Your brand is your identity. It’s how people recognize and remember you and your message, service, or product. Protecting that identity is key to ensuring success and growth in the long run. That’s why it’s important to understand the difference between trademarks and trade dress, two of the most effective ways to protect your brand.
What Is a Trademark?
A trademark is a legal term for any sign, symbol, phrase, or design used to identify goods produced by a certain individual or company from those of another. The trademark identifies the source of goods and services, not its function. Examples of trademarks include words (e.g., Apple), logos (such as Nike’s swoosh logo), or even colors (like Tiffany blue). A trademark helps consumers identify products they could otherwise confuse with similar products provided by different sources — thus allowing them to make informed purchase decisions.
What Is Trade Dress?
Trade dress is a type of intellectual property that includes any design elements associated with the product that indicate its source. This could include things like packaging, color combinations, textures, shapes, the unique layout of your store – basically anything that makes your products recognizable by consumers. Trade dress does not need to be registered with the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) in order to be protected; however, it must be distinctive enough that it serves as an indicator of source for consumers and is not merely functional or generic. Common examples of trade dress include the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, the red bottom of a Christian Louboutin shoe, the look of a Mcdonald’s, and even the shape of a Hershey’s Kiss.
Benefits of Registering for Trade Dress
Formal trade dress registration offers several benefits for businesses who file their product designs and packaging with the USPTO (United States Patent & Trademark Office). First, it prevents competitors from copying your design without permission or penalty because it gives you exclusive rights over a particular look or presentation of a product in the marketplace.
In addition, registering for trade dress also gives you access to legal remedies if someone does copy your design without permission—you can sue them for damages caused by their actions and even have the court order them to stop selling any infringing products they may already have out on the market.
The Bottom Line: Protect Both Elements as You are Building Your Brand!
Trademarks and trade dress have different purposes, but both can help protect your brand identity by preventing others from using similar marks or designs without permission. By understanding the differences between them, you will be better equipped to make decisions about how best to protect your IP from competitors who might try to copy it without authorization.
If you have additional questions or would like to begin the process of creating a plan to protect your intellectual property and creative works, simply contact our law firm at (888) 666-0062 or click here to schedule an Initial Discover Session.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.