A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Edited by Graeme B. Dinwoodie and Mark D. Janis
Section C: Trademark and Traditional Knowledge
15 Online word of mouth and its implications for trademark law Eric Goldman* I. Introduction It is already well-understood that the Internet is a major new medium for human communication.1 It is less well understood how this new medium should affect trademark law. Trademark law is wrestling with cybersquatting/domainers,2 the sale of keyword-triggered ads and other high-profile Internet trademark disputes, but I believe that “online word of mouth” poses the most important challenge to Internet trademark law. “Word of mouth” describes the process of transmitting information from person to person. In commercial contexts, word of mouth involves consumers sharing their opinions about marketplace offerings with each other, often through everyday conversations. Offline, consumer word of mouth plays a major role in the marketplace by disciplining some brands and rewarding others, but a person’s views typically reach only a limited number of people. In contrast, the Internet helps create new word of mouth content (otherwise foreclosed by higher offline communication costs) and disseminate word of mouth to new and previously unreachable audiences. The broad reach of online word of mouth gives consumers tremendous * Eric Goldman, Assistant Professor of Law and Director, High Tech Law Institute, Santa Clara University School of Law. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: http://www.ericgoldman.org. I was General Counsel of Epinions.com from 2000 to 2002. Thanks to Graeme Dinwoodie, Mark Janis, Mark Lemley, Michael Risch, Rebecca Tushnet, Fred von Lohmann, Tal Zarsky and the participants at the October 2006 Works in Progress Intellectual Property (WIPIP) Colloquium at the...
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