Submarine Trademarks

Economic Research Working Paper No. 51

Author(s): Amanda F. Myers, Andrea Fosfuri, Carsten Fink, Christian Helmers | Publication year: 2018

License: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 IGO License

Companies use trademarks to protect their brands from outright imitation or competition by confusingly similar products. However, publication of trademark filings by the trademark office discloses information about a firm’s new product or service. This creates a trade-off between legal protection and disclosure of information. We analyze the trade-off through the lens of “submarine trademarks” in the U.S. – submarine trademarks are trademarks whose publication and hence disclosure to the public is strategically delayed. This is achieved through a particular international filing strategy that is often combined with the use of shell companies to further conceal the trademark filing. These submarine strategies allow companies to benefit from legal trademark protection while reducing the risk of inadvertent disclosure of information. We provide the first systematic evidence of submarine trademarks and explore both their determinants and their effectiveness in reducing the disclosure of information.

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