December 7, 2015

Protect creativity. Protect design. Protect innovation.

This holiday season, consumers continue to be savvy. Purchasing gifts for your long holiday list is no easy task. But, shoppers take comfort in seeking out trusted brands in stores and online to ensure loved ones receive the real thing. GIPC’s President and CEO, David Hirschmann, discussed this in a recent column to help inform customers on how to shop smart.  He mentions the first step in avoiding scams and shady deals; “Trust your instincts. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Another significant tip, and often the best way to protect yourself, is to buy from trusted brands.

While many think of brands by their trademark, trade dress is another important mechanism for consumers to identify products from brands they know and trust. Trade dress refers to characteristics of the visual appearance of the product’s appearance or packaging, signifying the source of the product to the consumer.

A unique design is a critical way for companies to create brands consumers recognize and trust. Imagine any number of items, from the shape of the Coca-Cola glass bottle, to the back pocket of Levi’s jeans, to the famous Hershey’s kiss. These distinct looks define many of the most iconic companies and brands we trust and value.

Imposters often try to seize upon the goodwill and creativity already designed and trademarked by a well-known brand. Brands consumers trust are threatened when these imitators sell look-alikes. Protecting trade dress is important to consumer safety and to the innovative companies that create iconic brands.

Consumers look for trusted, identifiable, genuine products to be sure that what they are purchasing is the legitimate version. To ensure consumers receive the brand they trust, businesses have the right to defend their brand in every possible venue to protect consumers.

Companies can reinforce this protection online, in court and within the various federal agencies. Illegally copying an original design trademarked by another company is a prevalent problem for brands we know and trust. As we saw from a recent case at the International Trade Commission (ITC), the ability to prevent consumer confusion is appropriate across all industry sectors.

So, the next time you find yourself reaching for that cold soda, the jeans that fit just right or the sweet teardrop-shaped chocolate treat, know that iconic brands remain because the distinctive products we trust are protected by trademarks and trade dress.

Kasie Brill is Director of U.S. IP Policy for the Global Intellectual Property Center.

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