University of Baltimore Law Review


Malla Pollack


Humans in the United States, and many other market-centric nations, live in a world extensively populated by friendly, helpful, honest, charitable, patriotic beings worthy of our respect and support — none of whom exist. Yet these fellow-beings speak to us humans so often that they must be part of our ingrained perception of the world. Who are they? They are the marketing personas created by totally self-interested businesses. They harm humans not only by misdirection in specific instances, but by providing cover for our government's improper prioritization of corporate interests over human interests. This systemic distortion of public perception is one aspect of the ongoing war between those who prioritize property and those who prioritize humans.

In trade identity law, the romantic corporation is embodied in Judge Learned Hand's classic statement that "a reputation, like a face, is the symbol of its possessor and creator and another can use it only as a mask." Hand did not acknowledge that business entities with merely juristic personhood do not have faces; they only have masks.

This article opens by interrogating Hand's famous statement. Second, it places in historical perspective the big lie, used by corporate advocates to blind voters, that the welfare of large corporations is central to the United States' national interest. Third, this article provides analytical and empirical support for the nonpersonhood of business entities and the mask-quality of their indicia of trade identity. Fourth, this article discusses and illustrates several ways businesses use their masks to manipulate the human public. Finally, the article explains the difficulty of using law to limit such manipulative tactics.

"[F]or a reputation, like a face, is the symbol of its possessor and creator and another can use it only as a mask."'

"A final truth that needs to be emphasized — the most basic of all — is that corporations are not people... When companies are invested with anthropomorphic qualities... the public is misled into thinking companies resemble people."



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