A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Rejects Trade Dress Protecton for Point-of-Sale Display as Functional

In a May 26, 2015 ruling, Judge P. Kevin Castel rejected trade dress protection for the counterclaim plaintiff’s point-of-sale display of its goods, and granted summary judgment to the counterclaim defendant.  The counterclaim plaintiff argued that although at least some of the elements of the claimed trade dress are functional, the Court must consider the “overall impression” created by the trade dress.  Judge Castel rejected that argument, quoting a Ninth Circuit case for the proposition that “where the whole is nothing other than the assemblage of functional parts, and where even the arrangement and combination of the parts is designed to result in superior performance, it is semantic trickery to say that there is still some sort of separate ‘overall appearance’ which is non-functional.”  The Court further noted that “where the only similarities between the parties’ trade dresses consist of unprotectable elements, a trade dress infringement claim must fail.”  Judge Castel concluded that recognizing trade dress protection for the counterclaim plaintiff’s display would confer on the counterclaim plaintiff “a marketing advantage based not on brand recognition or advertising prowess, but simply on its right to display its goods more effectively than its competitors.”
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