Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fourth Circuit holds that Congress can amend Lanham Act with appropriations rider

In LAST BEST BEEF v. DUDAS, the Court considered the relationship between the Lanham and Section 206 of the subsequently enacted Appropriations rider which prohibited the use of federal funds to "register, issue, transfer, or enforce any trademark of the phrase ‘The Last Best Place.’" Apparently, this phrase is associated with the state of Montana and many people objected to a business seeking to profit from it. The district court deemed § 206 "invalid," and thus a legal nullity, on the grounds that it contradicted but did not constitute an implied repeal or suspension of the Lanham Act. In essence, the district court held that implied repeals through appropriations riders, though constitutional, are so disfavored as to be disallowed.

The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that Congress acted within its authority.

The conclusion that Congress intended to enact a discrete and narrow exception to the Lanham Act is unavoidable. In fashioning § 206,Congress simply set forth an exception to the Lanham Act’s general rule that trademark registration may not be refused on the basis of the nature of the trademark. This is something Congress can do. In fact,Congress has often removed specific trademarks from the general trademark application process.

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