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In this talk, Jeanne Fromer (NYU) discusses her recent SLR article, The Unregulated Certification Mark(et), 69 Stan. L. Rev. 121 (2017). Whereas trademarks generally denote a product’s origin (i.e., who owns the rights to it), certification marks denote something about a product’s quality. Examples include Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film ratings and kosher food certifications. A film with an MPAA rating of NC-17 tells moviegoers something about the nature of the film, not who produced it. Professor Fromer argues that repeat industry players, like large film-houses, have an incentive to prevent new entrants from their respective markets and that the under-regulation of certification marks permits them to do just that. Because industry groups like the MPAA are compensated by industry participants applying for marks and exercise expansive discretion in granting or denying those applications, they are able to deny favorable marks to new players. Professor Fromer presents three case studies demonstrating the problem and proposes concrete solutions to fix it.
Professor Mark Lemley will provide commentary. Lunch will be provided.