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Intellectual Property Law - Research Paper Example

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In tracing the history of US SC decisions on trademark protection, particularly trade dress protection, two previous SC decisions prior to its decision in the case of Wal-Mart v Stores Inc. v Samara Bros. Inc., 529 US 205 (2000) are important. …
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Intellectual Property Law
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In Two Pesos, the trade dress in contention was the “look and feel” that Taco Cabana, a successful chain of Mexican restaurants, had established over the years and which was allegedly copied by Two Pesos, a Mexican restaurant chain owned by a person who once approached the owners of Taco Cabana offering to take the restaurant’s concept nationwide, but was rejected. The “look and feel” allegedly copied includes the 24-hour patio café concept, building and other features architecture, open kitchens and menu boards, among others. Taco Cabana brought an action for trade dress infringement and was granted relief by the trial court, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the SC harmonize the requirements between registered and unregistered marks stating that the requirements for the registrability of trademarks are also the same requirements in determining whether unregistered marks are entitled to protection. More significantly, the SC ruled that acquisition of secondary meaning of a trade dress is not necessary in cases where the trade dress is inherently distinctive. Accordingly, the Court ruled that it is inappropriate to impose upon inherently distinctive trade dress the requirement of secondary meaning on the following grounds: there is no rationale for enforcing additional requirements on trade dress because protection for both trademark and trade dress under the Lanham Act serves the same purpose of preventing both unfair competition and fraudulence.; the provision on trade dress in the Lanham Act, viz. s 43(a), does not justify a departure from traditional and established trademark test, and; imposing upon a trade dress the additional requirement of secondary meaning even if the trade dress is found to be inherently distinctive is contrary to the underlying objective of the Lanham Law which is the protection of both consumers and trademark holders. In Qualitex, the trade dress in issue was the green-gold color, which was plaintiff Qualitex’s color of its dry cleaning pads, a product it had been selling for more than thirty years. The defendant company began manufacturing and selling dry cleaning pads with the same color as that of Qualitex, a move that prompted the latter to bring an action for unfair competition against Jacobson before the courts and subsequently added trademark infringement after it successfully registered its dry pad color with the Patent and Trademark Office during the pendency of the case. The trial court decided in favor of Qualitex; the Court of Appeal reversed that decision on the ground that color per se is not registrable as trademark. This decision was not upheld by the SC on the ground that trademark is a broad term that comprises anything capable of giving meaning, according to the s 1127 of the USC Code, such as color. Section 45 of the Lanham Act requires the elements of ability to identify and distinctiveness as to the source of goods as requirements to registrability. Although color is not inherently distinctive, the SC asserted that it could acquire secondary meaning from frequent use over a long period of time that such color could represent, in the public mind, the identity ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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