In KP Permanent Make-Up, Inc., v. Lasting Impression I, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court held that a defendant asserting the affirmative defense of fair use in response to a claim of trademark infringement does not have to shoulder the burden of proving there was no likelihood of confusion as a result of their fair use. [1] The Supreme Court granted KP Permanent’s petition for certiorari in this matter to resolve a split among six of the federal courts of appeal. [2]

 

This article will first consider both the common law and statutory history underlying the fair use doctrine of trademark law. The article will then consider the KP Permanent case and its procedural history, taking into account the shortcomings of the Supreme Court’s holding, not only with respect to the decision, but also to the possible ripple effects of that decision. Finally, a test will be suggested that would offer some protection for business owners of incontestable descriptive marks whose rights have been somewhat diminished after KP Permanent.

 

Michael Fuller *