September 16, 2016

Who Cares About Trademarks?

You do.

Picture this: You take a quick drive down the beltway and your mouth waters at the sight of  the glowing golden arches. You could go for a McDouble.

Stomach rumbling, you tear your eyes away and turn your gaze to the Audi in front of you; you know it’s an Audi, because you see the four interlocking silver rings just above the license plate.

Another car drives by, this one flaunting a bumper sticker of a growling bulldog wearing a ball cap embellished with the letter “G.” You graduated from Georgetown just five years ago, and you’d recognize that bulldog anywhere.

The golden arches, the interlocking silver rings, and the ball-capped bulldog are more than just images. The arches made you hungry, the rings evoked expectations of luxury, and the bulldog took you back to your freshman dorm room.

That’s what trademarks do: they represent brands – in this case, McDonalds, Audi, and Georgetown University – and everything associated with those brands. Trademarks encompass the emotions, the reputations, and the goodwill we consumers attach to our favorite and our not-so-favorite brands. The very same emotions, reputations, and goodwill brands spend decades to establish.

Since the introduction of the Lanham Act, the primary federal trademark statute of law in the U.S., countless words, phrases, symbols, designs, shapes, and colors have rooted the identities of thousands of brands for consumers. Even scents, tastes, and sounds can carry trademarks.

GIPC Lanham Act

The original Lanham Act legislation. Photo by Joshua Roberts / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Some trademarks even transcend brands to represent a product or service entirely. Think: Kleenex, Band-Aid, Wite-Out, and Jacuzzi – all trademarked names.

Trademarks help us make sense of what’s around us. We look to trademarks to signal what it is we’re buying and, subsequently, what to expect when we buy it.

Trademarks provide all consumers a trusted, genuine seal of approval, and we have the Lanham Act to thank.

That’s why the Global Intellectual Property Center, the International Trademark Association, the American Bar Association, the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and the American Intellectual Property Law Association hosted a celebration this week in honor of the Lanham Act’s 70th birthday.

GIPC Lanham Act

CEO of the International Trademark AssociationEtienne Sanz de Acedo.  Photo by Joshua Roberts / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce


USPTO Director Michelle Lee and Mary Boney Denison, Commissioner for Trademarks, also joined the event to help recognize Congressional Trademark Caucus partners: Sens. Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chris Coons (D-DE), and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA).

Washington, DC, USA - September 14, 2016: GIPC Lanham Act event on Capitol Hill. Photo by Joshua Roberts / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley accepting a framed copy of the original Lanham Act legislation. Photo by Joshua Roberts / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce


These partners will continue to work together on behalf of companies and consumers to protect brands for the next 70 years.  And for the sake of people – just like you – who care about trademarks.

Courtney Paul serves as the associate manager of communications for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Intellectual Property Center.

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