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Can you keep competitors from stealing your aesthetics?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2022 | Intellectual Property

Before becoming large corporations, many business ventures were small startups. Even though small businesses do not always succeed, thousands launch every single day. In fact, according to SalesForce, American entrepreneurs started more than 4.4 million small businesses in 2020 alone.

If your business operates in a crowded marketplace, you undoubtedly want it to stand out from the crowd. Having the right aesthetics, whether they be packages, colors, layout, decor or something else, is likely to make all the difference in your ultimate success.

The importance of aesthetics

Like all business owners, you want to attract new customers while retaining existing ones. To do so, it is important for your clientele to be able to differentiate your business from your competitors. Creating recognizable aesthetics, though, often takes a great deal of time, money and effort.

The nature of your trade dress

Once you have recognizable aesthetics, officially called trade dress, you do not want your competitors to misappropriate your scheme or otherwise use it to confuse your customers. Fortunately, like with your company’s name, slogan and logo, you can probably seek trademark protection for your company’s trade dress.

The test for trade dress protection

For your trade dress to be legally protectable, it must be unique or inherently distinctive and non-functional. The first part of this test is self-explanatory, but the non-functional component means it must not be necessary for the delivery of or use of your product or service.

For example, while you probably cannot obtain trade dress protection for the ordinary box that holds your product, you likely can obtain a trademark for one with a unique shape or color.

Ultimately, by securing trademark protection for all of your company’s trade dress, you ensure you receive the full benefit of your investment in creating it.