UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-15


This article provides an introduction to the study of brand-name sharing, and presents results from an empirical study of sharing rates among 131 famous brand names from 1940 through 2010, conducted through an examination of business names in the white pages telephone directories of Chicago, Philadelphia, and Manhattan. Perhaps the most dramatic finding of the study is that independent uses of the 131 brand names – that is, uses of those names by businesses other than those that made the names famous – have declined from 3000 to 1380 between 1960 and 2010, a 54% drop. The article then assesses potential causes for that decline. We evaluate five potential nonlegal factors, including economic changes, family migration, decreased attractiveness of particular famous brands, changes in the popularity of business name types, and changes in cultural naming patterns. It then considers evidence that changes in trademark infringement and dilution law underlie some part of the decline. The article concludes that both legal and non-legal factors have likely played a role.