Groeneveld v Lubecore: Plaintiff wins $1.25M at trial, alleging trade dress infringment of its grease pump, pictured on the left above.

6th Cir: Reversed. In a trade dress case in which defendant is alleging utilitarian functionality of the trade dress as a defense, the proper question is not whether defendant could have used alternative designs, or whether it needed that design to compete. The proper question, under TrafFix, is whether the design is needed for the product’s use or purpose.

In this case, the grease pumps look the way they do in order to be grease pumps. The base hides the mechanisms, the plastic allows you to see how much grease is left, the volume is determined by how much grease is needed and so on.

Also, no one would buy one, thinking it was the other.

43(b)log discussion of Lubecore here.

Vince Palladino’s article on trade dress after Traffix here.

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