LAW 582

Brands: Constructing Identity

The rise of brands marks a fundamental shift in the law and business practice of trademarks. Trademarks have long protected marks that signal the source of a good or service to consumers, but today customers value logos in and of themselves. The logo has become the product rather than a mere indicator of the product’s origin, reflecting the emergence of a new “experience economy” in which corporations sell a sense of identity and community, authenticity and aura, not just goods.  Even universities have become brands in the global economy of higher education.  Trademark law is construed as a tool to protect consumers against fraud and confusion, with the effect of incentivizing businesses to invest in quality. But brand creation, management, and licensing involve different concerns, less focused on consumer confusion and more akin to copyright law’s concerns for story-telling and expressive control.  This course explores this transition and the challenges that brands pose to traditional trademark law, like reconsidering consumer confusion, or the need to manage the consumers’ involvement in promoting and further articulating the brand. It does so by taking a close interdisciplinary look at branding practices in a global context, preparing students to understand modern branding strategies and the cultural politics that go with that. Topics covered include dilution, merchandising rights, unfair competition, counterfeits, and the globalization of commodities production

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