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Frequently Asked Questions

Why doesn't trade dress apply to purely functional aspects of a product or service?

Trade dress, a type of intellectual property, is primarily concerned with the promotional aspects or the overall image of a product or service. It does not apply to purely functional aspects of a product or service. The reason for this is that trade dress is designed to protect the unique visual appearance or “dress” of a product that distinguishes it from other products. This could include elements such as color, shape, size, configuration, and packaging. For instance, the distinctive shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, which doesn't serve a functional purpose but rather identifies the product, can be protected by trade dress. However, if a design aspect is primarily functional rather than promotional, it cannot be protected under trade dress. This was demonstrated in the case of Jay Franco & Sons, Inc. v. Franek, where a company's claim to trade dress on the round design of a beach towel was rejected as the design was deemed primarily functional.
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