Copyright (c) 2001 St. John's Law Review Association
St. John's Law Review
COMMENT: RITCHIE v. SIMPSON: THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT DROPS THE BALL
75 St. John's L. Rev. 163
Juan C. Gonzalez+
Imagine walking into your local housewares store and picking up a set of kitchen knives with the name "O. J. Simpson" etched on the handles. If O. J. Simpson had his way, not only would his name appear on the handles, but they would be followed by the "(R)" symbol designating his name as a trademark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Simpson applied for federal trademark protection for his name and nicknames in the wake of the notorious 1994 murders of his ex-wife and a male companion. Before the facts and issues of the case that is the subject of this Comment can be examined, some background information is in order.
A trademark can be any "word, name, symbol or device" that identifies and distinguishes one producer's goods or services from another producer. 1 Trademarks pervade our everyday lives to the point that usually one need only turn his head in some direction in order to see a trademark on some commonplace item. 2 Through the Lanham Act, 3 Congress provides for the registration of trademarks with the PTO. 4 Although the lack of federal registration does not preclude the use of a mark, registration carries with it several benefits, 5 among them, prima facie evidence of the mark's validity and the registrant's ownership of the mark; 6 nationwide constructive notice of ownership to potential infringers; 7 the availability of federal courts to bring infringement actions without the need for diversity of citizenship ...
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