Trade Dress

A Trade Dress consists of the collection of elements in which a certain product is packaged or the method that a service is presented. The elements that are protected can include the type of shape, colors or type of packaging of goods, the store displays for the merchandise.

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A product's physical appearance, including its size, shape, color, design, and texture.

In addition to a product's physical appearance, trade dress may also refer to the manner in which a product is packaged, wrapped, labeled, presented, promoted, or advertised, including the use of distinctive graphics, configurations, and marketing strategies. In intellectual property law, a cause of action for trade dress infringement may arise when the trade dress of two businesses is sufficiently similar to cause confusion among consumers. In such situations the business with the more established or recognizable trade dress will ordinarily prevail. Two remedies are available for trade dress infringement: injunctive relief (a court order restraining one party from infringing on another's trade dress) and money damages (compensation for any losses suffered by an injured business).

Like trademarks, trade dress is regulated by the law of unfair competition. At the federal level, trade dress infringement is governed primarily by the Lanham Trademark Act (15 U.S.C.A. § 1051 et seq.); at the state level, it is governed by similar intellectual property statutes and various common-law doctrines. Both state and federal laws prohibit businesses from duplicating, imitating, or appropriating a competitor's trade dress in order to pass off their merchandise to unwary consumers.


The overall image of a product used in its marketing or sales that is composed of the nonfunctional elements of its design, packaging, or labeling (as colors, package shape, or symbols).

Lect Law Library

TRADE DRESS - the non-functional physical detail and design of a product or its packaging, which indicates or identifies the product's source and distinguishes it from the products of others.

Trade dress includes color schemes, textures, sizes, designs, shapes, and placements of words, graphics, and decorations on a product or its packaging.

A trade dress is non-functional if, taken as a whole, the collection of trade dress elements is not essential to the product's use or does not affect the cost or quality of the product even though certain particular elements of the trade dress may be functional.


Trade dress is a legal term of art that generally refers to characteristics of the visual appearance of a product or its packaging (or even the design of a building) that signify the source of the product to consumers. Trade dress is a form of intellectual property.

In the U.S., like trademarks, a product’s trade dress is legally protected by the Lanham Act, the federal statute which regulates trademarks and trade dress. Trade dress protection is intended to protect consumers from packaging or appearance of products that are designed to imitate other products; to prevent a consumer from buying one product under the belief that it is another. For example, the shape, color, and arrangement of the materials of a children’s line of clothing can be protectable trade dress (though, the design of the dress itself is not protected), as can the design of a magazine cover, the appearance and dcor of a chain of Mexican-style restaurants, and a method of displaying wine bottles in a wine shop.