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Trade Dress

Trade dress is a term often heard in discussions about branding and intellectual property. It refers to the unique visual appearance and packaging of a product that distinguishes it from competitors, such as colour schemes, designs, shapes and symbols. Imagine walking into a grocery store and spotting a can of soda. Without even seeing the logo, you might recognise it as a Coca-Cola bottle based on its distinctive red colour and iconic bottle shape. This is an example of trade dress. It’s also a means of protecting a logo or slogan from being imitated. To qualify for trade dress protection, visual elements must be distinctive or have acquired secondary meaning in the minds of consumers. Also, trade dress cannot be functional — that is, it cannot serve a purpose beyond aesthetics. Companies can file for registration of their trade dress with the relevant authorities, making it an essential tool for protecting intangible assets.