Posted: 2020-10-13 20:23:21

If Something Is Advertised As A Knockoff Product... Is It No Longer Counterfeiting?

From Mike Masnick at Techdirt.
Originally published 2020-10-13
Indeed, we've always said that (unlike with the other two) trademarks are mostly a consumer protection law, so that you know who is actually making the things you're buying, and you know the origin of it. That is, we let Coke have a trademark on the Coca-Cola branding so that consumers don't get tricked into buying something that isn't Coke, while believing it is. This is why a key part of trademark law has always been the "likelihood of confusion." If there's no likelihood of confusion, than there isn't a trademark violation. But here's an interesting question: if someone is making a counterfeit product... is it still violating trademark laws against counterfeiting if buyers know it's counterfeit?
The ruling in the case finds that because the Lanham Act requires there to be a likelihood of confusion, and people are unlikely to be confused between these two products, then there's no counterfeiting claim. The court notes that while it has been recognized that a pure trademark infringement claim requires a likelihood of confusion, the 9th Circuit had never ruled directly on the question of whether or not a counterfeiting claim does, even though both stem from the Lanham Act. However, noting that everyone agrees that trademark claims require it, and the plain language of the statute says so, the court confirms: We thus hold that a counterfeit claim requires a showing of likelihood of confusion under Section 1114. And while the case is not about this, it raises a somewhat fascinating question first posed by law professor Mark Lemley. He notes that under this ruling, brands may not be able to go after obvious knockoffs if the knockoffs don't confuse anyone
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