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Trademark rights and consumer confusion

Trademarks are of vital importance when it comes to developing and maintaining a brand. Trademarks help consumers identify brands they can trust. It helps them pick and choose where to spend their time and money among a host of competitors. Trademark protection, therefore, is something businesses need to prioritize to protect and promote their efforts.

When it comes to asserting trademark infringement, there are several important elements that must be considered. A recent case generating headlines highlights a particular concern that must be present for trademark infringement to be found: a likelihood of confusion. If an alleged infringer's mark is not likely to create confusion among your consumers, you may not be able to demonstrate infringement.

The Doctors

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently found that Dr. Dre, the famous rap artist and music producer, could not assert his rights as the holder of the "Dr. Dre" trademark against another. The competing mark was for "Dr. Drai" the professional mark in use by medical Dr. Draion M. Burch. Dr. Drai, as he calls himself, is a practicing doctor and occasional television personality whose work is in the area of gynecology, osteopathic medicine, obstetrics and sexual health. 

The USPTO cited the different subject matter covered by the two men in rejecting the trademark infringement claim. The fact that "Dr. Dre" and "Dr. Drai" are pronounced the same meant that the marks could easily be confused for one another. But the chance that someone looking for work produced by Dr. Dre could accidentally find and be confused as to the source of obstetric or gynecological advice from Dr. Drai seemed low to the USPTO.

Knowing when and how to assert a trademark is almost as important as securing the mark itself. If your business does not have a firm grasp of the value and use of its intellectual property, it may be time to consult with a professional in the field.

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