Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23, 10 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

under the original version of 43(a)) 5 to include not only the actual producer, but also the trademark owner who commissioned or assumed responsibility for ("stood behind") production of the physical product. But as used in the Lanham Act, the phrase "origin of goods" is in our view incapable of connoting the person or entity that originated the ideas or communications that "goods" embody or contain. Such an extension would not only stretch the text, but it would be out of accord with the history and purpose of the Lanham Act and inconsistent with precedent.

Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act prohibits actions like trademark infringement that deceive consumers and impair a producer's goodwill. It forbids, for example, the Coca-Cola Company's passing off its product as Pepsi-Cola or reverse passing off Pepsi-Cola as its product. But the brand-loyal consumer who prefers the drink that the Coca-Cola Company or PepsiCo sells, while he believes that that company produced (or at least stands behind the production of) that product, surely does not necessarily believe that that company was the "origin" of the drink in the sense that it was the very first to devise the formula. The consumer who buys a branded product does not automatically assume that the brand-name company is the same entity that came up with the idea for the product, or designed the product—and typically does not care whether it is. The words of the Lan-5 Under the 1946 version of the Act, 43(a) was read as providing a cause of action for trademark infringement even where the trademark owner had not itself produced the goods sold under its mark, but had licensed others to sell under its name goods produced by them—the typical franchise arrangement. See, e. g., My Pie Int'l, Inc. v. Debould, Inc., 687 F. 2d 919 (CA7 1982). This stretching of the concept "origin of goods" is seemingly no longer needed: The 1988 amendments to 43(a) now expressly prohibit the use of any "word, term, name, symbol, or device," or "false or misleading description of fact" that is likely to cause confusion as to "affiliation, connection, or association . . . with another person," or as to "sponsorship, or approval" of goods. 15 U. S. C. 1125(a).

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