What Are the Differences Between Trademark Infringement and Dilution?

While both are bad for your business, trademark infringement and dilution impact your brand in different ways. As such, they are treated differently under United States trademark law and have different requirements for litigation. The differences between the two could be important to how your business handles any trademark disputes that may come your way.

Infringement Requires Product Confusion

The standard by which trademarks are judged for infringement is whether or not the mark could be confused for your own, leading consumers to mistake your competitor’s products for yours. A registered trademark is protected against infringement, which allows your business to pursue damages if you decide to sue. The court will weigh the intent of the infringing party, the similarity of the marks, and whether or not consumers have already confused the products. If the court determines that the infringement was intentional, the penalties for this infringement will be significantly higher.

Dilution Involves Brand Diminishment

Dilution requires that another entity’s use of a mark will cause yours to lose its distinctiveness or recognition among customers. Only marks that are considered “famous” are eligible for protection against dilution. For example, a company using Microsoft’s trademarked logo on their brand of shoes would constitute trademark dilution and not infringement. Because the company is not attempting to sell a similar product or service as Microsoft, their use dilutes the quality of Microsoft’s trademark but doesn’t necessarily affect their products. As such, trademark dilution cases usually result in injunctions against the diluting party, forcing them to stop using the trademark. In cases where there is clear evidence of intent to abuse the trademark owner’s brand, damages may still be awarded to the rightful owner, but these outcomes are rarer than an injunction.

When it comes to defending trademarks, constant and proactive monitoring of potential infringement is absolutely essential to ensuring your business has a solid legal defense. If taking matters to court becomes necessary, Integrated General Counsel can ensure your business’s intellectual property litigation is handled with the expertise it deserves. Contact Integrated General Counsel today if you need help.