1. In order for the design/layout to qualify for trade dress protection, the item must be sufficiently (inherently) distinctive so as to serve as a bonafide source identifier – when a consumer sees the trade dress, he must be capable of ascertaining that it represents a product/service from a given place
Trade Dress Infringement: Here’s What You Need to Know
Trade Dress: What is it?
Trade dress is a legal term of art and is indeed a fairly exotic legal doctrine under Trademark law. The “Trade Dress” of a given thing is not so easily defined but rather consists of the amalgamation of a series of elements that are used to develop the “overall commercial image” and appearance of a given product/package/label/design. For products, trade dress may very well include but is certainly not limited to the aesthetics of the product including the size, shape, colour etc. of the item,. Trade Dress, in the context of services, is slightly more challenging to articulate but speaks to the aesthetic feel of the place. Relevant features include the establishment’s décor, the styling of the environment, the layout of the furniture/paintings – all of the design features that contribute to the larger image of the brand. Consider for the moment the fact that every single Starbucks looks the same – same colors, the same type of furniture, same wood paneling, same fabrics. A Starbucks in New York City has the same design layout as a starbucks in Mexico City because of the Trade Dress.
The purpose of establishing the Trade Dress of a given product/service layout is to protect the proprietary branding rights of that company from competitors in the same industry. We can all intuit the injustice of a new coffee shop designing its store to mimic the Starbucks model – the legal Doctrine of Trade Dress codifies this right. Contact a Trademark Lawyer to learn how you can benefit from Trade Dress rights.