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Berkman Center for Internet & Society

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Trademarks -- the words and logos that identify sources of goods and services -- are ubiquitous in the modern age. As consumers, we use brand names to distinguish among the products we purchase and use. As producers, we search for unique marks to identify the goods and services we sell or give away. As members of the public, we incorporate trademarks in our culture and speech.

Trademark infringement predates the Internet, of course, but trademark holders often argue that the Internet has increased their challenges in defending their marks; that the global Internet erodes the geographic boundaries that once allowed multiple users of the same mark to co-exist; that the Internet presents more frequent dilution of trademarks. Or, viewed from a different perspective, the Internet allows more people to speak, and many of those speakers want to use the common language of which famous trademarks have become a part.

Trademarks can be infringed on the Net in many ways.

  1. Domain names that are identical or similar to well-known marks have been registered by "cybersquatters" who tried to sell the domain to the mark owner for vastly inflated sums of money.

  2. Some commercial vendors have used the trademark of a competitor in the meta tags for the vendor's own website so that search engines will direct customers looking for the trademark products to the competitor's website instead.

  3. And some individuals have copied trademarked logos and used them on their own websites to imply some authorized connection to the well-known product.
Sometimes these acts are clear "infringements" of the mark owner's rights; sometimes they are non-infringing "fair uses." Rights may be different from one nation to the next and yet a mark owner in one nation may pursue a claim against a domain holder from another since the site is visible in both. It is hoped that this site will help the public understand US trademark law and the terms that typically appear in a complaint about trademark infringement.

In any event, you're probably here because you have received a cease and desist letter accusing you of trademark infringement.

Start with:

What to Expect When You're Expecting (to be sued for trademark infringement)
Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) by Maya Alexandri

If the c & d mentions the ACPA (Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act), look at:
ACPA FAQ by Jared Kramer

If it refers to the UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy), read:
UDRP FAQ by Amy Bender

Trademark logos may also be protected by copyright which covers artistic works. Check out the topics on Copyright and on Protest, Parody and Criticism.

For more information, see the Frequently Asked Questions about Trademark.

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