Advertising and marketing are one of the most important tools available to any business, but in today’s fast-paced, digitally-based world, it is important that you know what you’re allowed and not allowed to do in order to protect yourself from costly litigation. Trademark infringement – “the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on competing or related goods” – is a common complaint and basis for many lawsuits.
Here’s what you need to know about the misleading use of product seals, and when you are or are not permitted to use another company’s trademark.
When the use of another’s trademark is allowed:
- When using a trademark in a descriptive sense – If a company has trademarked a phrase that can also be used as a description, and your company uses the phrase to describe your product (and not to imply any type of sponsorship or endorsement), it is permitted.
- For a secondary (or beyond) sale – If you are reselling a brand-name product, you are permitted to use the company’s trademark.
- As a comparison – If you are using a brand’s trademark in the context of comparing it to your product, it is permissible as long as it is not false or misleading.
- For reference – You are allowed to reference another company’s brand within your ad as long as you are not doing so to imply sponsorship or endorsement.
Use of another’s trademark is not permitted and subject to litigation when it is used to disparage a product or to perpetrate a fraud. Examples include:
- Making false or misleading comparisons within an advertisement
- Disparaging another company’s product ‘s price, quality or other characteristics
- When making accusations about dishonesty or patent infringement
- When making negative statements about a competitor
- When using a product seal that is extremely similar to that of a competitor to the point of causing confusion between the two products
Trademark infringement is designed to protect companies from disparagement as well as to protect consumers. Make sure that you are aware of what is allowed before using another company’s product seal. Likewise, if you become aware that another company is perpetrating trademark infringement against you and it is hurting your business, contact our Philadelphia office today to learn more about your rights and how to protect yourself.