These days, brand image is everything, so companies work hard to protect their trademarks from any kind of infringement, including dilution.
The Lanham Act of 1996 describes dilution as the “gradual whittling away or dispersion of the identity and hold upon the public mind of the mark or name” or “the use of a famous trademark in a way that would lessen its uniqueness.”
How does trademark dilution occur?
A dilution claim seeks to protect against two possible types of trademark infringement:
- Blurring: This happens when a third party tries to associate a company’s trademark with an unrelated product or service. This is usually an attempt by one company to “ride the coattails” of a more famous company. For example, putting an apple logo on a kid’s toy that looks very similar to the logo used by Apple could fool buyers into thinking that the products are somehow related.
- Tarnishment: This is when one brand or company links itself to another in a way that could damage public perception of the affected brand. For example, Nike sued rapper Lil Nas X after he launched a line of altered Nike Air Max 97s and marketed them as “Satan Shoes.” Nike didn’t want its image to be damaged in the minds of others because of the association.
A trademark dilution claim isn’t open to every brand. It’s reserved for companies who have famous trademarks that are so well-known that they’re instantly recognizable. If your company isn’t quite a household name, you may have difficulty pursuing a dilution claim, but you can still take steps to legally protect your trademark and brand in other ways