Imagine poking fun at a famous brand or logo and getting away with it. In the United States, it’s not only possible, but can also be a recognized form of artistic expression known as trademark parody. Trademark parodies are a form of humorous or satirical commentary that uses a well-known trademark in a playful or critical manner. But typically, the target of that humor or satire is not amused. Companies invest a lot of time, effort, creativity, and resources into building their brands and creating positive associations with their trademarks. Thus, if a famous brand owner believes that the use of its trademark by a third party may damage its reputation, the company could take legal action against a parody mark to protect its image and trademark rights.
In this post, we will explore what constitutes a trademark parody and when it crosses the line of trademark infringement or dilution (which occurs when the recognition of a distinctive trademark is weakened due to unauthorized use by others).