What does my company need to prove a claim for trademark or trade dress infringement?
Pursuing a claim for trademark or trade dress infringement requires a clear understanding of what constitutes a violation and the evidence required. Before anything else, your company must demonstrate that it owns a valid trademark or trade dress. This usually involves providing registration documents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While registration is not mandatory for all trademark rights, a registered trademark can significantly bolster your claim.
Central to most trademark or trade dress infringement claims is proving that the alleged infringer’s mark is sufficiently like yours in a way that could confuse consumers about the source of goods or services. Factors considered include the similarity of the marks, the similarity of the goods/services, the marketing channels used, and evidence of actual confusion.
For trade dress (the visual appearance of a product or its packaging that signifies the source of the product to consumers), you must also prove that the design is non-functional and has acquired secondary meaning. This means that consumers have come to recognize the trade dress as specifically identifying your company as the source.
A company will also want to show how the infringement has caused harm or potential harm to your brand, reputation, or sales. This could include consumer confusion, lost sales, or dilution of your brand’s distinctiveness.
In many cases, there can be discussions involving fair use, abandonment, or differences in geographic market or product category. Given the intricacies involved, it’s important to consider consulting an attorney experienced in intellectual property law to navigate the complexities of trademark or trade dress infringement claims.