IU professor helps get pesky scrivener’s error removed from Trademark Act

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One pesky scrivener’s error that altered the protection provided by the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006 has been corrected thanks to the efforts of an Indiana University professor.

Tim Lemper, clinical associate professor of business law in the I.U. Kelley School of Business, wrote two articles about the mistake, advocating that Congress make a correction. These articles not only became the catalyst for the lobbying effort but also provided the new wording that was passed and signed into law on Oct. 5, 2012.

In drafting the 2006 law, Congress intended to provide greater protection for famous trademarks. As part of that law, Congress sought to protect owners of federal trademark registrations from dilution claims based on state law but not federal law.

However because of the drafting error, owners of federal registrations received complete immunity from any type of dilution claim, under state or federal law, even if the registrant was using a mark that diluted the distinctiveness or tarnished the reputation of a famous mark.

Although many others dismissed the error, the I.U. professor believed the errant punctuation could affect commercial use of a famous name. It was clearly a drafting error, Lemper said, and several people in the trademark bar assumed the courts and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board would not apply the law in a way that was obviously a drafting error.

“But,” Lemper stated, “courts and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board apply statutes as they are written, not necessarily as they were intended to be written.”

Here is the actual Section 4 (c)(6):
The ownership by a person of a valid registration…shall be a complete bar to an action against that person, with respect to that mark, that –
(A)(i) is brought by another person under the common law or a statute of State; and
(ii) seeks to prevent dilution by blurring or dilution by tarnishment; or
(B) asserts any claim of actual or likely damage or harm to the distinctiveness or reputation of a mark….

Here is the Lemper redraft that was adopted by Congress:
The ownership by a person of a valid registration…shall be a complete bar to an action against that person, with respect to that mark, that –
(A) is brought by another person under the common law or a statute of a State; and
(B)(i) seeks to prevent dilution by blurring or dilution by tarnishment; or
(ii) asserts any claim of actual or likely damage or harm to the distinctiveness or reputation of a mark….




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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread:

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.