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Article | February 29, 1996
Barking up the wrong trademark
Should a company be able to call its dog biscuits DOGIVA and package them like Godiva chocolates?
Campbell Soup Company Camden NJ the firm which owns the Godiva trademark emphatically says "no" and many in Congress agree. Campbell sued a California company in 1986 for mimicking its Godiva name and trademark. Fortunately for Campbell California had what is called a "dilution" standard which allowed the company to argue Dogiva deflated the "potency" of the Godiva mark. Twenty-five states have such laws. In the other states Campbell would have had to sue under federal trademark infringement law. That would have been a tougher case to make. Campbell would have had to prove there was a likelihood that consumers thought that Campbell was selling the dog biscuits. The House passed a bill (H.R. 1295) on December 12 which sets up a new section in the federal Lanham Act creating a federal cause of action against dilution. The bill would have originally protected famous trademarks that were registered. But the bill was amended by the House courts and intellectual property subcommittee so that it now covers unregistered trademarks too. The International Trademark Association supports the bill although it opposed the amendment extending federal dilution protection to unregistered marks. "Extending the statute beyond registered marks will lead to significant costs and uncertainty for American trademark owners" said Mary Ann Alford a vice president of the INTA and vice president and assistant general counsel for Reebok Intl. Ltd. Stoughton MA. She testified before House courts and intellectual property on July 19 1995. The Senate passed the same bill December 29 and President Clinton signed it into law January 16.
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