Opinion of the Court
think the Lanham Act requires this search for the source of the Nile and all its tributaries.
Another practical difficulty of adopting a special definition of "origin" for communicative products is that it places the manufacturers of those products in a difficult position. On the one hand, they would face Lanham Act liability for failing to credit the creator of a work on which their lawful copies are based; and on the other hand they could face Lanham Act liability for crediting the creator if that should be regarded as implying the creator's "sponsorship or approval" of the copy, 15 U. S. C. § 1125(a)(1)(A). In this case, for example, if Dastar had simply "copied [the television series] as Crusade in Europe and sold it as Crusade in Europe," without changing the title or packaging (including the original credits to Fox), it is hard to have confidence in respondents' assurance that they "would not be here on a Lanham Act cause of action," Tr. of Oral Arg. 35.
Finally, reading § 43(a) of the Lanham Act as creating a cause of action for, in effect, plagiarism—the use of otherwise unprotected works and inventions without attribution—would be hard to reconcile with our previous decisions. For example, in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Brothers, Inc., 529 U. S. 205 (2000), we considered whether product-design trade dress can ever be inherently distinctive. Wal-Mart produced "knockoffs" of children's clothes designed and manufactured by Samara Brothers, containing only "minor modifications" of the original designs. Id., at 208. We concluded that the designs could not be protected under § 43(a) without a showing that they had acquired "secondary meaning," id., at 214, so that they " 'identify the source of the product rather than the product itself,' " id., at 211 (quoting Inwood Laboratories, Inc. v. Ives Laboratories, Inc., 456 U. S. 844, 851, n. 11 (1982)). This carefully considered limitation would be entirely pointless if the "original" producer could turn around and pursue a reverse-passing-off claim under exactly the same provision of the Lanham Act. Sa-Page: Index Previous 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Next
Last modified: October 4, 2007