26
Jan/07

Trade Dress Protection In A Web Page


Why are there not more decisions regarding the trade dress of a web page? Is it because copyright preempts most such claims? Magazine covers have been awarded trade dress protection,Time Inc. v. Globe Communications Corp., 712 F.Supp. 1103 (S.D.N.Y. 1989), why not web pages? (I’ve been puzzling about the trade dress of magazine covers for a while).
Any way, the Western District Court of Washington has upheld a Motion to Dismiss a trade dress claim for a webpage, ruling that at this stage of the litigation, the copyright claim will not preempt the trade dress claim (link to the decision in this post from the Seattle Trademark Lawyer).
From Footnote 8:
” As a novel theory legal, there are more articles supporting trade dress protection for the “look and feel” of websites than there are published cases deciding the merits of this theory. See G. Peter Albert, Jr. & Laff, Whitesel & Saret, Ltd., Intellectual Property Law in Cyberspace 198-99 (1999 & Supp. 2005) (“One of the next conflicts to arise between the Internet and trademark law is likely to be the question of whether a Web page contains elements protectable as trade dress. . . . Trade dress protection of Web pages has yet to be the central issue in an infringement claim.”); Xuan-Thao N. Nguyen, Should It Be a Free For All? The Challenge of Extending Trade Dress Protection to the Look and Feel of Web Sites in the Evolving Internet, 49 Am. U.L. Rev. 1233, 1276-77 (2000) (“The purpose of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act is to protect consumers from being deceived as to the source of a product or service. To fulfill that purpose, it is logical to extend trade dress protection to the overall look and feel of web sites that are inherently distinctive or have acquired secondary meaning and are non-functional.”); Jason R. Berne, Comment, Court Intervention But Not In a Classic Form: A Survey of Remedies in Internet Trademark Cases, 43 St. Louis L.J. 1157, 1172 (1999) (“One as yet barely broached area of Internet trademark litigation involves trade dress of a website. In such a case, a plaintiff may claim that the defendant has in some way infringed on the ‘total image and overall appearance’ of a site, rather than one single trademark. Although no cases of trade dress infringement of a website have been reported, at least one claim has been filed on this basis.”).
Trade Dress basics.

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