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The House moved Tuesday to protect trademarks from being sullied by imitators in legislation that grew out of a court battle between Victoria’s Secret and an adult novelty store. The bill, approved 411-8, amends trademark law to make it easier for the owner of a famous trademark to stop knockoffs that could harm the reputation or impair the distinctiveness of the trademark. Under the measure, the owner could seek injunctive relief against similarities likely to cause “dilution” by blurring or tarnishing of an image even if there is no actual confusion among the public or competition between the owner and the imitator. The legislation was in response to a 2003 Supreme Court decision against lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret, which brought trade infringement and dilution claims against an Elizabethtown, Ky., adult novelty shop originally named Victor’s Secret. The high court ruled that trademark law required the owner of a famous trademark to prove actual dilution, or harm, rather than the likelihood of injury. “This is contrary to what Congress intended when it passed the dilution statute and is at odds with the concept of dilution,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, sponsor of the measure. “Diluting needs to be stopped at the outset because actual damage can only be proven over time, after which the good will of a mark cannot be restored.” Injunctive relief is only available when the defendant willfully intends to trade on the famous trademark’s recognition or reputation. To protect First Amendment rights, the bill exempts from liability all forms of news reporting and commentary, parodies, fair use in comparative commercial ads and noncommercial use of trademarks. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration. The bill is H.R. 683. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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