UCL Faculty of Laws


Trade Marks and Unfair Competition in the UK, Europe and the United States (LAWS0250)

This course considers registered trade mark law and unfair competition from a comparative perspective.

It covers the nature and justifications for trade mark protection, subject-matter of protection, scope of protection and topical issues in trade mark law and unfair competition. The module focuses on European, UK and US law, drawing on international and other national jurisdictions where relevant. 

The module is intended to equip students with a thorough understanding of unfair competition and registered trade mark law in the UK, EU and the United States. It also introduces social, economic and historical issues in the field of trade marks, as well as international law in the field of trade marks. 

It will be taught thematically to give students the ability to appreciate the differing (and in many cases similar) approaches taken to shared issues in the US and Europe.

Module Syllabus

  1. Introduction to trade marks and unfair competition 

  1. History 

  1. Economics 

  1. International obligations 

  1. European and US system overview 

  1. Unfair competition: basic structure & qualifying for protection 

  1. Unfair competition: forms of harm – confusion 

  1. Unfair competition: forms of harm – misappropriation 

  1. Unfair competition: forms of harm – dilution 

  1. Registered trade marks: introduction & graphical representation requirements 

  1. Registered trade marks: descriptiveness and distinctiveness 

  1. Registered trade marks: functionality 

  1. Registered trade marks: infringement 

  1. Registered trade marks: infringement via confusion 

  1. Registered trade marks: infringement in the absence of confusion 

  1. Registered trade marks: trade mark use 

  1. Registered trade marks: defences 

  1. Registered trade marks: use requirements and other death of trade mark issues 

  1. Parallel importation 

  1. Internet issues 

  1. Topical issues 

  1. Revision

Recommended Materials

US Law 

Accessible source books on US trade mark law include: 

  • Beebe, Trade Mark Law: an Open Source Casebook http://tmcasebook.org/ 

  • Thomas McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition– available through Westlaw on the International tab 

  • Boyle & J. Jenkins, Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society (Centre for the Study of the Public Domain) http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/casebook (open source) 

The course will draw heavily on articles by leading US, EU and UK academics, including Rebecca Tushnet, Mark Lemley, Mark McKenna, Barton Beebe, Graeme Dinwoodie, Dev Ganjee, Annette Kur to mention a few – most of these are available through Hein Online and/or SSRN.

Cases are available through Westlaw International, as well as extracted in the case book. 

EU/UK Law 

There are many general textbooks covering all aspects of IP law, which include comprehensive coverage of European trade mark law. The best of these is probably Bentley & Sherman, Intellectual Property (OUP, 6ed, 2022, available through LawTrove ). 

Relevant journals include the IIC, European Intellectual Property Review, Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice and Intellectual Property Quarterly – all are available to UCL students through either Westlaw or direct library subscription.

Trade Marks generally 

  • N.Lee et al, Intellectual Property Unfair Competition and Publicity Convergences and Development (Elgar, 2014) 

  • Griffiths, An Economic Perspective on Trade Mark Law (Elgar, 2011) 

  • Bodewig, International Handbook on Unfair Competition Law, Beck/Hart/Nomos, München/Oxford/Baden-Baden 2013, XXXIV + 653 pp. 

  • Fhima, Trade Mark Dilution in Europe and the United States (OUP, 2011) 

  • Firth et al, Trade Marks and Competition Law (OUP, 2017) 

  • Kur & M. Sentefleben, European Trade Mark Law (OUP, 2017) 

  • I Fhima & D. Gangjee, The Confusion Test in European Trade Mark Law (OUP, 2019) 

  • Dornis, Trademark and Unfair Competition Conflicts (CUP, 2017) 

  • Bently et al, Trade Marks and Brands: an Interdisciplinary Critique (CUP, 2011) 

  • Balganesh, Intellectual Property and the Common Law (CUP, 2015) 

  • Dreyfuss et al, Intellectual Property at the Edge: the Contested Contours of IP (CUP, 2014) 

  • Desai et al, Brands, Competition Law and IP (CUP, 2015) 

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Preliminary Reading

  • Bentley & Sherman, Intellectual Property (OUP, 65ed, 202219) 

  • Beebe, Trade Mark Law: an Open Source Casebook (tmcasebook.org

Key information

Module details
Credit value:45 credits (450 learning hours)
Convenor:Ilanah Fhima
Other Teachers:TBD
Teaching Delivery:20 x 2 Hour Weekly Seminar, Term One and Two
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Comparative Law 
LLM in Intellectual Property Law 
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on practice essay 
Final Assessment:2 hour controlled conditions in person examination (50%);  3,000 word essay (50%)