Intellectual Property Law - 'Passing Off' Essay by davyd

Intellectual Property Law - 'Passing Off'
A discussion on how the law of 'passing off' protects the descriptive and the functional.
# 103741 | 1,894 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2006 | GB
Published on May 26, 2008 in Law (Business) , Law (Company) , Law (Property) , Law (Tort) , Advertising (General)

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This paper examines the intellectual property law of 'passing off'. The paper explains that the law of 'passing off' is a common law right of action in the law of tort and is based on the premise that 'nobody has any right to represent his goods as the goods of somebody else'. The paper looks at how the action is effectively one of unfair competition, and applies generally to situations where there is no registered trademark or any other intellectual property right. The paper then points out that a typical scenario would be when a defendant uses an unregistered trademark normally used by a claimant, and in so doing, represents the goods or services in such a way that the public is deceived into thinking that they are being offered by the claimant. The paper also explores how protection under the law of passing off is very much dependent on how much importance consumers place on the part when purchasing the product in question. In conclusion, the paper shows that the courts generally adopt a restrictive approach towards protecting the descriptive and the functional because granting such protection will have a negative effect on the market, and ultimately this is a question of fact, and the courts will look at all the circumstances of each case before making a decision.

From the Paper:

"So long as these criteria are fulfilled, the claimant would have successfully established 'goodwill' for his goods or services, but a descriptive mark runs the greatest risk of becoming too distinctive over time that it is deemed generic. By losing its ability to indicate source, the claimant can no longer rely on the law of passing off to protect the mark. This danger has been highlighted by the case of Linoleum Manufacturing v Nairn [1878], where the public began using the term 'Linoleum' to refer to the product generally, without connoting the source of manufacture. As such, the courts will be reluctant to allow monopoly over such terms so as to promote healthy competition in the marketplace."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Lionel Bently and Brad Sherman, Intellectual Property Law, 2nd Ed. 2004, Oxford: OUP
  • A. Christie and S. Gare, Blackstone's Statutes on Intellectual Property, 7th Ed. 2004, Oxford: OUP
  • Cornish & Llewelyn, Intellectual Property: Patents, Copyright, Trade Marks and Allied Rights, 5th Ed. 2003, Sweet & Maxwell

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