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What "Likelihood of Confusion" is and Why it Matters in Trademark Law

A couple weeks ago I had the good fortune to drop in on the IP-core class at the University of Washington School of Law. It’s a good mix of J.D. (regular) and L.LM. (graduate) law students focused on learning the fundamentals of intellectual property law.

The mission? Talk about the importance of the likelihood of confusion in trademark law. I also introduced parody in the context of likelihood of confusion.

Likelihood of confusion is a hugely important concept in trademark law. It’s the basis for a trademark infringement suit. It’s also a bar to getting a trademark registered or a reason to have an existing registration cancelled.

The slides from my presentation are below. It highlights the “likelihood of confusion” factors that courts use to determine whether ordinary consumers would probably think that goods or services come from Source A when they actually come from Source B. If a likelihood of confusion exists, courts can enjoin (prohibit) the junior user from using the trademark that is causing confusion with the senior mark, among other things.

Want a crash course? My slides are accessible below.

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