When Similar Trade Dress Is Trademark Infringement

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 What Is Trademark Law?

Both producers and consumers are protected by trademark law. It essentially prevents one company from using the name or logo of another company to describe its own goods in a way that would cause consumer confusion.

As a result of consumer confusion, consumers can buy one product when they think they are buying another. The imposter product can also harm companies because it steals sales away from the original company. If the imposter product is inferior, it can harm the reputation of the original company.

What Is Trade Dress?

While names and logos are often protected under trademark law, “trade dress” can also be protected. Consumers often use trade dress to identify a product’s source by looking at its packaging, configuration, and appearance. Most consumers can recognize the unique shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, for instance.

Because no other company uses that shape for its bottles, most consumers would know a Coke bottle even without seeing its label. Trade dress serves as an indication of source in this case.

Trade dress is protected by trademark law if consumers associate it with a specific product due to its uniqueness. Another manufacturer cannot use a similar trade dress if it would cause consumer confusion.

Coca-Cola may be liable for trademark infringement if a rival soft drink company uses a bottle that looks and feels very much like Coca-Cola’s bottle if Coca-Cola can prove that such an imitation is likely to confuse consumers.

However, if it is shown that consumers can easily tell the difference between the two products, even if the bottles are similar, there will be no liability for trademark infringement.

Trademark laws protect the producers of goods and consumers. These laws prevent a company from using the name or logo of another company to describe its own goods in a way that may cause consumer confusion.

Confusion among consumers can lead them to purchase one product when they believe they are purchasing another. Aside from that, it harms companies because the imposter product takes away sales from the original company. It may harm the reputation of the original company if the impostor product is inferior.

An item of trade dress is a distinctive, non-functional feature that distinguishes one product or service from another. Trade dress can include the packaging color or the goods’ configuration, among other things. Examples of trade dresses include Wonder Bread’s packaging and Tiffany’s blue.

Company names and logos can be protected under trademark law. Trade dress can also be protected under the same laws.

Essentially, trade dress is everything used to promote a service or product. A service’s trade dress may include its environment or decor, such as the distinctive decor of a particular restaurant chain. A product’s trade dress can include its packaging, display, or configuration.

A product’s trade dress includes its packaging, configuration, and appearance. Often, consumers use these things to identify the source of goods. Coke bottles, for instance, have a unique shape that most consumers can identify.

The trade dress of a product is protected by trademark law if the uniqueness of the trade dress is what leads consumers to associate it with a particular product. Consumers are prohibited from being confused about the source of goods if another manufacturer uses a similar trade dress.

Can You Claim Trade Dress Protection?

A company or manufacturer can claim trade dress protection if their trade dress is distinctive and identifies the source of the product. If the public mistakenly associates another product with theirs because of similar packaging, they can claim trade dress protection.

In order to protect a product’s trade dress, it must be demonstrated that the average consumer would be confused if another product appeared in a similar costume. Packaging, or trade dress, must be inherently distinctive.

Trade dress must be conceptually separate from the actual product in order to be inherently distinctive. As a result of neon stripes, distinctive umbrellas, and a buffet-style service, the decor of a restaurant could be considered inherently distinctive by the United States Supreme Court.

In order to qualify for trade dress protection, a functional aspect of the product must be created specifically to promote that product or service. It is common for liquor bottles to have unique shapes that serve no other purpose than to identify the product.

What Is the Difference Between Trade Dress and Trademark?

Trade dress is a type of trademark. Trademarks are used to distinguish products and their manufacturers. In addition to words, phrases, logos, or other symbols, trademarks are used to identify a product, its source, and its merchant or manufacturer.

An individual or business should conduct a trademark search before registering their trademark to determine if another business or entity has already taken the name.

Trademarks come in many forms, including:

  • A service mark, which promotes a particular type of service rather than a product;
  • Trade dress, or the distinctive packaging of a product;
  • A collective mark, or a symbol, word, or phrase used to identify an organization, group, or association as well as the
  • services, members, or products of the group; and
  • A certification mark, symbol, or name guarantees the quality of another’s product or service.

The trade dress of a product can include features. In contrast, a trademark typically includes only a set of words or a logo.

The unique features of trade dress may include:

  • Size;
  • Shape;
  • Color or color combinations; and
  • Graphics.

Trade dress rights protect the unique packaging of products. The purpose of them is to prevent imitations of the product.

Can I Register My Trade Dress?

Yes, a trade dress may be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the same manner as a trademark. It may be difficult to register a trade dress, however, because in some cases, it may be difficult to express a trade dress in drawings or words.

In recent years, trade dress has been applied to websites and phone applications since they often have a particular look and feel. The trade dress refers to the colors, the design, the layout, and other elements that influence the overall look and feel.

Trade dress does not protect the writing or content on a copyrighted website. In the same way, trademark laws would protect the website’s name or logo. A website with a distinctive design, such as a well-known blogger’s website with a distinctive color scheme and layout, may be protected as a trade dress.

Why Protect Your Trade Dress?

Protecting a trade dress has several benefits. The trade dress registration prevents another company from using similar product packaging or dressing. In this way, consumers won’t confuse the product with another producer.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

A non-lawyer may find it difficult to determine whether there has actually been an infringement regarding trademarks. This is why it is important to consult with an experienced trademark lawyer in your area if you feel your mark has been infringed upon or have been accused of trademark infringement.

If you have any difficult trademark issues, you are not alone. Instead, use LegalMatch to find the right trademark lawyer today. An attorney can provide you with the legal advice and representation needed for your case.

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