Technology, trademarks and online reviews: how the internet changes consumer search costs and its impact on the economic value of trademarks - Adam Buick

Adam Buick (Doctoral Candidate in the Centre for Business Law and Practice) will present on his research into trademark law.

Adam Buick (Doctoral Candidate in the Centre for Business Law and Practice) will present on his research into trademark law. His paper will appeal to anyone with an interest in copyright law, consumer law and the impact of new technologies on the law.


Trademark law protects the names, slogans and other devices that companies use to identify their products and services. This protection is significant; for many companies, trademarks are considered their most valuable assets. However, recent research has suggested that consumers, and in particular younger consumers, are becoming less reliant on the brand names and other subject matter protected by trademark law when making purchasing decision, at least for certain types of goods and services.

According to the highly influential law and economics analysis of trademark law put forward by Landes and Posner, trademark law improves market efficiency by reducing the “search costs” that consumer incur when making purchasing decisions; by preventing competitors from using marks in a way liable to cause confusion among consumers, intellectual property rights ensure that they can provide a convenient shortcut (or “heuristic”) that informs consumers that a product or service has similar attributes to one which they previously enjoyed or have been recommended. But if trademarks are really so useful for both consumers and producers, why do consumers seem to be moving away from them? 

In this presentation, I argue that Landes and Posner’s theory does indeed explain the decreased reliance on brand names and other subject matter traditionally protected by trademark law because advances in information technology, and in particular the rise of the internet, have massively reduced consumer search costs. Furthermore, I argue that reliance on online reviews is an attractive substitute for reliance on trademarks when making purchasing decisions, at least in certain areas, because online reviews can perform many of the search cost reducing functions traditionally provided by trademarks more efficiently than trademarks themselves. I conclude by exploring what the implications are for the future of both trademark law and the regulation of reviews and other online consumer information if my explanation is correct.

The session will be followed by refreshments.

Register for Adam's seminar.

About the Speaker

You can find out more about Adam's research via his web profile

Location details

Seminar Room 1.14
Liberty Building
University of Leeds

The Liberty Building can also be found on the campus map

All welcome. This is a free event, though registration is required.

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