Mainz Media Forum: The Role of Trademarks in a Culture of Borrowing – Proprietary Rights and Social Media

Social media platforms allow users to create and join in many overlapping communities, and to contribute content. While some content uploaded by users is original, other content has been appropriated from others, and its use may be characterized as “tribute,” “homage,” “parody,” “fair use” or “infringement.”

A significant motivation for users to upload, link and repost appropriated content is to declare an affinity for a product or service, and this is widely encouraged not only by the social media platforms themselves, but also the content providers. This is a distinct change from the strict usage guidelines that owners of trademarks traditionally followed and enforced, and opens up many possibilities for marks to be positioned together with marks owned by others, or used in ways that the trademark owner would not have approved in the past.

How should trademark law respond when consumers, not mark owners, have significant control over the appearance, positioning, affiliation and usage of the marks? Are trademark owners losing control of their proprietary rights? Can the traditional rationale underlying trademark law adapt to this more democratized world of usage?

Die Veranstaltung hat am 25. Mai 2012 in Englisch stattgefunden.


Professor Dr. Udo Fink
Stellvertretender Direktor des Mainzer Medieninstituts

Lehrstuhl für Öffentliches Recht, Europarecht, Völkerrecht und Internationales Wirtschaftsrecht an der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz


Professor Barton Selden
Attorney; Adjunct Professor, Golden Gate University School of Law, San Francisco

Götz M. Schneider-Rothhaar
Rechtsanwalt, Mitglied IAEL – International Association of Entertainment Lawyers, Frankfurt


Dr. Jan Oster, LL.M.
Rechtsanwalt, DAAD Lecturer in Law, King's College London