It can be tough for startups to compete in the increasingly crowded marketplace. After all, with many products and services, customers have a variety of options from which to choose. To set yourself apart from your competitors, it makes sense to have unique packaging or decorations.
After investing in the design of your packaging or decorations, you deserve to receive the full benefit of your efforts. If your competitors use similar designs, though, your customers might not be able to distinguish between your product and other products.
Understanding trade dress
Even if you have a brilliant product, you need a way for your customers to quickly identify it. Your packaging can make a meaningful difference, of course.
Rather than being part of the product itself, your trade dress includes all of the characteristics that give your product its appearance. Indeed, the color, shape, size, configuration and style of your packaging all might contribute to your trade dress.
Protecting trade dress
Trade dress qualifies for trademark protection in the U.S. The reason for this protection is to minimize consumer confusion. That is, your competitors cannot misappropriate your protected trade dress in an attempt to confuse your customers or draw them away.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you can apply for trade dress protection for any trade dress that is the total image and overall appearance of your product. To qualify for a trademark, though, your trade dress must be nonfunctional and inherently distinctive.
Ultimately, whether you want to keep existing customers or attract new ones, securing a trademark for your trade dress might be an integral part of your strategy.