Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Thomas J. Miceli and Matthew J. Baker
Chapter 15: The multi-layered action of trademark: meaning, law and market
ëWhatís in a name?í Juliet wonders, thinking of the abhorrence her beloved Romeoís family name arouses among her own relations (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2). Centuries later, the same question is being asked, with less tragic overtones, by the academics who study the relationship between names, signs and economic behaviour. Now as in Julietís time, the answer to this query is a matter of some import. In fact it holds the key to understanding the economy of the third millennium where signs ñ the category of social tools that scholars call ësemiotic devicesí ñ dominate even global markets and trade dynamics, sometimes acquiring a cult-like status and following among consumers, firms and policymakers. Today, trademarks have become so ubiquitous and important to business that they are deemed to be ñ rightly or wrongly ñ not just a basic tool for competition and trade, but also a fully fledged (though intangible) part of a companyís assets (Heberden and Haigh, 2006). Protecting the trademarks and designations by which names are deployed in markets is therefore a matter of current policymaking interest and debate. In Europe, a number of legislative schemes have sought to protect EU producers from global competition through identification of provenance. The thinking behind these regulations is not just to help consumers make better-informed decisions, but also and especially to put in place competitive levers that give certain national and EU products a commercial advantage.
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