Tarnishment Law and Legal Definition

Tarnishment occurs when someone uses a trademark on inferior or unwholesome goods or services. A mark becomes tarnished when it is linked to products of inferior quality, or is portrayed in an unwholesome context. As a result of tarnishment the public can begin to associate the original mark with the degraded quality or prestige depicted by the imitation. Therefore, the value of the mark will be compromised. This is because the trademark owner cannot control consumer perceptions about the mark.

Pursuant to 15 USCS § 1125, the commercial use of a famous mark in a manner that the use causes dilution of the distinctive quality of the mark is prohibited. Dilution of the mark usually happens through tarnishment.