC. CHANGE 201, 211–12 (2014).

(105) Another example of such a conflict is trademark tarnishment doctrine, which lies at the crossroad between property protection and the freedom of speech. For a discussion of unpredictability of its outcomes see Katya Assaf, The Dilution of Culture and the Law of Trademarks, 49 IDEA 1, 49–74 (2008).

(106) Callmann on Unfair Competition, TRADEMARKS & MONOPOLIES § 17:7 (4th ed. 2017).

(107) Felix Cohen, Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach, 35 COLUM. L. REV. 809, 820–21 (1935); Assaf, Capitalism vs. Freedom, supra note 104, at 224–25; Mark A. Lemley, Property, Intellectual Property, and Free Riding, 83 TEX. L. REV. 1031 (2005); David Fagundes, Property Rhetoric and the Public Domain, 94 MINN. L. REV. 652 (2010).

(108) E.g., Smith v. Chanel, Inc., supra note 24, 568–69.

(109) See supra notes 51–54.

(110) Assaf, supra note 3, at 981.