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Is Strict Trademark Enforcement Really Possible Anymore?

Posted in Copyrights, Guest Bloggers, Infringement, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Social Media, Trademarks

- John Reinan, Senior Director, Media Relations, Fast Horse

That is, assuming it ever was. But as a marketer, I often wonder what advice trademark attorneys offer to their clients on enforcement in the Internet age.

Every day, I visit websites that make use of (almost certainly) unauthorized photos, logos, videos, slogans and any kind of content you can think of. Multiply that by billions of Internet users, and you get a sense of the scope I’m talking about. Some is copyright infringement, some is trademark infringement. To attorney specialists, there’s a distinction. But to marketers, the entire area is fraught with questions, no matter what kind of infringement may be happening.

I know that at least some policing is taking place, because I occasionally run across a YouTube video with a message saying it’s been removed at the request of the owner. But how does an owner assert trademark or copyright ownership in the digital Wild West that is the Internet?

We’re careful about any assets we use in major campaigns. But we also send out tweets, create Facebook items and write blog posts on behalf of our clients. Are we liable for retweeting something that may contain an unauthorized use of an image or logo? Is there a primer somewhere that advises marketers and others on how best to avoid legal jeopardy in these areas?

I realize that the strictest level of enforcement is virtually impossible, and probably always has been. But the Internet ratchets things up considerably. It would appear that only the most selective kind of enforcement is possible, mainly for practical and financial reasons.

But is selective enforcement just? How does one make the determination on which unauthorized uses to vigorously pursue? The ol’ sternly worded letter may be the default position.

I realize this post raises more questions than it answers. But I don’t have answers – I have questions. Perhaps the DuetsBlog community can offer some insight.