Professor Jeremy Sheff‘s Stanford Law Review article, Marks, Morals, and Markets, has been identified by Professor Laura Heymann as one of the best works of recent scholarship relating to Intellectual Property, in a review published today in Jotwell: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots). Describing Professor Sheff’s article as “thoughtful and sophisticated”, the review concludes,
Sheff does not purport to set forth an all-encompassing theory, but his proposal is highly compatible with the way we now talk about brands. We are ever more in a world in which consumers engage with many brands as personas. Brands are trusted confidants and comforting companions. They find allegiances with different social groups at different times in their development; they uplift us and betray us. These brands are not simply a way of finding goods in the marketplace; they are also a way of announcing or defining one’s identity, creating relationships with others, signaling wealth, or engaging in any one of a number of expressive functions. Companies respond in kind, by creating advertising or affinity groups that foster this type of engagement, and by aggressively using trademark law as a kind of corporate defamation law, pushing back at uses that offend their view of their brands. If these are our relationships with brands today, then perhaps we should be characterizing their relationships with us as ones of promise, representations, and trust. The difficulty will then be in determining which promises we truly expect brands to keep.