One of the most important intellectual property protection acts in the United States is the 1947 Lanham Act, a federal statute of law enacted in 1946 and signed into law by President Harry Truman. It forms the cornerstone of trademark law, incorporating provisions that outline trademark registration and methods for dealing with activities infringing on the rights of a trademark holder, such as dilution or false advertising.

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What Does the Act Include?

Named after Representative Fritz Lanham ofTexas, the Act is divided into three subchapters with an additional one added to accommodate the Madrid Protocol. Subsequent amendments and international treaties ratified by the United States have resulted in an expansion of the Act to incorporate laws governing new technologies, including software piracy and cyber squatting. Chapters I and II are devoted to the Principal and Supplemental Registers, regulating (among other provisions) how trademarks may be registered, and the requirements they must meet in order to be eligible for registering. Subchapter III (General Provisions) outlines the way in which a trademark holder may seek to remedy infringements upon his trademark. It is considered one of the most important parts of the Act, though the way it is applied has changed over the decades, as courts interpreted the highly precise regulations.

How Important Is the Lanham Act?

It would be hard to overstate the importance of this Act. Apart from being the foundation upon which the entire trademark protection system rests, it also confers protection to unregistered trademarks. While limited in scope, its laws allow owners of trademarks who could not register them to enforce these laws in case of infringement. The continued expansion of the act also serves to update it with provisions dealing with new technologies. For example, one of the latest additions is aimed at dealing with cybersquatting, the practice of buying up domains with the intent to sell them to interested parties at inflated prices.

If you have a trademark law question about the Lanham Act, or anything else, ask a lawyer.

Get started Visit Our Intellectual Property Center Get trademark documents and ask your IP questions.

Get started Visit Our Intellectual Property Center Get trademark documents and ask your IP questions.