On December 13, J. Barbour & Sons Ltd. filed a federal trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the jacket configuration seen below.
The mark consists of a three-dimensional configuration of an outerwear design featuring a combination of the following elements: (a) four pockets placed and oriented as follows: two on each of the front left and right side beginning at the mid-breast of the jacket and extending to the waist of the jacket; two large pockets on each of the left and ride side of the jacket beginning at the waste [ed. - sic] and extending to just above the bottom of the jacket both with exterior flap closures and two eyelets on the underside of the front pockets; (b) a metal zipper pull configured in a ring shape with the top quarter of the ring being solid on a two-way opening zip; (c) a collar made of corduroy with detachable throat cover; and (d) a studded flap that closes over the entirety of the front zipper on the middle of the jacket.The application covers "Clothing and outwear, namely, coats and jackets" in Class 25 (not surprisingly). According to the application, Barbour has been using this design as a trademark since 1980.
As I've blogged about before, a product design trademark (often referred to as "trade dress") can be registered as a trademark if it is (1) non-functional and (2) inherently distinctive or has acquired distinctiveness in the marketplace. TMEP 1202.02; TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Mktg.Displays, Inc., 532 U.S. 23, 28-29 (2001).
Generally, to show this coat design is non-functional, Barbour will need to demonstrate that the features it seeks to register are not essential to the use or purpose of the article and do not affects the cost or quality of the article. TMEP 1202.02(a); Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 165 (1995). For example, Alexander Wang (which I previously blogged about) is having difficulty showing that its configuration for several zippers on a handbag isn't functional, in part because (1) Alexander Wang's advertising stated that the separate zipper compartments are for "multi functionality" and (2) several other designs from third parties incorporated zippers in the same areas, indicating there is not a wide variety of alternative designs available to competitors.
If Barbour can demonstrate that its jacket trade dress is not functional, it must show that the design has acquired distinctiveness in the marketplace, because product designs are never inherently distinctive. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v Samara Bros., 529 U.S. 205, 215 (2000). Generally, that means Barbour will need to submit convincing evidence demonstrating to the USPTO that when consumers see the jacket design Barbour seeks to register, they recognize it as a Barbour jacket (not just any jacket).
So, is Barbour's pocket placement, zipper design, and zipper flap essential to the use or purpose of the jacket? Are there other alternative jacket designs available to competitors? Or would designing around this configuration be too costly? Do you recognize this configuration as a Barbour jacket?
Like Alexander Wang, Barbour may have a difficult time convincing the USPTO that this trade dress is registerable. We'll see what the USPTO thinks in approximately three to four months when this application is reviewed by an examining attorney.