Trademark Amendments Act of 1999


Amendments clarifying the trademark protections established in the Trademark Act of 1947.

The Trademark Amendments Act of 1999 clarified American trademark law established in 1946 by the Trademark Act of 1947, also called the Lanham Act. It expanded the protection of famous trademarks, like Coca-Cola®, by prohibiting the dilution (erosion of the selling power) of those marks. The act took effect in August 1999 when President Bill Clinton signed the bill.

Under the Trademark Amendments Act, dilution justifies opposition to someone’s application to register a new mark or to petition to cancel a trademark already registered. The legislation specified a process for determining whether or not a trademark is famous. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will consider how long the register has used the mark, how distinctive and recognizable the mark appears, and whether or not other companies use similar marks.

The legislation also eliminated the federal government’s immunity from lawsuits for violating the Lanham Act. Representative Howard Coble, a Republican from North Carolina, introduced the House version of the legislation. He argued, “The federal government cannot be sued for trademark infringement by a private citizen or corporate entity. Yet, the federal government enters the marketplace as a competitor to private business and is in a position to sue others for infringement.” According to Coble, allowing holders of trademarks to sue the federal government would level the playing field.

The administration of President Bill Clinton opposed the legislation in part because of the removal of the federal government’s immunity. The Clinton administration also believed that the bill would increase the workload at the Patent and Trademark Office. Despite the opposition, Congress easily approved the legislation and President Clinton signed it

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