Back in 2021, we discussed the difference between trademark infringement and trademark dilution. Business and trademark owners know that both issues can have a considerable impact on their reputations. However, the main concern when it comes to dilution often lies in determining whether or not it is truly a dilution of a trademark or a parody.
In that previous blog post, we addressed the particular case involving Jack Daniels’s trademark whiskey bottle design. This case – and the effect parodies have – remains at the center of this complex matter.
Ongoing battle over dilution went to the Supreme Court
This legal battle has gone back and forth over the last few years. Some courts determined that the dog toy shaped like the well-known whiskey bottle is indeed a parody, and therefore the company that created it has First Amendment protections.
However, in 2023 the Supreme Court ruled that it is not quite a parody. The Supreme Court determined that the toy reflects the trademark enough that it violates trademark protections and rules.
The different opinions on this matter illustrate just how complicated it is. So, what must business owners consider?
Take a closer look at dilution
The definition of trademark dilution is quite broad. The federal Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006 does not actually consider the risk of confusion or negative economic impacts – as trademark infringement does. The law defines dilution as the use of a mark that might tarnish the mark itself or the reputation tied to it.
In short, this law focuses only on protecting the trademark. It is not necessary to prove that consumers may be confused when it comes to a claim of dilution.
This allows business to protect their image. After all, a business’s public image is an important factor in gaining and maintaining consumer approval. Any mark that would sully or degrade that image the business worked hard to build could be a considerable concern and risk.
Dilution v. parody: A subjective issue
Of course, the law also explicitly states that parodying is not dilution. These cases are often quite subjective, as the differing opinions also indicate. This subjectivity can just as easily work in favor of businesses trying to safeguard their intellectual property, as it can against them.
Protecting a trademark requires vigilance. However, it is also beneficial to obtain skilled legal counsel in order to effectively protect the brand and business in such subjective situations.