Lanham Trademark Act: Protecting American Business
This year we recognize the 75th Anniversary of the Lanham Trademark Act, named after Congressman Fritz Lanham who proudly represented the 12th District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1919 to 1947. Born in Weatherford, Congressman Lanham felt a strong connection to Texas throughout his entire life. He graduated from Weatherford College in 1897, held positions at the Texas School for the Deaf as well as the Dallas Morning News, and aided in the war effort during WWI by entertaining troops in camps around Fort Worth. He also studied law at the University of Texas at Austin, was the first editor of The Alcalde, the UT alumni magazine, and practiced law in Weatherford before coming to Congress. Congressman Lanham was a son of Parker County until the end and followed our community’s pioneer spirit.
As a leading voice in the House of Representatives, Congressman Lanham crafted the Lanham Trademark Act to defend the ingenuity and innovations of American businesses and consumers from trademark violations and counterfeits. Entrepreneurship is in our DNA as Americans, and the Lanham Act has protected our entrepreneurial spirit since it was enacted in 1946. This law remains a leading source of American trademark protection and has served as the model legislation for other countries around the world.
Unfortunately, falsified products and trademark violations are a daily occurrence in our nation, ranging from individuals selling knockoff brand clothing on a street corner, to large-scale operations that violate trademark laws with the aim of selling millions of dollars-worth of illegal goods.
Our extensive trade partnership with Mexico has made Texas particularly vulnerable to the trafficking of counterfeit products due to the tremendous volume of goods flowing through our Southern border. Just this past February, Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized $14.7 million in counterfeit electronic devices, toys, and furniture at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, TX.
Even closer to home, a local cosmetics distribution company in the 12th District recently encountered a vendor of counterfeit products that violated the cosmetics company’s trademark. Utilizing protections like those under the Lanham Act, the cosmetics company worked with the federal government and enabled the U.S. Marshals Service to seize five truckloads of the illegal cosmetic products worth $80 million.
On a nation-wide level, we witnessed a proliferation of counterfeit goods during the COVID-19 pandemic meant to deceive the public. As personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies were quickly depleted and demand continuously increased, our markets were flooded with countless knockoff PPE products. The counterfeit products were designed to resemble trademarked products known for their superior quality, intentionally misleading consumers about the protection offered by these goods.
Since the pandemic began, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seized over 34 million counterfeit masks marketed as the most effective masks in preventing coronavirus transmission, when in reality they offered significantly less protection than the authentic masks they were designed to imitate. In such instances, strong and robust trademark protections like the Lanham Act enable our law enforcement officers to prevent these counterfeit products from misleading and harming Americans.
In addition to his work safeguarding Americans from counterfeit products, Congressman Lanham served as chair of the House Committee on Public Buildings where he was crucial to the construction of numerous important federal buildings. In fact, his name is inscribed on the marble walls of the U.S. Supreme Court, which he helped deliver on time and under budget.
He embodied the best of what it means to be a Texan and an American, and is buried in his hometown of Weatherford.
To honor Congressman Lanham and to pay tribute to the passage of the Lanham Act, the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the State Bar of Texas Intellectual Property Law Section hosted a 75th Anniversary celebration on June 17th and 18th. The commemorative program was an opportunity to hear about Congressman Fritz Lanham, the history of the Lanham Act, and the important role that the Lanham Act plays in protecting American businesses and American consumers.
To learn more about Congressman Lanham, the Lanham Trademark Act, and the event in his honor, please go to www.lanham75.org.