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What is the Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents?

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The Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents is a rule used in trademark law that states a foreign word and its equivalent English translation may be deemed confusingly similar.  Under the doctrine, a trademark that includes foreign words generally must have those words translated into their English interpretations before determining if the mark is able to be registered or if it is infringing.  Although foreign words and their English translations often look quite different, they still may share the same essential meaning, and therefore may have a likelihood of confusion. 


Obscure foreign words that a consumer would typically not translate easily on the spot are often exempt from the Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents, under the belief that those foreign words are not translated enough to be confusingly linked to their English equivalents.  The other notable exception is foreign words using a “dead” language, which would be too unrecognizable by the majority of consumers to be confusingly similar.  Since a generally “dead” language may still contain some relevant terms (Latin for example), it must be determined on a case-by-case basis if those words are indeed of an unrecognized language.

For more information on intellectual property, please visit Patent, Trademark, Copyright Information.

The content of this article is not intended to be, and does not constitute, legal advice and does not create attorney-client privilege. Consult the attorney of your choice before embarking on any legal matter or any document preparation/filing.

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Dr. Thomas R. (Terry) Williamson III is a Patent Attorney practicing in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Williamson Intellectual Property Law, LLC
1870 The Exchange, Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30339
770-777-0977
http://www.trwiplaw.com
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Williamson Intellectual Property Law, LLC
1870 The Exchange, Suite 100 - Atlanta, Georgia 30339