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What is a Trade Dress

What is a Trade Dress ?


A trade dress is a combination of visual appearance of a product or its packaging that are unique. It is a form of Intellectual Property.

This legal term of art encompasses all elements that make up the overall visual image of an product. This includes the color, shape, size, composition, packaging of a product even the design of a building

This form of intellectual property represents the source of the product to its customers.



The shape of the Coca-Cola bottle

A glass bottle manufacturing company designed a bottle in year 1916, that is still recognizable today. They designed a coca-cola bottle to distinguish it from other bottles and this thing help customers to easily identify it even in the dark place just by touching it. 

The red tab on levis jeans

The red tab on Levi’s jeans is a branding label that was introduced in 1936 by the Levi’s company itself. The main goal was to help its consumers to recognize the geniune Clothes.

The company strengthened and promoted its brand with the same tab by designing products other than blue jeans such as t-shirts and caps.

The shape of Hershey kiss chocolate

Hershey’s Kisses (stylized as “KISSES”) is a brand of chocolate firstly introduced by The Hershey Company in 1907. The bite-sized pieces of chocolate have a unique conical shape, sometimes characterized as flat-bottomed teardrops.

The fish shape of Goldfish crackers

Fish-shaped crackers are produced by Pepperidge Farm, which is a department of the Campbell Soup Company. The crackers have been accessible in several varieties for since 1962, 40% of the crackers consist of a small symbol of an eye and a smile.

The red sealing wax on a bottle of Makers Mark

Maker Mark’s iconic red wax seal makes it one of the most well-known bottles on the brown liquor shelf. And it’s something Makers Mark takes very incredibly. Each bottle is hand-dipped in special-formula, molten red wax at its Loretto, Ky distiller.




  • Trademarks typically involve a set of words, slogan, title or a logo while Trade dress includes features such as size, shape, color or color combinations, or graphics.

  • Also, a trademark is placed on a product itself or its packaging whereas a trade dress is the overall look of the product, not just a name or logo only.


Trade dress registration can prevent companies from creating and using similar design. The Trademark Act 15 U.S.C. §1052 legislates trade dress which includes product’s dressing, design, and packaging. 

A product qualifies for a trade dress registration based on its distinctiveness and functionality. Before accepting any trade dress application, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) needs to see a clear “attained distinctiveness” to protect the trade dress.

When registering for a trade dress, the applicant must:

  1. Indicate whether their design is not similar to a competitor’s trade dress,
  2. register under the product, or business owner’s name.
  3. and include in the trade dress design both

nonfunctional and ornamental design elements.

There are two types of applications: actual use and intent-to-use. When filing an actual use claim, the applicant must attach to the application of a trade dress specimen representing the design’s use. National trade dress registrations last for 10 years and can be renewed for another 10 years after expiring.

During the trade dress application process, the examining attorney will give the registration claim a serial number and send out an acknowledgment letter within two months. In a few weeks, the trade dress file will be published or the trademark attorney will ask for additional documents. The current average pending duration for trade dress registration is 15.1 months.