Importance of Trade Dress

The concept of Trade Dress in Indian Context

Trade dress is another kind of Intellectual property. Trade dress describes or associates with features of the visual or sensual appearance of any product. The trade dress also includes the packaging, shape, and design of a building. Trade dress signifies the product’s source to the consumers. The main objective of the trade dress is to protect the consumers from its false packaging or appearance that imitates the original product. In other words, the purpose of trade dress is to prevent a consumer from purchasing a product or a commodity under a false belief that it is from the intended manufacturer. For example, Apple Inc. recently secured the registration over the design of its flagship Apple Stores as trade dress.

  • Trade dress can be anything that could describe the overall look and visual appeal of a brand and create a feeling of a brand in the marketplace.
  • Consumer feels the trade dress to be a primary indicator for differentiating the goods and services among different brands.
  • The features that make up the trade dress include configuration of shapes, designs, colors, or materials. However, these must not be utilized besides creating recognition in the consumer’s mind.
  • The statutory requirement for the trades dress registration is similar to that of the registration of logo or wordmark.

In India, there is no separate law for the trade dress in India and it follows the provision of Trademark law. The existing Indian Trademark legislation does not support a separate provision for trade dress. However, this is not the case with the other countries like the USA, which recognizes the trade dress concept under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.

The Indian Trademarks Act of 1999 that came into effect in September 2003 was a mere duplication of the English Trademark Act of 1994. The English Trademark Act of 1994 recognized the concept of trade dress based on the provision of the Lanham Act. However, when the Trade Marks Act of 1999 was amended, it recognized the concept of trade dress by adding features like the shape of goods, packaging or combination of colors or any combination thereof in its new trademark definition. It is listed and described in Section 2 of the Trade Marks Act of 1999.

Thus, the Trade Marks Act of 1999 includes the following definitions:

  • “mark”- mark includes a device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name and signature, word, letter, numeral, the shape of goods, packaging or combination of colors or any other combination thereof.
  • “package”- package includes any case, box, container, covering, folder, receptacle, vessel, casket, bottle, wrapper, label, band, ticket, reel, frame, capsule, cap, lid, stopper and cork.

The decision taken by the Indian judiciary from time to time states that the protection of trade dress is a new and necessary forum to secure different aspects of the business to distinguish the product from that of other.

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