close icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-facebook icon-mail icon-google-plus icon-search icon-phone icon-instagram
What are you looking for?
nlo sunset
Article 18 Oct 2018

US trademark law developments

This article is only available in English. The past few years have seen many significant cases and legal developments in US trademark law. This chapter summarises a number of recent cases that all trademarks owners should be familiar with and understand.

The cases touch on key topics in trademark law, including:

• disparaging trademarks;
• genericisation of trademarks and punitive damage;
• abandonment;
• extraterritorial reach;
• use in commerce;
• generic use;
• acquired distinctiveness;
• intent to use; and
• ownership.

Disparagement clause is unconstitutional

The Supreme Court affirmed a ruling that the longstanding prohibition against registering disparaging trademarks was unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Simon Tam, the lead singer of rock band The Slants, was refused registration of his band’s name as it was deemed disparaging to people of Asian descent. Tam appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which found the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision, with Justice Samuel Alito writing that the disparagement clause amounted to an unconstitutional discrimination against unpopular speech. The Supreme Court’s ruling appears to clear the way for a host of new trademark applications that up until now have been consistently denied. Shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reinstated the Washington Redskins’ trademark, which had been cancelled by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) as offensive to American Indians (Matal v Tam, 137 S Ct 1744 (2017)).

Lindsey Auerbach is a US patent and trademark attorney at NLO. In particular, she has substantial knowledge of obtaining and protecting US trademarks and service marks. Her experience includes counselling clients on selecting names that meet US trademark guidelines, preparing filings necessary to obtain US trademark protection and prosecuting infringement actions.
Read the full chapter on US trademark law developments here
pdf - 1.65 MB

This article first appeared in IAM Yearbook: Building IP value in the 21st century 2019, a supplement to IAM, published by Globe Business Media Group - IP Division. To view the guide in full, please go to