|Other short titles||Trademark Act of 1946|
|Statutes at Large||60 Stat. 427|
The Lanham (Trademark) Act (Pub.L. 79-489, 60 Stat. 427, enacted July 5, 1946, codified at 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq. (15 U.S.C. ch. 22) is the primary federal trademark statute of law in the United States. The Act prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising.
Named for Representative Fritz G. Lanham of Texas, the Act was passed on July 5, 1946, and signed into law by President Harry Truman, taking effect "one year from its enactment", on July 6, 1947. In rare circumstances, a conflict will arise between trademarks that have been in use since before the Lanham Act went into effect, thus requiring the courts to examine the dispute according to the trademark act that existed before the Lanham Act.
The Act has been amended several times since its enactment. Its impact was significantly enhanced by the Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984, which made the intentional use of a counterfeit trademark or the unauthorized use of a counterfeit trademark an offense under Title 18 of the United States Code, and enhanced enforcement remedies through the use of ex parte seizures and the award of treble profits or damages (whichever is greater).
In 1999, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act inserted , and amended .
§§ 42 and 43 of the Act (now known as 15 U.S.C. §§ 1124-1125) set out the remedies that can be sought when a trademark is infringed. These provisions forbid the importation of goods that infringe registered trademarks, and restrict, through the use of injunctions and damages, the use of false descriptions and trademark dilution.
§ 43(a) () is the "likelihood of confusion" standard for infringement of an unregistered trademark or trade dress, and courts still frequently refer to the provision as "Section 43(a)":
15 U.S.C. § 1125 - False designations of origin, false descriptions, and dilution forbidden
(a) Civil action
(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which--
- (A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or
- (B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person's goods, services, or commercial activities,
shall be liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.
is often used when false or misleading statements are alleged to have hurt a consumer or business. The claimant must prove that a false or misleading statement was made in commerce and that the statement creates a likelihood of harm to the plaintiff.
is often used when false or misleading statements are alleged to have hurt a business.
The Act has been held to have extraterritorial impact, and the circuit courts have been giving more favorable interpretations in extending its scope. The original ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, as interpreted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, contemplates a three-part test in determining whether the Act applies (where at least two factors must be met):
Although the Lanham Act sets out clear parameters as to what constitutes trademark infringement, subsequent court decisions, especially those involving the Internet, have loosened the strictures.
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law had no impact on public domain works in Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
In 2014, the various interpretations that had been adopted by the circuit courts as to who had standing to sue under were ousted by the Court in Lexmark Int'l v. Static Control Components, where Justice Scalia adopted a multi-step approach:
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co. that the Act complemented the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, allowing a company to sue for infringement by way of civil action.
In 2017 Matal v. Tam, the Supreme Court ruled that a provision in of the Act, denying registration to any trademarks seen as disparaging an individual or group, was an unconstitutional restriction of applicants' freedom of speech.
In 2019 Iancu v. Brunetti, the Supreme Court ruled that a provision in of the Act, denying registration to any trademarks seen as consisting of immoral or scandalous matter, was an unconstitutional restriction of applicants' freedom of speech.
In the United States Code, the Act has been divided into four subchapters:
|I||The Principal Register||§§ 1051-1072||Lanham Act, ss. 1-22|
|II||The Supplemental Register||§§ 1091-1096||Lanham Act, ss. 23-28|
|III||General Provisions||§§ 1111-1127||Lanham Act, ss. 29-45|
|§ 1128||later creation of the National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination Council|
|§ 1129||passage of prohibitions against cyberpiracy originally codified here, but now covered by 15 U.S.C. § 8131|
|IV||The Madrid Protocol||§§ 1141-1141n||later passage, in consequence of US accession to the Madrid system|
Subchapter I sets forth the requirements that a mark must meet to receive a registration on the Principal Register, which bestows various rights on the trademark owner to prevent others from infringing their mark. Among the requirements are prohibitions against the registration of marks that are confusingly similar to existing marks, are generic or merely descriptive, are scandalous or immoral, or fall onto certain other prohibited categories. Subchapter I also sets forth certain procedural requirements, such as the submission of an affidavit of continued use after five years of registration.
Subchapter II sets forth a form of registration on the Supplemental Register, for certain marks that are unregistrable under Subchapter I, but may become registrable in the future, such as those that are merely descriptive. This form of registration, while not granting all the protections of registration on the Principal Register, does provide notice to potential infringers that the mark is in use, and also provides some procedural benefits.