As We Circle the Wagons, Count On “Circle R “

If I cross your path again, who knows where, who knows when, on some morning without number, on some highway without end.
/Keep Your Distance, music and lyrics by Richard Thompson

In what feels like the blink of an eye, our world has been turned upside down, inside out. Phrases we never before heard or uttered–coronavirus, social distancing–became part of our shared lexicon overnight. Many of us who can’t remember the last time we missed a day of work, have seen our offices closed. So we’ve converted dining room tables and spare rooms into satellite offices for our companies and firms. In a matter of days, we’ve begun to suspect that these strange days may become our new normal.  Sure, this enforced proximity to spouses, children, and pets has its joys. But let’s face it, there are only so many times you can read that book, stream that show, walk to the park, and have that conversation before you begin to miss the solitude of the daily commute and anticipation of lunch at Chipotle.

With the very core and fabric of our economy and way of life facing this existential threat, those of us who practice trademark law can be forgiven for beginning to question whether our vocation has anything to add for the safety and welfare of our communities and our nation.

Turns out, its an easy question to answer. Yes! Now, when facing or experiencing shortages of vital supplies and products, we need trademarks more than ever. The U.S. has long been a leader in protecting all forms of intellectual property. We’ve been on the front lines of enacting laws to combat counterfeit products, aka low-quality fakes and knock-offs, to tackle cybersquatting, i.e., hijacking trademarks in phony email addresses, and to beat back grey market goods, i.e., goods intended for foreign markets that differ materially from genuine goods in quality, performance, or warranties. These laws that have protected us so well so far now are more vital than ever.  If unscrupulous profiteers prey on fear and panic with ersatz merchandise, the  Federal Lanham Act allows counterfeit products to be seized from store shelves and ports of entry.  And if online pirates try to deceive consumers with fake websites selling fake products online, those fraudulent sites and products can be taken down.

Simply put, the ®, the symbol that signifies a registered trademark, has long served business and consumers well in ordinary times.  In these extraordinary times when nothing seems certain and everything feels surreal, there’s comfort in knowing that ® is up to the task.