Trademarks are a valuable part of business today. Trademarks inform the world of the source of a product or service. We consider trademarks daily in our consumer needs. Scandals arise in the news about companies and then those companies expend great efforts to reestablish their reputations. This is because once their reputations are damaged, fewer people will be willing to purchase any good or service upon which they place their mark. However, the reverse is also true. A company that establishes itself as selling high quality products or services can expect customers to consider purchasing other products or services upon which the company places its name.
The Harm Caused by Trademark Infringement
Trademark infringement can have devastating consequences to a business. This is true of both the business owing the trademark that is being infringed, and of the business that is unwittingly using an infringing mark.
The Business Owning the Trademark
A business that has established a good reputation and that uses a trademark associated with its good reputation on its goods and services, may be destroyed if another company uses that trademark either:
- in competition by stealing away the customers of the business owning the trademark, or
- in competition by using products of lesser quality, tarnishing the reputation of the business owning the trademark.
The Business Infringing on the Trademark
Alternatively, a business that unwittingly uses an infringing mark may be destroyed when it is sued and forced to permanently stop using the mark upon which its company was built, and begin building a new reputation under an entirely separate mark, among other things.
Consequences of Trademark Infringement
Whether intentional or unintentional, trademark infringement may have devastating consequences.
An Infringer Must Stop Using the Mark
Even if you are innocently infringing, you will be forced to stop future infringements.
You may have put time, money, and effort into a business in which your use of the mark is important. And you may be forced to stop using that mark, which may have devastating effects on your business.
Additionally, there may be great cost in legal fees, etc. in establishing that your use of the mark was innocent and without knowledge of someone else’s trademark.
Turning Over the Profits of the Infringer
A successful plaintiff in a trademark infringement case may recover the defendant infringer’s profits resulting from the infringement.
Additionally, the plaintiff may also recover any actual damages, if the plaintiff proves that the damages were caused by the defendant’s use of the infringing mark, and that consumers were actually confused or deceived by the defendant’s use of the infringing mark.
These actual damages may include other profits lost, injury to goodwill or business reputation, expenses incurred by the plaintiff in attempted to prevent customers from being deceived by the defendant, and the cost the plaintiff incurs for any corrective advertising to correct confusion or harm to goodwill cause by defendant’s use of the infringing mark.