Lanham Act

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The Lanham Act of 1946, also known as the Trademark Act (15 U.S.C.A. § 1051 et seq., ch. 540, 60 Stat. 427 [1988 & Supp. V 1993]), is a federal statute that regulates the use of trademarks in commercial activity. Trademarks are distinctive pictures, words, and other symbols or devices used by businesses to identify their goods and services. The Lanham Act gives trademark users exclusive rights to their marks, thereby protecting the time and money invested in those marks. The act also serves to reduce consumer confusion in the identification of goods and services.

The Lanham Act was not the first federal legislation on trademarks, but it was the first comprehensive federal legislation. Before the Lanham Act, most of trademark law was regulated by a variety of state laws.

The first federal trademark legislation was passed by Congress in 1870 and amended in 1876. In 1879 the U.S. Supreme Court found that legislation unconstitutional. Two subsequent attempts at federal trademark legislation provided little protection for the rights of trademark users. The movement for stronger trademark legislation began in the 1920s, and was championed in the 1930s by Representative Fritz Lanham, of Texas. In 1946 Congress passed the act and named it the Lanham Act after its chief proponent. Lanham stated in 1946 that the act was designed "to protect legitimate business and the consumers of the country."

The Lanham Act protected trademarks used in commerce and registered with the patent and trademark office in Washington, D.C. It expanded the types of trademarks that deserved legal protection, created legal procedures to help trademark holders enforce their rights, and established an assortment of rights that attached to qualified trademarks.

Congress has amended the act several times since 1946. The most sweeping changes came in 1988. Those changes included an amendment that authorized the protection of trademarks that had not been used in commerce but were created with the intent that they be used in commerce.

further readings

Curtis, Ted, and Joel H. Stempler. 1995. "So What Do We Name the Team? Trademark Infringement, the Lanham Act, and Sports Franchises." Columbia-VLA Journal of Law and the Arts 19.

Kearney, Brian J. 1986. "The Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984: A Sensible Legislative Response to the Ills of Commercial Counterfeiting." Fordham Urban Law Journal 14.

Pierce, Kenneth R. 1990. "Origins of the Use Requirement and an Overview of the New Federal Trademark Law." Florida Bar Journal 64 (May).

Thill, Russell George. 1994. "The 1988 Trademark Law Revision Act: Damage Awards for False Advertising and Consumer Standing under Section 43(A)—Congress Drops the Ball Twice." DePaul Business Law Journal 6.