Trade dress can help protect the look and feel of a website. Many businesses put a lot of time and effort into their websites. With good reason. A website is the perfect place to show what the business can do and how it does it. But how can a business protect its well-designed website from being mimicked by a competitor? In Ingrid & Isabel, LLC v. Baby Be Mine, LLC, a California federal court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether the plaintiff’s website could be protected as trade dress. In doing so, the court acknowledged that the "look and feel" of a website qualifies for trade dress protection.
WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS. Trade dress refers to the visual appearance of a product, packaging or design. Trade dress is protected by the Lanham Act which also protects trademarks. However, registering trade dress has pitfalls. For instance, a website might not be inherently distinctive. So the applicant will have to show that the website has acquired distinctiveness. Also, the elements of design related to trade dress cannot be functional. If you look at the Coke bottle, one of the most famous examples of trade dress, you can see that the line between function and design can be tricky. In the end, a carefully crafted and researched trademark application would probably avoid the pitfalls.