Size Matters or What’s an IMAX?: Thoughts on Branding and Meaning

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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3 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    The significant issue for IMAX here seems to be more of a marketing one of disappointing customers than a legal one of dilution. As pointed out in an interesting essay by Cecilia Lury in the collection edited by Lionel Bently & al., Trade Marks and Brands: An Interdisciplinary Critique (Cambridge UP 2008) (reviewed here), it’s often desirable for mark owners to dilute (or at least, to “pass off”) their marks. The whole branding industry is based on it; think of Cartier cigarette lighters ‘n such. The putative brand owner’s choice of whether or not to dilute, and to what degree, is really a business issue more than a legal one. (Why “putative”? See Scott &al.s’ philosophical perspective on trademark onwership in the same collection.)

    I haven’t had a chance to do more than skim your & Sandra Rierson’s article all the way through, but I had to smile at one section heading, “The Traditional Law and Economics Explanation of Brand Value”: as if that “tradition” is of other than rather recent vintage. Would “usual” or “typical” be less accurate? Among many other worthwhile essays in Bently &al., I also recommend Cambridge economist Jonathan Aldred’s discussion of the L&E view of trademarks (clue: he found it “fascinating”).

  2. Deven says:


    Thanks for the thoughts. I was using dilution in the severe way that I see TM holders doing when it suits them (i.e., to attack). You are, of course, correct that TM holders often play a game and dilute or I might say migrate brands for business reasons. The rule seems to be “holder may do as it wishes and should have complete control including dictating others’ uses.” IZOD is a great example of upscale brand almost killing itself to grab market share and expand.

    As for IMAX I really think they ignored the power of the image they built and then in a greedy moment decided to try and alter the experience on the sly. The better move would have been to say here is the screen size and here is why IMAX means X, Y, Z. The company did so to begin and companies do so in general. In other words, a little more sensitivity to the consumer and use of the same marketing tools to aid in a change to the brand image prior to outcry is a good idea. I think that today’s information flow means that moves that try and fly below the radar are caught more quickly.

    As for the article, we are not saying law and economics is the tradition, we are saying that the section discuss what the law and econ tradition might say. We then critique some of that view.

    Last thanks for the book and article recommendations. I have been meaning to get to the Cambridge book and will take a look at Aldred too.

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    Hi Deven. No question it was dumb marketing by IMAX. BTW, my anti-spam word for this post was “IKEA” – coincidence or what …