April 30, 2011

Trade Dress


A company’s brand can extend to protection of a product design, configuration, a product package, the interior of a store or even the design of a building. Trade dress is a legal term which refers to protection of the visual appearance of a product or its packaging which functions as a source identifier to a consumer.

Trade dress protection is different than patent protection and copyright protection.  It is more closely aligned with trademark protection. For instance, a design patent can protect the visual elements of an invention. A copyright protects a work of art. Trade dress, on the otherhand, protects a visual appearance much like a trademark protects a brand.

Over the years, the definition of a trademark has expanded to include the total image of the goods themselves i.e., containers for the goods, colors, fragrances, building, decor and ambiance.

There are two general types of trade dress. One for the packaging or labeling of the good and another for the product design or the overall configuration or appearance of the good.

Trade Dress Protection

Trade Dress protects the look and feel of a product including configuration and packaging.


Trade dress, like trademarks, may be protected at the state level or the federal level. Both levels of protection have specific legal requirements and provide different levels of protection. If you are considering protecting or enforcing your trademark rights please contact one of our intellectual property attorneys to review your specific product and to make a recommendation based on your specific concerns.


Registration of trade dress, as with all other forms of the intellectual property provide a distinct advantage to a business or entrepreneur. In addition to providing a benefit during litigation, registration provides a presumption of validity and non-functionality. An owner of an unregistered mark, has a burden of proving the presumptions when challenged or challenging another’s mark.


Protecting Trade dress in some cases involves a law suit or litigation where an attorney asks a court to stop another company from using your visual brand. In the event you need to sue someone to protect your trade dress, you should always look for an attorney who has experience. Intellectual Property Center, has experience in trade dress protection including protecting the configuration of a product, its packaging and overall appearance. Whether you are in the Midwest including Kansas City or St. Louis or not, contact us to discuss registering, protecting and enforcing your trade dress rights.